I’ve been a self-conscious creature for most, really almost all, of my life. Doing anything, from eating a meal in front of other people to being not-quite-off-camera while steadying a tripod during a photo shoot to delivering a presentation to the board of trustees and everything in between, was, until recently, so painful to me that I pretty much avoided anything that would put me in any sliver of the public eye.
That included dancing. I love music; I always have, and one day very soon we’ll chat about our favorite and most formative songs and bands and how we used to dance in our bedrooms and dream our dreams.
But I never allowed myself to break loose and dance at a school function. I never danced in front of anyone, anywhere, until, at The Vous on Route 1 in College Park, Maryland, my preferred hangout (over the rival The Cellar), I would join in the ritual closing-time ceremony of linking drunken arms in a barely-standing circle to sing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” before staggering out the door, maybe snagging a slice of “purple pizza” down the street, and somehow finding my way back to my dorm.
That’s not dancing.
During the past few years, since I’ve started teaching yoga and hosting public programs at the museum for which I work, and also since I have started living alone for the first time in my adult life, and most especially during the past few months of lock-down and isolation, I have finally discovered the sheer joy of dancing.
I dance every day and every night, jigging around my little living room, asking Alexa to play my favorite tunes. I find my body adapting to the freedom to move however it chooses to move, and I experience the resulting joy. I wish I had unleashed this decades ago.
You know that saying, “dance like nobody’s watching”?
Well, in fact, nobody IS watching, and I’m a dancing fool.
I was thinking about this blog entry today as I ventured cautiously, facemask in place, pushing elevator buttons with the tip of a door key, asking other residents if they’d mind waiting for the next car when mine landed on their floor, down to the communal laundry room in our building, strategically soon after it had been sanitized for the day. Waiting at the same time for an down-going elevator was my next-door neighbor, a physician working at a prominent local hospital. She was heading out for a run. It was a gloomy, rainy day, and tomorrow will be, too. But these were her days off, so she had to run while she could.
Sunday’s supposed to be nice, we agreed. But she’ll be working a 30-hour shift — in the Covid-19 ICU.
She is a beautiful, smart, kind, thoughtful, hugely accomplished young woman. Once a week or so, she asks me for my grocery list and leaves my items by my door.
Today she was wearing a snug face-mask, likely not as snug as what she wears in the hospital. From more than six feet away, I could see the red line her hospital masks had carved into the bridge of her nose.
She’s not dancing her way through this.
She’s helping. She’s working brutal hours. She’s witnessing painful scenes, often ones in which she’s an active participant.
She’s enduring. She’s fighting. She’s putting other people’s needs above her own, day in and day out. Chatting with her in the hall, I felt the weight of the disparity between what she’s contributing and what I am able to muster.
But here’s the thing: Knowing how she rolls, I believe she would not want ME to stop dancing.
She does what she does so we others can dance.
Consider this my heart-shaped thank-you note to my wonderful neighbor and to all the people everywhere who are far less selfish than I am and are working tirelessly to be part of the solution to this mess we find ourselves in.
I’m still going to dance tonight. But I’m dedicating that joyful release to all the people out there who make my luxuries possible, and for whom I am speechlessly grateful.
And when this is all behind us, we are all going to gather poolside at The Woodland, crank up some tunes, and dance like there’s no tomorrow.