Peter A. Danzig

@peterdanzig | contributor
Peter Andrew Danzig, MA, CPT, MSS Candidate is a clinical social work therapist. He is also the Founder of Theatrical Trainer. But most of all, he's just a gender-queer person trying to foster love and kindness in our contemporary world. He also loves Unicorns.
Peter A. Danzig

COVID-19 Pandemic: What Is Ambiguous Loss?

For many of us, 2020 will be a year to remember, whether we’ve invited this time into our lives or not. Collectively, the world has been thrust into a unified experience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The way we see ourselves, our environments and our relationships has been changed. Our altered state leaves many of us feeling isolated, scared and questioning our heightened emotions. For myself, I’ve spent many moments considering my distorted thoughts in my journey from the couch to the fridge and back. I may not have run a 5K recently, but my trips to the kitchen for self-soothing cookies when viewing the news or social media probably counts for just as many steps. If you’re feeling a sense of loss or grief right now, you’re far from alone. In the 1970’s, Pauline Boss founded a theory on our grief during times like this and others called ambiguous loss . Should I be upset about this? That question has been coming up for many, in our thoughts and reasons as we try to consider our losses when comparing them to others’, thoughts like, “ I’m upset I didn’t get to enjoy our scheduled family reunion or vacation, but should I be? Others have it worse right now. ” The answer is, yes. Although, there is a hierarchy of basic needs for all humans, your sense of loss without closure is valid. This is where the concept of ambiguous loss comes into effect. In her book, “Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief,” Boss defines ambiguous loss as “a loss that occurs without closure or clear understanding. This kind of loss leaves a person searching for answers, and thus complicates and delays the process of grieving, and often results in unresolved grief.” Simply said, you have been thrown into an emotional roller coaster as a result of a world-wide pandemic, without choice and with restrictions on your life. Your grief about losses, both experiential and tangible, is going to take time to reconcile. You’re allowed to be confused, upset and angry without reason. Yes, feeling upset about that cancelled vacation, graduation, appointment, date, experience or structured days is natural, and welcome. Understanding and sitting with this discomfort is healthy, although hard. What are the effects? The emotional roller coaster is tedious and exhausting. We don’t know who and what to believe and find our emotional jar is overflowing. This results in: Alternative thoughts or changes in our identity or sense of self. Changes in relationships to family, friends and work. Increased risk of negative self-talk, anxiety and depression. Breaks in spiritual connection. Increased risks of isolation behaviors as a result of mandated home quarantine. It is important to note, that the resulting effects are difficult to maneuver and engaging in creating or increasing your self-care routine is important right now. Well, then I throw my hands up! How can I cope? By week two or three, many of us have already increased self-care, had at least 20 Zoom calls, tried the Instagram dance parties, worked out in the living room, much to the annoyance of our pets, painted, drawn, sewn or created things, and pretty much exhausted our “wish I had time to” lists. Frustration is here, and I can relate. There’s only so many five-minute pop-music dance parties I can do before having to sit down and face the emotions. Here are some suggestions to consider when you’ve reached that point: Consider what is really bothering you and try to identify the loss. Giving it a name or label helps you start to understand it. Identify the loss in one sentence, simplifying it down helps to address it directly. Find supports or education on the loss you’re dealing with. Consider the alternatives to the loss. Practice self-acceptance, empathy and sitting with the identified emotion. Create a safe space physically and emotionally, a holding space for you to problem solve or reconcile the emotions in your own time. Share in the emotions with identified loved ones. Support others’ views on their grief and pain; not placing hierarchy on anyone’s grief. I’m still upset, pandemics are scary, and I’m overwhelmed. Me too. One thing that has helped many of my clients is learning to sit with this discomfort, dismantling unrealistic expectations and above all, learning to ride this roller coaster. Take that ticket and ask to sit in the first car of the roller coaster, the fear zone (I’m a sucker for a bad metaphor or pun, as you can tell). Learning to adjust or reconcile the waves of emotion may be a small benefit in this uncertain time. Identifying our ambiguous loss, adapting to change, sitting with the ambiguity and finding meaning in the experience is all we have control over. Humans thrive on connection and social interactions. That we know. This will be hard, but all roller coasters don’t come with unlimited rides. There will be an end to this ride, and when it does arrive, I hope you may find small comfort in knowing that you rode in the fear zone and learned a little bit about yourself in the process. I also hope you allow yourself to grieve these losses; they are yours and they are valid. Let’s ride together. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Community Voices
Peter A. Danzig

The Emotional Impact of Social Distancing on LGBTQ+ People

In my time as an artist and therapist, I’ve found that community is truly remarkable. There’s nothing more remarkable than the outpour of support online that the LGBTQ+ community has found for one another, from bartering for basic needs, to emotional support, to online games of chess with one another. We find a way; we always have and always will. In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, that sense of community is helpful for many but not all. The emotional impacts of social distancing are also undeniable, and as we approach this uncharted territory, acknowledgment of the impact and our individual self-care and regard for others is important. 1. Courage, Empathy, and Compassion: We need all three as we approach this crisis. We need the courage to find patience as we wait for clarity, and we need empathy and compassion for the hardships we face in social distancing and for those who are less fortunate or work in medicine. We need the courage to face our emotions, urge others to do the same and to find our own empathy during fear and negative self-talk. 2. Change Is Hard: Many people find forced change unnerving and difficult. Human beings feel most comforted when there is reassurance and foreseeable stability. Right now, this is not the case, and the disruption to our security can leave us feeling hopeless, fearful, angry or distracted. Allowing those feelings to be at the surface is important and finding ways to incorporate some stability where you have control can help. Getting up at the same time each day, setting some realistic goals from home, taking care of one personal chore you never get to (hello, dust under the couch!) may help set a small schedule and a little structure to allow yourself time to mitigate this change. 3. Ambiguous Loss and Grief: Yes, there is grief and complicated grief for those who have lost a loved one, and that is incredibly painful. There are also additional kinds of grief, some many of us feel simultaneously, which is where that very important sense of courage, empathy, and compassion comes into play. Grief can occur from job loss, savings accounts diminished, loss of the ability for human touch or contact, canceled graduations, childcare options far and few, no part-time work. All of this can amount to feelings of loss and people are allowed to grieve them. Grief comes in many forms, and we must honor our own and that of those around us. Reach out to others in times of grief, and remember you are not alone. 4. Isolation and Mental Health: We as humans are social creatures and isolation, while a much needed and positive approach to stopping the spread of the virus does not negate that social distancing can impact mental health. This time is unprecedented for many and depression, anxiety and fear are a normal response. Psychologically, that isn’t easy for many of us on our best days. For those suffering from the symptomology related to mental health, this can be distressing. Finding time for your version of self-care will be paramount, walks outside, time with a good book, drawing that flying unicorn you’ve always wanted to draw. It may be time. 5. Constant Media Bombardment: As tempting as it is to log into social media, it may be best to do so once a day or finding news from reliable sources such as the CDC website or local government updates on precaution measures. Media bombardment can cause and contribute to national panic, at a time when we may need less stimulation and more coherent approaches to social distancing. News that isn’t based on real precaution measures can also increase people’s risk of making poor decisions. Stay informed but stay informed smartly. These impacts are not nominal, and they impact all of us differently. While the impacts of this pandemic are strong, I am once again reminded of the importance of defining your own self-care measures. I’m also encouraged seeing positive regard in the ways that many in the queer community are supporting one another, from Instagram Live dance parties in our living rooms to preparing food for those who can’t afford to stock up, to online antics of dressing our animals up in costumes (consider me guilty of this one). Let us rise united, let us find empathy, courage and compassion, and let us remember, we are not alone. Peter Andrew Danzig is an artist and clinical social work therapist. He is also the Founder of Theatrical Trainer. But most of all, he’s just a gender-queer person trying to foster love and kindness in our contemporary world. He also loves Unicorns. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Peter A. Danzig

How This Body Positivity Photo Project Changed Me

I’ve waited on this blog post since October 2017. The Body Aesthetic Project is so much more than a social work project for artists; it’s honesty about the human condition. Back in 2014, I conceptualized Theatrical Trainer as a place where artists, creative minds and creative people could find wellness opportunities. Back then, almost five years ago, it was so rooted in alternative means of health and wellness. Now, in 2019, it’s become more. It’s become my calling, not just my passion. I’ve learned a lot in that time, but also, the world around us has changed; as such, we change with it. We grow sometimes, sometimes we don’t … we struggle, triumph and step back and forward. Sometimes things are seamless, sometimes they aren’t. In October 2017, I asked my staff, colleagues and board to begin to investigate something that is so tactile for us, yet something we often have a complicated relationship with: our bodies. The staff, artistic community and Philadelphia itself would begin to talk about more than just physical manifestations of wellness; we would talk about what it truly means to be “well” in our body. What I learned changed my life … concepts were both macro and micro at the same time. There was applause for the pride some felt in their skin, and pain as others opened up about what it meant to be creative as actors, dancers, painters, playwrights, poets, singers, builders and makers and when they opened up, sometimes the flooding of emotions and trauma was scary. It was scary because I knew it was there for so many of us, but we don’t talk about it. On this day in 2017, over 100 people showed up and poured their hearts out. We expected 20. Over 50 other people took our survey when they couldn’t make the event. On this day, I learned more than I was prepared for. Our board and staff jumped head-first into making it run smoothly, our photographer was graceful and kind in allowing people to unveil their authentic selves. We learned of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), trauma , eating disorders, fear of mirrors, shame and unrealistic industry expectations. We learned of gendered, binary and wrongful assumptions on both sides of the table. We learned of the shared experience of silence in the creative arts, which we wanted to break. We learned of the freedom of words and allowing them to pour out. We also learned of compassion, of learning when to sit back and let others tell their story. We saw happiness and self-love. We saw excitement and sexuality. We learned about the human condition, and how it never ceases to amaze us all. After watching countless others open, it was my turn. I often catch flak for being so open about my body, my tattoo art or my self-expression. I assert my belief in body positivity, but also, I don’t talk about my fears, struggles or survival of trauma . That day, I thought about my mother. She carried me, and when I was born, had a delivery that could have cost her her life. That doctor was amazing, yes, but I think about her. She was the warrior. She gave me something I could never thank her enough for — this body. At that moment, I thought about all the times I felt shame in my body, and yet, she was willing to risk her life to give it to me. As a dancer and actor, I was always told my “meaty” thighs were “sexy and strong” — they allowed me to move and do great things. They come from my mom … but she heard other things growing up, like “thunder thighs” or painful comments. It made me think that day, about how strange and painful this world could be. The blessing she gave me was something others made her feel so shameful of growing up. That day, I thought to myself: “Thank you, Mom, and I’m sorry you heard other things growing up.” It all made me think of perception, gender, body image and the world around me … and creative people. Thank you, Mom; our thighs are beautiful and strong and deserve space. I wish there was a world where that didn’t need to be said. So my post today, albeit a rambling, comes full circle to a journey. After that day, the many participants and the research, years later, I am not continuing to Theatrical Trainer, expanding wellness opportunities to creative people, but I’m also doing something else. I’m learning and watching. I’m listening to others and trying to practice the self-love I advocate for. That day, reading the statements, looking at the surveys and talking with the participants, I came alive with a realization. I thought to myself, I can’t always provide answers, but I want to do more… I want to look at the intersections of art, science and psychology. I want to open dialogues and challenge and learn and have permission to fail. So, here I am, one semester into a program working toward becoming a psychologist devoted to the research of the creative mind and working to build a foundation where creative minds can find every bit of assistance they need under one roof, regardless of access to healthcare. I want, under that roof, to be mental health services, physical therapists, personal trainers, classes, seminars and a holding space for us to learn more about the human condition and ways of being. I want us to have access to healin g and trauma -informe d practice and I want us to be open, to talk when we need to and also to be silent and listen to others when we need to. This is what The Body Aesthetic Project means to me. In 2019, we will now plan the second Body Aesthetic Day in Philadelphia. We will explore and learn, and I will pour myself into a world where I can marry all of these intersections so that creative minds can continue to provide that vital service — art — while protecting their vital asset, their body. I will also be open about my struggles. We all have them. I think there is danger in trying to provide answers without being open about the journey. I too struggle when I look in the mirror. I too look for validation in the wrong places. I too don’t always take time for self-care and love. Let’s change that together, and allow for us to have days where we fail or don’t get it right; hell, let’s have weeks, or years. It’s OK. It’s never too late to try to make positive changes. Let’s not think about the new year as the “new year, new me” model because the old you, while not perfect, was still beautiful in that you are still here, trying, learning and working toward something, even when it doesn’t feel like you’ve made a step forward. Just breathe; that is a step in and of itself. I thank the many people who have trusted me and allowed me the opportunity to do what I love, but I want to do more. My goal is to keep moving forward, keep learning and keep sharing. After all, aesthetic can be what we decide it is. Let’s all take moments to create our own body aesthetic. Yours in Health, Peter A. DanzigFounder, Theatrical Trainer. Follow this journey on theatricaltrainer.com.

Peter A. Danzig

How This Body Positivity Photo Project Changed Me

I’ve waited on this blog post since October 2017. The Body Aesthetic Project is so much more than a social work project for artists; it’s honesty about the human condition. Back in 2014, I conceptualized Theatrical Trainer as a place where artists, creative minds and creative people could find wellness opportunities. Back then, almost five years ago, it was so rooted in alternative means of health and wellness. Now, in 2019, it’s become more. It’s become my calling, not just my passion. I’ve learned a lot in that time, but also, the world around us has changed; as such, we change with it. We grow sometimes, sometimes we don’t … we struggle, triumph and step back and forward. Sometimes things are seamless, sometimes they aren’t. In October 2017, I asked my staff, colleagues and board to begin to investigate something that is so tactile for us, yet something we often have a complicated relationship with: our bodies. The staff, artistic community and Philadelphia itself would begin to talk about more than just physical manifestations of wellness; we would talk about what it truly means to be “well” in our body. What I learned changed my life … concepts were both macro and micro at the same time. There was applause for the pride some felt in their skin, and pain as others opened up about what it meant to be creative as actors, dancers, painters, playwrights, poets, singers, builders and makers and when they opened up, sometimes the flooding of emotions and trauma was scary. It was scary because I knew it was there for so many of us, but we don’t talk about it. On this day in 2017, over 100 people showed up and poured their hearts out. We expected 20. Over 50 other people took our survey when they couldn’t make the event. On this day, I learned more than I was prepared for. Our board and staff jumped head-first into making it run smoothly, our photographer was graceful and kind in allowing people to unveil their authentic selves. We learned of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), trauma , eating disorders, fear of mirrors, shame and unrealistic industry expectations. We learned of gendered, binary and wrongful assumptions on both sides of the table. We learned of the shared experience of silence in the creative arts, which we wanted to break. We learned of the freedom of words and allowing them to pour out. We also learned of compassion, of learning when to sit back and let others tell their story. We saw happiness and self-love. We saw excitement and sexuality. We learned about the human condition, and how it never ceases to amaze us all. After watching countless others open, it was my turn. I often catch flak for being so open about my body, my tattoo art or my self-expression. I assert my belief in body positivity, but also, I don’t talk about my fears, struggles or survival of trauma . That day, I thought about my mother. She carried me, and when I was born, had a delivery that could have cost her her life. That doctor was amazing, yes, but I think about her. She was the warrior. She gave me something I could never thank her enough for — this body. At that moment, I thought about all the times I felt shame in my body, and yet, she was willing to risk her life to give it to me. As a dancer and actor, I was always told my “meaty” thighs were “sexy and strong” — they allowed me to move and do great things. They come from my mom … but she heard other things growing up, like “thunder thighs” or painful comments. It made me think that day, about how strange and painful this world could be. The blessing she gave me was something others made her feel so shameful of growing up. That day, I thought to myself: “Thank you, Mom, and I’m sorry you heard other things growing up.” It all made me think of perception, gender, body image and the world around me … and creative people. Thank you, Mom; our thighs are beautiful and strong and deserve space. I wish there was a world where that didn’t need to be said. So my post today, albeit a rambling, comes full circle to a journey. After that day, the many participants and the research, years later, I am not continuing to Theatrical Trainer, expanding wellness opportunities to creative people, but I’m also doing something else. I’m learning and watching. I’m listening to others and trying to practice the self-love I advocate for. That day, reading the statements, looking at the surveys and talking with the participants, I came alive with a realization. I thought to myself, I can’t always provide answers, but I want to do more… I want to look at the intersections of art, science and psychology. I want to open dialogues and challenge and learn and have permission to fail. So, here I am, one semester into a program working toward becoming a psychologist devoted to the research of the creative mind and working to build a foundation where creative minds can find every bit of assistance they need under one roof, regardless of access to healthcare. I want, under that roof, to be mental health services, physical therapists, personal trainers, classes, seminars and a holding space for us to learn more about the human condition and ways of being. I want us to have access to healin g and trauma -informe d practice and I want us to be open, to talk when we need to and also to be silent and listen to others when we need to. This is what The Body Aesthetic Project means to me. In 2019, we will now plan the second Body Aesthetic Day in Philadelphia. We will explore and learn, and I will pour myself into a world where I can marry all of these intersections so that creative minds can continue to provide that vital service — art — while protecting their vital asset, their body. I will also be open about my struggles. We all have them. I think there is danger in trying to provide answers without being open about the journey. I too struggle when I look in the mirror. I too look for validation in the wrong places. I too don’t always take time for self-care and love. Let’s change that together, and allow for us to have days where we fail or don’t get it right; hell, let’s have weeks, or years. It’s OK. It’s never too late to try to make positive changes. Let’s not think about the new year as the “new year, new me” model because the old you, while not perfect, was still beautiful in that you are still here, trying, learning and working toward something, even when it doesn’t feel like you’ve made a step forward. Just breathe; that is a step in and of itself. I thank the many people who have trusted me and allowed me the opportunity to do what I love, but I want to do more. My goal is to keep moving forward, keep learning and keep sharing. After all, aesthetic can be what we decide it is. Let’s all take moments to create our own body aesthetic. Yours in Health, Peter A. DanzigFounder, Theatrical Trainer. Follow this journey on theatricaltrainer.com.

Peter A. Danzig

How This Body Positivity Photo Project Changed Me

I’ve waited on this blog post since October 2017. The Body Aesthetic Project is so much more than a social work project for artists; it’s honesty about the human condition. Back in 2014, I conceptualized Theatrical Trainer as a place where artists, creative minds and creative people could find wellness opportunities. Back then, almost five years ago, it was so rooted in alternative means of health and wellness. Now, in 2019, it’s become more. It’s become my calling, not just my passion. I’ve learned a lot in that time, but also, the world around us has changed; as such, we change with it. We grow sometimes, sometimes we don’t … we struggle, triumph and step back and forward. Sometimes things are seamless, sometimes they aren’t. In October 2017, I asked my staff, colleagues and board to begin to investigate something that is so tactile for us, yet something we often have a complicated relationship with: our bodies. The staff, artistic community and Philadelphia itself would begin to talk about more than just physical manifestations of wellness; we would talk about what it truly means to be “well” in our body. What I learned changed my life … concepts were both macro and micro at the same time. There was applause for the pride some felt in their skin, and pain as others opened up about what it meant to be creative as actors, dancers, painters, playwrights, poets, singers, builders and makers and when they opened up, sometimes the flooding of emotions and trauma was scary. It was scary because I knew it was there for so many of us, but we don’t talk about it. On this day in 2017, over 100 people showed up and poured their hearts out. We expected 20. Over 50 other people took our survey when they couldn’t make the event. On this day, I learned more than I was prepared for. Our board and staff jumped head-first into making it run smoothly, our photographer was graceful and kind in allowing people to unveil their authentic selves. We learned of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), trauma , eating disorders, fear of mirrors, shame and unrealistic industry expectations. We learned of gendered, binary and wrongful assumptions on both sides of the table. We learned of the shared experience of silence in the creative arts, which we wanted to break. We learned of the freedom of words and allowing them to pour out. We also learned of compassion, of learning when to sit back and let others tell their story. We saw happiness and self-love. We saw excitement and sexuality. We learned about the human condition, and how it never ceases to amaze us all. After watching countless others open, it was my turn. I often catch flak for being so open about my body, my tattoo art or my self-expression. I assert my belief in body positivity, but also, I don’t talk about my fears, struggles or survival of trauma . That day, I thought about my mother. She carried me, and when I was born, had a delivery that could have cost her her life. That doctor was amazing, yes, but I think about her. She was the warrior. She gave me something I could never thank her enough for — this body. At that moment, I thought about all the times I felt shame in my body, and yet, she was willing to risk her life to give it to me. As a dancer and actor, I was always told my “meaty” thighs were “sexy and strong” — they allowed me to move and do great things. They come from my mom … but she heard other things growing up, like “thunder thighs” or painful comments. It made me think that day, about how strange and painful this world could be. The blessing she gave me was something others made her feel so shameful of growing up. That day, I thought to myself: “Thank you, Mom, and I’m sorry you heard other things growing up.” It all made me think of perception, gender, body image and the world around me … and creative people. Thank you, Mom; our thighs are beautiful and strong and deserve space. I wish there was a world where that didn’t need to be said. So my post today, albeit a rambling, comes full circle to a journey. After that day, the many participants and the research, years later, I am not continuing to Theatrical Trainer, expanding wellness opportunities to creative people, but I’m also doing something else. I’m learning and watching. I’m listening to others and trying to practice the self-love I advocate for. That day, reading the statements, looking at the surveys and talking with the participants, I came alive with a realization. I thought to myself, I can’t always provide answers, but I want to do more… I want to look at the intersections of art, science and psychology. I want to open dialogues and challenge and learn and have permission to fail. So, here I am, one semester into a program working toward becoming a psychologist devoted to the research of the creative mind and working to build a foundation where creative minds can find every bit of assistance they need under one roof, regardless of access to healthcare. I want, under that roof, to be mental health services, physical therapists, personal trainers, classes, seminars and a holding space for us to learn more about the human condition and ways of being. I want us to have access to healin g and trauma -informe d practice and I want us to be open, to talk when we need to and also to be silent and listen to others when we need to. This is what The Body Aesthetic Project means to me. In 2019, we will now plan the second Body Aesthetic Day in Philadelphia. We will explore and learn, and I will pour myself into a world where I can marry all of these intersections so that creative minds can continue to provide that vital service — art — while protecting their vital asset, their body. I will also be open about my struggles. We all have them. I think there is danger in trying to provide answers without being open about the journey. I too struggle when I look in the mirror. I too look for validation in the wrong places. I too don’t always take time for self-care and love. Let’s change that together, and allow for us to have days where we fail or don’t get it right; hell, let’s have weeks, or years. It’s OK. It’s never too late to try to make positive changes. Let’s not think about the new year as the “new year, new me” model because the old you, while not perfect, was still beautiful in that you are still here, trying, learning and working toward something, even when it doesn’t feel like you’ve made a step forward. Just breathe; that is a step in and of itself. I thank the many people who have trusted me and allowed me the opportunity to do what I love, but I want to do more. My goal is to keep moving forward, keep learning and keep sharing. After all, aesthetic can be what we decide it is. Let’s all take moments to create our own body aesthetic. Yours in Health, Peter A. DanzigFounder, Theatrical Trainer. Follow this journey on theatricaltrainer.com.

Peter A. Danzig

How This Body Positivity Photo Project Changed Me

I’ve waited on this blog post since October 2017. The Body Aesthetic Project is so much more than a social work project for artists; it’s honesty about the human condition. Back in 2014, I conceptualized Theatrical Trainer as a place where artists, creative minds and creative people could find wellness opportunities. Back then, almost five years ago, it was so rooted in alternative means of health and wellness. Now, in 2019, it’s become more. It’s become my calling, not just my passion. I’ve learned a lot in that time, but also, the world around us has changed; as such, we change with it. We grow sometimes, sometimes we don’t … we struggle, triumph and step back and forward. Sometimes things are seamless, sometimes they aren’t. In October 2017, I asked my staff, colleagues and board to begin to investigate something that is so tactile for us, yet something we often have a complicated relationship with: our bodies. The staff, artistic community and Philadelphia itself would begin to talk about more than just physical manifestations of wellness; we would talk about what it truly means to be “well” in our body. What I learned changed my life … concepts were both macro and micro at the same time. There was applause for the pride some felt in their skin, and pain as others opened up about what it meant to be creative as actors, dancers, painters, playwrights, poets, singers, builders and makers and when they opened up, sometimes the flooding of emotions and trauma was scary. It was scary because I knew it was there for so many of us, but we don’t talk about it. On this day in 2017, over 100 people showed up and poured their hearts out. We expected 20. Over 50 other people took our survey when they couldn’t make the event. On this day, I learned more than I was prepared for. Our board and staff jumped head-first into making it run smoothly, our photographer was graceful and kind in allowing people to unveil their authentic selves. We learned of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), trauma , eating disorders, fear of mirrors, shame and unrealistic industry expectations. We learned of gendered, binary and wrongful assumptions on both sides of the table. We learned of the shared experience of silence in the creative arts, which we wanted to break. We learned of the freedom of words and allowing them to pour out. We also learned of compassion, of learning when to sit back and let others tell their story. We saw happiness and self-love. We saw excitement and sexuality. We learned about the human condition, and how it never ceases to amaze us all. After watching countless others open, it was my turn. I often catch flak for being so open about my body, my tattoo art or my self-expression. I assert my belief in body positivity, but also, I don’t talk about my fears, struggles or survival of trauma . That day, I thought about my mother. She carried me, and when I was born, had a delivery that could have cost her her life. That doctor was amazing, yes, but I think about her. She was the warrior. She gave me something I could never thank her enough for — this body. At that moment, I thought about all the times I felt shame in my body, and yet, she was willing to risk her life to give it to me. As a dancer and actor, I was always told my “meaty” thighs were “sexy and strong” — they allowed me to move and do great things. They come from my mom … but she heard other things growing up, like “thunder thighs” or painful comments. It made me think that day, about how strange and painful this world could be. The blessing she gave me was something others made her feel so shameful of growing up. That day, I thought to myself: “Thank you, Mom, and I’m sorry you heard other things growing up.” It all made me think of perception, gender, body image and the world around me … and creative people. Thank you, Mom; our thighs are beautiful and strong and deserve space. I wish there was a world where that didn’t need to be said. So my post today, albeit a rambling, comes full circle to a journey. After that day, the many participants and the research, years later, I am not continuing to Theatrical Trainer, expanding wellness opportunities to creative people, but I’m also doing something else. I’m learning and watching. I’m listening to others and trying to practice the self-love I advocate for. That day, reading the statements, looking at the surveys and talking with the participants, I came alive with a realization. I thought to myself, I can’t always provide answers, but I want to do more… I want to look at the intersections of art, science and psychology. I want to open dialogues and challenge and learn and have permission to fail. So, here I am, one semester into a program working toward becoming a psychologist devoted to the research of the creative mind and working to build a foundation where creative minds can find every bit of assistance they need under one roof, regardless of access to healthcare. I want, under that roof, to be mental health services, physical therapists, personal trainers, classes, seminars and a holding space for us to learn more about the human condition and ways of being. I want us to have access to healin g and trauma -informe d practice and I want us to be open, to talk when we need to and also to be silent and listen to others when we need to. This is what The Body Aesthetic Project means to me. In 2019, we will now plan the second Body Aesthetic Day in Philadelphia. We will explore and learn, and I will pour myself into a world where I can marry all of these intersections so that creative minds can continue to provide that vital service — art — while protecting their vital asset, their body. I will also be open about my struggles. We all have them. I think there is danger in trying to provide answers without being open about the journey. I too struggle when I look in the mirror. I too look for validation in the wrong places. I too don’t always take time for self-care and love. Let’s change that together, and allow for us to have days where we fail or don’t get it right; hell, let’s have weeks, or years. It’s OK. It’s never too late to try to make positive changes. Let’s not think about the new year as the “new year, new me” model because the old you, while not perfect, was still beautiful in that you are still here, trying, learning and working toward something, even when it doesn’t feel like you’ve made a step forward. Just breathe; that is a step in and of itself. I thank the many people who have trusted me and allowed me the opportunity to do what I love, but I want to do more. My goal is to keep moving forward, keep learning and keep sharing. After all, aesthetic can be what we decide it is. Let’s all take moments to create our own body aesthetic. Yours in Health, Peter A. DanzigFounder, Theatrical Trainer. Follow this journey on theatricaltrainer.com.