All posts by lauriedavidson

Dancing Queen, or Dancing Fool, or Maybe Both

Those first two words, evoking the Abba song by that title from way back in 1976—the year I graduated from high school—are a blast from the past, aren’t they? While I may no longer be “Young and sweet/Only seventeen” like the subject of that song, I’m still a dancing queen. And the title may apply to me now more than ever. Especially if I go by definitions 3a and 3b of queen from Merriam-Webster Online: “a woman eminent in rank, power, or attractions; a goddess or a thing personified as female and having supremacy in a specified realm.”

That kind of gravitas is just not possible at seventeen. Don’t you agree? It’s much more true of us mature women. But let me be quick to clarify that while I find these descriptions true of me, any rank, power, attractions, and supremacy I feel are not over anyone else. Rather they are qualities I’ve stepped into, very recently, in my own realm. After too long being trapped in the toxic habit of externalizing my power, authority, and worthiness, I am finally self-sovereign. Released from unconsciously defining myself through others, I have crowned me Queen, of my world, my life.

And this queen loves to dance—always has. I managed to make room for it through childhood, adolescence, and into my early 20s, but when I got down to the “serious business” of becoming an adult, I lost vital touch with it for many decades. Blessedly, I reconnected with it in December 2018, when I stumbled upon 5Rhythms—a freeform conscious dance practice—during my healing journey. I’ve been at it ever since, racking up hundreds of hours both on my own and in community with other people, in-person and on Zoom.

The picture here, taken in 2019, is of me (on the left) with two fellow dancers, right after a Sunday morning 5Rhythms class, the sweat still drying on our skin. As you can see, I’m considerably older than my companions, but the joy on each of our faces is ageless. Which brings me to also being a dancing fool, and to definition 3b of that word from Merriam-Webster Online: “one with a marked propensity or fondness for something.” It’s written all over our faces, isn’t it? We’re fools for dance, and the floor is our playground.

To some, I suspect I also qualify under fool definition 1: “a person lacking in judgment or prudence” because I’ve fielded many versions of these questions: “Aren’t you embarrassed?” “Aren’t you too old?” “Isn’t it for real dancers?” My answer to all the above is: “Hell, no!” And I add, “Truthfully, if you’re human, you’re a real dancer!” Dance is an ancient practice, used variously to heal, build community, express gratitude, embody joy, and so much more. All members of species Homo sapiens are innately creatures of rhythm, and dance is in our DNA. Just watch any toddler respond to music.

When I’m on the dance floor, the queen and the fool are both there, in all their fullness. And so is the toddler, whom I’ve reclaimed from the clutches of trauma. One of my favorite 5Rhythms teachers, Kierra Foster-Ba, said to me just this week, “Dance is a powerful tool for human liberation,” and I’ve certainly found that to be true in my own life. My consistent engagement with it alongside somatic therapy has enabled me to break out of old prisons, reclaim vast amounts of energy, and move forward in life with renewed health and vigor. Plus, it’s just so much fun! It’s with great joy that I dance my heart out with the stamina to match folks many years my junior, offering living proof that it’s never too late to break free!

[See my Resources page for places to learn about 5Rhythms and other forms of conscious dance.]

I’m All Wet

Sixty years ago, at age three, I jumped in my neighbor’s swimming pool and have never really dried off. I took to water instantly, feeling at home there, and have spent much of my life immersed in it. While I love pools, my happiest hours of being all wet have been spent in open bodies of water like lakes, bays, and oceans. I suspect every human has a deep affinity like this for some specific part of the natural world, whether it be the mountains, the desert, the forest… What it is for you?

For me, this early encounter with water wasn’t just about discovering my happy place. I also discovered my athletic niche there. Very active as a child, I loved to play games but discovered I lacked good hand-eye coordination. Add a ball or put a racket, bat, or club in my hand and frustration was not far off. Despite the ardent hopes and concerted efforts of my parents to make me into a tennis player—after all, I would make the needed fourth for a family game of doubles—it was not meant to be.

But I quickly discovered I had a knack for swimming, and I fell in love with it. So, while the rest of my family was on the court, I was in the pool. In the picture above, I’m five years old and have just completed my first ever race. (That’s me in the dark blue swimsuit, elbows on my knees, facing the camera.)  The official age category I competed in was “10 and Under”, and because I was way under, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I came in last—dead last, by several minutes. But I was elated because I’d proven to the coach and my parents, none of whom believed it possible, that I could finish a whole lap.

Fast forward 59 years and you get the picture on the left. That’s me, last September, coming out of the ocean having completed my first leg of a 10-mile relay. Yup, I’m still at it. Still swimming, still loving it, still racing. But with a very different orientation now. Compare and contrast the looks on my face in these two pictures for a glimpse into the change. I know it’s hard to tell because of the picture quality, but in the early one, I’m wearing a look of smugness. Odd on someone so young, don’t you think? In last year’s, there’s a look of joy. Yes, I’m hamming for the camera, but that’s because I’m having a really good time.

During the decades between these two photos, striving dominated my approach to swimming, and I competed throughout them, on teams and individually. I learned well how to push my body, which can be phenomenally good for one’s health and fitness, and had some triumphant moments. However, I also had some intensely negative moments, like when I’d push despite pain or to the point of injuring myself—one time, catastrophically (see Growing into the Gray.) You see, underneath my orientation to swimming—as to so much of life—lay an unconscious need to prove my worth and value, stemming from childhood wounding I hadn’t dealt with.

Thanks to somatic trauma therapy, I no longer swim to prove anything to anyone, myself included. I am present in the moment, fully embodied, and swim for the pure animal pleasure of it—the sensuous delights of the water sliding over my body as I slice through it, cradling me in its buoyancy like a lover, the steady rhythm of my breathing and heartbeat echoing in my ears letting me know I’m alive and well and powerful. My stroke is so much gentler now, not forced. Push is gone, but, ironically, I’m as strong and capable at sixty-three as I’ve ever been, without trying to be. Hmm, a powerful lesson for all of life, perhaps?

Because of my natural affinity for the water, friends tease me that I must have been a dolphin in an earlier incarnation. I’m thinking that’s not so far-fetched, even though in my mind the jury’s still out on the whole past life thing. What I think it comes down to is this: dolphins are famous for their playfulness. And because I have finally embodied safety, and thus feel free to be me, I bring that sense to my time in the water now. Swimming has become an arena of deep play for me. And it shows.

[Possible resources for further exploration: Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do by Wallace J. Nichols; Deep Play by Diane Ackerman; and]

Shift Happens

Welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you’re online with me. At one point, I wasn’t sure I’d ever make it here. I started on this project two full years ago but got massively sidetracked. Way back in 2020, early on during COVID-19’s first quarantine, I sat down to compose several initial posts. What I kept ending up with, however, were personal essays much longer than is typical in blogs, and I gradually realized they were chapters of a book that was begging to be written instead. So, I shifted direction and spent a year working on a manuscript and the same amount of time on publication. It was all-consuming.

Happily, Growing into the Gray is done now, and I find myself here, finally starting that blog. But from a very different perspective than when I first conceived of the idea. I’m coming at it now as an author, with one book to share, another in the works, and a life unimagined two short years ago. Maybe you’ve experienced similar shifts in your life—one minute you’re sure of your direction and the next you’re heading somewhere completely different. Of course, unless they’re slight in nature, these shifts usually don’t happen in a literal minute.

The one I just described, from blog to book, occurred  gradually, over several weeks as the pieces I was writing revealed their true nature to me. The one from writer to author, over many months as the process unfolded. And considerable shifts often take much, much longer. My own most recent one of a monumental nature—my late-life somatic healing from childhood trauma, the total personal transformation responsible for bringing me here—certainly did. It took a few years. Years that have helped me grow very comfortable with change.

I’m with the Buddhists on this one: if we resist change, we increase our suffering. I think that’s because in resisting the only true constant, we’re efforting against nature, life, our very selves. I efforted against for five plus decades, and my life contained way more pain and struggle than it needed to. That is until crisis brought me to a turning point, and I made a different choice. How about you? Like I was for so long, are you feeling stuck, maybe frustrated, afraid, or powerless in the face of a persistent problem—yours or the world’s? Is what you’ve been doing to try to change, or to heal, or to help not working? Are you frequently stressed? Unable to find peace? Losing hope? All signs, perhaps, that a shift is needed.

Take heart. Having undergone a radical rebirth in my seventh decade, I’m living proof that an old dog can learn new tricks. And while you’re taking heart, please also take my advice. Don’t wait for crisis. The key to vitality, living with purpose, experiencing wellbeing, making a difference in the world, and all kinds of other goodies, is literally close at hand, as plain as the nose on your face. I suspect that if you step away from the cultural bias towards intellect and reason that has us trying to think our way to a better life, and dare to get intimately acquainted with your own body, learn to listen deeply to it and decipher its wise messages, honor it as your greatest guide, center it in your life, understand how it works on the nervous system level, rejoice in its healing abilities, feel into it, your life will never be the same. In a host of delicious ways.

The saying “change is the only constant in life” is trite, I know, but if you think about it, really think about it, it’s absolutely true. On a strictly biological level, from the moment we’re born, our bodies undergo constant change—one shift after another—right up to that ultimate one we call death, and there’s nothing we can do to stop that arc. (No matter what the “anti-aging” industry—a truly bizarre and toxic offshoot of our culture—might claim.) Certainly, we can and ought to take responsibility for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being as much as possible throughout our lives. But in the end, shift happens. So why not embrace it?

Come along with me and shift into embodiment.