I grew up with seven siblings in a patriarchal, strict and rigid religious family system. We lived on ten acres of land in the country and although we had white privilege, we did not live with economic privilege. Our parents were stressed and preoccupied. We spent much of our time outdoors playing sports, climbing trees and made the most of what we had. We banned together and got along rather well as siblings in the face of our parents distress. Each of us developed athletically and became kinesthetic and spatial learners as well as keen observers of one another’s moods and movements. As the seventh of eight and a girl after five boys, I was often considered the quiet, reflective one. I became the one each of my siblings would ask for important advice at one point in their lives. Perhaps this tells part of the story as to how I ended up devoting my life to asking what is the point of all this, how do we heal and live fully. I imagine this is a large part of why I became a couple and family therapist and later a Nia instructor.
Childhood trauma, loneliness, and a sense of feeling unsafe in the world led me to wonder what the meaning of life was. The study of philosophy, education, art and women’s studies in college gave me some initial answers and became the foundation of all future study for me. I also met with my first psychotherapist in college. I owe much of my healing journey to her, a loving, compassionate, intelligent and strong woman. I also am forever grateful that my parents recognized I needed help and made sure I got what I needed. At the age of 21, I chose to heal and grow and have been on a healing journey of feeling better about who I am and my life ever since. I also knew it was important for me to help others heal.
My healing journey continued and guided me in choosing to go on for my Masters in Social Work. Social Work taught me much about privilege and oppression and how they function in our culture. I worked with poor, distraught, hopeless people and learned that healing is a privilege and responsibility for those of us who have the means and support to do so. I moved onto studying philosophy and women’s studies at the graduate level. This helped me understand how patriarchal forces have shaped us and solidified my intuition that there was something healthier and better for us; matriarchal ways of being and knowing to help us heal and grow. I knew the values of cooperation, care, interdependence, process and love would guide us to heal more than just self-reliance, self-interest, independence, produce and fear. I realized that my gifts in upholding and emphasizing matriarchal values to help people heal would be better served in a therapeutic setting rather than as a university professor. I moved onto to studying in the Couple & Family Therapy Program at Syracuse University and received my degree in 2004. I felt at home and never looked back. I learned how we are hurt and harmed or helped and heal in a web of systems and relationships. We do not become who we are on our own and that in order to heal and grow we must address all important relationships in our bodies and lives.
Through all of this study, I remained physically active and an athlete. I even regained my love of dance and performed in modern and jazz while in graduate school. Dance gave me so much joy, pleasure and meaning. I loved learning new patterns and weaving stories with my body. I felt alive! It was the stillbirth of my daughter though that one day led me to understand I would be dancing the rest of my life.
It was 2003 when I was finally pregnant and told “it looks like this one is going to stick” after a few miscarriages. I was thrilled with the anticipation of the arrival of my daughter I would name ‘Rose.’ In November of 2003, I felt Rose kick hard. I had asked my friend to touch my belly and remarked how active she was. My dream was happening. I would finally give birth to my beautiful baby girl. That kick was her last and I knew a day later, something was wrong. We would soon find out she was dead and I would have to give birth to death. This experience led to a deep depression. I hated my body and life and wanted to die.
It was the love of a dear friend who got me to get out of the house and to step into my first Nia class. What the heck is Nia I wondered. My friend insisted I just get moving. With her coaxing, I did and for the first time in a long time I felt the murmurs of wanting to be alive. I continued taking Nia classes and allowed myself to cry in class, to freeze, to be afraid and to feel moments of joy and peace. I have been practicing Nia ever since and can truly say it is Nia with her 52 Moves and 52 principles to live by that I have come to love my Body & Life! Nia has brought me more healing than any other healing practice including, reiki, massage, cranial-sacral massage, psychotherapy, acupuncture, and many more. Nia taught me that healing begins by getting into sensation, moving our bodies and listening to our bodies. Nia knows that it is our birthright to live in Joy, pleasure, comfort and with meaning.
*My Story of Reconnection on the cover of Syracuse Woman Magazine