Encountering my own inner goddess
By Stephanie Wampler
I begin this article with a momentous announcement. This announcement will, I think, bring a general feeling of gladness to the community. (Drum roll ...) Everyone, I want to tell you that I recently found my inner goddess.
Yes, that’s right. I recently found my inner goddess. This may come as something of a surprise to those who know me and have perhaps never thought of me in the goddess category. But, I apparently do have an inner goddess and the other day I found her. Yes, sirree. I was wandering around in my happy place and there she was, smiling up at me in all her radiant glory.
One or two of you readers may be wondering what I am talking about. You just need to be filled in on a little history. Some time ago, a friend happened to mention that she was taking belly dancing. That immediately caught my attention since the only thing I was taking at that time was vitamins. I asked her more and discovered that there was a woman from Asheville teaching belly dancing classes locally and that anyone could learn. (Calm down, guys — by “anyone” I mean “any woman”.) All she needed was a longish, flowing skirt and the ability to show up.
After that conversation, I reflected on the matter further. The idea of belly dancing immediately conjured up exotic images of torches, shining fabrics, beautiful women, and jewels, all to an intoxicating background of snake-charming music. Hmmm. I’m in.
But I needed a baby sitter.
I very hesitantly mentioned it to my husband. He looked at me, stunned, and thought it over for a few minutes. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. Finally, with a solemn expression, he put his arm around me and said, “Honey, you know that I have your best interests at heart. You know that I want you to be all you can be, and if this is something that is really important to you, I am willing to help make it happen.” He sighed and continued with a martyred voice, “Sweetie, if you feel that you need to take belly dancing five nights a week, I am willing to babysit.”
Well, I only needed one night a week. But he was willing. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was close. I thought for a moment there that he might resist the idea. But he was even willing to take me shopping for a long, flowing skirt that might somehow exude the essence of the Middle East.
I waited eagerly for the next night of class and went to the local rec center where it would be held. I found the room and went in. It was a regular aerobics room with a bouncy floor and mirrors on the wall. If the lights were out and torches were lit, one might possible imagine Middle Eastern activities going on there. Good enough. The other women in the class were standing around in long skirts, waiting for the teacher. Most were similar to me — caucasian women who might have taken a ballet class or two in elementary school. Ages 20 something to 60 something. Appearances varied, most somewhere in the average category. I would fit right in.
Then the teacher entered. She had on a real belly dancing outfit and she immediately put in some slow snake charming music. Everyone sat down on the floor for stretching and relaxation exercises. She directed us to close our eyes, and with the music flowing around us, we were to find a quiet place where we felt completely comfortable and could find our inner goddesses. I found a quiet place easily enough — after all, my kids were at home. But searching out an inner goddess was an entirely different thing. If there was a goddess somewhere deep within me, she was playing hide-and-seek.
Still it was a good exercise, and after a few minutes, we all stood up and began to learn belly dancing.
The result was predictable. I will spare you the painful details. Be that as it may, we all laughed and danced and laughed some more. It was fun, and now, many weeks later, I can report that I have learned a few of the basic moves of belly dancing.
When my husband mentions my classes to some of his friends, they all have the same reaction: drool. At which time I point out that it is not at all what they are thinking, that none of us in the class has exactly been trained up from childhood to the art of belly dancing.
Nonetheless, the classes are a good thing. My world as a mother can seem rather small sometimes. My chief roles are Juice Fixer, Ham Roller (my son doesn’t eat bread but rather ham slices rolled up), Laundry Folder, Vacuumer, Boo-Boo Mender, and Grocery Supplier. I am not complaining. The jobs themselves may not be much fun, but deep down, there is nothing I love more than taking care of my family. I have immense satisfaction in seeing healthy, happy faces running merrily through the yard or snuggled up in my lap. But somewhere in this picture there is a little part of me that is missing. There is a lot of Mom but not much Woman.
Which, I think, is what I like so about belly dancing. I was practicing at home a few days ago. All the boys were out of the house, so I was alone. I put on my scratched CD of Middle Eastern music, dressed up in my long, flowing skirt, and imagined jewels draped all over me. I practiced in front of the mirror, doing hip circles and mayas and snake arms. It was fun, laughable but fun. Then, somewhere between a maya and some snake arms, I caught a little glimpse of radiance. For just a second, there was a glowing, dancing woman, with long, streaming black hair and torchlight glimmering all around. I blinked and the image was gone. But I’m pretty sure that I saw her. My inner goddess likes to play hide-and-seek, but for one moment I caught a glance of her. And who knows? If I keep practicing, one day I just might see her again.