On Monday, after an intense ballroom dance coaching session, I spent a couple of hours watching, ok, crying through a Netflix movie called Dumplin’. Set in Texas, chock full of Dolly Parton aphorisms, it’s a little gem of a tear jerker. Plus, if you watch it as I did, and if you’re the mimic that I am, you will start talking to the dog in a Texas drawl. Oh, good Lord, I thought. I’m going crazy talkin’ in a southern accent to the dog.
Aside from that, though, was the realization that I was hearing some real truths.
- Stop rejecting people for things they can’t change.
- To hell with what everyone else thinks. [Or my interpretation, To hell with what anyone else thinks.]
- Find out who you are and do it on purpose. — Dolly Parton
Oh, and something about the importance of wearing red shoes.
Back up to two days ago. To this Saturday’s dance showcase at Step It Up in Lake Oswego. I did not sleep the night before but I set an alarm for 7:00 am, just in case. Becky was coming over at 8:15 to help me with my hair. She drove past the house just once, my hairstyle was simple, and we headed out the door to my makeup appointment relatively on time. Then, because I was chatting and not thinking, we drove straight past the salon. We couldn’t make Google maps work in the cell hole we used for a turnaround, which cost us valuable time, and we arrived a wee bit late. Time sped up exponentially from there.
Not before 9:45, definitely before 10:00. Kristy’s last words to me. I am always early to dance class. I was late to my first showcase. I walked through the doors at 10:01 as Kristy was giving final directions. I passed my teacher Mason who said that we were in the first heat. In a controlled panic I struggled to put on my dance shoes, take off my new dance jacket, and meet Mason in time to start a waltz.
Look left over Mason’s shoulder.
Head held high.
Good gawd, I thought. What makes me think I can do this?
It wasn’t until I sat down after the dance that I realized I was trembling. I realized a lot that day, but strangely, I’m not in the mood to dwell, or analyze, or even think. Just relate.
I am exhausted. I am sad. I am busy. I am grateful.
My teacher, Mason, is a wonderful young man who cares so much about what he does. He is learning about the limits that Parkinson’s disease brings to bear, and he is trying his damndest to help me move past them. Plus, he’s my friend.
My circles were just about all represented at the Showcase. Becky from my race track family. A dear, vital, vibrant friend.
Tracy from Oregon State Gamma Phi Beta. My friend since 1979. Wow! A more caring person would be impossible to find.
Jean and Diane from Parkinson’s Boxing. Diane is 74 and just learning to play the violin. She is an amazing writer and has the sweetest heart. Jean is my workout buddy and friend, a ray of light on cloudy mornings.
My new dancing friends have been so kind and encouraging. Applauding my progress and successes. Ignoring the rest.
My ability to time my meds and food was taxed on Saturday, but Erik’s voice in my head steadied and reminded me.
I made it through the day’s 20 dances. Exhausted. A little bleary eyed. Definitely hungry. Exhilarated.
What made me do this? Ballroom dance. Showcase. A competition in Indianapolis in less than two weeks. Practices. Shoes. Dresses. Everything.
Which brings me back to the movie. We have all been rejected for things we cannot change. To those who have done the rejecting – stop it. To those who have been rejected – there’s a fine line between loyal perseverance and just plain pathetic. Walk it carefully.
I am doing this for me. Parkinson’s is progressive, but it doesn’t have to be fast. I am doing what I can to slow it down. And pushing myself to do things that are scary or difficult or exhausting or new is how I can do that. So to anyone who asks why, I tell them.
“This is the last time I will be this good. I don’t know when I’ll be bad, but right now, with a lot of pushing, I am going to do this.” As long as even one person understands the struggle and the cost, I can make it.
I am still finding out who I am. I am thinking this will be a continual process. For the last few years, I thought I knew, but life changes. So I’m searching again. When I find it out, I’ll do it on purpose.
And I will wear red shoes.