I stood at the ballet bars of Ms Geri’s Dance School and just stared. In the mirrors reflection was 8 little girls in first position and then there was me. A chubby little 6 year old in a purple leotard with no bun.
I suppose the mirror should have been helping me see if my feet were positioned correctly, but instead it just helped me realize clearly my legs were the biggest ones in the class. Maybe because I was an only child at the time I didn’t have much to compare them to and now having the opportunity to be around girls my own age intrigued me to study them in detail.
I have always had a gift of “weird detail awareness”. I wish someone would have told me sooner that this gift would payoff in more ways than one. I might have then embraced my feelings of being different sooner, but again maybe then I would have never written this story today.
Now, most of the girls in my class had already knew one another. I was new. I also was a little awkward, was red haired and had a weird name for 1980. Although today I love that my name is unique, my insecurities about being different added to my anxiety and sure didn’t help me make friends easily.
My parents work schedule also made it difficult for me to get to know the neighborhood kids around our home. I was rarely home during the week.
If I wasn’t at school, I was at daycare, and if I wasn’t at daycare, I was with a babysitter/family member. But to fill in a few gaps here, let me make sure to say this…my parents worked very hard.
My parents came from pretty humble beginnings so “making it” in life especially in the early 80s meant making money. Working moms were all the rage and climbing that corporate ladder meant women could really do it all. I feel differently about that do it all stuff, but I’ll save it for another story.
You can’t buy friends though. So my loneliness became a place for me to pretend. It probably is what sparked my interest to perform. To be on a stage where I could be seen.
My mom and dad loved the arts. They also had a good friend whose wife was a stage actress who we went to see perform several times in plays. I was in awe of how she could sing and dance. I wanted to do that myself. There were always children performing in the plays and I wanted to be one of them. The photo below is my God father and his wife the amazing actress that inspired me.
Miss Geri’s School of Dance was a pretty popular school in my Chicago neighborhood. It was a teeny- tiny place on a street corner with walls covered in photographs of dancers, past recital groups, and of course Miss Geri herself. I couldn’t wait to begin classes. My mom signed me up! I was going to be a dancer! And so it began. Every week I attended the ballet and tap class that was going to make me one step closer to the actress I wanted to be. But it wasn’t easy by any means. My nerves would go off the charts when Ms Geri walked slowly by the line of us at the bar. Her eyes were layered with heaps of grey, frost eye shadow & what had seemed to me at least 17 coats of mascara. She would look at our legs and feet with a narrowed stare that always made me uncomfortable. She had salt and pepper hair cut just like Pat Benetar and she always confidently walked across the floor in jazz heels while sporting a loose #Flashdance sweatshirt over her black leotard.
Something I learned fairly quick as a new dancer.
Black leotards = serious dancers.
Purple Leotards = chubby weirdo.
Guess who had a purple one?
Anyway, even though I felt anxious around her, I longed for her to see me. I knew if she could just see me really see me, she’d like me. I remember wishing she’d smile at me in class the same way she seemed to smile at me when my mom came in to pick me up.
I never understood that.
People who wear two completely opposite faces in life. I can barely keep up with the one me I am, let alone manage that web of nonsense.
But for whatever her reasons of being cold, I still held out on the hope of the day she might see something in me good enough to mention it to me.
To hear the words, to feel that pat on the back, to receive the genuine smile of approval meant everything to me.
I went every week, learned my dances, and did my best. I learned pretty early on, that doing my best started with just showing up.
Showing up regardless if you believed you were good enough or wanted.
There was one thing however Miss Geri did that held the power to make one feel special at least one time a year in her class.
There was a crown that sat on a shelf until it was your turn to wear it. I was about 7 years old and I loved princesses so you can bet it was the most beautiful crown I had ever seen. It was shaped like the crown in the cartoon version of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
The silver material was tightly stretched over the crown form and it was loaded with silver sequences. The sequences were the best part because when the studio lights hit the crown just so, the entire dance floor was showered with glittering light reflections.
Think about that, I’m like 7, I love wearing sparkles and dancing. Can you think of anything better? I know I can’t! Even as I write this I get super excited! It was something I thought about every time I saw that crown sitting on her shelf.
Now this crown of my dreams was only brought out on someone’s birthday.
At the end of class, Ms Geri would seat you in the middle of the floor, place the crown on your head, and everyone would sing and dance around you.
I wanted to wear that crown more than anything. Because it meant for that moment I would be special.
My birthday which fell on Oct 28th was also celebrated along with class Halloween Parties which is why I always have and always will love Halloween. Getting to dress up in a costume on my birthday was always an added bonus.
I know I was wearing one of those plastic costumes with mask in tow, and brought my bag of candy to pass.
I was a little anxious that she might forget about me because we still had dance class to do and the party to get to all in a 1 hour time period.
I wanted to mention it to her, but I was afraid. I rarely even spoke to her about anything at dance anyway, let alone intentionally ask her if she knew it was the week of my birthday.
I remember my mind spinning and screaming inside during class. The words of “just ask her Chantel!” “It’s your turn to be the girl who sparkles the dance floor with the crown. But my fear became a reality. One hour is not enough time to do all of this. My mind wrestled with the ideas of maybe she forgot or maybe she didn’t know. But she remembered the other girls on their day.
What about me?
I kept looking at her hoping she would see. I wish she saw through my eyes. But she never really looked at my eyes, she was always looking at my legs and feet.
Maybe if my legs just looked like the other girls….
I can still feel what that moment felt like to take off my dance shoes that evening. I didn’t tell my mom or dad, but I never did wear that crown that day.
I haven’t shared this story with many. I never shared it ever like this. Its not easy writing about feeling forgotten or unseen. Looking back, I’m pretty sure Miss Geri never knew how much power that little crown held for me. I was too little to understand it’s power as well.
That crown represented something much deeper to me back then but only today would I have been able to see it. It wasn’t that it was just pretty or that it sparkled when the light hit it.
It was about having an opportunity to wear something that meant something to me. That the little girl who was constantly being dropped off somewhere, was seen by someone. That I was just as special as all the others, and the biggest one…
that I belonged.
For most of my life, I have spent precious time looking in all kinds of places hoping to find someone or something to crown me. Think about being crowned and what that means. It’s not just about wearing a pretty headdress.
Its about being named something important.
I have a crown today that I am just now getting used to. I have received it, I’m working on learning how to wear it, and understanding the responsibility there is now that I have chosen to accept it.
If you are reading this today, I believe these words were meant to meet you in this moment, right now.
I have decided to write this and share my stories with you because I believe there is true healing and power in releasing your stories. That healing comes from being brave enough to think about it, face it, and actually write it all down. There is something very different when memories leave your head and are staring back at you in actually words on paper.
First of all, it makes you look at it.
Second of all, it helps you relook at it.
When we have been exposed to any hurt, or in my case trauma (which you can read about in previous posts or will more in my blog), our minds can develop a survival mode that shifts into gear to protect us while we are going through things.
However, those walls of pain and trauma we had built up to survive in our past can be detrimental to our future if not torn down. The walls can imprison us and can warp how we see the world going forward and eventually lead us down a very sad path.
I have spent thousands of dollars and years of therapy with high hopes to overcome the trauma of what childhood sexual abuse and rape had done to my mind.
Because I was a child, I didn’t understand it so I did what a child does, I tried to make sense of things.
Simply, I looked at things on the surface that made me different. The things people had mentioned to me, or the things I could see about myself that were different. I just assumed it was my appearance that was the cause of all the ugly feelings I had growing up because in someway that was controllable.
Feel ugly wear a pretty dress.
Feel fat, stop eating.
Taking control of the things that I felt must have been caused by me made me feel a sense of power.
I eventually grew up to become a severe people pleaser that took solace regularly in the secrecy of self harm and bulimia. These secrets continued into my marriage and sadly into motherhood.
By age 32, when my life couldn’t look more anymore perfect to the eyes of the world around me, I hit rock bottom.
I had a wonderful marriage of 10 years in which we had just renewed our vows a few months prior, 3 beautiful healthy children, and a brand new home. I had just began a new endeavor as professional makeup artist and my photography business was growing rapidly. Yet knowing all off that, everyday I was still trying to slowly kill myself.
Binging and purging my life away and not understanding why I wanted to just die. The shame of not understanding how to be happy or content with anything made me want to disappear. I wanted to unzip my skin and step into someone else’s. Eventually my body started revolting on me. After 20 years of abuse it said enough.
That collapse was the beginning of my healing journey.
The biggest rock bottom of my life, the time I hated myself the most, would be today the most beautiful blessing I could have every received.
I know that reading those words sound crazy. But it really is the truth.
Gods timing is always perfect.
Remember that. There is no mistake in your reading this today. I may or may not be able to relate to your story. But I can relate to how you might feel now or how you have felt yesterday.
I want you to know this as truth.
You can be restored.
Healing IS possible.
And anything …..
Anything is possible with Christ Jesus.
I am living proof.
With 20+ years of trying to heal myself the worlds way on my own growing closer and closer to dying a sad, young mom.
I had done it all.
What I had found was there was no medication or amount of amazing therapists that could give me the freedom, the love, and the peace I have found in allowing faith in Jesus to heal my heart. I am a work in progress. Even today I still struggle. But as I share things, as the words of my story connect with you, I want you to know that I could have never gotten to this place today alone by my own doing.
I know the darkness.
Darkness is the same regardless of the form it take. It comes to steal and destroy. Nothing more.
But I live in the light today because I know who I belong to. Someone who says that I am REDEEMED. RESTORED. LOVED.
Someone who will never let me down. Someone that always be there. Someone that I want to be like.
Regardless of where you have been, what you have done, or what others may have done to you, I promise you that there is more for you in all of this than you can ever imagine.
One of my favorite verses was written by the apostle Paul and it says this:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV
Maybe you don’t who Paul is. Maybe you have never picked up a bible or even stepped into a church.
Right now just know this if you are reading this, know you are part of a bigger plan.
A purpose has been set for you before you were even born.
Best of all there is someone holding a crown for you right now. Not just a crown, your crown.
Close your eyes for a second. Can you see it? What’s your crown look like? Ill tell you what, mine is so much better than Miss Geris birthday crown.
I did request sparkles though.😉
So here’s the deal, you my dear were meant for royalty. You just have to be willing to put it on, choose to wear it like a princess, and accept one thing…
That you are a daughter of a KING.
Thank you Ms. Geri for not seeing me that day. You were part of this great plan, a plan where your crown wouldn’t have fit anyway. And on my very near 42nd birthday you can bet I’ll be wearing a crown.. 😉❤️💕