Letting go is easy. Just dance.

BY MIRABELLE D’CUNHA

letting go with dance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mother with a toddler has an intensely demanding life. At almost four, my LO has a clear sense of what she wants to play and how. My role and that of friends is clearly demarcated, including how we are to act, what we are to feel and when we are to do it. This can often be daunting, especially when I have much work to do or just want to sit down with my cup of chai.

Yes, she is also constantly observing, chatting and asking questions. At times when its too much for me, there’s only one thing that comes to the rescue…..music and dance. Good music facilitates an almost immediate letting go for everyone, specially for me and my little one. It helps us both support our needs without having to talk and the power struggle that can oft result between parent and kid just melts away.

I have spent many hours searching for good kids’ music to dance and listen to. In an overcluttered world, where traffic and Bollywood music with lyrics totally unsuitable for children badger our ears, having a home lit up with free flowing dance and laughter is just irrepressibly transporting. Every evening, we turn on the mood light and light a candle on the dinner table before our meal. On the tough days or the just we’re-so-happy-to-be- mummy-and-baby days, I either give her a massage with soft music playing and coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil or we just play music and dance…..however we want. It could be Hanuman Jump by Jai Uttal or Composers Write Music or The Wiggles; we just let our hair loose and dance. There really is some great music out there for kids. The music, the dim lights, the candle burning…….and us letting go.

Kids need catharsis too in these busy times where despite our best interests, we sometimes run around like headless chickens.These dance jams of ours are so rewarding,  it led me to create collective group experiences through The Rhythm & Soul Playshop and to create my own songs with an Indian twist that I’m eager to share soon. They have helped me share with her and other kids at the schools I do playshops at, how to let it go, let it flow. Simple stuff this; instead of telling kids to stop fighting/pushing, just giving them breathing tools to facilitate that through a dance-along song. It’s all about integrating breathing into everything.

When we dance, we adapt to the pace and feel of the music, we trickle into its nuances, we settle into its steadiness, we are excited with its rhythm and we paraglide with its melody. My husband and I dance too, with the little one taking turns to partner us or just making a circle dance. We have danced together at weddings with her wrapped in a mei tie sling, we dance when laziness has overtaken us into a space of restlessness on a weekend. We have danced on the streets of Istanbul to the duff and have inspired musicians to play the only ..errr… Bollywood song they knew. We dance in the rain and with our arms flailing with wild trust in the winds whose majestic power we seek to harness in those wide upturned arms. We sway and dance when we cry together, we dance because we trust, we dance because it is the only effective way we know to surrender, we dance because there is gratitude, surrender and celebration in every micro-moment that we harness from this mad rushed overwhelming pace of Mumbai life.

About the author:

Mirabelle‘s life purpose is to facilitate experiences of joy and reverence. She does this primarily through children’s entertainment storytelling, dance-alongs and yoga. She is also author of the best-selling children’s book “366 Words in Mumbai”.
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Child, uninterrupted: why you must never let go of the child in you

A few days ago, I overheard a remark at a supermarket which went something like, “Come on now, don’t be a child!” It was meant — as most references towards child and animal behaviour are intended — to be condescending. As if the said person, if he ever got over his “childishness”, would be just that perfect human being the world would like to do business with.

It bothered me, that remark, particularly at a time when I was beginning to feel that adulthood and its related baggage is, to a large extent, our undoing.

We have too much time to be grown-up, too little to be children. We have forgotten how to laugh, cry, jump in abandon, sing and dance at whim, eat, play, love without an agenda. We are all hiding behind our adult masks, pretending to be all grown-up. It’s exhausting, this grownupness. Etiquette, protocol, political correctness — they are all collectively conspiring to render us clones of each other.

Children ask questions, don’t take no for an answer, don’t say “yes” too easily and almost say nothing to please. Spending time with a child keeps your dissent alive. It makes you question authority, it makes you wonder why you do what you do, it makes you happy, sad, angry, curious. Some of us hold on to the child in us, others let go. But in the end, it is the child in us that sets us free, no matter what we choose to do.

So let’s not rush it for our children. Let’s not admonish them for being “childlike”. Let’s not make adulthood this hugely exciting place they have to get to. Or, as American quotation anthologist Terri Guillemets sums it up: “Always jump in the puddles! Always skip alongside the flowers. The only fights worth fighting are the pillow and food varieties.”

My mother, minutes before she went into her second open heart surgery a few months ago, said, “Oh no! Now I have to tear open my rib cage like Hanuman and will end up looking like an open cockroach!” Her biggest peeve about the hospital stay was not the pain or the needles. It was her hospital gown, which she thought was most unbecoming for her petite self. She called it her misshapen backless choli, laughing feebly to bring out the cough that was necessary to decongest her chest, help her lungs clear and her heart stabilise post her valve replacement. She is the best child I have ever had.

The husband, on most days, is spank-worthy. His jaunts to the building landing (his allotted smoking area) are now getting increasingly longer thanks to Pocket Planes and Tiny Towers, his current hot picks on the iPhone. I find it harder to get him off his Xbox than Re off his toys and into bed. Why do you allow him to game, friends ask me. Because you can never not allow someone to be a child, I say.

One of the sideeffects of having Re is that he has brought me closer to my inner child. And so I feel grateful to him for teaching me these little things:

To laugh. Always. With abandon. Like you really mean it. As loud as you can. It’s good for your lungs. And it really makes your face come alive. Know anyone who doesn’t look good laughing?

To sing. Loudly. Or even softly. Whistle. Sway along. Sing like the world belongs to you. It will.

To dance. Anywhere, to anything. Dance like you know no fear, no inhibitions. Like your body is your best friend. Dance when no one expects you to.

To hug. Because no matter how big or small you are, you always feel happier after a hug.

To clap. Because it makes a nice sound. And when you are happy and you know it, you must clap your hands. The song says so.

To cuddle and kiss. Because everyone has to know they are loved.

To ask questions. Because it is important to know. Everything.

To cry. Because sometimes it is important to let people know that you are upset. Also, it always guarantees a cuddle.

They keep me going, these children in my life. One who gave birth to me. One I married. One I birthed.

(This post first appeared as my column in the Indian Express Sunday Eye on 28th Oct 2012)

Finding me in mommee

The first movie that Re and I formed a bond over was Finding Nemo. It’s a story about an ocean fish who one day, finds himself in an aquarium and how he and his friends mastermind his escape. For a long time, I watched it at face value, making appropriate exclamation sounds when Nemo gets trapped by the deep sea diver, his dad’s search mission with the absent-minded Dory, aided by the turtles and finally, Nemo’s grand escape.

But one day, close to Re’s second birthday, it hit me. I was Nemo. I was the ocean fish who had been moved into a tank. I had actually walked into the tank with my eyes open, thinking that I would really love it there.

Till I became a mother, I was always a get-up-and-go girl. I had quit the comfort of my parents’ home, jobs, hostels, apartments and boyfriends to break free, to pursue my dreams, however short-term they were. So the one thing I was missing the most in this whole motherhood business was me. The me that took off to Pondicherry or Gokarna on a whim. The me that wanted to open a bookstore and cafe at Thekkady. The me that wanted to grow coffee. The me that wanted to go to Jomsom so bad that I checked into the Kathmandu airport six days in a row hoping to hear that the weather had improved enough for flights to take off. The me that joined salsa, taichi, capoeira, dance meditation, pottery and film-appreciation workshops because I wanted to. The me that quit advertising to run an animal helpline.

Now, even going for a book reading or a tea-tasting is a multiple-backup project. It was hard to live life with a little person always to account for. Even if that little person was something you birthed and loved dearly. And it was not about finding help, or a day-care or calling your mother. I remembered something someone said. “The day you have a child, you are finished. Your life is no longer your own.” At the time I heard it, the free-spirited soul that I was, I brushed it off. That can never be my life, I thought.

My new universe was full of women who lost themselves after they had children and then blamed motherhood for it. I didn’t want to be that woman, but for the first year or so, I found myself drowning in the quicksand of motherhood. I was no caterpillar, but I was struggling in my motherhood cocoon. If you are a working mom, you legitimately claim it back as soon as you can. But I had let that universe go. And there was no turning back for me. I realised I hadn’t thought it through. There would be enough left of “me” after a whole lot of “me” had been spent by motherhood. And that “me” needed to be nurtured as much as my baby.

I found my ways. I wrote a book. I started a blog. I started tweeting my highs and lows. I was writing and reading more than ever before. Morning shows were my new thing. I found coffees and cupcakes. I found graphic novel libraries. I found every little place that set me free.

When the husband asked me what I wanted for my recent birthday, I said, “I want a real holiday.” “Okay then, why don’t you firm up the dates and book us tickets?”

“You got it wrong. I said I wanted a holiday, not we.”

He looked a tad disappointed, but then, I reminded him that political correctness was never my suit. He smiled. I plotted.

Someday I may want to go back to school. Or just backpack for six months. I didn’t marry spontaneous, so I know it’s going to be tough. I’ll figure out how to make it happen. And if I want it real bad, I can.

A few weeks ago, I joined a street jazz class. I am now learning to pirouette and have just mastered the choreography of 4 minutes by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Most of the class is half my age, or perhaps younger. Sometimes they call me aunty, sometimes ma’m, and sometimes, when I take Re along, they don’t even look at me. It’s only about him. They have lean, fit bodies, shapely legs and they move with style and attitude. I am having a tough time keeping pace with them, but feeling inadequate has never felt this good. It’s not about getting my body back or shedding that flab or getting into a bikini. It’s just about feeling free, feeling me. I practise hard, it takes me longer to learn the steps that the youngsters have such a natural flair for. But for the first time, I am not afraid to say “I don’t know.” Or “I didn’t get it.” Every Wednesday and Saturday, I put on my dancing shoes and I am out of the house, in a world all of my own for two hours. I am trying to find my inner Nemo, and I must say, I still love her.

 

This post was first featured as my column for the Freedom Special Issue in the Indian Express Sunday Eye on 12th Aug, 2012