Dancing Deeply

edited_Edgar Degas - Waiting - (MeisterDrucke-29033)

I always said I have the soul of a dancer. Perhaps it is my heart that is the dancer. For no matter how much time has passed, or how silent the music has been, she remembers every step of the dances she shared with our favorite partners. She could step in at any moment and pick up where she was left on the dance floor long ago. The music still hums softly, deep inside her. She moves to the rhythm, dancing with shadows when life has cut in and taken her partner from her. She floats when it’s the right music and the right partner and it is beautiful.

At 14 I fell in love / in like / infatuation with a man much too old for me at the time. Now the difference in our ages is a drop in an ocean. But at 14, anything more than 2 years is like a lifetime. There he was, this man that absorbed far too much of my thought. To this day I could not tell you why – what it was about him that drew me close. It started with his music (I am a sucker for a musician). Beyond that is a mystery. But I liked spending time with him. My heart fluttered in an awkward dance – the kind you’d expect from someone new to the dance floor like we were. Like most things at 14, the feelings passed (sort of) and time moved on. I have not seen him in 30 years, but my heart has never forgotten the way she felt with him, the way she danced. The thought of him still catches in my chest. I take a moment to remember how to breathe again and move on with my life. It’s not as though I am still in love / in like / infatuated with him – I don’t even know him now. But, the heart is a muscle, and impactful, repetitive actions create muscle memory. He is a good memory. There was a lot of drama that surrounded us at that time. I was 14. Fourteen is dripping with drama. Even so, it was a lovely dance and he is a good memory.

At 18 I was fixed up on a ‘blind’ date…or a fake date….maybe a virtual date? Cheeky little friends we had at that time made plans with each of us and then left us to fulfill the plans without them. It turned out delightful, though. A beautiful boat ride and dinner and conversation. Oh my goodness…CONVERSATION! ((contented sigh)) I was a cheerleader in high school and lived into the very shallow stereotype that held at the time. I wasn’t stupid, I got good grades. But no one clambered to study with me or share my notes. I spent my free time reading Plath and Dante’s essays and Ray Bradbury or Ayn Rand novels, but no one asked me about them. I believed no one saw me as having anything worthwhile to share, so I never offered my views. Suddenly there was this man asking me about my thoughts and opinions (would you care to dance?) and it was glorious! In our times of solitude we would talk about the moral issues in Pavlovian studies or game theory or our dreams for the Vineyard. A tango of the minds. We would also talk about Def Leppard and Caddyshack and play quarters….we were 18, afterall. I found a depth in our relationship that had never existed for me before (Could I Have This Dance For The Rest of My Life?). This was a dance of fortitude, he filled my dance card and I was delighted. He was an incredibly handsome man with a mind that amazed me. Our dance lept and spun. I would have followed him anywhere just to sit at his feet.* I never believed I was worthy of him or his love or our dance. I always thought he would rather have a different partner. That fatal flaw contributed to an often tumultuous relationship for us. The music changed time, we couldn’t keep up. He moved in 4/4, I swayed in 3/4 time. We parted ways after about 8 years. I’m not sure either of us really wanted to, but I still believe it was the best thing for both of us. Our rhythms didn’t match. I understand he is happy now and this pleases me very much. I have seen him only once, briefly, since our parting. This is by design. There is more muscle memory here. Oh my, the memories he gave me! The muscles of my heart danced wildly with him, over and over. He was the partner that brought new music to her. He was also the partner that shattered the records, breaking her. We keep our distance from him now. He is not healthy for us. He is our Red Shoes. She would dance with him again without hesitation, fall into his arms and sway to the melody of years past, dancing until he kills us. But, we know he is not the right partner for us.

At 36 I was brave enough to dance and to marry again. My heart was much more cautious now. She was sore from being battered about by partners who didn’t care about the songs within her. But, she found a new dance partner who seemed to love the same music that stirred her. The music was admittedly quieter, but deliciously sweet. She held his steady hand as they danced to music she’d only dreamed of. The song of motherhood had echoed in her bones for so long, never able to put the notes in the right order before now. The masterpiece was finally finished and oh, it was triumphant! She continued to dance with him until one day she realized she was dancing alone. He no longer heard the same music. He no longer wanted to dance. Oh how my heart ached to lose another partner.

New music fluttered in my heart. This time it was not a new partner for us. My heart and I had work to do. We now had to teach my son how to hear the music that we loved, how to dance from his very heart and soul. Never had my heart found a dance so intoxicating and so agonizing as the one with my son. He did not hear music the way I did. His timing was his own. His movement followed only his imagination. It is a clumsy dance we’ve shared, but it is brilliantly OURS. It is still, and forever, my favorite dance. I remember every graceless step, every misguided note. He is my opus – beautifully wandering a meandering path of mismatched notes that could fit together in no other way than how he has presented them. A masterpiece, indeed.

I was surprised one day at nearly 50 when a hand reached out to me from seemingly nowhere and led me back to the dance floor after so much time in the wings. My head was trying to say “no, thank you” but my heart missed the dance, and I willingly followed. He played lovely music for me. I held tight to him as we did the cha-cha and samba and paso doble. The music played on and we would swing in unison to the tango and quick step. And we shared the most beautiful waltz – as if I were floating. Effortless. My heart loved to be dancing again. She is happiest when she dances with a partner. Then, one day the music stopped. Without warning, he took it away. I kept dancing for a while, straining to hear the music. It must still be playing, we were in the middle of a song. I reached into the emptiness for the partner I’d come to trust. He must be there, we were in the middle of a dance. There was only an empty dance floor and silence. We never finished our dance.

My heart will always hear music, but she doesn’t choose to dance much anymore. She has had lovely partners over the years, each showing her a new step. And maybe that’s enough. She feels so deeply that changing partners is a test of valor. Dancing is not meant for everyone. I don’t regret my dances, they are immortally my identity. The movements each partner shared with me are remembered in joy and sorrow.

My heart dances deeply, transitions lethargically, and remembers eternally.





*For all my feminist followers, remember that Donna Reed was (is) my idol. This is not a belittling statement but the fulfillment of an aspiration for me

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