I Still Can’t Dance

danceAlright men, this one is for you. But I need you to promise me one thing. This is really, really important.  If your girlfriend, wife, sister or daughter has something in their life and it makes them happy, smile and say, ‘that’s a great thing!”  Even if you are lying. Do it with a smile. Say it like you mean it and love her.

Years ago, I think my husband and I had been married three or four years. He teased me about my dancing. He made fun of me, in a loving fun way. I haven’t danced once since then, in fifteen years later.

Trust me I loved dancing. I am a freak about music.  Ask me for  the lyrics to a Johnny Cash song, Grateful Dead, The Killers, The Clash, Miranda Lambert, George Jones, John Prine, Gil-Scott Heron, Al Green, Aretha Franklin or Keb Mo’. I know them all, every word, and I can hear the beat in my head. But when I dance or try to keep rhythm it comes out all wrong.  In church I have to look at the other people to know when I’m supposed to clap. My kids laugh at me, but they help and they don’t make me feel bad.

But years ago. when I was dancing with my husband and he made fun of me, afterwards….I took it to heart and I stopped dancing. Something in me broke and that was an end.

Dancing is something so wonderful I really don’t have the words. It’s what sets us apart from most animals. It’s an expression of joy, love creativity and passion. When people finish dancing they walk away smiling usually and there are very few things that make us all smile in life.

At that point, when I was made fun of me, I lost something so wonderful and precious and fun.Apparently it’s gone forever.  Fifteen years later I mourn the loss of being able to dance like the death of a friend, who made me smile and laugh. I miss it so because dancing was wonderful and joyous and silly. But it’s gone now. I’m a pretty bold and strong person, so if this could happen to me I can only imagine what has been taken from other people by a single sentence.

After his comments I actually went back and found video of my dancing at bars and weddings. It was awful, spasmatic and embarrassing. I made Elaine, in Seinfeld, look like a Russian Ballerina. But I looked happy.

Tonight I cried and cried as I sat in the bathtub and watched the last twenty minutes of  Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swazey and Jennifer Grey. Their beautiful and brave dancing made me cry so hard, I was embarrassed…even though I was alone.  I so want to dance like those kids, but I never will, not in this life time.

In that moment years and years ago, something was taken from me and it’s just gone.  It’s not any bodies fault….it was just a joke, an off handed remark. Actually I know it’s my fault because I let dance be taken away from me. He couldn’t have done it if I didn’t let him.

So, before you make fun of somebody for something they love, something that brings them joy like line dancing or quilting or speed walking…stop, then shut up.

Kick Fast and Keep The Faith

I’m not sure if it’s the human spirit or body I find so astonishing.

Last night I attended  Mary’s second college dance recital,modern, jazz and ballet. It was beautiful, joyous and a whole lot of fun. As we drove back to Hot Springs I thought about the athleticism of the evening. Then of course, I started thinking about our Taekwondo school.

Two years ago when our current instructor, Jim Robinson (a 53 year old sixth degree), bought out taekwondo school, I thought it was the end of my martial arts career. For ten years, the previous owner had pushed us to be powerful and brutal.

Jim Robinson’s style was nearly the polar opposite.  He insisted, even demanded, we be flexible, quick and fluid. He promised the power would come. And as he said over and over, if we weren’t quick enough to hit somebody, it didn’t matter how much power we had.

Being quick and flexible sounds like a brilliant idea unless you aren’t that way. Most of the teenagers in class are naturally quick and it was easier  for them to pick up speed. For anyone over the age of 40 it’s an entirely different situation.

The running joke about my spin heel kick has been, “Yeah, it’s beautiful but you can drink a cup of coffee before it lands.”

Though in his 50s, Jim Robinson is ridiculously quick and flexible. He’s gifted and works harder than everybody else. After watching countless martial artists, young and old, for 13 years, I’ve only seen one or two men who could match his speed. His kicks are blisteringly fast with razor like accuracy. I wanted  to be just a little like him, just a little bit. But doubted that was possible.

When he demonstrated a double and triple lead leg round kick, and said that’s what he wanted from us, I think I accidentally rolled my eyes. Yes, I could kick two or three times, but it’s wasn’t fast. Pretty but slow. However I could do one thing fast, I could get really really frustrated and embarrassed. Why was I so slow and lumbering after ten or eleven years of training? Night after night I cried in the car on the way home after class like a big chicken baby cheese cake.

Fast forward a year and a half.

Half a dozen times I wanted to quit but my pride and the kids wouldn’t let me, even though I was the oldest in the class by THIRTY YEARS. Night after night it’s just me and a bunch of awesome teenagers. Mr. Robinson has been pushing us all to kick fast. Kick low, kick high, kick fast.

Last week I was partnered with a sixteen year old yellow belt. Kicking drills, double round kicks, high and low, and suddenly this girl said, “whoa, you’re fast.”

“Who? Me?” I kicked again, to her knee then her face,  and I smiled. Yeah, I know it’s easy to impress a yellow belt but it still felt good. There was no “blistering” speed, it wasn’t a McNeeley or Robinson kick, it wasn’t even teenaged boy fast. But my kicks were 100 percent faster than they were 18 months ago.  I was stunned, I was better. How had that happened.

Everyday, I am am amazed by what we can accomplish if we simply refuse to quite. If we try to get better, at anything, we will. It’s simply a matter of showing up and trying…over and over and over again.

And it really helps if we surround ourselves with people who inspire, who push  and shove  and have unbreakable faith  we can all get better.

The secret is you can’t quit. And as my friend Amelia says, “just try to suck a little less everyday.”

Let me know what you think comment or e-mail hampoland@gmail.com

Three Guaranteed Ways To Look Younger

Growing up is pretty wonderful but getting older  bites. But, I’ve discovered three things that are  absolutely guaranteed  to make you look younger. And you don’t have to spend 125 dollars on a quarter ounce of “youth serum”.

1. STOP WEARING FRUMPY BLACK AND GRAY SHIRTS, SWEATERS AND DRESSES. Seriously, the black bag you’re calling an outfit does not make you look thinner or pretty. It’s ugly ugly ugly. Women over the age of 45 generally look depressed and exhausted when they wear black. Put on something bright, maybe even a print. I’m not talking old lady print with massive purple Lily’s and zebras but please find a shirt with some excitement or attitude, it will help your face so much. Give up on the Blob O’ Black. Next time you are in a big store look at the women wearing great big black things. Do they look happy or young? Hell no.

2. Turn the music up really really loud in your car and sing, hard core. When was the last time you did it? It’s so much fun, you’ll feel much younger and if you feel younger you will look younger. That’s right, 60 year old lady, I want you to crank up the Police and sing Roxanne as loud as you can, the way you did in 1979  . Sing it loud baby, slaughter that song, maybe roll down the windows and let the wind wreck you Ashe Blondie hair-do. Goofy singing people always look younger and happier.

3.Laugh, out loud.  According to Wikipedia the average baby laughs 300 times a day but adults only laugh 20 times in 24 hours.  What’s wrong with us?  The world is funny as hell but we stop laughing. We take everything  SOOO seriously. Most of us are extraordinarily blessed, we have food and shelter, we have Wal-Mart, coffee in the morning, clean air and CDs in our car, but we focus on the 1% of our life that’s messed up. Stop doing that, instead laugh out loud like a monkey, bray like a mule. Count your blessings, literally, count them on your fingers and toes…you are probably so blessed you’ll run out of digits before you run out of blessings.  You need to lighten up, be grateful and you’ll look ten years younger.

If you want to look younger, act like a goof, be silly and stop wearing black. Silly goofy people may look stupid but they look young and happy too. Remember, “we are fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”

Write to me or comment…that’ll make you look younger too. hampoland@gmail.com