Twirling. Like many things in my life, I don’t know how it began, but its origins are rooted to some means of escapism. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t twirl. On the New Year’s Eve I was born, I twirled painfully around my mother’s womb, heavy as a medicine ball. My memory and my body indicate to me that I have twirled ever since I could walk; mostly with thumb shoved in gob and always to music.

I still twirl, sans thumb. It gets me to a place of peace. Mostly I twirl in private; turning, turning, turning, never for anyone to see. My cheeks still flush when someone walks in mid-twirl. It’s like I’ve been caught literally with my hand down my pants, but all it is is rotation. I twirl to sound; music mostly. I twirl in silence more than I ever have. It’s safe to say I’ve never been seasick, even when I was on a cruise ship going through a cyclone. While everyone else was throwing up and having maxolon injections, I was on the top deck sinking beers and attempting to be a pool shark with the boys.

The music I twirl to and the speed at which I twirl depends on my mood. Excitement. Anger. Joy. Love. Grief. A chance to get giddy. As much as the mood affects and reflects the music, the music affects the mood. This in turn affects the twirling.

I can twirl into sadness and twirl myself out of it. Twirling solves problems. Twirling exercises my body and stretches my mind. Twirling makes me dream, and dream wildly.

Until about ten years ago, I called it ‘dancing’, but twirling is an art form of its own accord. It is far more complicated than just spinning around on my feet. Like a washing machine spins, squeezing the water out of fabric, I spin to rid myself of pain. I spin myself clean.

But it’s not all dancing and darkness. Spinning into joy is old and familiar. Just as I twirl into sorrow, I twirl into frenzied elation and when I’ve stopped, all that is left are a few dark spots on the floor and very smooth feet.

More often than not, I’ll go beyond a twirl and launch into a full blown dance off. I danced competitively as a young girl and I live for ‘dancing it out’, especially when it’s with my friends. We can be sweet and we can be filthy sexy, and that’s where the best dancing comes from.

That fire. 

It’s a resurfacing of sorts where long lost treasure from deep within is waxes upward. It’s a happy heaviness. It makes me feel alive, free and grounded as my feet claw at the earth because there’s been so many times where I’ve so desperately wanted to be here – on the earth. Here. Alive. People who do not dance are as good as dead. More’s the pity for them. Twirling and dancing have steered me through the blood, guts and muck and through all that is good and delicious and thrilling.

Some people drink, smoke, reflect, get violent, cry, shut down, run or go for a drive. I twirl. It’s helped me sustain good lung function, just as sex did in the nine months leading up to transplant (now that’s an entirely other story).

I don’t know if any of my friends know that I have a compulsion to spin around in the same spot, so while I’m no whirling dervish and don’t care to dishonour the Mevlevi Order, there is always purpose and passion behind a twirl. Some are meditative, others cathartic.

Post-transplant, it took a few months before I could twirl again. My muscles had turned to mush and I had to learn to eat, walk and pee again. My bones chirred and there were times that I was certain my chest was going to cave in, bone by bone. I felt my chest bones shift and scratch against cartilage and muscle as they tried to compete with my new lungs and the breath they afforded. I’d throw back morphine like it was water just so I could twirl. I mourned a trifecta when the breath had gone – twirling, singing and writing – and I never sang again.

* Me, 1991. Photograph by Sharon Danzig.

6 thoughts on “Twirling

  1. My beautiful boy is on the spectrum I never understood that when he twirls its to calm himself in a stressful environment, I use to stop him. Now I just let him go and he is much happier after. Keep twirling and shining bright.


  2. My boy has sensory processing disorder, and twirling is among his favorite forms of stimming. Sometimes it swings him further out of balance and sometimes it regulates him. Sometimes I worry that he’ll spin himself until he loses control and smacks his head on the bricks. But then, some days, I will twirl with him, clockwise and counter clockwise, and those are magical moments in which we connect and feel the motions of our bodies in space. At that moment, everything is back in order.


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