I have a love hate relationship with dancing. I love to dance, I just hate to dance in public. The source of my closet dancing was a college boyfriend. While on the dance floor at a bar, he leaned over and whispered something in my ear. Thinking I hadn't heard him correctly, I asked him to repeat himself. No, that was definitely what he said. I dance like a cow. Ever since then, the only time I would dance in public was in the middle of a crowd, and usually only after several drinks.
Last summer I met Becky - a smiling, dreadlocked, whirling dervish African dance instructor. Becky was a teacher at Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal, a 4 day retreat of drumming, dancing, writing, and personal growth. Becky's passion for life is infectious. I have never seen anyone light up a room like she does, spreading the joy and bliss of dance. In the renewal atmosphere of love, compassion, and encouragement, I felt I could accomplish anything. I joined Becky's performance group, and after 3 nights of practice we performed at a concert. I was terrified, and absolutely exhilarated.
Fast forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving, two nights ago. My husband and son and I traveled to Johnstown, PA, to see a drum and dance performance by Becky and Jim and several other friends. We arrived early, while Becky and her dance group were warming up. Ironically, they were doing the same dance I had learned over the summer. Becky graciously invited me to join them for the performance. I thought about it for two seconds, and then politely turned her down. I told her I would dance with them after their performance was over.
And that was when it happened, the turning point of the night, and the last twenty years. My five year old looked at me and said innocently, "Mama, that sounds like a scaredy cat." How did he know? Was the apprehension and fear seeping out of my pores? And how did he know I needed to be called on it? How did he know that I secretly wanted to dance, but was letting the shame from all those years ago keep me from having a good time?
I didn't end up dancing with the group for their performance, but I did dance several times when audience participation was encouraged. We were sitting in the front row, and halfway thru the concert my son grabbed my hand. No one else was on the dance floor, but he wanted to dance. There was no one to hide behind, no alcohol fueled propulsion to give me the sensation of being a better dancer. I thought about being a scaredy cat. I thought about the memories I could create for my son (and myself), if I stepped out of my comfort zone and onto my feet. I thought about the shame I had carried around for twenty years, and wondered if it was still serving me. In front of almost 100 people, I decided it wasn't. I danced with my son.
Would I have danced that night if my son hadn't called me a scaredy cat? Probably not. I'm sure he doesn't realize the profound impact his statement has had on my life. From now on, every time I contemplate a challenge to my own self imposed limitations, I will ask myself if I am being a scaredy cat. The answer will most likely be yes, but the outcome will be much different. I will now use the butterflies in my stomach to propel me out of my seat, and onto the dance floor.