Every morning, I strip off my shirt and brush my teeth while staring in the mirror at my reflection. With extraordinary effort, I see myself – force myself to look past my first-glance search for imperfections. This body – this ordinary body – is mine. And it is beautiful. And I will remind myself of this truth for as long as it takes.

“Be …magnificent.”

In a mirror-less studio, those words meant the world. I was expansive, limitless, a physical instrument devoted to forever pushing the boundaries of possible. My muscles were tools, my physicality simultaneously humble human and extraordinary being, my capacity for expression endless. I demurred, claiming ordinariness – I feared the day I would no longer be so fully and completely capable. The day I would give it up. The day I would become ordinary.

It’s hard to let go – to have existed under such a high level of physicality is to forever exist afterward in its absence.

And yet – here I am.

I’m active, sure – I run half-marathons, model for figure drawing classes on occasion, take dance when I have time, dabble in yoga, ride my bike the long way (12 miles) to and from work at least once a week – I will always be a physical being in need of movement.

After a year away from professional-level movement, though, my body is different.

It’s not as awake. It’s not as toned. It’s softer.

It does everything I need it to do – and everything I ask.

I’m asking nicely, now, where I used to demand and expect. I still push the boundaries – I will always need practice listening.

It’s a slow moment in my dance life, a lull. Even writing this is hard, because it feels like I’m abandoning a part of my identity.

In a way I have.

In a way I have not.

I am incorporating something into the layers, fleshing out corners a single-minded focus did not give me freedom to explore.

I miss the immediacy, the access, the superiority in knowing something others didn’t about the capacity of my body. I crave it.

Not enough to leave where I am now. There is a grace to belonging only to myself. To molding and shaping and exploring and holding and letting go and listening as I choose.

In quiet.

And there is time. A lifetime.

I am not finished.