A juicy, epic post—pour a drink and enjoy yourself. Videos and pictures at the end.
Three+ years later…
What a difference a year… or three can make.
Outside of the fact that things have been weird as hell the past few years, I’ve had my own interesting few years.
In ye olden days prior to March of 2020 my sweetheart and I had taken up going to the gym at 6:30 in the morning, sometimes even 5:30.
I know—crazy talk! I can’t believe it myself.
But when that came to an abrupt halt in early 2020 because of you-know-what, we took to sleeping in.
Not that I complained about sleeping in.
Even my chiropractor (some sort of magician, that one) told me my spine was doing very well. I guess avoiding exercise plus sleeping a lot has its perks.
I also got a bunch of work done around the house during “quarantine.” (I have that in quotes because all those people we counted on to wait on us still had to show up at work, even if we never saw them. At some point I’ll probably blow my cool about all the hypocrisy.)
Anyhow, I painted several rooms, fixed a terribly peeling plaster bathroom ceiling, and repaired quite a few things in our 100-year-old house. I totally enjoyed all this.
I got a bit of writing done, too, but I didn’t publish any blog posts or write many emails—I began to feel my mindset about politics and all the stuff I’d been most recently mouthy about was shifting.
I felt a change in the very depths of myself about how my own country and the world were operating.
I did a lot of ruminating and cogitating.
I had a feeling The Shiny Butter Blog was fixin’ to change.
By the summer of 2020 I was antsy, so I ended up at an aerials studio
By July of 2020 my sweetheart and I could once again get up at stupid-early hours to go to the gym.
But I struggled to get back into it.
The very in-shape friend who’s the age of our grown kids and had introduced us to going to the gym at godawful early-morning hours in the first place was nudging me—and eventually straight-up pestering me—to try a class at the aerial studio in town.
“It’s $7 class week,” she said.
“Just try it,” she said, “It’s like dance; you’ll like it.”
I told my friend that no, it certainly didn’t sound like “dance” to me, and I certainly didn’t want to do things in the air or upside-down.
And I reminded her that she knew damn well I was afraid of heights.
But like the AARP when you turn 50, she badgered me.
So I tried a “silks” class one Wednesday night in July of 2020.
“Silks” are these slinky cloths like 80s spandex prom dresses hanging some twenty feet high. You climb them and flip around on them and do gymnastic-y things with them.
This is so not me.
Going to the gym with our in-shape, exercise-y friend was hard enough.
But weirdly, I eventually began to like the gym. So when she insisted I try a class where you do things in the air, and upside-down, too, I finally caved.
Like I said, she hounded me. (But I have yet to join the AARP.)
And it was hard!!
One of the first things the silks instructor said was to “lean backward and fall into a star shape upside-down.”
As I leaned backward I muttered to myself, “Dammit all to hell! I’m gonna give my tricky-ass little friend a piece of my mind!”
Just know that I was all of six inches off the ground in this upside-down position—with a thick mat under me, so I was in pretty much zero danger.
To my surprise, once I did the upside-down star thing, it felt kind of relaxing.
I didn’t see that coming.
Then the instructor told us to “reach up, grab the silks, and pull yourself up.” Sounded simple.
But I cannot emphasize strongly enough how hard this was. My abdominal muscles hurt for two weeks after that class. Remember, I’d been doing more sleeping in than exercising.
But surprise, surprise, I loved the damn silks class.
We did a few more things besides the upside-down star thing, and it all felt empowering and fun. So weird. So unexpected.
I went home feeling far more excited than I’d ever in a million gazillion years have guessed I would.
I’d planned to visit my mom soon, so I vowed to return after that.
It was two months later before I returned to the aerial studio
I was pretty sure I’d be hurtin’ all over again since it had been a while since my one and only aerial class.
To my surprise, though, my body was all cocky, like, “Yeah, no big deal,” and I didn’t, in fact, hurt for another two weeks after all.
Then I tried the “lyra,” which is also called the “aerial hoop” and is basically a steel hula hoop in the sky.
Whoa, mama, was that hard. And wowza, was I weak.
I could barely lift myself into the thing, even with a booster step, for one thing. The lower lyra was more my style anyway (I could sit right in it), what with my fear of heights and all.
To be clear, though, the “higher” lyra was about five feet off the ground—not exactly “in the sky.”
And then came the pole dance classes
A few years back when I was taking ballet, I heard that someone in town was teaching pole dance.
Well, I’m a proper, old-school Virginia girl, pearls and all, so my response to such news?
Joke’s on me!
(My dad used to tell me, “Make your words soft and mushy, Daughter—you never know when you’ll have to eat them.” Boy, was he right.)
So I tried “pole dancing,” and my first class was adorable.
Because I tried so hard.
(Some people call it “pole sport” now, but that didn’t make my first efforts easier or better-looking or in any way more dignified.)
There I was in my ponytail, black leggings, and tank top, trying to look sporty, holding tight to this 12-foot, chrome-plated pole as I attempted the intro-class moves. I was merely required to walk around the pole, hold onto the pole in a certain way in order to push and pull at the same time, and to fan-kick my legs sort of windmill-like.
There was no climbing (praise be), there were no sexy moves, and nothing much was even all that hard because there’s just not much you can do with, on, or near the pole until you have some basic moves, as well as an understanding of how to even dance with this unusual partner.
Nevertheless, I was immediately hooked. Hooked, I tell you.
(Annnnnddddd with that news my grandmother rolls over in her grave.)
The residual childhood trauma of P.E. class…
Let me just back up and tell you about an athletic-y trauma I’d been carrying since childhood.
When I was in elementary school the P.E. teacher instructed us to climb this rope that had big knots in it to assist you.
But P.E. isn’t the sort of class where someone helps you if you’re not a natural, so when I and the other weaklings couldn’t climb the damn rope (because we had no idea how!), we were relegated to being picked last for every single team forevermore.
Trauma, I’m telling you, trauma.
But now, no thanks to Mr. Pitts in second grade (yes, that was his name, tell everyone), I can climb a 12-foot pole, just me and my body, no knots needed.
And it’s fun, so there, Mr. Pitts.
It’s been three years since I started pole dance classes—and pole dancing has changed everything for me
I can swear to you on a stack of Jane Austen novels that I never, ever, ever, thought I’d take up pole dancing.
And that I’d be perfectly comfortable climbing twelve feet into the air using the power of my body alone. (And the pole itself, of course.) Or flinging my body around on this pole and flipping into upside-down poses, or hanging backwards.
Or that I’d be comfortable swinging upside-down from a steel hula hoop suspended from a chain, dangling the top of my head several feet from the floor.
As it turns out, I have mustered up a lot of courage
Actually, it kind of snuck up on me—I wasn’t trying to muster up anything at all.
I had no idea that I’d like something called aerial sports, let alone get hooked on it and spend several hours a week doing it. And video-taping myself obsessively in order to study my technique.
Tacky, tacky, tacky!
Talk about making your words soft and mushy.
I’ve gotten stronger and braver, and have tapped into more confidence in myself and my body’s abilities than I was ever aiming for.
It’s like it all just fell into place.
And I can tell you this—I go to bed mighty tired at night.
Scroll down for some pictures!
Meanwhile, this pole dancing blogger has been writing poems
As you may know if you’ve read my “about” page, I write poetry.
You may be saying, “Bless her heart,” as you shake your head while imagining sweet little rhymes about clouds and flowers.
But I really do write poetry, and it’s usually not about sweet or rhyme-y things.
I’ve even served as the vice-president of the local poetry organization, not that that means my poems are any good, but still. And yes, there’s actually a poetry organization in my small town, so thank you to one of The Shiny Butter Blog’s original readers who introduced me to the organization and in turn reignited my love from back in college for writing poetry.
So in the past eight years-ish, poetry and I have gotten kind of serious about each other.
But… poetry, of all things?
I imagine that like a lot of people, you may have dreadful memories of learning poetry in school.
Maybe you got saddled with having to memorize some dusty old epic.
Or maybe you had to write about some impossible-to-understand, outdated, tortuous thing that even with rhymes made no sense.
Or maybe you were lucky and were assigned something like a Robert Frost poem instead (you know—”Walking by Woods on a Snowy Evening”), which wasn’t so bad.
Or maybe it was simply one more ridiculous thing you had to learn, in spite of the obvious uselessness of it.
Seriously, though, isn’t poetry just… boring?
All in all, poetry doesn’t pay much or draw much of a crowd or have any usefulness around the house.
For sure, it can be a real bore, even in these exciting times. Either that, or it can be stupidly obtuse or cryptic or annoyingly intellectual.
But the thing is, I find a universal human-connection sort of thing about the kind of poetry I like. And hopefully, that’s exactly what’s in the poetry I write.
Or at least that’s what I aim for.
But if you try too hard, it comes out forced and overly self-aware and just bad, so I’m here to tell you, it takes practice, even when it sounds simple.
Or more accurately, especially when it sounds simple.
Anyway, at this point, I’ve had enough poems published that I’ve lost count, and same thing with winning poetry prizes, including one from the North Carolina Writer’s Network that I’m pretty doggone proud of.
I’m kind of bragging here, but seriously, I’m collecting a not-too-embarassing poetry résumé at this point, so yay, me!
Before too long, God-willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have a book (or two?) and also a website for me and my poetry, just you wait.
Oh, and then there’s the world peace beat
I’ve been messing around with The Shiny Butter Blog for a good long time.
Some of my readers have been with me more or less since Al Gore invented the internet.
I’d been embarrassingly off-and-on about writing over the years, in spite of plenty of good intentions and a lot of earnest effort.
And not that I ever set out to save the world, but Shiny Butter has taken a broader view of things in the past few years… kind of a big-picture-ish view.
See, at first I just told stories, and sometimes I was even funny. Then I got a little serious about some things, even fist-shaking serious.
And I was all over some social justice and politics.
I enjoyed all this.
But it took me a good long while to find a groove. I was just all over the place.
And still more confidence, more courage!
But I swear, all this confidence and courage I’ve mustered up here lately has played a big role in Shiny Butter gettin’ off its ars and pulling its weight around the house.
I’m pretty happy to be writing regular emails (like clockwork!) to a whole big list of shiny people, for one thing. I used to be so up and down, as some long-suffering-while-waiting-for-consistency Shiny Butter readers have kindly and patiently pointed out to me.
So yay for consistency and double-yay for feeling inspired and enthusiastic, which miraculously makes consistency fall right into place.
So I’m thrilled to have created The Feel-Good-in-a-Crazy-World Starter Guide and The How-to-Function-in-a-Crazy-World Plan for Sensitive Humans.
I’d been wanting to get my hands all up in the digital-product world forever, and I finally did it.
Next up are a few more things in the wings, including actual hardcopy books, and also coaching.
Now, if you’re like I used to be, the term “coaching” or “life coaching” might elicit some eye rolling.
Man-Oh-Manischewitz, did that used to sound corny and made-up to me. But wouldn’t you know it, I’ve eaten more words, and once I learned more about coaching, I saw the value in it.
So all that’s to say, I’m a certified coach now, and I work one-on-one with anyone who wants a coach for whatever you’re working on.
Think of it like when I was that kid in grade school and couldn’t climb the ropes — I wanted to but didn’t know how. I could’ve used a coach who gave a damn. Well, I really do give a damn about you reaching your goals, so give me a holler.
World peace of the everyday sort—which is not nothing
As for world peace, I’m of the mind that first of all, laughing and enjoying yourself is an honest day’s work, no matter what the productivity experts say.
And that secondly, if we’re all taking care of ourselves by doing things that inspire and light us up, we’re answering our life’s calling.
And it is. It really is.
World peace by way of people having happy lives.
But Lord have mercy on us all, I realize this all sounds absurdly participation-trophy-ish of me.
But I’m as serious as a country song when I tell you that we do more for world peace when we’re happy and fulfilled than when we’re ill as a snake or anxious or in a general state of dull dissatisfaction, or heaven help us all, angry.
This is what I mean by getting a start on world peace simply by way of taking care of yourself.
Anyone can do it.
No election needed, no degrees needed, no pulitzer prize or power or status needed.
What a damn relief.
It could not be simpler.
Get on the list for the Shiny Butter emails to hear more about peace, kindness, gentleness, and all that.
All this is to say…
In spite of all the weirdness in the atmo these last few years (and going forward for a good while, I’m guessing), I’m over here minding my peaceful, happy business, doing things that light me up, and mustering up courage and shit.
Yes, I could be shaking my fist and pointing out all the obvious wrongs in society, in politics, in my country, and in the whole damn world. I could be knitting my brow something fierce.
I could be waving signs and writing all sorts of smartly worded warnings about what doomsdays are headed our way.
But I so don’t feel like doing this.
Yeah, next thing you know I’ll be talking about self-esteem and make-love-not-war and flower power, ha!
Right here in the middle of an upended society and one planetary-wide crisis after another, no less.
I know, I know…
I’ve got some nerve not being angry and fearful, not trying to fix the world and fix other people, and not trying to get rid of the bad guys and shore up the good guys.
But I think you get my drift.
Right now I’d rather sneak up on world peace all stealthy-like by becoming a happy, fulfilled, peaceful human in my own right.
In fact, not only would I rather create my own atmo of peace and happiness than knit my brow and take on ulcers of anxiety and have a stress-induced stroke while I’m at it, I recommend you try my method, too, for at least part of your life.
See if you, too, can do the Johnny Appleseed thing with some peace and happiness.
Let’s see if we can cause a peaceful pile-up.
For the pictures-or-it-didn’t-happen crowd, here you go!
Pole, plus a couple of lyra/aerial hoop images
(I’m not doing much on the silks these days—it’s just a timing thing. I’ll get back to it.)
My very first pole class in October 2020.
Like I said above, adorable—I was so self-conscious (and scared!)
Pole class two years later in September 2022.
I’ve just learned this new pole combo—part of it’s called the cinnamon swirl, part is called the fallen star.
Btw, the pole is spinning—I now need to do this combo while keeping the pole spinning the whole time! (And learn to do this higher on the pole,too.)
And no, the spinning part does not make it easier — it makes it harder, in fact.
A fun pole move I’m just learning in this video—called the Buddha, maybe? I can’t remember, but you can see that’s a pretty good guess.
Playing on the spin pole. Really fun.
Yes, it makes you dizzy—it takes some getting used to.
(Also, I’m wearing my high school colors here. 😂)
I’m attempting a move called “the butterfly” here. It’s a pole basic. It was very scary for me at first.
I’m much more confident in the butterfly now!
Next up: doing it higher in the air, omg.
That’s me on the upper left—zoom in and look at my big smile.
The hand position I’m using is called the split grip—it was a killer to learn… for me, anyway.
This pole move is called the banana split.
Praise be for optical illusions—I’m not doing the “over-split” that it appears I am!
(This photo and the one at the top of this post are by Sarah Carmody in Jacksonville, NC.)
This pole move is called the extended butterfly.
It used to scare the bejesus out of me, but then I got very comfortable in it. It’s my go-to move now.
(Photo taken by my sister!)
This pole move is called the Ayesha.
It’s a goal-move for a lot of pole dancers. My next goal is to “spring” into it from the floor rather than descend into it as I did right before this picture was taken.
This isn’t a great shot, but I’m including it because my hands are at about 9 1/2 feet up the pole (off the ground!)
This is huge for me because of my fear of heights and of being upside down!
My very first lyra/aerial hoop class in October 2020.
Note the booster step… but I still couldn’t get my legs into the thing.
I’ve come a long way since.
Lots of practice and persistence later… a lot more confidence and strength.
Lyra/aerial hoop in July 2022.
Note about my name: My poetry byline is often S.L. Cockerille, or some version of Suzannah Lynn Cockerille. I was named after my great-grandmother.
Coco is my nickname.
(And I think you’ll appreciate that my family and a few longtime friends call me Suzie.)
This poem was an award winner in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s annual awards journal and published in Pinesong 2021.
(This is about my son.)
This poem was published in the North Carolina art and literary journal Kakalak 2021.
(This is about my daughter.)
I really enjoyed writing this poem—and then it won a prize, so that was a pleasant surprise!
Published in NC Poetry Society’s annual journal, Pinesong 2018.
I read this poem at my mother’s funeral. It’s about her childhood home.
It was published in the Cartertet Writers (NC) annual awards journal, Shoal. (The formatting was difficult to photograph, so this is just the document itself.)
This poem appeared in the NC art and poetry journal Kakalak 2020.
One of my favorites.
Here’s a link to a recent reading for Nexus Poets (where I was the vice-president). Just the first 20-ish minutes of the video is me. The rest is an open mic. Check it out, but I hope you’re not bored!
(Not that there’s any shortage of things to do, but clearly I need to get my poetry site up and running. Keep your eyes peeled.)
At last, world peace
The Shiny Butter Blog is on the world peace beat these days, but that doesn’t mean style, humor, and a bit of groundedness are out the window.
Take a look at what’s going on so far:
This right here is just the beginning—and it’s free.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not an honest day’s work just feeling good. Because it is.
When you wanna get a firmer grip on things, this is the next move after the Feel-Good Starter Guide above.
This was a virtual road trip (an online workshop) where we went hunting for some danged answers to it all.
This course will be added as a one-off purchase at some point.
Or shoot, maybe I’ll run it again… Keep an eye out.
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Thanks for reading today!