I remember being a teenager, preparing with the rest of my family for my eldest sister’s wedding. She was marrying her highschool sweetheart, the used to be boy now man that she had dated throughout college. For the first time in a longtime, we were going to have a celebration because for the first time in a long time we had something to celebrate.
I stumbled out of my room groggily and headed up the stairs to the dining room/living room combination that is my childhood home. My sister and my dad were picking music for the reception. Discovering which number would be the best to dance to for the Father and daughter and at the reception. Happy toons danced around the house, echoing everywhere. I don’t remember exactly, but it might have been that which woke me up that Saturday. I remember my dad practicing dancing with my sister, my beautiful elegant sister. She gracefully moved and twirled. My dad looked so happy and asked me to dance too.
And I didn’t know how. I somehow couldn’t dance with my father. I felt frozen to the spot.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I remember that I deeply hurt my dad. He was trying to connect with me, include me, have me be a part of this special planning, this special day, this hallowed event. My fear and my anxiety overwhelmed me and froze me. I excluded myself.
As a teenager, I often felt excluded. An outsider. Was I though? The thing about being on the outside, sometimes people lock you out, and sometimes you lock yourself out. Usually, if you knock, they’ll let you in. Family, friends, neighbors, people in general are willing to let you in, even if it is marginally, if you ask them. If you ask them to be your friend, they’ll usually say yes.
We used to go on this church retreat every year in the fall. It was called the Fall Festival and it was delightful. There were cabins and bonfires and delightful fun filled activities which we delighted in. One of the most exciting moments was on Saturday night, there would be square dancing. As someone who was homeschooled her whole life, these were some of the only experiences I had dancing in a group. I remember how the adults all had partners, male and female together. Then the teens and preteens would pair off. Boys were limited, and in high demand. I wanted to dance with a boy, but I didn’t even know how to ask. I didn’t even try asking. If I did, they probably would’ve said yes.
When I was in high school… well kind of high school (I was homeschooled)... I went to a prom… well kind of a prom (it was homeschooler prom). Already at an awkward stage of life, the awkwardness increased as imposter syndrome ran rampant throughout the dance floor and dinner hall. All of us felt like pretenders in our dresses and bowties. The boy that I did ask to dance (after plucking up the courage), did so but in the most strange manner. Arms locked out straight and resting on my shoulders, there was a good two feet between my friend and I.
I drove to visit a friend in Alabama. The almost fourteen hour drive exhausted me, but the company was worth it. Like when she lived nearby, I fit into her family and their daily routines. I went with her to the grocery store, to pick up her daughter from school, to paint with her in her studio, and also to zumba class. The glaring light, the floor to ceiling mirrors, and the participant’s ease of movement emphasized my own klutzy manner. Jarringly, I followed the lead dancer’s movements. The concentration that it took me to not get into anyone else’s way astounded and embarrassed me.
These were all of the different memories that I had swirling around my head, as my new husband took my hand, pulled me close, and started to sway on the dance floor as the music began to play for our first dance.
“What’s the matter?” He whispered.
“Everyone’s looking at me,” I squeaked back. “I feel so nervous with everyone watching.”
“It’s just me and you right now,” He hugged me a little closer, and I rested my head upon his shoulder. For the first time in memory, I relaxed while I danced.
When I get home from a long day at work to an apartment neither of us has had the time or the energy to clean, the discouragement comes over me in waves. It’s almost nine o’clock at night. Dinner needs to be made, dishes need to be done, laundry needs to be folded, toys need to be picked up. He, also exhausted from working all day and putting the baby down to sleep, sees me struggling. He comes over, pulls me close and has the music play. We sway in our kitchen, and all the embarrassment of the years wash away and we dance.
Before our daughter even began to walk, she danced when we played music. Causing us such joy and delight, we could not help but get up and join her.
Now when the hardships of life affect her, we turn the music on and dance as a family. Shaking off the dust of everyday life and delighting in each other and the music. I think it was Pablo Picasso said that, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life".
When we moved into our new house, our first house, we danced.
We have almost negative skills, but that does not change the fact that dancing helps us. It brings us together, and fosters enjoyment of each other. I am not letting fear freeze me anymore (or at least I’m trying not to), and taking delight in the delightful things in life. Art is not just for the proficient or the trained. The beauty of art is that those who have no training can still enjoy the act, connect with the Creator, and enrich their own life along with the lives of those around them. So I hope you dance poorly, write awful, draw like a toddler, and sing the worst melodies that the world has ever heard.