“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This summer, we’ve focused our attention on the story of “The Red Shoes” as told by author Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The story follows the protagonist, an impoverished, spritely, instinct-injured girl, through the dervish of her desires to a uncertain end. The story teaches about what happens when we allow the object of our desires to dance us rather than the other way around. This led to many far-reaching discussions concerning what we’ve let lead us throughout our lives and how we’ve found our instincts to lead our own dances again.
In the pieces below, drawn from two different sessions discussing the story, you’ll find a myriad of reflections on the story and what madnesses and sanity we’ve reached in the turns of our own stories.
If I took your hand and asked you to dance
would you follow me through it all?
If the steps to our song just took us along
to the edge of the world and we fall…
Could you pull be in closer and learn to take over?
We’d make it our own, this edge of
destruction and teeter on it back and forth.
One step closer and you know it’s all over
but you’d at least be there on the course.
No one could stop the music that trances
our eyes make the dances.
Every move that we make assures
our fate and takes me straight to your heart.
A metronome beat, a touch more than
sweet electrifies the air around
our dance is our own, we take all
night long to get lost in the steps
that take us to our own exile.
“But at last the child’s feet were calmed.”
“Stay here long enough to make the finish line.”
I always wondered what it would take. Nothing ever seemed enough to still the force within you, nothing was enough to calm your feet. For years, the dance was fierce and exhausting. I couldn’t keep up. I never learned the stops when I should have. I did watch though. They ended being committed to memory a little better than I expected, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You kept rehearsing, kept us all on the edge of our seats. I tried to follow it, there was just so much I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know that this would be the last dance. There would be no crossing of the finish line. You just didn’t stay. You couldn’t stay. It was in my pain and darkness that all of those steps danced right into me and took over. The magic was in the shoes right? Yours wore out, mine were brand new and boy did they fit just right. Unsteady to begin but my gait improved quickly and I needed no help. You left me but I kept dancing. I hate dancing. It wasn’t as fun as it looked and now my feet hurt. You never told me how to calm my feet. You never told me I’d get tired. You never told me that you were letting go. Now I sit here, dancing a dance that means nothing and lead me right into a cage. What kind of stage is this anyway? I don’t want to but I think it’s time to tell you that you were wrong. I blame myself for being too much like you.
I blame myself for following your steps, for wearing the god damned shoes and dancing the dance that should never be. I loved you all along. I love you still. Until I can cross the finish line, I won’t dance again. Except this time the dance will be mine. The dance will be the one that should be.
I had become unconscious of the starvation.
No matter how much I had lost
there I was attempting the same preparations.
My life was all it had cost.
Was it the denial of what I was or who?
They say crazy is doing the same thing over
and over expecting results of new
but my entire life was focused on fixing
As a mother, I had been decommissioned.
As a daughter, I had been discarded.
As a girlfriend, replaced for a better edition.
As a person, I didn’t know where my beginning started.
My mind stuck on repeat,
why won’t the ending change?
Once my high hits me the mission is complete
but when I’m sick, I am deranged.
I think the world is in the dark.
No one knows I’m high.
My life flashes and my eyes go dark.
3 tubes of Narcan, did I just die?
Insanity calls, she ruined your buzz.
She should’ve let you go a little more,
to scared of the fuzz…
No, you almost lost your life.
Still, you chase the high.
Her cries haunt your ears.
You’re good,you’ve been doing this for years…
someone died on the news today again.
I don’t usually keep still. One step
at a time, I get lost in the steps.
Even if I am big and strong,
a beautiful gift, dancing at the edge,
it’s pretty easy, really. Even
my eyes do the dances
while I am asleep, getting
the news from my dreams.
and the electrified air around me.
1,2,3, 1,2,3 1,2,3
in the rain and snow and sunshine,
I leap, legs determined.
I’d hoped one day to find someone
to sweep me off my feet,
to find one person in this world who loved me.
I forgot, it’s me: a woman making moves unrestrictedly.
Everymove we make assures our fate
and takes us straight to the heart.
There are no strings on me.