I sat in my bed, crying as I recalled memories of being little in New Jersey with my father and younger sister. I missed my dad’s tight hug that made me feel safe, his goofy-ball jokes and pranks, his shirts with holes in them- everything. It had been years, but I had a hard time adjusting to his absence.
I was lost in grief and heartache.
I replayed some memories over and over again. I feasted on these memories like a mosquito feasts on blood. I wanted to cry, to sweat, to purge the emotion somehow, but it felt impossible.
I knew that I needed to change something. I felt the need to protect myself, for the sake of little wave-loving-thrill-seeking Annie. How can I do that?
Something was not working right within my body. Many people move through emotion by crying, but there was a block for me. How can I move beyond my pain?
Not only that, I wanted to find my flow. I stumbled upon the hula hoop while playing ping pong with my group of friends. This seemingly insignificant act turned out to be profound and transformative- a stroke of serendipity.
Do you ever think back to something amazing in your life that you secured sort of by accident, – your incredible job, best friend, apartment, your significant other- and you’re like “how did that happen?! Were the stars in alignment that day?” I’m not sure if was luck, a miracle, a greater force watching over me, or some combination of all of the above.
After growing bored of ping pong, I wandered over to the corner, where I saw a forgotten hoop. I stepped inside the circle and attempted to waist hoop.
I used to love hula hooping at recess as a kid.
After a few rotations, the hoop fell down, but I kept picking it up and trying again. I became transfixed by the hoop. A huge grin appeared on my face as I wiggled my hips, trying to keep the hula hoop along my waist.
Soon, the owner retrieved her hoop. As soon as she took the large plastic circle away from me, I missed it.
I knew deep down in my core that I needed to hula hoop. My gut was telling me- more like screaming at me- to go get a hula hoop.
I went to Walmart to look for a hoop.
“It’s January,” an employee gave me a deadpan stare. “Come back this summer.”
I sulked back to my car and drove back to campus. I ended up buying a large beginner’s hoop for fifteen dollars from a girl who lived in my dorm.
I watched a few tutorials on Youtube to get started. The incredible hoop dancers mesmerized me. Everything about them inspired me- their tricks, their passion, and most of all, their flow.
Wow… I wondered if I would ever be able to do something so impressive like that. I watched a hooper stand on one leg and hop back in the center of the hoop. Then, she gyrated her body in a motion that caused the hoop to move up her body in a beautiful way. My jaw drop. She had such poise, grace, and elegance. She radiated with joy. I couldn’t keep my eyes off these hula dancers. They were so obviously having the time of their lives.
I wanted joy, I wanted passion. I felt myself drifting away from negativity.
I closed my eyes and took a few breaths visualizing myself being able to do the incredible tricks that these women could do. My lips turned upward in an ear-to-ear grin. I was so inspired by these women.
I made myself a promise to practice every single day. I went over to the center of my dorm and pushed my desk back as far as it would go so I wouldn’t knock into anything. I barely had enough space, but I could make it work.
I turned on my computer and watched the same waist-hooping tutorial on repeat. I turned on some music to pump myself up and began to hoop. Each time the hoop fell, I learned something new. If I move my hip muscle slightly this way, I could keep the hoop from falling. If I inched my leg that way I could make the hoop grow higher. I was focusing so much that I couldn’t even hear the music playing. All of a sudden, the hoop fell to the floor, spiraling down my legs.
I looked at my watch. Two hours had passed! Was this flow? I was so focused that all I could think about was hula hooping.
I smiled to myself, wiping a bead of sweat from my forehead.
I skipped going to the gym and instead went to my dorm to hoop for hours to break up the monotony of studying. Each day, I got a little bit better. I felt elated as I spun around and moved my hips this way and that. I was getting used to the motions and felt myself adding my own flavor to it. I got a bit more daring and began walking with the hoop.
It took me three weeks to learn how to take my leg out of the hoop and put it back in. The all consuming feeling that hit my chest when I mastered my first trick was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I did this. Me! I learned how to do this badass trick! I’m learning to do what looks to be nearly impossible. I’ve got this!
I felt as though things in life were becoming less stressful.
Or maybe, I was handling the stressors in a more healthy way.
Now, I can do all of the crazy tricks like the women on YouTube. When I’m down or I feel like dancing, I grab the hoop and spin. I feel the beat and get into a deep flow.
The hoop offers me so much. It’s a creative outlet and a chance to express myself through art and dance. It gets the adrenaline pumping and allows me to feel free. I feel liberated from my anxious mind, constantly worried about the future or ruminating on the past. I’m living in the moment.
Whenever I wanted to do something self-destructive, I hooped instead and felt my spirits lift. Hooping almost always put a smile on my face. A few times when I was in a really really low episode, the hoop made me come back to neutral. It wasn’t necessary gong to make me giddy every time, but it could bring me back to life- back to myself. I felt so grateful that I found a coping skill. Finally! After twenty years of therapy, I found a way to come back to earth when I was on planet Shame.
Who knew a plastic circle could bring so much joy?