To my dearest dance families,
I just wanted to check in... How are you? How are you feeling?
I can't stop thinking of all of us...
Feeling inadequate with the impossible task of balancing full time work with full time parenting
Anxious about what will happen next
Emotionally exhausted from managing everyone else's emotions and stress at work & home
Frustrated from having to put ourselves and our self-care at the bottom of the priority list
Afraid & worried for the health of our loved ones
Concerned about our loved ones who still have to be out in the forefront of all this
Heartbroken from canceled special events & milestone celebrations
Sad about being separated from our loved ones
Devastated with the realization that schools will not resume until September
Stressed out about financial pay-cuts, lay-offs and what not
Overwhelmed with the constant cooking all of a sudden
Physically exhausted every night while our patience is tested all day
Our norms have changed drastically. Many of us are understandably experiencing severe trauma, and are grieving the many losses of the way our lives used to be or how we imagined it to be.
I can be a very private person, yet these uncertain times have created a quiet courage within me that seeks to share more of my vulnerabilities and story with each of you. I recently learned a wonderful definition of 'authenticity' that I just love:
The latin root of the word 'authenticity' is 'author', so being authentic doesn't mean being honest about who you are, it's about being you own author. Authentic is an active and creative process. It is not about revealing something, it's about building something; and that something is YOU. (Nina Burrow)
We get to create our story right now. This thought took me to my earliest memory of "authoring my own story". It was my sophomore year in high school and I was dealing with a heartbreak in all the wrong ways until I picked up a book, Tuesdays with Morrie. This was the first time I realized that I don't have to react the way I do. I can choose how I react and how I perceive my situation. Since then, my lowest moments have constantly commanded me to create better versions of myself. I have spent most of my life studying and developing my inner self through books until my breakdown in 2016. This is when books were no longer enough, and I decided to invest in my inner growth through therapy. My breakdown was related to my stress and anxiety around being a full-time mother to my 1-year old daughter (Nora) at the time, while also being a full-time home maker, dance company owner, dance teacher, etc. This was a daunting task and I struggled accepting all my imperfections with my extremely unrealistic expectations of trying to do it all just the way I used to (before Nora was born).
With the expert guidance of my therapist, it took me about one full year to figure out a healthy balance and routine as a stay at home mom while working from home. The fact that so many of you have been forced to figure this out within days blows my mind. That is impossible! I can very much relate to the trauma, the mental breakdown, the stress, the anxiety, specifically around working from home and nurturing a child 24/7. This is essentially what broke me. I needed help and I seeked it and received it.
Therapy felt like a mental massage, a workout, a dance. It was beautiful. It is something we all need in our lives.
Reflecting on this, I believe going to therapy after a breakdown was reactive. I wish I had been proactive and started this form of self-care a long time ago. I look so forward to this uninterrupted time to sit with my thoughts and bounce them off with an expert in the field who has studied it all and is knowledgable about how to dissect, analyze and explore these complex parts of ourselves.
So, why am I telling you all this? I want to share what I have learned with you because I feel that much of what I have been working on is especially helping me right now. I journal every time I have my therapy sessions and the days following. I have looked through my notes to share what I hope can help you in any small way at all...
Getting to know fear & anxiety
My greatest fear right now is passing my fears to my daughter. I feel an immense need to protect my own mind space so that I can authentically model what I've been working so hard to do over the past few years. The hardest part about this is that I am trying to create something that I never learned myself... my parents, as wonderful as they are, unknowingly passed down their generational anxiety and fear-based thinking to me. So this is not an easy cycle for me to break by any means.
Fear = our thoughts. In other words, fear is a result of what we choose to think about. First & foremost, I give myself permission to be afraid and worried. Fear is natural and we must treat ourselves with compassion. We cannot move forward if it is met with resistance. It needs to be embraced and understood. However, it must not consume me. When fear consumes me, below is my mental process to get back to the "now". I ask myself:
Am I safe right now?
Do I have enough money for today?
Do I have enough food for today?
Am I doing everything I possibly can that is in my control?
If the answers are yes, then there is nothing more I can do and I release my fears for that day. I know this is easier said than done because it requires our discipline and will power. This is a muscle that needs to be practiced and strengthened. We must commit to replacing our thoughts that create fear and worry with thoughts that focus on the actual reality of right here and right now. If the answer is no, then I create some actions around how I can address that need with what is in my control. I visualize it, I write it down and then I move on... I love my therapists' definition of anxiety: It is like a loving puppy that is overly protective and is trying to stay on guard. We can talk to it and say 'I hear you. Don't worry, I am ok.' Anxiety happens when our minds try to predict the future. It is when we get consumed by all the possibilities (usually the worst case scenarios). When this happens, we are no longer present in the now. We are in the future. It is impossible to be anxious and present at the same time. Presence allows us to notice that everything is actually OK right now. We are at home, with food, with health, with family. Is it possible that we may need to go grocery shopping tomorrow and not find all the food we desire? Is it possible we may get sick tomorrow? Is it possible that we may be out of work or business next month? Yes! But, right now we have what we need. Right now we are healthy. Right now, we are doing everything we can that is in our control. When we get anxious, we strip away what we have right now and are unable to enjoy it. We also strip our children from this moment of joy because we have filled that moment with worry of tomorrow. What's worse is that IF tomorrow is actually worse, we cannot even say that we enjoyed this time that was better.
Pass it on
If you have read this far, I thank you deeply. And now, I pass the light to you. I want to learn from you. Share your stories... your struggles, your wins, how will you author your next moment? your next day? (email me, text me or simply share in the comments section below). It is your connection and feedback I crave most. Also do let me know, if you found this helpful and if you would like me to continue to share such insights more regularly. My intention is to keep our dance family and community inspired and thriving. I also encourage you to use our Facebook @AmnaDance as a space for connecting with each other even more... sharing tools and tips that are working for you as well as sharing your struggles and challenges so we do not feel alone. We can truly learn so much from each other when we feel supported and united. If we cannot connect physically, we must continue to connect emotionally. After all, some of the most powerful things in life are indeed invisible. The irony of our physical distance is that it is creating opportunities for us to become even more personally connected. Thank you for giving me this gift. With immense gratitude & love for each of you, Amna