I think it was about a year ago, while watching my son’s basketball game that one his friend’s moms came up to me, told me she was the co-chair for the 2015 Glenview Education Foundation fundraiser called “Dancing With the Local Stars” and asked if I would be willing to be a contestant.
My initial response was, “Are you crazy?” Not only do I have hip arthritis, but I have never been a very good dancer. In fact, have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode where Elaine dances at her company function? That would be my level of skill and coordination. Seriously. Add the fact that the couples would be dancing in front of 420 guests, and there was no way. But for some reason, I said yes. It was something in my gut that told me to get over my fear and insecurity, just commit and worry about it later.
So, I began rehearsing last fall. For 4 months, once a week, I drove 40 minutes each way to a dance studio, where my adorable, young dance pro worked with me. For several weeks, I could tell by the look on his face that I was one of the worst students he’d ever seen. It was quite pitiful. I wanted to back out. I was scared. I felt stupid. One day, I actually fell and it wasn’t pretty. Yet, the challenge and commitment I made kept me going. I kept driving there and I kept dancing.
After some time, I started looking forward to going to rehearsals. When dancing clicked for me, it became like a drug. It made me happy. It put me on a high. It made me feel pretty and sexy and glamorous. It was fun!
Fast forward to this past Saturday night: the show. My partner and I danced to “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. Where do I begin? Did I dance like Jennifer Gray? Hell no. But, it was one of the most special nights of my life.
It made me realize all of the wonderful gifts I got from the whole experience. They are as follows:
Friendships: The event organizers, the people on the board of the GEF, the dance pros, my dance pro, my dance pro’s girlfriend, my fellow dancers. Wow. Each person I met and got to know was special and important to me. Some made me laugh, some were really smart and all were just nice. We all shared a common bond that we wanted to put on a good show, and so we became a team. And it was really fun and special to be a member.
Self-confidence: Starting with insecurity and self-doubt, I felt myself blossom and grow to become graceful (to an extent, of course), smooth and confident. And I believe those feelings went way beyond the dance floor. To try and try and try at something and then begin to see results transfers over into other aspects of life. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and pride that is overwhelming, and priceless. Dancers always talk about muscle memory, but I believe that extends way beyond physical improvement. It’s a feeling that gets into your core and makes you feel empowered. If I can do this, other things I want to do are in my grasp. You need two things: the courage to go for it and the hard work to get it.
Self-worth: To be able to contribute to raising money for an amazing organization just plain old made me feel good about myself. Being a single mother who gets paid by how much I work, giving so much of my time to rehearse wasn’t easy, but it made me feel like I mattered, like people were depending on me. It’s a really good feeling.
Gratitude: My two children sat right up front and cheered me on so loudly, I could hear them while dancing. Dozens of my friends were in the crowd, screaming during my turns and lifts. It was unbelievably sweet and meant so much, and practically brought me to tears. I felt beyond grateful. There were also so many people who donated on my behalf, many whom I didn’t know or didn’t know well. One couple sent me five hundred dollars, others a hundred or fifty. People I’d lost touch with donated for me. It was a feeling I can’t even describe. Pure gratitude. I also have to mention Nikita, my dance partner, who was patient and goofy and made the whole experience fun.
Here’s the thing–the point of this whole post. I took a chance. I said yes to a project that I thought was outrageous, and something I wasn’t sure was doable. It was out of my safe zone. In return for my courage, I got all of these amazing gifts. In other words, no one puts Divorced Girl Smiling in a corner. I really did have the time of my life!