Susan's Blog

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

(Not) A Total Slump

All she wants to do is dance.
Don Henley, who is a bit of a turkey, but who nevertheless does have a lovely, satiny voice and some great songs to his credit.

It’s a total slump. Well, not total, or I wouldn’t be writing this. I am in writer’s limbo again, waiting to hear from my editor about the proposal for the Fun book, and waiting to hear from some people at Special Olympics about a potential project.


In my tired and blurry state of mind I have ignored my column in the local paper because I cannot rouse myself from this funk to address all the issues that need a hue and a cry. The budget is going to hell; the town is raising all kinds of fees and such to pay for its services, and somehow it takes some kind of Committee to make happen what should be obvious: we need to raise taxes beyond the annual 2.5 percent the State allows us. And for that the citizens need to vote to override the current statute. To get an override on the ballot, the Selectmen have to be convinced there is a need and for reasons only known to the few who cherish the minutiae of local politics, that board is not yet convinced. They have convened a Committee, as I’ve said, of “neutral” citizens to “look into” the Override.

I find it really ironic that in politics, if you care too much, you are often considered a kook, or marginalized. I went into local politics with one burning issue on my mind, and that was how my town ran its Special Education program. I was told over and over again that I could not be a One Issue Candidate, (gasp) and that I had to care about many things. Of course I cared about many things; it’s just that the real need was attention to SPED.

I found, over the years, that I had to find ways to suppress my passion for Special Education to gain Credibility with the rest of the School Committee. Meaning, I couldn’t care as much, or at least, I was not to act as if I cared. The more effective politicians on the Board or anywhere else for that matter, I would wager, don’t care deep down about most issues.

I know I sound cynical, and I suppose I am a bit. This was my experience, five years in local government. I had to “broaden” my interests, learn about how all the programs intersect, before I could be listened to for my views on Special Education. Those who had no such anger with the system had a much easier time than I on the Board. I spent so many years enthralled with the power base in my town, trying to become a part of it and influence things. Only to find that one person can only do so much without being in the inner circle of power. By the time I was close to the inner circle I was burned out and going on book tour.

Bottom line is, our School Committee does not want to advocate for more money. They are far too political for their own good. They want to do things “the way they’ve always been done,” and not make waves. They want to wait and go with the system. But what’s happening is that services and supports are being cut – for regular education and Special Education – and it is all of our kids who will suffer from their meekness. Because if the School Committee do not make their case, some of the Selectmen do not believe that there is a need for an Override. And then there won’t be money for FY’09.


Why am I thinking about all this now? Because I can’t get angry enough to write a column. I feel tapped out. I go to almost no meetings. I have not been hanging around with my political friends. I am tired, tired, tired. Tired of the stuff I’ve been so involved in for so long. Because my interests are shifting. Because I am changing.

I’ve been turning inward, to find and work on spiritual, physical, and active beauty. I’ve been losing weight, shopping for the house, and dancing. I have been peacock-feathering my nest: buying furniture and accessories, the things I have been putting off for a few years while our budget was leaner. Today I bought some gorgeous sage green silk pillows and a periwinkle throw. New white slipcover, new bronze lamp and heavy pearl silk curtain from RH. Ned bought me a huge bowl of popsicle colored hyacinths, that smell the way they look: sugary and cool. The living room is so beautiful I keep wandering in there and just looking around, drinking in the rich color and soothing whites.

The only other thing I want to do is dance. It makes me feel more than alive, it makes me feel on fire. Some days I dance in the morning and then again at night. In the morning I drill to my Arabic hip hop, all the leg work: hip clicks, hip hits, Egyptian walk, maya walk, twisting raquias, drop-kick. (This I call an Israelites’ best revenge, a la Passover: do Egyptian belly dance with a passion, to celebrate our freedom from being enslaved by the Pharoah!) And then at night, put on a costume and dance more improvisationally for Ned upstairs. (Just rattling off the names of the moves makes me feel happy, and the dance-lust quickly rises to try something.) Every night before going to bed I pull up my camisole top to see my belly and I practice a little more in front of the cheval glass. Ned invariably catches me at it and says, “Ooh! A belly dancer! Cool.” Later in bed, I rest in the crook of his arm and he says, “I think it’s really cool that you belly dance.”

I did a session of belly dance with Nat. I tried to teach him some of the most basic moves, like knee shimmies and stretches with arms. Funny how the male body has a much harder time articulating these sinuous, curvy moves. Nat tried really hard, but could not do much of it. He still loves to watch, however. He grins from ear to ear. It’s hard to feel like he is not laughing at me! That’s because I still sometimes feel a tiny bit silly and indecorous doing it. Then I get over it.

It is so different working out at the gym from being in my belly dance class. At the gym, the focus is so much on perfection, driving yourself, punishing your body into shape. So many women, even if they look kind of like magazine women, feel that they don’t look good. Even the surgically altered, spa-enhanced ones. They invariably cover up in baggy tee shirts and work out jut to get through it. Even in my belly dance class at my gym, the women joke about how they don’t want to see themselves because they don’t look like the ultra thin and young instructor. They look at me in my bra top, belly showing, pierced navel and all, and they stare. I probably am easy to dismiss as a “Midlife crisis type.” Sure, I’ve been through one of those. But there is so much more than that. I look at them and I want to ask, “How can you believe you are ugly? Who says how a belly – or a woman – is supposed to look?”

In my belly dance class it is as if they are all from a blissfully different planet. There was a very heavy woman once, and all anyone could talk about was how riveting her performance was, and how great the shimmies looked on her body. It was true! That doesn’t mean that the slim ones don’t look great, they do! I just feel very comfortable in there showing my voluptuous gut and falling on my face. It means I am immersed in that culture and I am relearning things, from body image to body movements. I’ve been practicing with a dowel or a book on my head to keep my upper body “quiet
.” It has done wonders for my bearing. I feel more elongated in the middle, more in control of top and bottom halves.

I guess it is not a total slump I’m in, because I am happy, in a very quiet way. I have never been in better shape, and I have never felt more beautiful, and never more surrounded by — steeped in — female beauty. It is interesting to me that I began this journey of self-expression and exploration by venturing out of the house and into politics, which led me to become an acitivist and writer, which then led me to explore even notions of body image. Which brought me to dancing, the ultimate in self-expression.


Yes, you are BEAUTIFUL, Susan! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I find great joy in learning about your belly dance experience. What fun and glorious blossoming this is leading you into. Congratulations on your courage.

-Glori B.

— added by Gloriana Beausoleil on Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Glory Be to you! Thank you! How nice to get this comment. And what a wonderful name you have!!!

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Sometimes you just need to step back and breathe for awhile. (Or smell the roses or any other phrase that’ll get the point across….) Go back and find your center again. And if your center wants a workout and a piercing, then, well, go for it! 🙂

— added by Julia on Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 6:38 pm

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