The Dance of Turning Poison into Medicine.
Dance. In the tradition of January 1st, it was the word I wrote on a Post-it note and was committed to manifesting and breathing daily in the new year.
So I renamed my year, declared it among friends, on social media, made it into a wallpaper for my phone.
Yes, I had visions of trapeze acrobatics and pole dancing, but above all, I had come a long way with an autoimmune disease in the past year: pilates three times a week, battling chronic pain, inflammation and temporary immobility.
In addition to being a photographer, writer, artist, what I wanted to add as a multi-hyphen was to teach movement to those who don’t feel or see themselves as dancers due to illness.
Cut to: Costa Rica. I had traveled over six hours from Los Angeles via a commercial plane and a not-so-commercial two-seater jet, the kind in which you can stretch your arms out and touch both walls of the plane.
My desire was to train and become certified as a sacred dance and movement teacher, and empower others to listen to their limitations, feel the resistance… and become embodied through dance anyway.
I lasted half a day of dance classes on the first day. The second day, I lasted less than 90 minutes. Not only did walking on gentle sand feel like sharp gravel between the skin of my soles and fascia, but the vision in my good eye was deteriorating into the kind of blur you’d need Coke-bottle glasses to see through.
Instead of pirouettes and expressive movement, I was holed up in my room or the café where they kindly created something for me off-menu — a recipe to cure inflammation and wanderlust belly blues: turmeric, ginger, pineapple, orange juice, coconut milk and maca powder.
Since 2010, this diagnosis of my autoimmune disease has been unraveling to a constellation fluster-cluck of cellular self-attack.
When doctors told me last year that my balance, coordination and vision were on the way out, I traveled to 13 countries in 2015 and became a soul photographer to encourage myself to leave some kind of legacy for for my seven-year-old son that mom did good on this planet.
Accidentally, I inspired others on the path, and am immensely grateful that this has become my dharma, work and play in the world.
Every day, the inner critic got louder: you failed. You traveled over 3,000 miles to fail.
And every day — while I would have loved to say, “Hey, I overcame inflammatory flare-ups and debilitating pain, and I’m Superwoman! Take that! Ha!” each day — was not My Day.
What the pain taught me was that it’s not my enemy. Those feelings of failure, and the voices of I can’t, I wasted time, I wasted money, I came all this way hurt far more than physical pain.
And really, the best one can do for obscured vision is sleep.
I have this romantic gypsy soul notion that Life is my lover. In the midst of wanting to break up with Life, heartbroken over not being able to meet Life and just live for that day, I found my medicine: crying into the Caribbean tides of ebb and flow — a body of water far greater than me — and just being vs. hustling to be my radiant self out of punishment and self-loathing.
I never did become certified as a movement teacher. I do, however, make it to spinning classes regularly, hikes, and I do solo dance-offs in my bathroom with abandon.
Dance. Some days I physically can, and some days I can’t. I am grateful for all of it, and for the opportunity to learn how to be a better dance partner. Every day.
Jennah Ferrer-Foronda is a photographer, writer, artist, philanthropist, speaker, mom to an 8-year-old awesome wonder, a thriving introvert, and a native Angeleno. Using her background in Expressive Arts Therapy, she gives talks and leads experiential creativity workshops on Turning Poison Into Medicine through the Expressive Arts. Currently her projects include CLICK, Write Girl At The Huntington, and a photography and creative writing workshop for teenage girls in collaboration with Write Girl and The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens. In addition, she is co-facilitating a retreat in Kumamoto, Japan: COVEN — celebrating the divine creatrix. You can follow along her travels and visual tales of the Hollywood Hills and Paris on Instagram.