Tuesday, September 23, 2014

reaping for karma types

It’s the first day of fall, following the hottest August on record. I’m feeling good—flipping my schedule helped. Last night I took a dance class called AfroFunk at a little studio on the corner of 5th Street and Los Angeles downtown. Outside the studio there is still a lot of funk, as in guys who say, Hey, sweetheart, I just want a beer, when you get out of your car, and inside there’s a pale wood floor and boxed water for sale.

My name is Cheryl, and I am (kind of) funky.
Two of my coworkers have danced there and recommended it. The class, taught by a woman named Tanita with a half-shaved, half-dreadlocked head, combines different African dance styles—West African, Zulu, some others I’ve already forgotten—and a little bit of hip-hop and jazz, sprinkled with some nature-based philosophy. That combination could have gone horribly wrong, the worst sort of hybrid cliché, but in Tanita’s hands it went fantastically right.

I thought, My body was born to do this! (I’ve always maintained that, in the dance realm, I am a better fake black girl than fake Latina. I can’t salsa to save my life, but I’m good with my shoulders.) The moves weren’t too complicated, the cardio was intense and when I looked in the mirror, I was surprised that I didn’t look out of shape. I’ve been exercising consistently for a long time, but not as rigorously as I’d like, and not as much/hard as AK, who’s a cross-training fiend.

But here I was on my own, with nice shoulders and a body feeling the drums right down to my bones.

Tanita talked about the change of seasons, about sowing and reaping. She showed us a move that was like picking cassavas. I felt a little self-conscious about how not one thing I do in my life remotely resembles picking cassavas.

Grant-writing is easier work, but also less funky.
“We, uh, karma types do a lot of sowing,” she said.

I felt like “karma types” might be code for Westside white women, even though this was Downtown, and she was black and the girls next to me were Asian and Latina.

“We are very comfortable giving. We sow and sow, give and give. Now it’s time to reap. We’re not always comfortable reaping. When someone gives us a compliment, do we even say thank you? Or do we immediately start tearing ourselves down?”

I say thank you. I’ve done a lot of reaping these past couple of years. I’m probably living on credit now. I probably have Dust Bowl levels of debt, if we’re continuing the farm metaphor.

What if this is my farm?
At the same time, as a non-karma-type, I felt suspicious of what she was saying. In the baby realm, I’ve sowed and sowed. I’ve corresponded with so many birthmothers, the latest of whom drifted away for good, it seems, last week. I want to think that it’s toward some kind of harvest, that there’s a kid in our near future. At the same time, I don’t—because then, if we don’t get a kid, doesn’t that mean my sowing wasn’t good enough? The wrong seeds, the wrong soil, the wrong ghost ovaries.

Reaping is probably a more spiritual thing. Sow love, reap love. The tangible stuff may or may not happen. It’s a beautiful thought, and disappointing.

It was good to live in my body like that for an hour, even if—as I flung my arms and feet about—my first thought was, I’ll be so sad when this leaves too, as if that’s what falling in love is, the first step in loss. And isn’t it? But I’m going back to that class. I’m going to keep shaking my ass.


Claire said...

I took a class like that in college! Might just have been African dance or a different hybrid, but I loved it and had fun. A girl named JAK told me I moved like a dancer which was about the best thing ever. Did it occur to me that she was maybe flirting with me? Nope, not in the slightest.

I'm with you on exercise, not as rigorously as I’d like either. Keep hitting points or injuries when I need to break for a while and then start again when I can. But I want to do it now! argh.

Enjoy your AfroFunk!

Cheryl said...

She was either flirting, or you move like a dancer OR BOTH. Win-win-win.