Monday, January 31, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Memories, like the corners of my mind

My husband and I are soon going to start taking ballroom dancing lessons. We’ve talked about doing this for years, but the opportunity didn’t plunk itself right in our faces, so we didn’t search it out. That’s code for: I do the planning and if I don’t schedule it, it’s not likely to happen, unless it’s a motorcycle race or something related.
When we first moved into our loft apartment, we took a walk around the area and noticed an Arthur Miller studio on the way. That reminded us of our long-intended goal, but the place was vacant and so still it was a no go. Whew.
So when our pastor announced that in our church we have a certified ballroom dancing instructor, and he would begin instructing interested couples in February--somewhere around Valentine’s Day, my heart beat a little faster. Not from excitement. From terror!
It seems for most couples, it is the husband who resists ballroom dancing instruction. For us, I am the one who secretly hopes it will never happen. My husband has always wanted to do this. 
Dancing for me has always turned out traumatic. First of all, I am dyslexic. That means that left and right are a big problem. It is truly amazing I don’t run into walls more than I actually do. I put the car in reverse when I mean forward, because the gear thingy is forward on the floor panel. Oh, I don’t do it every time. Just when I am stressed, or tired, or confused. In other words, often. I shudder to think how many times I almost went forward in a parking lot when I meant to back up, or the other way around.
Couple that with my eye problems (I could barely see anything until I was 14), and a complete lack of hand-eye coordination, it is truly a marvel that I have escaped major injury over the course of my life--so far. “Don’t push it,” a little voice seems to whisper.
I am trying to psyche myself up for this. I have about two weeks. It isn’t like this is going to be at an anonymous site where I don’t have to see the people again after I make a complete...well, fool isn’t really the word I want here. It escapes me, as I wish the lessons would.
My memories of dancing are certainly in the corners of my mind, but they are hardly misty or watercolored. They are cobwebbed and scary.
I remember my sisters giggling when I practiced dancing for school dances. Their deriding was almost unbearable. I knew I was awkward. I knew I looked clumsy. And, the thought of stepping on some guy’s feet was terrifying. But, I somehow got through it until in seventh grade my “best” friend announced to me that she couldn’t be best friends with me anymore, because I was too tall to dance with. The shock of that still hasn’t completely worn off.
It may be difficult for you coordinated people to grasp the level of horror this brings to me. It is cold sweat, panic-attack fear. No kidding.
I tried some dancing in clubs with my husband when we were dating. This was not a rewarding experience. I told him we both looked dorky and maybe we could find some other avenue of expression. That didn’t seem to dissuade him. He seemed impervious to the insult. Whereas I feel a level of fear so deeply rooted that now, when the actual commitment to this nears, I find myself running a self-improvement monologue through my brain to gear up. I mean, how bad could it be? How long could the humiliation of it last? Hours? Weeks? How many people will be looking at us anyway?
But, this is church. The center of my life. Where all my good friends are. People I will see every week. It could be bad, very bad.
OK, what are my options? I could get sick. No. I hate being sick. I could refuse. No. That would make me look bad too. I could move. Obviously not a real option.  I could hold my breath until I turn blue and faint. That actually sounds like a plan. At least I might get some pity instead of the laughing.
I could practice at home. Hmm. Wasn’t that the beginning of the source of this humiliation? One of my friends told me she was really looking forward to the class to have a lot of fun. Fun! You know all those songs about live, love, dance or something like that? Well dancing doesn’t belong in that list for me. 
I think I will just have to take the plunge and put to the test this unconditional love these church people talk about. I may have to just allow myself to look silly, be laughed at, and laugh along with them. After all, it’s just a dance lesson. Get a grip. And, I don’t mean a white knuckled one on the side rails. Self, it’s time to conquer this fear. I doubt I will get to it being fun. We all have limitations. No one is asking me to sign up for Dancing with the Stars. It’s just a lesson. 
I know this is a step in the right direction for not living my whole life terrified of dancing.