Many of us are convinced that whatever it is that we have trained for in terms of our work in the world is static and cannot be melded to also include Spirit…wow…really?
When I started my college education many years ago, I was primed to become a dance art therapist. This is not what happened, at all. I won’t say that I could have become this…dance therapist…either, because of the ugliness that became a part of my life at that time, the ugliness that is domestic violence and emotional abuse. While it was that I still taught, danced, and performed hula, it seemed as though just doing that with that particular dance was so totally not enough, even then, when I was a young woman in my early twenties. I was told, at that time, that hula was enough for me, that I didn’t need to aspire to more than that, and with that, I should have been happy. I wasn’t. I love hula. I have always loved hula. I would never be able to see my life, ever, without it being some part of my everday, much as it is now. Like some folks enjoy, love and live a particular sport their entire lives, so , too, do I love and live hula.
It used to be, long ago, when I owned a hula halau in the high desert, that my thinking in so far as the dance went was very well cut and dry – you teach, you perform, you do parties, luaus and the occasional bit part, and then you just go on throughout your life loving something that you have always loved, never do it in the capacity that you once did, and enjoy your happy memories. Then, when the day came that the things that had gone on in my own life and in the marriage which turned out to be akin to a university education in survival, I realized that I was not done with this dance. It took more than two decades for me to realize that, while it was that I loved teaching this dance, loved to perform it, loved to do what has been done traditionally for generations, I knew (and my two soul sisters, April and Dannie both confirmed it as time passed) that my hula was meant to evolve into something that not a whole lot of other Kumu Hula’s love for this dance had – the chance to be used as medicine for my aching, tattered heart and soul, and more, the very chance to do what I had always dreamed to do – be able to dance for my living, while still doing good things in the world at large. This is not to say that theirs is not what mine is, because even they would tell you that this is the truth. Theirs is every bit to them what my own hula is to me. Medicine, in some form.
Trading the Pa’u skirt for the Kahuna’s Apple Bottom Jeans
Hula, as it is well known, is normally, when performed, done in some sort of skirt, and most of the time, it is a Pa’u skirt (no, not grass…cotton…brightly colored and patterned cotton…anyway…). When I lost my house in the desert, I lost more than I thought I had, but it was not as though what was lost could not be way more than it was when it was at its height of coolness. Here I was, with three kids, no house, a dog and a car…and no hula. I had suffered a huge loss that, at the beginning, did not seem to be as big as it ended up being, but in that bigness of loss, I found something bigger that can never ever be lost. After months went by, and after I had had the worst time being anyone’s wife, and after not having danced or taught others to dance had finally brought me to my knees, it was inevitable – the mp3 player had been primed with all my numbers…and outside, there was a full moon.
It was on this night, without my realizing so, that hula became something completely not what it had ever been for me in the past. It became my Medicine Dance. Hula became the thing that I would turn to, that I still turn to, when my heart felt like it was about to again shatter into a million tiny pieces. At that time in my life, there was not a lot that would not turn me into a heaving mess of tears. It was not that hard to make me cry, and it was not that hard to make me feel like I had been and done something wrong. It was not that difficult to hurt me. It was not that difficult to make things hard on me. It was a daily thing for me to fall apart into a mess of tears. It was not that hard to help me have a very, very bad day. Yet, at the end of that bad day, there, as always, to save me from another shot of liquor, to make me not want to go into the baby daddy’s room and wash down a handful of pills and end my pain, even if only for a few hours, was my Medicine Dance.
There, all my life, was this thing called Hula. There, right under the bright and wide full moon, for a long, long time, my suit had been changing. Suddenly, I realized my own metamorphosis. My skirt became a pair of jeans and a tank top, and those clothes, my new “suit.” I found out that I did not need a degree (although I do have one), that I did not need to do much more than just never stop dancing.
So, I never did.
And I never will.
Hula, suits and how they all relate
I think I have made it obvious that I used the thing that I grew up doing as the thing that would help me on the worst days, the thing that still saves me on those days. We all have that one thing, that one thing that we do, for pay, for free, and in that one thing we are expected to do with that one thing, we are also expected that we should only do one thing in relation to it all. Marketers are only expected to market to one type of demographic. Musicians are only expected to play one kind of music. People in certain jobs are expected to only do one thing and to stick to that one thing, never using it at all for anything other than money.
There comes a time in all of our lives when what we do needs to match who we are. I could have stayed as I was, only preferring to teach and perform and only do what I do for money, rather than what it has become, which is medicine and is not medicine that is available in the manner that I deliver it by anyone else. This is the thing about what it is that we each “do” – it is subject to grow and evolve into something that it was not at its own inception. I started dancing hula when I was 3. By the time I was 12 I was performing in front of audiences, and being asked to compete. At 17, hula was only one of four jobs that I’d held, but it was the very one which I so loved the most. At 33, I owned and taught in my own hula halau. At 40, when there was no more halau, no more students, even as there were still lots of shows I’d done, my time as I’d known it to be in regards to this dance which still, in the minds and hearts of many people, defines me, was over with.
I had to think of something, because it felt like I had nothing left in the manner that was visually creative for me that I could embrace. I took the year off, still not realizing that when I was outside, feeling like my heart was going to just break into a mess of shattered tears, that I was relearning to embrace this dance, relearning to appreciate me and everything that hula has always meant to me and for me. More time went by. More tears. More nights, cold, rainy, or blazing hot…there I was, most of the time beneath the bright almost full moon, and for three nights, even to this day, I could be found outside, music only heard by me, dancing, sometimes laughingly, sometimes tearfully, but none the less, there I was, and there I will be, beneath the Akua (first night full moon phase) Moon, being as graceful as I can, my audience being the moon, the stars, and the night creatures, and of course, The Goddess and the Aumakua, singing to me through Keali’i Reichel’s or Owana Salazar’s beautiful voice…
It did not dawn on me that my two best girlfriends these days were absolutely spot on when they both told me that I was not done with hula, that hula would evolve into something much bigger for me, that it would be something that would be for everyone, not only for little kids and most certainly not only for show. Those days, the ones for show, while they are not completely over (hi Sabrina!! It’s gonna be a blast!!), they are not as important to me as are the moments that I have, with all of those survivors who have already come to me to learn about this dance which I love so very, very much. While I cannot say that this hula is better than the time I spent with my hula keiki in Helendale, I will say that my life is richer now because I choose to take The Medicine Path with it. My Auntie Kalei told me one time, after many years of not having seen me dance hula, that it was the very essence of me, that it was the thing which my Soul showed itself best through, and that it would be something that I could use to change lives. She was right.
She is always right.
What does your Suit want to be when it evolves?
Think about that for a moment, okay? Hear me, that is, if you know what it is like to have a conversation with me, and understand that I could easily be standing in front of an audience right now, saying these very things and still be able to make one thing clear, either way – that thing that you do that Spirit chose for you to come into this lifetime to do, that one thing that you would do for free or for as much kala (it means “money”) as anyone is willing to pay, or both – Only you know what that is. It may well be that you are in this awareness this time around to see if you can mold the suit to the Soul. I just finished telling a friend of mine that there is something that she can do with what she used to do, with what she is so, so, so well educated, brilliantly clever and so very, very much the Ikaika Wahine in doing, that she can take her skills and rather than do what she used to do with them, take it up a notch and go forward into the blackness that is our many veterans’ issues here in this country and take on the role of the protector for those whose lives were once lived to protect.
The things that we can do in our professional lives, with the things that we are on the inside of our souls, can become the marriage of soul and body, right before our very eyes, if we can just look there, where it is that our hearts are and who those very hearts beat for. If we could just take a moment to really think about the things that we have at our whim, and know that with those things we are meant, by the very conception which brought us each here, for the purpose of bettering our own lives, through the things that we are and the things that we can do, and for us to go out into our own worlds and be everything that our abilities, our talents, our gifts, who we are, where we are, need and can solve the question of why we are here in the first place.
If we are meant to do anything at all, we are meant with purpose, and we are meant to get there with the things that we are each born with and come into this lifetime with. This is the truth. We are here to do those things that we love to do, for others, and with others, so that together, even whilst on our own, we can make a huge difference with each little thing that we do in our lives. It is hard to believe that it really is that simple.
Just do what you do.
The rest will just be what it is meant to be.
I Love You All !
“Medicine Dance” coming soon to lulu.com.
Cover photo by Randy Jay Braun, Hawai’i’s Camera Artist