Gratitude Sunday: Dance Lessons

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Laughter, songs, and dance create emotional connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: we are not alone.” Brene Brown

Sunday Haiku
May flowers arrive
after spring showers, relief
from winter’s gray days.

Sunday Musings
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Do you try new things even if you think you can’t do them just to see what happens? I’m shy about new activities, especially physical activities, because I have some barriers. Plus it seems no matter what change I make in lifestyle, i.e., food intake or exercise, in the hope of manipulating my shape, my body betrays. It seems an uncontrollable, unruly thing, because it is; we rarely are in control of body processes.

Sometimes you don’t care. You want to try any way. Maybe it looks like – wait for it – fun. With the internet at our fingertips we can teach ourselves anything, if we are so inclined.

I found a video with a dance routine to my newest favorite tune. It’s a salsa number and the steps look slow and easy, it’s not a fast number. Of course the “easy” is relative to your skill and how long you have practiced the routine. I have no dance training or skill and I’m waaaay past out of practice.

When I was in junior high school, for me 7th and 8th grade, we had an opportunity to learn ballroom dancing with a local teacher. The dance instructor and his wife came to the school one evening a week and boys and girls signed up. I don’t remember if the lessons were free, but if they weren’t they were inexpensive enough or Mom thought learning to dance was important enough, and I got to participate.

The dance instructor was a large man, well over six feet tall, and we thought he’d chosen an odd profession because of his size, but when he danced you knew why. He was the most elegant thing on feet, and all of us girls couldn’t wait to dance with him. That’s what he wanted the boys to see, that anybody could learn to be smooth and graceful while dancing. His wife would help demonstrate and then taught the boys how to lead. When we did the polka the man was like a carnival ride, as he would enthusiastically enjoy the music and swing us up off our feet in circles in time to the lively tunes. A neighborhood boy (he was nice and never a threat) and I shared rides from week to week and that way we always had built in dance partners as well.

Considering I am the girl who falls off my own ankles and can trip over my own feet I did pretty well in the ballroom dance class. This was one reason I failed in sports, I couldn’t run without tripping, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t see the ball, which was too fast for my brain. My sense of where my body is in relation to the ground and what’s around me is distorted is well. I’m not sure what that’s about but we have a history of ear and hearing problems in my family and ear challenges can affect balance; I also have vision issues.

In high school a friend was taking jazz dance lessons which sounded like fun. I tagged along on one class and the instructor let me know after watching me that I would not have much success as a dancer. She said I needed to have a sense of balance, a sense of rhythm, and an ability to not fall when moving my feet, none of which seem to be in my toolkit. A loss for both of us as who knows if she had bothered to TEACH me anything, I might have had enough success for me. Who cares about her, she would still get paid; I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I did not continue; she was obviously not the right teacher for me.

When I graduated high school I went on to try yoga. Yoga has no partner, no rhythm, no competition. It’s all about you and your body. I practiced yoga twice a day for most of my 20s until I went through a major relocation transition and my schedule flew to the wayside trying to keep up with enough work to pay the rent and feed us. I regret quitting the routine now. As accomplished as I was back then, I’ve never regained the ability to move like that again.

Then there were the bar years from roughly 18 to 23 years old when every Friday night was spent dancing to local live music at local bars and music venues. I danced whatever free form dancing one does to rock music. As life went on, work became more important than partying when the landlord was knocking on the door wanting the rent. So I have danced in my own way.

Now I swim. Hwell, I flop around in the water moving everything I can in every direction I can because the weightless feeling of being in water actually lets me move without the constant pain I endure daily.

At a recent consult with a new physical therapist, she encouraged me to walk. Got me all excited about it. “You can do this,” she said. “Try three minutes to start and build up.” I went home all inspired and went at it the next day. Put on my walking shoes and got out there. I didn’t make it to the edge of the neighbor’s yard before I was in so much pain I didn’t think I’d make it home. The therapist told me if I had that feeling I was doing too much to start. Does that make one minute my goal? How pathetic is not being able to walk less than half a block.

The thing is human bodies are build for movement. I’d like to be able to walk and not be frustrated by my inability. I do love moving in the water, and discounting illness, my swim schedule is non-negotiable.

My first physical therapist taught me how to adapt certain exercises so I could do them sitting, standing, lying down, or in the water. I started thinking about adaptations and different kinds of movement. I have tried tai chi recently with limited success but I was self-teaching from videos. Perhaps I needed a trained, skilled instructor. I used to love my bar dancing.

And so we come back around to the dance routine I found for my favorite song. It’s basically salsa, and salsa steps are relatively simple. If you can see the dance instructor do them. If you can keep up. If you can remember what foot goes where. Practice, practice, practice.

Twenty years ago when I was in college, my major had foreign language requirements. I choose Spanish because I could see the growing population around me. I wanted to know enough to eavesdrop; I know, that’s selfish. I didn’t achieve fluency, but I know “operative” words and phrases, like por favor (please) and gracias (thank you) and bano (bathroom) and cuánto questa (how much – though I don’t remember the larger numbers) and lo siento (I’m sorry), not enough to eavesdrop though my hackles go up when I hear “gorda” (fat woman) and laughter behind my back. One of my professors scheduled a dance class day to introduce us to Latin music, and we tried merengue, which was popular at the time, and salsa. I was the oldest student (after a certain age some of us care less about how we look for the sake of novel experiences) and I danced freely with the professor until one of the older male students stepped in to try. Salsa is very forgiving step wise. We has so much fun we insisted the younger traditional aged students try it, and ended up exceeding class time after they figured out it really was fun.

I’m wondering how long it will take for this fat, massively uncoordinated and totally klutzy, balance disoriented, body-dissociated, old woman to learn the dance routine. I’m currently contemplating how to get the video from my laptop to my big screen so I can use the remote to stop and repeat the steps until I get them. I might have a bit more space to move there. I’m technically challenged (though the techno-ditz often prevails), and this won’t be happening any time soon. I’ll be inclined to brag if I figure out how to do that. If it means having to buy something like a cable to connect laptop to TV, that’s the end of that idea because no funds.

In the meantime, I put the video on three or four times a day, trying to burn the steps and timing into my neural net. It is said one is never too old to learn new things and visualization can be part of the approach to learning something new. The dancers look so languid and smooth flowing from one movement to the next. I want to feel that in this body, that confidence with the steps, that fluidity of movement on land, that control of each step coordinating feet with arms so it looks and feels like they are all part of the same graceful and competent body.

I’ve never experienced any body confidence. Since grade school I’ve had this odd feeling of discomfort with my body, like it’s not mine, and that the physicality of my body does not match the way I see myself in my brain. That’s some heavy stuff to live with, a dissociation of body and mind.

It’s difficult when the brain says yes and the body says no. I’ve lived with that feeling since I was five and my ankles started turning under me. I also hate sweating; sweating feels like bugs crawling on me, so that’s a challenge as well. I practice these steps and even in the privacy of my own home with nobody watching I feel ridiculous, dorky, stupid for trying. My fat waves from side to side like a rippling waterbed and throws me off balance. Three of those dance instructors could fit in my body, a disconnect there as well, the difference in how we look. None of the dancers have boobs that hang to their waist if they aren’t supported, so I don’t look like them. My junior high ballroom dance teacher had a body nobody thought looked right for dance and yet he taught dancing. I stop each time I trip so I don’t hurt myself; I don’t like falling. I’m hoping multiple daily attempts will eventually prevail.

It took me ten years to figure out how to coordinate arms with legs to do this thing that sort of looks like swimming. I haven’t figured out how to put the third part in (breathing) without taking in choking amounts of water. That’s encouraging! Ten years, but I prevailed.

What else will I be doing these next ten years? Reading, writing, editing, swimming, and learning the steps to this salsa dance. Right now I’m picking my feet up in time to the music. I’m figuring out how to get my top half to work with my bottom half. I’m finding all the creaks and pops and crackles in my spine and joints as I attempt to move in the serpentine movements the instructor does. I don’t think my sense of balance, or rhythm, or lack of dance step knowledge should stop me. And I don’t think I care how long it takes me. I might be insane but I’m just going to learn some of the steps every day and see how it goes. It’s doing something different. Who knows? Maybe I can be a 70 year old dance teacher and I will be writing about dance parties not just learning.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – My only lonely pink rhododendron bloomed. My little burg is a feast of pink dogwood and lilac.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Wife (2017, rated R) with Glenn Close. Such a powerful performance by Close, the wife whose husband coerces and steals her work, wins a Nobel Prize for Literature for their work, and even until his death tries to gaslight her into thinking it was right for her to let him take all the credit. * Binged through all ten episodes of Dead To Me (2019, rated TV – MA) with Christina Applegate. A woman’s husband is killed in a hit-and-run, and is befriended at a grief group meeting by a woman who is not who she seems. So compelling I held down the couch to watch them all.

Currently ReadingPassing Strange (2017, fiction) by Ellen Klages (American author). I was starting to think this novel was historical fiction and mis-labeled as fantasy. I was wondering where the magic came in after a lovely historical tour through the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and some of the real laws gays faced, like the three garment law. After only two very brief mentions of a space/time dimension manipulation in the bulk of the text all the magic was revealed at the end and it was lovely. * Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South (2010, world social development) by Armando Barrientos, David Hulme, and Joseph Hanlon. I’m wanting to learn more about global economics and poverty. This study looks at the aspects of trusting poor people to make proper choices for themselves when given cash assistance with no strings attached in the poorest developing countries.

This week I have been grateful for:

    • Not being the only person I know who has to talk themselves into things, and have to constantly engage in an internal mental dialogue about worthiness.
    • Recently locating the obituary of Mr Norman Stoll, my junior high dance instructor, and learning he was also a swimmer. More indication I might be on a good track for me.
    • The hubster celebrating his sixth same digit birthday today.
    • Hubster coming up with a method for stretching the life of the water filter until we can replace it while we are short on money.
    • Cookbooks that read like novels.
    • Sick food (chicken soup, salsa, Chinese hot mustard, horseradish – I fry those little virus suckers) for a bronchial cough that caught me.
    • The luxury of taking time to rest between coughing spells.
    • The patience to slowly walk the six blocks of first farmers market of the season. It was a lovely day, scattered clouds, no jacket needed, light breeze.
    • Asparagus, snow peas, lettuce greens, cilantro, local honey, baby croissants. Love my farmers market.
    • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, Exercise, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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