La Leona - Diversion and Metaphor

Courtesy of

This post is expanding on something I wrote on Facebook that a couple of people have emailed me about. It is only slightly tango related and it takes awhile to get there, so be patient. Or feel to free to skip it entirely and wait for the next "stiletto heel in the calf" rant - I won't be offended.

. . . Backstory . . .

Over the years, my friend Sara had read my palms, done tarot readings (sighed sympathetically as I pulled "The Tower" repeatedly) cast runes. She would efficiently and rather clinically, tell me bits about my past, present and future with mostly accurate results. As any good fortuneteller does, she read more of the information from my face and body language, than from whatever medium she was using.

One day she offered to do something she'd never done for me - she wanted to cast my zodiac chart. For her, this was no small endeavor. When she did these, she took her time - and it was a lot of time. I went about finding my birth certificate and asking relevant questions of my mother and grandmother (whose recollection was a bit better than my mother's - those being the days of labor with a considerable amount of drugs.)

Three days after presenting her with all of the relevant data, Sara called me back and said, "weren't you premature?"

"Yes," I answered, "by about 3 months. My first four months of life were spent in an incubator fighting pneumonia." She asked me to find out, if I could, my actual due date. With that information, helpfully provided by my grandmother, Sara went back to work.

The next day, more questions from Sara.

"What sign is your mother?" Leo.

"What sign is your grandmother?" Leo.

"I see," she said. "umm.. how many Leo women are there in your family?"

I started rattling off names and counting on my fingers, and just before I ran out of fingers, Sara stopped me and sat back in her chair. "Okay, okay, I get it," she said.

"Wow. That's a lot of lions."

The next day, over lunch, she laid out several charts and lists and summaries. She told me about my personality, challenges I was likely to face, the future I might look forward to. I smirked a bit because she had been my friend for so long, I didn't know how she could have said anything else - knowing me as well as she did.

After a few minutes, she stopped rearranging charts. She calmly stacked the papers into a neat pile, folded her hands on top of them and stared at me.

. . . Born into the Lion's Den . . .

"Here's the big thing - what you really need to take away from this," she said, waving her hands over the papers.

"That you were born that early, into that sign - is important. You wanted to be a Leo so much that you were born three months early to do it. Don't betray what you were meant to do with that. You were born surrounded by lions and expectations have always been high. But it's not their expectations you have to meet - it's your own worth you have to do justice to. Does that make sense?"

I nodded 'yes,' but I'm sure my face said, 'not really.'

She took my hands, and sighing, she looked again at my palms. "There will be times you won't feel much like a lioness. When that happens, remember who you are. Remember what you went through to be here." The look on her face made me wish I could go back to pulling "The Tower" all the time from the Tarot deck.

Over the years my belief in fortune-telling/divination technique waned quite a bit. Ninety-nine percent of the things Sara told me, while accurate, were broad enough in context that they could applied to almost anyone. My Leo personality has come through, though some have said I'm a little bit tempered by the sign I might have been (Scorpio) had I not been born so early. I've earned several nice, and not so nice, nicknames as a result.

. . . La Leona . . .

The first person to call me Leona was an uncle after I refused to put on a skirt for a family gathering, and insisted on wearing pants. (Considering the pants were part of a shiny green, pink and yellow striped, polyester pant suit, in retrospect I wish I'd gone with the skirt.) Over the years various cousins and friends have made reference to it, but it never really stuck. It was sort of something to pull out when I needed it - like an umbrella.

Lately, though, Sara's words have come back to me.

Pain, as it does for so many people, makes me feel small, weak, incapable, insufficient, inadequate to the tasks of my life. Very un-lion like. Over the last few years, weakness started to creep into my identity - to how I thought of myself.

Before tango, the only time I felt at all "lion-like" was working in the Cashier/Insurance office at the Student Health Center. Part of my job was to fight with insurance companies to get students' health care bills covered. One student, after spending two hours on the phone battling Cigna for an MRI, called me "The Rottweiler". I may have sounded like a rottweiler, but I felt like a lion. Every student that came through was my cub, my responsibility. I would fight the insurance company, I would fight the physicians who refused to document findings (which would cause claims to get denied) and get the costs covered any way I could.

It was exhausting, but I loved that job. I left when my work day became more about pushing paper around than fighting for the kids. When I lost that function as part of my work identity, I also felt I lost the last tie I had with La Leona.

. . . And then came tango . . .

I don't know exactly when or what woke la leona up, but about a year into dancing tango, she started to stir. I felt stronger, more capable, more graceful. I would have setback after setback with my body, but I kept coming back. Not exactly stronger - but more determined. When my dancing changed, when my focus changed (thanks to my teachers for getting me on the right track) to my embrace rather than chasing patterns, La Leona became a constant companion.

Last Spring after my surgery, I thought I'd lost her again. I was down and I didn't know if I could get back up. I was having to work so much harder, and getting hurt so much more easily. My pool of partners to dance with, without risk of injury, was getting smaller. Rather than looking at the limitations of my new situation, I tried to turn things around. I started looking at the partners with whom I could dance well - and without risk of pain. I focused on them, on what they were doing, and what I was doing differently when I danced with them. I worked harder and practiced more. I ramped up my physical therapy to get my (abdominal) range of motion back.

By the end of the summer, La Leona was back. No longer my companion some of the time, just when I needed her - she was stretched under my skin to the ends of my fingers and toes. There is a comfort in feeling my face against my leader's face, that makes me purr. A slinky, soft density I sometimes find in my steps.

. . . Conclusion: a Vignette . . .

A leader from another city mentioned that there was sometimes a ferocity, or fierceness, in my dance - even in my embrace. Especially during Pugliese. (Well, of course, it would be Pugliese, wouldn't it?)

I answered as innocently as I could, "I don't know what you mean. I just like to snuggle into the embrace."

"Can one snuggle ferociously? Is that a possible thing?" he asked.

"I don't know - but it sounds pretty good."

1 comment:

Cinderella said...

I told a friend of mine about my problems with a particular leader. I love to be near him, to get really close to him when dancing. Our embrace failed to feel comfortable, though. In a way, our bodies didn't seem to fit into each other. After a tanda with him, I always felt stiff and tense. Nevertheless I longed to get back into the embrace with him. My friend told me, that in such cases it helps her to imagine being a cat, to snuggle in and inside the embrace in order to find the most comfortable position. It helped me, too. When I dance with him, I always become a cat now, snuggling and purring. My sign is taurus. So I think I can even do it ferociously ;)