Sunday, June 9, 2013

Learning To Dance

It's early morning, June 10, Monday, a public holiday celebrating the Queen's birthday.  (It's not like she's Martin Luther King or Ghandi or even Mother Theresa, but I'll take whatever public holiday is on offer!)

June 2, 2013 School Fete with Ian

 In nine days, ten if we count today - it's still early am, remember! - I have to move a family of seven.  In the past few weeks I have packed up most of the house.  Pretty much alone.  Again.

In yoga on Friday night I prayed to get rid of the anger and resentment, but I'm obviously not all there yet.  Resigned maybe.  But sad and bitter.  It's only been two and a half years since the move from Germany. 

Yesterday was our twelve year wedding anniversary.  As usual, it was one of the worst days of the year.  This has nothing to do with Damon or with our marriage - which has been dangling precariously on the edge of the friendship zone lately, thanks for asking, but is quite okay otherwise.
Why is it that a dozen years of marriage seems more like a capitulation than a celebration? 

Yesterday sucked because of the blasted dancing. 

I thought dancing was supposed to be fun.  Like my writing.  Or my running.  Working out and yoga.
I get such a buzz from these things that it's almost spiritual.  Might actually BE spiritual.  The people I write with, or run and workout with, are nothing but encouraging and supportive.  I do these things because they make me feel good, but in doing them I also run into some great people who enjoy them the same way I do. 

I guess dancing isn't the same.  Any show I watch on dancing or gymnastics or figure skating is about the struggle, the competition, giving up everything else in the pursuit of perfection, the nastiness of other dancers/gymnasts/skaters.  Supposedly for the love of the sport.

I thought the dancing would be about feeling as great as I do when I run or do yoga.  I know I'm not a great dancer - heads up, I'm not a really fast runner either! - but I thought I could learn the moves and enjoy the freedom. 

Instead I find myself back in high school feeling like I did on the cheerleading squad. 

Why would another girl be worried about MY moves?  Isn't that the coach's job?  Shouldn't she be worried about her own moves?  How is she even aware of my moves?  Why is she watching me? 

And then it hits me full on.  Am I really THAT bad that this person makes such a nasty face every time she ends up across from me?  Not just my daughter.  I see her face fall when I meet up with her but I can blow that off.  But another grown woman.  Maybe she doesn't realise it - I think she means well, she wants the perfection of the dance - but her face actually grimaces when she sees me.  I guess I do suck.  Most of the others are tolerant.  Some actually smile.  But I didn't want pity either.

I just wanted to dance.

I reassure them that I am only there to dance today, that I want to learn the moves and enjoy myself, that I won't take part in the actual performances at the Abbey (Medieval Festival).  I haven't had the years of dance classes they have had.  I've had two.  Classes, not years.

But it hurts that I can't enjoy myself, that I guess I suck so bad (or do I suck so badly!) that nobody really wants me there.  Including my daughter.

The thing that bites is this:  I can't quit because of my daughter.  I think she wants me there, just to be there.  Of course, I can't be sure since she won't tell me. 

"Is it better when I'm not there?"  I ask her. 

"It certainly is different," she answers. 

Which means what?

"Should I even do the  re-enactment?  Do you even want me there?" I ask her.

"It's your choice.  You have to decide for yourself." she says.

Dance of the twins, September, 2006, Mallorca

 I've wanted to do something like this forever, but if I could walk away from it this year I wouldn't only walk, I would run, run, run, as fast as I can, to join my Saturday morning park run buddies, the top four who still lap me on that final round, but who smile when they see me, who ask after me at the gym during the week, and encourage me to keep going even though I am half as fast as they are.

The running seems to be about the joy and camaraderie I thought I would find in dance.

I understand the dance right now is about performance, it has to be about how you look, because the troupe is hired as a re-enactment troupe, it is about reputation.  But then why all the negativity even after I say that I won't dance in the re-enactment?

And honestly, what I noticed about the group in the last two years, as an observer, was the camaraderie, the fun and the laughter, the sheer joy of dancing together, and not the precision technical moves.  You can tell who is experienced, you do admire their dancing, it was obvious from the get-go who the head teacher is and who the advanced students are.  But I enjoyed all of them, even the less proficient dancers.  I enjoyed the whirling and the colours and the laughter and the fun.

How disappointing if that was all just part of the act.

I do want to dance.  But I want to dance for me and for fun.  I do believe, that with practice, I can start to enjoy it and get the same buzz from it that I now get from yoga.  Of course I want to look good, what girl doesn't want to be told she is pretty and graceful, but I'm okay not looking great if I can just look decent enough to join in, not mess anyone up, and enjoy myself.

It's like my mother being asked to lip sync the lyrics when her class sang for the school holiday festival.  Bloody nuns.  So much for children's voices raised in song.  And the joy of singing.

And then I think of my grandmother belting out hymns next to me in church on Sundays, loudly and confidently, clearly and joyously. 

Completely off key.  Really, she made people in the rows ahead of her turn around and stare.  But she was singing to God and it was the one time in her life where she wasn't worried about what other people thought and did what she wanted to.  You go, Grandma!

And so I continue dancing.  More as a "fuck you bitch, I am not giving you the satisfaction of dancing without me!" as anything else.  But it keeps me moving.  And twirling.  However ungracefully.

It's still a tough call though, on whether to quit or not.  I do believe Ryan wants me there with her.  Just not dancing.  Oh joy.  Maybe I can run a couple laps around the jousting field alone while all the worthy graceful people are having fun together.

Oh god, it's just like high school all over again.

August, 1983, pre-high school, back when I thought a horse would solve all my problems too, Ryan!

Do I really need to do this?

Do I really want to dance so that I can meet everyone else's expectations of me?  Has it really become about hand-sewing the best costume, getting the best deal on some wooden bowls and utensils, embroidering the finest details, adding the finishing touches to a pair of authentic enough shoes?  Is it really about fitting in and looking like everyone else?

If I don't fit in even among the gypsies, then where the hell do I fit in?!

"Take off your shoes and try it barefoot," another gypsy suggests.  We are twirling around the outer rim of a rather large circle, outdoors, on a slope that keeps spreading us out as we head downhill, so that the final twirls are more like sprints at the end of a race. 

"Gracefully, ladies, gracefully," says our head gypsy, a kind woman who has been nothing but encouraging and supportive  - and brave - as we chaotically spin around her with sticks.  And then shows us how.  Damn, that woman could run a marathon and still look beautiful doing it.

I don't know about gracefully, but I manage to keep up with my partners - pretty much - even with tears in my eyes.  I am so proud of myself for managing to remember all the moves, for tapping my partners' sticks with mine at the right time, for only poking one partner with a stick once, for not injuring anyone, for not messing up the circle, for twirling quickly enough to make it to the next partner in time - almost, close enough, not breaking the rhythm.

I feel like I look like a cow, but I am breathless and I am enjoying the moves.

I am enjoying the dance. 

Most of my partners smile.  Some look a frightened, but accepting.  The lady who doesn't want to see me has removed herself from my area.  Give her credit, this isn't easy to do in a circle of twenty plus people where you switch partners, every other person, every few moves!

And, as much as I hate it, I love it too.  I hate the high school.  But I do love the dance.

Ice-skating in Stuttgart, December, 2005, 3 months pregnant with Aidan and Matthew!

Lady-who-hates me doesn't really hate me.  She is worried about ALL the beginners.  She is worried about what we will look like.  She is probably frustrated that we don't know what to wear or bring or what is authentic and what is cheesy.  Note:  the wooden bowls I got from the second hand shop that remind me of the ones Grandma used to have, are cheesy!  But the handmade bassinet I bought on the streets of Port-au-Prince fourteen years ago when I was pregnant with Ryan will be perfect for the mortar and pestle dance.  Which I am not doing, no worries!

This year, Ryan and I will be dressed not only as gypsies, but in gypsy hand-me-downs.  Whatever they can find to suit us.  Because I can't learn to sew this week in between moving house and home schooling Ryan, getting the boys to their sports and taking care of a toddler with a fever and cough.

I still dread the entire thing, but I think it will be good for me.  Last year I learned that circle dances are a symbol of life, of connectedness, of leading and of following, of learning and of teaching.

I can only learn if I am willing to continue. 

But I can also only learn if others are willing to teach.

I have compassion for lady-who-hates-us.  Because she doesn't really hate us.  She needs this troupe more than we do.  If she feels this strongly about it, it is very important to her.  And I realise that the voices that are the most discordant are often the voices that need it the most, the voices that are most afraid of change, because they need the stability the group has brought them in the past.  New people suck because we represent the unknown and because it isn't the same as before and because this is frightening.  As  a new person in many groups, I am beginning to understand the threat I represent, whether I am good at something or bad at something.  It is not my skill level, it is my presence.

At the end of the dance, I thank the experienced dancers for showing us how to move.  I explain that we are trying, but that we need to see the moves from more experienced dancers in order to eventually be able to do them ourselves. 

A part of the dance is leading by example.  Over and over and over.  And smiling while you are doing it.

September, 2005, picnic at the Holzgerlingen Motocross with Ryan and Andrew

I am going to go back, smiling, even when I feel like crying.  Not because I have anything to prove or because I am damned if I am going to let someone keep me from doing what I want.  But because it is a really good group of kind women, with a shared passion and a joy for life.  It is fallible and imperfect because we - good Lord, it's a group of WOMEN for crying out loud! - are human. 

We are all souls struggling through this human existence.

I have compassion for lady-who-hates- us because I know it isn't true. 

I have compassion for lady-who-needs-this-group because I am learning to develop compassion for myself.

I have compassion for lady-who-needs-this- group because I need it too.

"As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others becomes wider."  (Pema Chodrin)

Kinda like our circle turning into a 5 km sprint on Sunday!

Sigh.  I guess I am going back.  I still dread it and it won't be easy.  It might not even be fun this year.
But I'm not ready to give up yet.

I may suck at dancing, but I do have something to teach.  And lots to learn.

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