By Stefanie Little
I’ve had the honor of being a part of many different communities in the course of my life.
For over a decade I was a semi-professional belly dancer, performing and teaching in and around our Denver home base, and in various festivals on the west coast with an amazing and well-known tribal belly dance troupe. The belly dance community is tight-knit and supportive, and I gained life-long friends during my time as a dancer within it. But over the course of time, I started to see and experience some behavior within the community that wasn't what I had expected, and caused me to doubt my participation within it. I suppose I had already started to energetically step away from dancing when I suffered a hip injury that knocked me out the game, basically for good. I mourned for a time, but looking back now, am grateful for my time and experiences as a dancer during what was mostly a very rough and traumatic period of my life.
Belly dancing provided me some light and community and some connection with my body during a time when my personal life was causing my body quite a bit of abuse and trauma and destruction. Without dance during this period of my life, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to stay afloat. For that, I am deeply grateful. (And I still dance to this day in my tiny living room! Just not on stage anymore :) )
The majority of my professional jobs from my teens into my adult life have been working with animals. You name it, I’ve probably done it! Veterinary hospitals, doggy daycares, grooming, training, zookeeper, wildlife rehabber, wildlife surveyor. The community of humans who choose to care for animals for their job, now that’s a pretty rad group of people. Do what you love and get paid next to nothing for it! And again, I made life-long friends in this line of work (including meeting my husband!). And again, the flip-side: a lot of heartbreak and death (especially in wildlife rehab), and a lot of humans with a lot of issues of their own. After nearly 15 years of working with animals, my emotions were shot, and I took a break.
By this time, my now-husband and I had moved to Pagosa Springs from southern Utah, and had started our life as tiny-home off-grid homesteaders! To say we both found a new sense of belonging, and pride, and wholeness, is an understatement. After a series of dysfunctional “normal” jobs in Pagosa, I landed at PMAB. And wouldn’t you know it... I found my community.
Lauren and Jenn’s vision for PMAB has always been whole body health, but I’ve seen it turn into more than that. I’ve watched it turn into a safe space for people to be truly who they are, for them to open up and allow healing to happen, and to feel like they have a space to walk into where they won’t be judged for *anything*. We’ve watched our clients take healing into their own hands, and feel empowered and educated enough to do so, confidently. Personally, I’ve found friends I can trust with my own trauma and healing.
If I can walk into work, and tell my boss (my dear friend, really), “I’m sitting heavy in my trauma today,” and she gives me a hug and some coconut water (because I need to stay hydrated and get my electrolytes!) and tells me to let her know whatever I need today, AND asks what will bring me joy today?? (And a couple hours later makes sure I’ve had a chance to sit and eat). Now THAT’S community. That’s a level of openness and respect that can’t be faked.
This is what PMAB is really all about. We provide not only the best therapeutic treatments in town (massage, reiki, and chiropractic, to name a few), but we give anyone who walks through our doors that space to be themselves, whatever that may be, to feel safe, to feel heard, and to heal.
What does community mean to you? What drives you to be a part of a community that speaks to you? And what can we do to help provide that space?