#FeelGood: Connecting To My Body Through Dance
We’re ending 2020 the only way we know how to— by celebrating with you. Earlier this month, we reached out to our community and asked to hear your #FeelGood stories of the year. Whether it was finding new ways to reach out to your community, or just learning to stretch while working from home, there was no accomplishment too small in 2020. There is a lot to be proud of.
Through this, we met our friend Gabriela Gomez— a community worker and mental health counsellor. Read on to learn more about her work, how she learned to listen to her body in 2020, and the ways in which dancing became an outlet for self-expression. Meet Gabriela.
Hi Gabriela! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work!
Hi Knix community! My name is Gabriela and I’m a proud Latina femme who grew up in the US (my family is in Boston and Miami) but have now firmly planted roots in Tiohtià:ke aka Montreal. I’ve been here 11 years now, and fall more in love with this land every day!
I was raised by hardworking social justice advocates, so my approach to life and work has always been informed by revolution and resistance to systems of supremacy. I feel most fulfilled when I’m helping others, especially youth, access their own power, connect in community, and thrive. I hold a Master’s in Educational Psychology and have done a lot of clinical research in trans and non-binary adolescent health, while also coordinating art-based community programming in this area to translate research to action.
Currently, I have my hands full as the director of a counseling program for youth 12-25 at a community centre with a long history of radical youth empowerment work. I see a lot of youth with lived experiences of oppression, often at multiple intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality. So my approach strives to centre the wisdom and resilience that lives in the bodies and hearts of all those who’ve experienced this kind of trauma. I really love this community work, love helping youth access their own wisdom in overcoming adversity, and love learning from the triumphs of spirit I’m honoured to witness in these sessions! And I get to work side-by-side with an incredible collective who support each other deeply, believe in the work of liberation in their bones, and inspire me daily.
When I’m not working, I love to indulge my creativity— writing, painting, singing and playing my guitar, and of course, dancing! For me, creative self-expression is a foundational healing practice.
What are you the proudest of in 2020?
What a question! 2020, what a year! I think the thing I’m proudest of this year is my journey back from burnout. This time last year, I was really struggling. As much as I love my work, I had been giving away too much of myself without replenishing my own energy, and I was exhausted. In my bones and my heart, I had convinced myself that my care was this limited resource that would never be enough.
So I started out 2020 in this deeply low place - unwell physically, spiritually, emotionally. And I’m so proud that from this place, I finally began to listen to my body, trying to understand what it was telling me, screaming at me: “amor, make room for yourself in your own life!” So I made room. I untangled the threads of “not enough” and examined the fears underneath them. I realized that as a deep feeler in a family struggling with intergenerational trauma, I’d been working to take care of people and make people happy for so long that I’d also neglected what makes me happy.
And from there, things started to shift. The writing came back, flowed out of me like water, and of course, I started dancing and inviting joy back into my home! The spaciousness created by these practices helped me to realize that my care is not a limited resource but a renewable resource, limitless and vast enough to traverse the deepest of oceans. I learned to build boundaries to honour these insights— boundaries with my work, with others, and with a brutal world that demands more of us than we can reasonably provide.
I’m so proud of this learning and the ways I have fought to show up authentically in my own life. Despite how challenging this year was, I’m in a better place than I could ever have imagined at the outset. In a year of so much suffering, that feels pretty incredible to name and honour.
What’s something you learned about yourself?
In all the space I carved out to explore my body’s wisdom and crawl back from burnout, I have learned (and am still learning!) how to meaningfully care for myself. I know self-care is this buzzword that has become swallowed up and repurposed under capitalism, so when I say meaningfully I’m really trying to restore some faith to the practice. For me, meaningful self-care is based in a deep commitment to understanding my authentic self— my purpose, vision of justice, my heart, and even/especially my suffering. This commitment to self is a practice of faith and belief that I deserve my own care.
From there, it becomes clear what I need— what boundaries need to be set, what practices make me feel most alive. I’ve been deeply blessed by the wisdom of Black and Brown writers and the disability justice movement in learning these lessons— special shoutouts to Adrienne Maree Brown, Lama Rod Owens and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha as foundational teachers for me this year. From these learnings emerged a commitment to rest, slowness, and alone time to recharge from the emotional demands of my work. I feel very committed to that. For anyone reading this, especially those whom our culture has denied access to the privilege of rest, I’d like to remind you that you deserve your own care, and space to discover what that looks like.
What have been your favorite songs to dance to?
This has definitely been a year of music! Currently I’m obsessed with H.E.R. Her voice just hits me in this place of heart power, and makes me move in this slow goddess way that is great for a Friday evening date with myself. I love Maggie Rogers and Phoebe Bridgers for a dose of grlpower when I need it, especially in the morning. Solange never fails to get me dancing in my feels, Lykke Li opens a fierceness in me, and Santigold makes me light up with energy. And of course, I love the raw sensual power of fellow Colombiana Kali Uchis for a sunset solo dance party, when the low light fills up my room and my bare feet graze the wood floor. I could go on forever, but for now I’ll just hold space and gratitude for all these talented voices that got me through this year.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
With all the uncertainty and instability of our world right now, I have gotten out of the habit of thinking too far into the future. But I’m turning 30 this year and when I think about that milestone I’m filled with this really buoyant feeling. I’ve been on this rich journey of self-discovery and I’m quite excited to see what’s going to bloom from that. I have all these big ideas about how to make radical mental healthcare more accessible in my community, and I’ve been getting more requests for workshops and collaborations, so I feel sparks of potential to bring my work more deeply into alignment with the learnings of 2020.
And personally, I can’t wait to keep exploring what brings me joy and honouring that wisdom. One thing I know for sure is that whenever it’s safe to do so, I’m heading to the ocean! Having grown up on the Atlantic, with ancestry of coastal peoples, I’m forever in love with the ocean, inspired by its fluidity and ferocity, and always dreaming of my next chance to swim in that salty goodness!