My Mother

Oh Dear. My mother called after last week’s newsletter went out:

“Your sister tells me you have fallen into the abyss. Why did you fall into the abyss? Are you still down there? By yourself? Is Glen with you at least?”

(This the mother who, when I moved to NYC in the early 90’s, made me promise that I would never leave my apartment after 5pm: EVER. That I would promise to lock all of the doors and windows and to stay put until the next day, when the sun was way up and the day was bright. Only then could I venture back out into the city.

This is also the mother who, when I called to let her know I was breaking up with my boyfriend, while living in NYC, said “Is he hitting you?” “No, of course not.” “Then stay with him, even if you are a little bit miserable….you don’t want to be all alone, especially in NYC.”

Lastly, this is the mother who told me repeatedly, starting at about age 10, to never depend on a man. This is the mother whose favorite dinner time conversation centered around how important it was for my sister and I to find work that was meaningful to us and that we loved. More importantly, she said, that whatever work we did find, we needed to make sure that it supported us financially, enabling us to be independent and self-determining.

This is the mother who reminds me over and over again, to this day, to always have enough money in my savings account for a security deposit, and first and last month’s rent, so that I never have to live with someone just because I don’t have enough money to move out and find a place of my own.

This is the mother who bought me my first MS. Magazine when I was 12 years old, and continues to make sure my subscription to the magazine is current and up to date.

I say this, not in anyway to belittle my mother, but to point out how fear can propel us into unwitting compromise in regards to our own values and moral codes. In can break down the belief system we shape our lives around).

Okay, back to the abyss, and the phone conversation I had with my mother last week:

“It’s a creative abyss Ma, there’s nothing to be worry about.”

“A creative abyss? Who falls to the bottom of a creative abyss? Is Glen with you?”

No, Glen is not with me, (why would Glen be with me?) and I, I fall to the bottom of the creative abyss, willingly, and without apology or justification.

“Well, good luck down there. When you get out, call me. I need you to pick up some groceries for me tomorrow. And by the way, when are you coming to dinner? I made a meatloaf. It’s the one I used to make when you and your sister were little - you remember, don’t you? It was the recipe that called for the ketchup and the grape jelly. Remember how I made it every Wednesday night after your ballet class? You loved that meatloaf.”

Apparently a lot of people are falling or have fallen into the abyss, because the response I got from last weeks newsletter was overwhelming.

Here is what Gesel Mason wrote to me:

“What is the abyss? Not the reason but the actual abyss? What does it look like? Feel Like? Are you falling into it? I'm curious because I think I have an abyss like entity calling me that I'm excited to fall into or be subsumed by.”

For me, the actual abyss, this creative abyss - that Mom, I am totally fine scurrying around the bottom of, on my own, without Glen or anyone else there to help me out - feels like a crazy making machine. It looks like a cave that is so dark I can’t see my own hand when I bring it up to my face. It feels like I’m clinging to a piece of stone in that cave, a stone that is high off the ground, and it is about to give way. And oh yes, I am falling into the abyss, by all means I am falling: over and over again.

My abyss is this:

I used to know who I was as a dancer and a choreographer: I could do this and that, or that and this, and it worked well enough.

I knew what it was I was doing.

It had a name.

But now?

At the bottom of this abyss?

I have no idea what I am doing, and it certainly doesn’t have a name.


like Gesel, my abyss is also incredibly exciting.

I am choosing to let myself be subsumed by it, fall into it, claw my way out of it for a breath or two, before I slide right back down to the bottom.

I am choosing this because my god, this abyss continues to astonish and surprise me, leaving me astounded and bowled over.



Because although it is terrifying and crazy-making, it is also sublime.

It is bringing me back to my elemental self.

It is prodding me to trust something so profound and so complete, that I cannot breath sometimes.

It goes beyond making or choreographing or creating or planning.

This abyss - it circles back around to simply dancing.

Without any frills or ornamentation, accessories or embellishments.


That’s the abyss.

This abyss is that I am dancing.

Finally…I am dancing.

My abyss, my creative abyss, is that I am giving myself the time and the space to dance, without knowing why or what will come from it.

I notice what is inside of me, I notice what is outside of me, and I begin.

Again and again, I begin.

Your Dance Mission for the week is to find your own abyss, to fall into, headlong, and then to slide all the way down to bottom and notice what sort of dance emerges from there.

I’m curious about this dance you discover at the bottom of the abyss, so email me. Tell me how it goes.

Or post a comment here.

Did you like the newsletter this week?

If so, can you share it with your friends and comrades and colleagues. See if they too are interested in falling into the abyss.

If they are, have them sign-up here  so that they too can get their very own Joanna and The Agitators newsletter delivered to their very own inbox every Wednesday.

As always, With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending