Dancing with God at The White Horse

It is a rare occasion in which I leave my house at 9:00pm, much less on a weeknight, but the allure of the slightly sticky 78° evening and a pair of VIP tickets to an art opening have me putting on punch pink lipstick in the back of a Lyft as I cross town to meet my friend.

The event is enjoyable, but almost over by the time we arrive (thanks to our earlier plans). Neither of us being one to waste a great outfit and perfect patio weather, we head to another venue where we discover some friends and an upbeat jazz band.

Tequila seems to be the drink of the evening and we sip house margaritas before trading to Mexican martinis, essentially the same thing, but served in a fancier glass with an olive. When we get bored with the bachelor party we've been flirting with, we decide to head to The White Horse to kick up our heels and work out our wiggles.

The band is switching up when we walk in, giving us time to grab another beverage at the bar and pop outside to once again chat with some friends we have bumped into. The music starts back up inside and we follow the beat of the drums and the beat of our hearts towards the dance hall.

Despite my almost five years in Texas, I'm not much of a two-stepper. I watch with awe as sexy women gracefully whip around like a carnival ride, delicately pushed and pulled by their partners. Their boots, their booty shorts, and their smiles are dazzling and I'm mesmerized, mentally practicing their moves and trying to copy their steps in my mind.

Before I am fully prepared, the gentleman to my left asks me to dance so I throw back the rest of my drink and jump into the second song of the set. I make it through with minimal coaching and keep my eye out for someone who can actually show me the ropes.

The old men are the ones you really want to dance with here. They have expert-level moves and a confidence that sets them apart from the younger boys who are sweet but still awkward in their asking women to dance, and amateurs at leading with conviction. 

After another song or two on the sidelines, an aging cowboy with white hair and a matching beard asks for my hand and gently leads me to the middle of the room. He is the perfect height for me, and I notice that his beer belly is firm as it presses into my stomach. His hold is equally solid and I am grateful for his strong lead as we start to follow the rhythm of the song.

I count the cadence in my head. One-two, one-one, one-two, one-one. Quick-quick, slow-slow, quick-quick slow-slow. When he spins me around, which I love, I lose count and it takes me a couple of beats to catch the tempo and get back to the flow.

"Relax," he says with a knowing grin. I understand that he is telling me to lighten my grip and release the tension in my arms, but I smile as I think of the larger metaphor his advice holds in my life. He removes my purse from my shoulder and places it on the stage and tells me not to worry about it.

Right now, I'm not worried about anything. Normally, I live with my shoulders to my ears, a tightness constantly coiled in my core as I run from place to place, making sure I am smiling for people and saying the right things at the right time. But tonight at The White Horse, none of that matters. There is just honky tonk and two stepping.

This Thursday evening is about learning to let go, and in my blissful buzz I have a hunch this white-haired hero is God telling me to just breathe and enjoy the music. Life is short and like this brief waltz it is not about counting every step or having perfect technique as we weave in and around the others sailing in circles. I loosen up and as he twirls me I am overcome with a sense of freedom and ecstasy that feels a lot like love. The winding unwinds me and the stress of daily life is forgotten, futile in this fun-filled moment in time.

The song comes to and end and with a Santa-like twinkle in his fatherly eyes he escorts me back to my friend on the outskirts of the crowd.

There is silence for a second, but as the music picks back up and I find myself in the arms of another dancer floating and flying around the floor with increasing finesse.

I let go, and I am free.

MOTHER

I have always seen motherhood as a negative thing
Sacrifice
Stretch marks
Sleepless nights
It is the conceding of a career
The giving up on spontaneous trips and faraway travel
Surrendering all of your dreams.

It means pain
Hunger
Stress
Expenses

But never have I considered the beauty that it is to be a mother...

It means perfect love
It means power
It means discipline and confidence and hard work
It means a nurturing spirit
A natural ability to help things grow
It means leadership
And negotiation
— with two year olds
It is personal development and power

And whether or not you have biological children
You can embody the spirit of womanhood
Own motherhood
Honor your inner goddess.
Because what it means to be feminine
Is to be both soft and strong
Both nurturing and commanding
Both disciplined and spontaneous
To be tender, and inspiring, and sweet.

You are a mother.

HOME

This is my body:

richelle ouellette

Five feet, seven inches
One hundred and thirty pounds of flesh
Values on a scale, but not one that determines my worth.
Just facts.

White skin. 
Brown hair, 
everywhere.

The surface is unmanicured.
It has rolls and bumps and scars
Flab and sag in places it didn’t use to.
And white stitches on my hips
From stretching far beyond my limits
Which I often do.
How remarkable is that?

My hands are callused.
Unwomanly, perhaps, but another reminder of my strength
I am stronger than I think I am
And more fragile, too.

My gut gently curves.
And though the muscles of my core are tight you can’t see them because they hide under layers of cake and wine and sweet times spent with people I love, sharing meals and laughter.

I am made of trillions of cells.
Minuscule, but miraculous
Constantly healing the deepest wounds
Restoring my blood and bones, heart and soul
Making them whole,
Perfect.

I live here
After 30 years the mortgage is paid off.
I finally own my body.
I owe nothing
To anyone
And I am finally home.

SENSES

Wide eyes
Strong hands
Gentle touch
Quick feet
Curious mind
Soft lips
Honest tongue
Open ears
Wild heart

THE DOOR

I am seated on the floor of my living room. Alone. Wondering how I let myself get here.

I have set up an elaborate security system to prevent Depression from breaking in and stealing my joy. Years of therapy, meditating, devouring every piece of reading material about emotional health & wellness I can get my hands on. I signed up for all the yoga classes, massages, subscribed to the daily inspirational quotes, and followed the self care hacks listed on the blogs and the “real talk” Instagram captions.

In spite of all my careful fortification I find myself burnt out, drowning in doubt. I am confused by the reality that I am snapping at people I love, eating everything in sight, bored by ideas the normally bring me joy, and ignoring the healthy habits I’ve worked so hard to create. The inability to control my sadness is beyond frustrating and I respond with resistance - fighting back outbursts of tears and the pain of not feeling like myself.

Becoming acquainted with this kind of despair is difficult. Not completely new, but certainly not anything that has ever stuck around. It usually comes and goes, which thankfully provides some relief from the incessant knocking at the door.

After a particularly persistent attempt to infiltrate, I finally stand up to unlock the door and find Depression sinisterly lurking on my welcome mat. I am hesitant to let him in, but begrudgingly allow him to step into my entryway while we get to know each other, if he will kindly remove his muddy shoes.

He looks uncomfortable and it requires all the humility in my heart to invite him to take off his coat and stay a while. He removes his outerwear and I can see him more clearly. Up close, I realize he is not as scary-looking as I imagined, and much more complex. I doubt we are going to become best friends, but maybe there is something he can teach me. Desperate and uncertain, my stare seeks the answers I hope he can supply.

“Slow down,” he reminds me.

I scoff. He doesn’t know my life and if I slow down how am I supposed to answer all the emails, and find new clients, and grow my business, and pay my contractors and my bills and get all the things done on time so I can be happy? My thoughts race towards another guest who frequently visits my mind: Anxiety.

“You don’t have to prove yourself through work,” he gently whispers.

“But…” I begin to retort. Though I don’t have the words to fill the silence that follows as I search for a sound excuse as to why I have been running so fast, pushing so hard.

“You are enough.” He smiles sweetly and I recognize that I have been doubting his wisdom simply because he is a foreigner and we don’t speak the same language.

Still slightly skeptical, I offer him a cup of tea and a few more moments of my time.

As we chat I can sense my body gradually relaxing, my muscles letting go of tension. Eventually it seems natural for him to take a seat and our conversation deepens. We discuss my history of trauma, my addiction to work. I share the stories I have been telling myself. I admit my longing for meaningful relationships and deep soulful connection. When I am done speaking, I listen. And as we become intimately familiar with each other my heart softens and my compassion grows. I have been judging him unfairly this whole time. 

I have been judging myself harshly, too.

Slowly, steadily, my feelings towards him transform from fear and frustration to something beautiful - trust, respect. I still don’t fully understand his nature, but I am sure it is not as negative as I once thought.

As we communicate I see what he is showing me within myself - how I have been ignoring Grief, Anger, and Emptiness. They, too, would like a seat at the table. To be heard and treated as friends. These unwelcome guests have valuable lessons to share as well, if I am willing to receive.

Without realizing, hours pass and suddenly Depression stands and says it is time to leave. I am grounded again to the present and wonder if I should offer him a piece of cake for the road to thank him for the gifts he has left with me.

He departs and as I start to close the door behind him he turns to say one more thing.

“Darling do you see the sunset? This beauty, too, is temporary.”

I smile and decide to leave the door open for the next visitor.

LOGIC

logic and emotion
two parts of my brain that exist in the same sphere
sitting next to each other
but separated by miles of space.

they are both stubborn
and as such blind
ignorant to what the other knows.

how do i teach them to communicate with each other
to take down the wall between them and listen to the other?

align
and stop fighting
be friends instead of foes

until there is no difference between
the thoughts I think, the love I feel, and the beauty I behold