Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dancing fool finis.....or not

"Those who dance are considered insane by those
who cannot hear the music.” 
George Carlin
This is a hard one. It has been percolating for weeks, working its way to the forefront of my attention, and now clamors to be released. The writing process for me is much like a coffee pot in that respect, the idea getting hotter and hotter, my attention turning to it more frequently the higher the internal temperature rises, until I simply cannot keep my fingers off the keyboard no matter how hot those keys are. Or how much it hurts to release the lid of the pot.
George's words caught my attention, because I feel a bit insane right now. Many of you will remember when this Dancing Fool was born [http://agedtoperfectiondeborahhansen.blogspot.com/2011/05/dancing-fool.html] the day my feet dragged me into a dance studio as my "one thing I had never done" for that month. It was April 28, 2011. And my life changed forever.
I was 62 years old and I was terrified of dancing. I had been my entire life. You know how it is, I know you do: We think everyone is watching us, judging us, even laughing at our awkward attempts to move our feet and bodies in time with the music. (I learned that they aren't. They're only thinking about their own clumsy feet, but that's a topic for another day.)
I have become more adventurous as I aged, but I really only intended to take that one lesson and quickly check it off my bucket list. Life has its way with us, though, and I signed up for dozens of lessons with my instructor, a young man who taught me the basics of the waltz, tango, cha cha, swing, hustle, and salsa. No one was more surprised than me at these new turns on the dance floor.
He moved to another studio and I followed. I brought him a new student, a man who later became more than a potential dance partner. (He was only taking lessons to....well, that really is a story for another day.) My instructor put on an open house, and he and I danced the waltz in front of my friends and family, a magical experience for me that proved that you CAN teach a not-so-young woman new things.

I learned to trust someone else to lead. I learned to listen and not talk, even if I disagreed with the instruction given. I learned to stop thinking and just move, a torturous thing for someone who has lived solely in her head. I learned to smile and never stop moving. I learned to continue to move forward and not look back. My body literally changed shape as a result of using it in new ways. My love of music now has a physical manifestation that is wondrously satisfying to me. All of this was unexpected and brought such beauty to my life. For those two hours every week, I was transported to another place, one that transcended my problems, my irritations, my every day life.

The result? I can now walk onto the dance floor and do just about any dance anyone wishes to do. In fact, I can't stop moving, as those around me can attest. My feet and my body sway, tap, twirl, accompanied by a beat no one but me hears.
Which makes the sudden, ripping away of my dance lessons even more difficult. The details are not important to anyone but me, I'm sure. We trust people, and then we find out we shouldn't have, but would we have done anything differently if it meant never experiencing it at all?

 I will never regret dancing my way into a new life, filled with beauty and grace. No, I wouldn't change any of this for a second, regardless of its difficult end.

I guess George was right about the insanity.

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer,
and understand, for all that is life.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mirror, mirror on the wall......

I wake up sometimes and simply don't recognize my landscape any longer. Just when I had learned who peers back at me from the mirror every morning, strange happenings began obscuring that image and then started to make silly faces behind my back, startling me out of my new-found complacency.  Who would have believed we still have so much to learn at this stage of life?

I guess that's my purpose here, though. To alert all of you, especially my younger readers and friends, about what might lie ahead for you, too. All these surprises have been  a huge shock to my system, so I'm passing the lessons on to you. No charge, of course.

A few years ago I finally looked into that mirror, square on, and admitted that daily face-to-face contact with a partner doesn't work for me. It just doesn't. And I had embraced that reality, at first with some trepidation, and then I threw my arms around it with joy. I was free!

I had my work, my dance lessons, and my friends. A life lived with fullness and gratitude, one that fit me exquisitely. The quiet aloneness that once oppressed me enveloped me instead, hugging me with comfort and beauty, my time my own to fill or not, no questions to answer about timetables or destinations.

It worked for me and I loved it.

But many of us, whether paired or not, are facing a new challenge, one that didn't penetrate our awareness with any reality until it was our reality. Human that we are, we think it will never happen to us. Until it does.

My parents were inseparable. And then my dad's mind slowly fractured, piece by piece, until his essence was simply.....gone. His body continued to occupy the recliner in their living room, but he truly was not there. Finally, his body gave up, too, and my mother--his partner for nearly 70 years--was alone for the first time in her life. Ever.

What to do?

But you know, don't you? Doing the right thing in life tests us, challenges our comfortable reality, forces us to straighten our spine and then adjust that mirror to a new angle.

Maybe the lesson is to enjoy that reflection every morning of our lives. Accept where we are and be grateful that we are anywhere at all. And then be ready to tilt that mirror at a moment's notice.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Maria Robinson

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breaking bad.....

I can break rules now, too.

Well, I've always been a bit of a rule breaker, I think. It's just that now, as an "older" person, I can get away with it a little easier.

You know how it goes.  Younger people think we're non-entities anyway, so no one cares if we snap a few proclamations along the way, mainly because they're not paying attention to us any more.

What fun we can have during all this anonymity, right?

Turn my cell phone off as soon as I enter the library? I don't think so. Surely they mean they don't want to hear phones ringing all up and down the stacks, but my business depends on customers reaching me, even if I happen to make a stop to check out a book. So how about just setting it on vibrate? That's one of the delights of self-employment; I can actually have a life during the day, and my phone doesn't need to be turned off to make everyone happy.

Or "don't cross the solid white line" as I attempt to get from one side of the river to the other on the three-mile long bridge near my home. That would work fine IF drivers had much sense at all, which appears to be not only debatable but impossible. Maybe they're all under the age of 30 and learned to drive playing video games. So, in their minds, everything is a drag race, and no one EVER lets another car merge in to their lane, right? Apparently not.

Therefore, the white line and I are invisible to each other, as I cruise alongside the lane I really want to be in, and then I merge over when it's safe and I can manage it. That's the way the whole thing is supposed to work, if ONLY we assisted each other just a tad. 

I realize that breaking rules that also happen to be laws is a risky undertaking. I can personally attest to that one.

The trooper who pulled me over one day for speeding (on wet pavement to boot) asked me very politely if there was a particular reason I was exceeding the speed limit by about 20 miles per hour. I smiled, he smiled back, and I owned up to the fact that I had broken the law. But that's another mark of aging to perfection.

We know what we're doing while we're doing it. And as I break the rule, I implicity choose the consequences, too.

But life is a lot more fun now, I can tell you that.

If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere.
Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The infinite between two souls......

Her manicured nails tapped the edge of her wheelchair and her white tennis shoes kept time on the floor, her legs dangling over the edge of the metal footrests underneath her. She sang  every word of the lyrics along with the performer, a smile playing across her face, and her husband soon joined her. Her health was obviously not good, but here she was with the rest of us being transported to whatever place we each went to as this particular tune was performed.

The rest of the room that night, like most Wednesday nights when we all convened in this bar, was a patchwork of characters. There were cowboy boots and very large hats sitting (or dancing) next to heavily starched shirts with little alligators wandering across the front. An entire family took up a long table near the back, kids ranging from about 8 to young adults, sitting with mom and dad....oh, wait, there's grandma, too. Not everyone knew that the Mom of that family had begun chemo a few weeks ago, but here they all were, strengthening one another by banding together to forget all of that for a few hours.

The singer belted out country music and then switched to Fleetwood Mac, only to turn the mic over to a friend who sang some goosebumping gospel. The music rightly took center stage until a newcomer stepped through doorway aross the room. Greetings were called out to welcome old friends.....which turns out to be anyone who showed up once before and decided to come back. Kind of like Cheers, for those of you old enough to relate. "Norm!"

During the week, this group of folks probably would never have come into contact with one another. I don't generally hang around with used car salesmen, realtors, shrimp boat operators, firemen, or retired masons. Roofers, life coaches, teachers.....maybe even a writer or two.

But music has the ability to draw us together, doesn't it? The wheelchair-bound woman and I might be near the same age, it's hard to tell. And even though our backgrounds are obviously different, when that particular song weaves its way around us, we come together to ride the music. We are literally lifted away from this place to a lyrical place that exists for both of us....if even for a few beats of time.

“Music fills the infinite between two souls.”

Rabindranath Tagore