About a week ago, I put on a pair of shoes I haven’t worn in quite some time. They’ve been sitting in my closet forever, waiting for me to find courage. I gather my courage a little every day, not all at once like a badass heroine in an epic summer movie. Mine is more a quiet gathering. In so many other parts of my life I can be loud and proud, but this part of me is quiet as a mouse…and just as meek. The ghosts of much of the pain and anguish I’ve felt in years passed have come from this time in my life. The voices that tell me I’m not good enough…that I can’t do it…that I’m not deserving of it…all of those voices come from this. Yet still, for some reason, I walked into my closet last week and put these shoes on my feet.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my story. If you haven’t, where the fuck have you been all my life? Let me try and bring you up to date quickly. I’ve known some major assholes in my life. When I was nine years old, I started dance lessons at a place run by the biggest asshole in the universe. On our first meeting, he stood me in front of a huge mirror and pointed out all the parts of my body that were “fat” as my mother watched. I still remember my nine year old heart feeling crushed when I was told that my legs and face were fat and my belly stuck out too much. Yeah, I know…it just got worse from there. This man was the significant male role model in my life from age nine to age nineteen-ish. I’m a little fuzzy on when I left exactly because, well, I had a shitload of negative crap going on in my life back then. But I did leave.
I got up one morning and realized that dancing brought me more pain than joy…and I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I walked into the studio and I quit. Then I walked out determined to find another life away from all of the negativity and hurt.
Quitting dance was what I needed at the time, although it didn’t come off as I’d imagined a million times in my head. When I finally had the courage to tell “The King” that I quit, he didn’t have the reaction I expected or wanted. I wanted freedom, but I ended up handing him one last opportunity to hurt me.
I went from dancing for hours a day to no activity at all. I retreated into food in order to self-medicate. I spent all my money at the book store, scouring the self help section for answers to all my problems in titles like “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, “Women Who Love Too Much” and “It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s What’s Eating You”. I was obsessed with finding the solution to my problems, all the while firmly curled up on the couch with a box of snack cakes and a glass of milk by my side.
I read (and ate) my way toward answers for years. I never danced again. The pounds I was rapidly adding to my body made it difficult, but I also found that I couldn’t even pull my shoes out of my dance bag without a million flashbacks slapping me in the face. The smell of the shoe leather made fresh all the memories I was trying to eat away. What I didn’t realize back then is that there wasn’t enough pizza in the world to eat away the horrible things The King made me feel all those years ago.
Four therapists, countless bad relationships, a truckload of junk food and thirty some-odd years later I’ve finally mellowed. And I moved 1,300 miles away from my hometown. That definitely helped. A few weeks ago when I was cleaning the closet, my eyes fell on that pair of shoes. My tap shoes. And before I could go on auto-pilot, look away and force any other thought into my head, I felt myself say you have those shoes for a reason.
I don’t just have those shoes. I saved those shoes. In the thirty-ish years since I walked away from that part of my life, I’ve written half a dozen letters I never sent (telling The King what a fucktard he is). I’ve thrown away memorabilia. I even had a bonfire at the beach once when I burned a shitload of mementos that came from that time in my life. But in thirty years, I’ve never parted with those shoes. I can’t. And now I realize it’s okay that I don’t want to.
These shoes are mine. The knowledge I have of dance, from warm-up routines to ballet positions to tap steps…is mine. The joyful feeling I get when I bang a set of steps out on the floor is mine. The sound of the taps hitting their mark with precision is clear…and loud…and fabulously mine. And nothing The King has ever done or will ever do will ever…ever…EVER take that away from me.
I took a quick break at work today to make a list of things I needed to get done when I got home. This is what I ended up with:
- Clean kitchen
- Outline chapter two
- Tap practice
Without even thinking, I’d written “tap practice”. It really made me smile. I don’t even know why I wrote it. I don’t remember even thinking about it. It just happened. It’s just another bit of joy returning to my life. Another grain of courage that I’ve gathered in the journey.
Speaking of the journey, I’ll leave you with this: over the years, I’ve walked my way through dozens of pairs of walking shoes. I’ve taken Jazzercise. I’ve joined gyms. I’ve done my time on treadmills and elliptical trainers. I’ve found a way to like most of it. There’s usually a silver lining I can find if I look at it from the right angle. But tonight, as I forced these too-tight shoes onto my still-chubby feet, I realized that when I dance I don’t have to try. I don’t have to sell it to myself as something that’s good for me. I don’t have to look at it from a certain angle or constantly reaffirm why I’m doing it. It is just who I am. And it has nothing to do with an asshole tyrant who terrorized me as a child.
It’s mine. It’s me. And it’s fabulous. ♥