Posts Tagged ‘mental-health’
One of my dearest friends in the whole wide world has an interesting job. She’s an actual, authentic, professional, jet-setting rock-star dance instructor.
This is a woman with whom I’ve shared laughter and tears, good times and bad, and all the ups and downs of being a human being on this planet. She’s the sweetest, dearest person imaginable. I’ve taken dozens of classes with her, and from her, and danced with her hundreds of times.
And still, every time I dance with her, I’m terrified.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that no matter how much I think my dancing has improved and how pleased with myself I might be because of this, every time I dance with her I still get incredibly intimidated. As a result I end up dancing like one of Santa’s reindeer with a Duplo block stuck in his hoof.
I admitted as much to her recently. We were out dancing one night, and she was actually getting a little discouraged with me. “Why is your arm so tense?” she asked. “What’s wrong?” I confessed to being intimidated at dancing with her, and she was frankly amazed. “You’re scared of ME?” she asked. “Why??”
Well, let’s see (I think to myself): you’re famous. People pay you to travel all over the world and teach them how to dance. You have more dance expression in your left clavicle than I’ve got in my whole body. No special reason.
So then and there I decided that from now on, when I dance with her, or with any other dancer I’m especially nervous about, I’m going to take a new approach. I’m just going to TRY to dance bad.
See, back when I used to have to work in offices and go to meetings and such, I learned that in the business world, people expect you to be businesslike. Above all, this means that you can’t ever cry at work. And sometimes I’d be at work and I’d start thinking about my kids and how much I missed them while I was at work and they were at daycare, and I’d start to tear up. You know, hormones. It happens.
Anyway, I hit on this strategy. If you ever start crying and really really need to not cry at that exact moment, here’s what you do. You TRY to cry. It will totally derail you and completely confuse your tear ducts and they’ll dry up immediately.
So I figure the same thing might work with dancing. If you’re dancing, and you start to feel like you’re dancing badly just at the exact moment when you really need to be dancing well, like say if you’re dancing with your rock star BFF, then just try to intentionally dance as badly as possible. It very well might trick your body out of being able to dance bad.
It’s actually just a theory. But so far it’s working: I haven’t had a really horrible dance since I started using this system. Of course, that might be a coincidence. I don’t know. What do you think?
Let’s be realistic; nothing in this life is perfect. No matter how great something seems, there’s always a catch. Even dancing has its downside. Only one, mind you, and it isn’t even all that bad. Still, in order to offer a balanced viewpoint, I feel compelled to point out this one unfortunate thing about dancing:
It ruins you for almost every form of what other people generally think of as “fun.”
I remember going to rock concerts in my younger days. I’d save up my pennies so I could drop a huge bundle on the price of a ticket. I’d get all dressed up, then spend hours standing in line at some crowded stadium getting trompled on by a bunch of drunken fools, just for the privilege of sitting there watching somebody else get paid to sing and dance around. Or I’d spend less money, get all dressed up and go to some seedy dive, just to stand in a crowd of drunken fools and watch someone less talented sing and dance around. I used to think of this as “fun.”
Nowadays, if there’s music playing, I have to be dancing, or there’s no point. To watch someone else having fun is no fun.
I used to go to parties. When I was in college, a party meant a lot of people crammed into a small house, each in some stage of intoxication. At least half the group would be watching something on a large screen. The other half would be trying to negotiate their way into each other’s pants. There was usually music in the background, but no one would be doing much about it. Any dancing would consist of either a drunken sort of jumping up and down, or pants negotiations, or both. I used to find this “fun.”
Later on, after I had kids, parties meant a bunch of wives perched on folding chairs in someone’s living room, eating cake off paper plates and discussing pediatricians, while the husbands were standing around a barbecue grill in the backyard, drinking beer and discussing sports. Usually the only music came from the room where the kids were watching the Disney Channel. And to be fair, I doubt anyone has ever really considered this “fun.”
Nowadays, to call something a “party” that doesn’t include dancing, proper dancing, seems like a cruel joke.
There are outdoor-type activities that people consider “fun.” Camping, boating, skiing, fishing and what-have-you. Now, I’m not immune to the beauty of nature and the salubrious effects of fresh air and wholesome recreation. And I guess you could say I enjoy the outdoors as much as I ever did (interpret that how you will). But nowadays I find that wherever I am, whenever I have a relaxed moment, my mind is soon replaying the latest YouTube video from my favorite dance instructor, or planning my outfit for Thursday night’s dance.
So in other words, I guess the downside of dancing for me is that nowadays, no matter what it is I’m doing, with few exceptions, I’d almost always rather be dancing.
Last night I didn’t feel like going dancing, but I made myself go anyway.
I’d been depressed all day, you see. It was one of those days where I just couldn’t get started at doing anything. Nothing sounded fun or important enough to bother with; consequently, I wasted most of the day lying around fiddling with a Rubik’s cube and eating leftover Halloween candy.
So I felt like a slug. Way too much of a slug to go dancing. Plus my back hurt and I had a weird pain in my foot. All I wanted to do was stay home and watch old Sanford and Son episodes. But I figured staying home would just make me feel worse.
Besides, I was supposed to meet someone there, and I just didn’t feel like yet again, like always, failing to follow through on my commitments. You understand the kind of day I was having?
So I dragged myself to the dance. And I had a terrible night.
Not like the music wasn’t perfect, it totally was. And bunches of my friends were there. It should have been great. And I did have a couple of very pleasant dances with folks.
But I just wasn’t feeling it. Physically, I felt exhausted and huge, like I was this big awkward object lurching around. Mentally, I felt like I was back in middle school, watching the popular kids have fun while I ate my lunch at the dork table.
There was this girl there that I’d been wanting to dance with, a really good follow who I don’t really know, but have been dying to try and lead. The perfect song came on, so I ran to find her. She was talking to a guy, but I had already tapped her on the shoulder before I processed that she was busy. Not like I could just go “oh, never mind.” I’d already interrupted their conversation, I had to follow through, so I asked her to dance, and she agreed.
I was pretty sure she’d said yes just to be polite, so I really wanted to dance well to make up for my having asked her to dance in the first place. You know, make it worth her while. So naturally, I danced terrible.
Then, to make it worse, I apologized for my bad dancing.
Then, to make it even more worse, I tried to explain, and then suddenly I found I couldn’t stop explaining. I kept talking on and on, and she was staring at me like I was a crazy person. Which I basically was.
For the rest of the night I found I had this apologizing complex. I couldn’t stop apologizing, and then apologizing FOR apologizing. Leading, following, didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop telling people how bad a dancer I was. It was like my body had been taken over by some weird apologizing demon, and all I could do was helplessly listen to myself, unable to stop.
I don’t even know if there’s a moral to this story. Sometimes, when you’re having a bad day and don’t feel like going out, the healthiest thing is to make yourself go out anyway, because it will usually make you feel better. But last night I really should have stayed home and watched Sanford and Son. So I guess the moral is that sometimes, if you don’t feel like going out, it’s better to stay home.
I hope you don’t mind if I get a little maudlin all up in this blog, but I just gotta send out a big weepy hug to everyone who commented on my last post. Swing dancers are the sweetest people.
A terribly wise and spiritual-minded type person once told me that if your family of origin doesn’t quite do it for you, when you grow up you gotta go out and find your own tribe.
Part of the reason I never stray long from swing dancing is that for better or worse, you people are my tribe.
So I’ve been going through this phase where I sorta hate dancing. Do you ever feel this way?
I’m not sure what it is.
Part of it is just me. I’ve been feeling old, fat and ugly, and not sure I care one way or another. It seems like a pointless task to try and make myself presentable enough to go out.
Another thing is my dancing. I feel like I take lessons after lessons, but I still dance just as bad as ever. It’s been a long time since I had a really spectacular dance with anyone, and I know it isn’t their fault, it’s mine. Dancing with me must be roughly equivalent to trying to move a grand piano with one broken wheel.
Then when I look around the room, all I see is these kids. Cute young guys dancing with cute young girls, all probably looking to get romantic with someone, and here’s me, this random old married lady. What’s wrong with this picture?
Plus, everybody dances bad. The leads either yank me around all over the place like I’m some kind of sports equipment, or they’re diffident and wimpy, and none of them has any imagination. Then when I try to lead the girls, they’re either as immobile as a tombstone, or they’re leaping around everywhere without waiting for me.
Of course, the DJs are awful. Why can’t they, just once, just for a lark, play a song that actually makes me feel like dancing? It’s always just the same old stuff, over and over.
In other words, I’m depressed.
Well, it happens once in a while. I’ve hated dancing before, and I’ll hate it again. But it never lasts long.
Anybody got any great advice for getting out of dance depression?
When I was just starting out dancing, I was terrified to ask guys to dance, and I was terrified if they asked me. I wasn’t so terrified with the guys in my little East Coast Swing class; I knew they didn’t know anything about dancing either, so it was chill. But when I started going out to social dances with people I didn’t know, I was terrified basically the whole time.
Then it started to get easier, and I wasn’t so terrified when a guy would ask me to dance. That got sort of comfortable. But it took me awhile to get over the fear of doing the asking myself.
And this whole time I’m talking about me as a follow.
Well, by now, as a follow, I’ve pretty much conquered my fear of dancing with guys. I’ll basically dance with any lead who asks me.
But now, as I’m trying to focus more on leading, I find that I have to start the whole process over. Now I’m terrified to dance with followers.
Why should this be? It’s like I have two separate brains, a following brain and a leading brain. My following brain knows, for example, that it’s much nicer to be led a million basic steps for the entirety of a song than to be yanked through a bunch of crazy maneuvers by a lead who doesn’t know how to lead them well. But my leading brain is convinced that I need to do a bunch of crazy maneuvers or I’ll be a boring lead. What’s with this dancing schizophrenia?
What’s weird is that I’m actually more comfortable leading guys than leading girls. Even though most of the guys I dance with are really hard to lead, while the girls are nice and comfy. Maybe it’s because if a guy is not a good follower, I figure he’s not going to judge my leading skills; I know the girls know the difference between a good lead and a bad one, and I’m well aware that I’m not a good one. Or maybe it’s just because I’m more used to dancing with men than with women; I’m used to how men feel and how they move, while women feel and move a lot differently. And it could just be because I’m used to dancing with these particular individuals, and not with the others.
But I know that my leading won’t get any better if I don’t try dancing with followers who know what they’re doing. And that’s just a really scary thing for me. Just like when I started out dancing as a follower, when I lead, I’m terrified to ask girls to dance, and I’m terrified when they ask me. There’s maybe two or three girls in my scene with whom I’ve danced enough not to be terrified of them. But going up to some random stranger of a follow and asking her to dance? Terrifying.
Well, I know what I need to do. I just need to make myself do it. I need to make a deal with myself to ask at least one follower I don’t know to dance, at least once during the evening. I need to remind myself constantly that it’s better to be boring than to be rough and awkward. And the other thing I need to do is keep learning new things to lead.
It’s almost like I’m a new dancer. So leads, you can chime in here any time. What’s your best advice for someone who’s just starting out as a leader?