(photo courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studio Richmond)

I danced this weekend.  For anyone who knows me well, this is not surprising.  I have always loved to dance.  I have taken ballroom dancing classes off and on since I was in high school.  I will go out of my way to go to a swing or salsa night.  Most of my life partners have been chosen based on their ability to dance (which has not proven to be the best approach).  And I know that I am happiest when I am dancing.  But there have always been problems with my ability to embrace ballroom dancing to the extent I want.  My back scoliosis and overall posture were never good enough for me to get the true form I wanted.  My heavy dissociation caused problems with my coordination and balance, making it hard to master some of the more complicated moves.  And while I have always been able to dance well on a crowded dance floor, my overall fear of visibility and attention was never going to let me perform in one of those sparkly outfits in front of others.  That was out of the question … until this weekend.

I picked up formal dance lessons again last August.  I don’t know what came over me.  I just knew intuitively that it was time.  And the universe confirmed this decision by providing a brand new studio and the undying support of those who worked there.  I started slow.  My dissociation made it difficult for me to put the names of the steps with the actual movements.  And with a week between lessons, forgetfulness was higher than usual.  My instructors were patient though.  They didn’t understand the trauma side of things, but they were kind.  I went to see a competition.  Honestly, I had no logical understanding of why I was there.  I performed in a group dance with my studio and had a wonderful day.  And I let them convince me to work on a showcase (a dance routine to my own song-choice to be performed in front of an audience).  My daughter picked the song: Maleficent’s Once Upon a Dream.  And we started to prepare a Viennese Waltz.  I’ll be honest.  It was terrifying.

We spent most of this time working on my balance and posture.  And it did pay off.  My spine and shoulders and neck made massive shifts (which also brought up memories and emotions I needed to process).  I was able to memorize the routine and coordinate some complex moves after tons of practice.  I even found a two-tone dress that would symbolize the duality within all humans, an ode to our parts.  When I waltzed out on that dance floor, I am sure most people assumed this was easy for me.  They probably decided that I had no problem with the visibility required for this dance.  They may have assumed I was just one of those confident people who could naturally do this.  They may have even wondered why I wasn’t a bit better based on all their initial conclusions.  But honestly, this is a defense.  When we want to excuse ourselves from doing hard things, we decide that these things were not hard for the person doing them.  It is a classic defensive move and it keeps us small.  In reality, I have spent the past year inundated by my defenders about this desire to dance.  And today, I am going to share some of those messages with you because we need to know the truth.  We are supposed to be terrified when we do what we want.  These are the things I have been hearing.

Who do you think you are?  Nobody wants to watch you dance.  You aren’t as good as those other people who have been dancing for years.  You will never be as good as them.  Stop trying to be someone you’re not.  You are not a dancer.  You are just an uncoordinated average person.  Quit being ridiculous.

You are wasting time.  There are so many things you need to be doing.  You are a single parent and you run your own business.  Why do you think you have time for this stuff?  You are supposed to be working.  You don’t get to have fun.  I am not sure why you think you get to have fun like that.

You are wasting money.  Seriously.  This shit is expensive.  Quit spending all the money on frivolous things.  The dress is expensive and you don’t even wear dresses.  Why did you have to buy those sparkly things for your hair?  These lessons cost too much.  The competitions cost too much.  We don’t have money to burn.  It doesn’t grow on trees.  You are being irresponsible.  You should be spending this on your children.  You should be spending this on marketing.  Stop it!

You are too old for this.  You look like a fool.  You are a 46-year-old woman trying to dance in front of others.  You are past the age to do this crap.  This is for young people.  You missed your window.  It is over now.  Act your age.  Take up knitting or something.

You will never be the best.  There is no satisfying end-goal.  You are not going to travel to some international ballroom competition and get a big trophy.  Others are so much better than you.  Why would you want to do something if you can’t be the best?  What is the point of that?

If you put yourself out there, you will draw attention from your abusers.  I don’t know why they haven’t noticed you yet with all this stuff you have been doing on the internet, but you are asking for trouble with this visibility thing.  They are going to find you.  They will show up at one of these events and taunt you, embarrass you in front of an audience or make you mess up.  You need to hide from them.

Every single one of these objections is a defense.  They are based on the lies I heard when I was growing up.  It is meant to keep me safe by keeping me small.  It is based on the fears of living with horrific trauma.  And it is very convincing until it is questioned.  When I question it, none of it makes sense.  I am not supposed to live life tied to my home, my computer or my parenting.  I am supposed to live, really live.  So the next time you come up with an idea that feels exciting and are suddenly inundated with all the reasons you cannot do it, write from them.  Question them.  Acknowledge your fear.  Validate its existence.  And do it anyway.