As organisms we are definable. We are male, female, humankind; Homo sapien. But how do you define a being? Of all the parts and minutiae that make up Sara Elizabeth Ellis, what can be eliminated and leave a whole and true Sara behind?
You could argue that adding or subtracting anything to myself would change this Sara into a completely new Sara, and that moment by nanomoment there are parallel Saras born into a mirror universe ad infinitum. You could also argue that nothing short of complete and total destruction could reveal my true Self – but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. I’m thinking in simpler terms.
There are a lot of ways we define ourselves. Most of this is left out in the open for public consumption, As a species we are nigh obsessed with broadcasting self definition: band t-shirts, netflix queues, throw pillows, preferred personal frangrances, and Phds. There are some things, however, that are so crucial to our existence, so inextricably "I" that we shy from saying it aloud. To name it might sully, or worse, destroy it; a single wayward breath and we might wink out of existence.
These characteristic tend to fall under the artistic and religious. They pin the mortal to the divine. They turn earthbound faces ever skyward. They are expressed urgently, tenderly; with precision, and with abandon. They are witnessed by thousands at forty dollars a seat, but they are sometimes witnessed only by the most peripheral members of society that keep the nightwatch over park benches and bus stops. They alone might hear something flutter between parked cars, or dart across an empty intersection.
I'm a pretty good storyteller. I like my poetry. Some other people like it, too. Several members of my family are good if not great at the visual arts. I am the assistant editor for a fiction magazine and I take pleasure in measuring up a story, diagnosing any problems, and sometimes even prescribing possible remedies. I work part time in a comic book store, have good communication skills, give great amateur massages, pre and post breakup counsel, dream interpretations, and slightly cockeyed but ultimately passable haircuts. But I'm a dancer, yo.
I am never happy if I am not dancing. Too many days without it and I get physically and psychologically muffed up. Dancing is the most pure and effective way I can put the inside on the outside. It stirs my blood, soothes my heart, blows my mind, and articulates my soul.
I don't shout it around. A lot of my every- day- people don't know it. The majority of my graduating class certainly didn't know it, and neither did one (or all?) of my ex-boyfriends. Of course that has more to do with their being self-absorbed and bad listeners than with my shyness. However, this could be the first and only PSA to disclose the most crucial of Sara ingredients, excluding resumés.
If you know me well this isn't surprising. I fear putting the truest and most precious parts of myself out in the open except in those inevitable showdowns between Good and Evil. And I don't believe in Dance Competitions, except socially. Most of all, I don't believe in this:
I often wear my heart on my sleeve, but never on my ass.
I know I'm not alone. A lot of us sneak around, being awesome in the dark. Did you know CompTron was an amazing dancer? Her body sings poetry. Seriously. She empathizes with my passion, but also shares my anxiety with performing in front of a few accqaintances, as opposed to a nameless throng or a few tried and true souls. It's just too important. Too true, too real, too raw.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we get are accustomed to public prayers. Before dinner, after meetings, etc. But have you ever prayed your most personal prayers aloud? What if someone other than God was listening?
It is as terrifying as it is beautiful. It just makes you cautious, is all. You don't have to cast your pearls before swine to feel like the only naked body in the room-- well meaning people are scary enough.
Even more terrifying is the thought of losing your means of expression.
Thursday morning I went to my first ballet class after six months of exclusively dancing West African and Flamenco. I hit four triple pirouettes in a row. Awesome. I couldn't extend my right leg when raised higher than 45 degrees. Holy crap. That's not good.
It might be tendonitis, but the terrible click/snapping sensation would indicate that I've probably torn a ligament behind my knee. I called my long time friend and teacher Elbert Watson back in Norfolk, Virginia, 10 'o clock at night his time, and he gave me some good advice,therapeutic exercises, and optimism that it would heal before visiting him in July.
Frozen aspargus now under my knee, I feel better. But there was a moment, a long unravelling moment, where I couldn't stop crying because I couldn't move my legs. I couldn't express my feelings, I couldn't dance to my own pulse, I couldn't touch the divine.
We are so fragile. Such fragile creatures should have more courage. Courage to take off our clothes, pray out loud, dance in the daylight. Crash. Burn. Brilliant.