A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered


Where's the Payoff for the Learning?! Part II

So...I feel like I just had a therapy session on the tiny sofa in my kitchen. One of my friends came over and asked me to show her what we had learned in the salsa class she missed. That would have involved me dancing alone, demonstrating. I melted. In front of my friend. I said, "I can't, not now." Her response: "Okay, I know you, and I know that you think you are not good with dancing. The more I get to know you, the more I see how deep this is. What happened? What's the story?" I was angry, her words knocked me off balance for a second. We were supposed to be watching a film together, not talk about my dance fears and frustrations. But she was relentless. She has children and was keying into something, partly from her perspective as a parent: this belief that I can't dance goes back to my childhood and it's painful, unbearably so at times.

Without giving a play by play of our conversation, let me say this. I didn't want to have the conversation. It hurt. It was not my idea of a relaxing Sunday night. It involved me talking about my parents, my brother, my aunts, and a few friends who'd teased me. It involved retelling and reliving (sometimes just reliving in my head, because I couldn't bear to tell some of the stories). I felt tears welling up under my eyelids, blinked them back many times. I remember being laughed at. I remember internalizing the supposedly innocent teasing, pulling it in, feeling ashamed that I couldn't move to the beat better. This dancing thing that I'm learning is no ordinary learning. It cuts me to the core. I feel vulnerable, even to talk about my salsa learning. I can't share it with my family and get a response I want, even today.

I was telling my dad a few days ago that pushing myself outside of my "comfort zone," as I called it, and doing salsa was good for me as a teacher, because it reminds me of where students struggle and what I'm asking them to do when I ask them to try out a new genre or form of writing, especially if they already have negative emotions, frustrations regarding writing. His response: "Yeah, so even if it takes you several years to learn what someone else can learn in 5 minutes, it's about trying to learn something new." I changed the topic and tried to banish the toxic words from my mind.

When I saw my professional dancer friend, who sometimes dances salsa with me, I asked her how long it would be before I could be good at salsa, that is, comfortable and confident in my abilities on the dance floor. Her response: "Oh, you'll be amazing in a year, you're learning fast because you practice so much!" I was just like anyone else, a capable learner. Practica, Practica, Practica!

I'm still learning. Every step I take on the dance floor is my therapy. I can think about it all day long, but until I take those dance steps, I'm doing nothing to overcome those doubting emotions. My observant friend generously agreed not to bring up my dancing fears again, as long as I kept on dancing!

In the back of my mind, I'm humming my dancer friend's voice, sing-songing in her Bulgarian accent, "Step, step, step...step, step, step" followed with "1, 2, 3eee, 5, 6, 7."



Post a Comment

<< Home