I didn’t set out to be an ordained, pole dancing mother of four, but in a colorful life, these things can happen.
Turns out, you can be a mother, passionately tend to the social, emotional, and spiritual health of young adults, AND swing from pole for fun.
Until now, I didn’t spend much time talking about my ‘off-brand’ hobby of pole dancing. Not many people knew, outside my family and close friends. I didn’t pursue these disparate elements in my life to gain social media ‘likes’ or to hustle for worthiness. I didn’t intend to taunt the pearl-clutchers or to raise eyebrows. I did these things for me.
A day after JLo’s Superbowl pole dancing performance, I’m deafened, if not a bit disgusted, by the tut-tuts of mostly women, judging JLo for her choices, dragging out their soapboxes in the name of women’s empowerment. When did we all get to be experts in what constitutes empowerment for women?
Our job in this life is to strive to become better tomorrow than we were today. Our job is to model living fully for those who are looking up to us for guidance. Our job is to get to the end of our lives without becoming a heap of bitterness and regret.
Some people just don’t understand empowerment or living.
Since my days as a pole dancing preacher mom, I’ve added a few other roles and interests to my mashed-up life. I have connected with thousands of people over a lifetime.
I’ve learned a few lessons, some the hard way:
Lesson One: It is a very good idea to do things and surround yourself with people who make you feel alive. Alive is good; we don’t give enough airtime to the feeling of being alive. Your sister, friend, co-worker, neighbor, PTA president, aunt, old boyfriend, boss, grocery store cashier, seventh grade history teacher, or usher at church does not get to tell you what makes you feel alive, strong, or empowered. You get one shot at life. You don’t want to die young and live to a ripe old age.
Lesson Two: You don’t get to decide what is empowering for other people. Karen, the computer science major in Iowa, does not get to decide what is empowering to JLo the 50-year-old bilingual, minority, empire running, singer/mother in NYC. We get to decide for ourselves what feels empowering. Empowerment isn’t one size fits all. It isn’t scarce. There is plenty of empowerment to go around. You get to empower yourself with whatever you want: education, career, raising a family, praying, cross-stitch, butt cleavage. Don’t let Karen tell you otherwise. She isn’t the boss of you.
Lesson Three: It is okay to keep a few secrets. Not everything is meant for public consumption. You don’t owe people on social media anything. You don’t need to explain yourself to everyone. You can pursue things in life that make you feel wholly alive and not first run it by the world for approval. You are a grown-ass woman and you don’t need to ask your mom (or butcher or baker or candlestick maker) what her opinion might be. Other people don’t get to litmus test your joy. People don’t know what your soul howls for. Only you do. Share your secrets and passions wisely.
Lesson Four: Believe you are worthy to live fully. Confession: I was the worst pole dancer ever. Every inch of my body was bruised. My neck ached from falling on my head. Somedays, I could barely move my muscles were so sore, but the rush of satisfaction I got when I inverted myself on that pole for the first time, is something I’ll never forget. I’ve never been stronger in my life. I pursued pole dancing not because I wanted a paying side gig (pleeease!) but because I wanted a challenge, because I wanted a thrill, and, I knew one day it would a great story to tell in my old age. You are worthy of fun, of funny stories, of challenges, of excitement, of the good kind of fear, of the feeling of accomplishment. Own your worthiness. Own your life.
Notify me immediately if you should ever see my butt cleavage on display, because I do not ever, for whatever reason desire my butt cleavage to be on display. But JLo? Honey, you go, girl. If it makes you feel alive and empowered and strong and beautiful, who am I to judge?