Dance . . . As Though No One Is Watching You

  • In early June, I attended a co-worker, Jill's, wedding. The next morning I downloaded Bryan Adams' classic pop song, "Summer of '69," from the Internet. The disc jockey had played this song the night before, and it took me back to when I was young. I wanted to extend the party vibe.


    As a teen in the 1980s, I would come home from high school and dance to U68-the local free video music channel-in the living room. The Billy Idol song "Dancing with Myself" was my anthem.


    At Jill's wedding, when the "Twist" came on, I moved my hips. I was glad I got up and risked embarrassing myself. You see, I dance like a washing machine. Yet I enjoyed myself, and isn't that the point? Doing what I loved allowed me to feel good even though the social event was not without difficulty.

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    It was one week into the cross taper of the new drug with the old, and I feared what others thought of me, from the moment I arrived at the meeting point for the chartered bus to take us to the reception hall in New Windsor, to the awkward ending when everyone kissed each other goodbye.


    My worry began at the table where I was seated across from a woman and her husband. At one point, the three of us were the only ones there as my co-workers danced to the slow couples-only song. To break the tension I felt, I said, "I'm the lonely only." The comment went over like a lead balloon.


    Waking up the morning after the wedding, I realized I'm not going to hit a home run every time. The main thing is to get to first base, even with strikeouts here and there. I've come to see that mistakes are just that: mistakes. Whereas I used to be intensely self-critical, I now accept that I'm human.


    I understood something crystal-clear that has finally taken hold: I have no control over other people's behaviors, not even their response to me. That was the legacy of codependency, to think I was responsible for other people's pain. I wonder if swallowing a tiny blue-and-white pill has enabled me not to focus so much on how I feel.


    There is a compensation, and that is perhaps this: my difficulties are here for a purpose, so that I can know what other people go through and not take anything for granted. Life is struggle for us all. It wasn't meant to be easy. I aim to lighten the way as you walk down the road to recovery, to shine a flashlight by sharing my experiences and wisdom.


    I was never one to complain much about the fate God handed me. That's because I see the beauty in what goes on. I'm a sensitive person, and when in the grip of my self-doubt, I could tend to be hard on myself. Today I'm able to listen to music, dance and enjoy what I've been given. It's possible for everyone to reclaim a life made beautiful because we're imperfectly ourselves.


    At the wedding, Carly, a co-worker, told me, "It's okay to be a listener. Would you rather be a garrulous fool?" This in response to my comment that sometimes I didn't feel like talking. Yet we did carry on a conversation during the cocktail hour. She gave me suggestions about how I could approach brokers when I look for my next apartment.


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    She doesn't know about my illness, but some of the others there did. At 7 p.m., I discreetly took out the G. and swallowed the pill with a glass of water. I take it with food and had eaten some baked clams, paella and shaved cheese and melon. Though I cared how it looked, I refuse to live in hiding.


    This self-acceptance has finally come. Above all, when I leave this life (hopefully after a long one), I want others to know one thing. I want the words on my headstone to read: She danced.





    In coming blog entries, I'd like to talk about topics you choose. I'd love for you to e-mail me and give suggestions about things I can write. As I end this entry, I realize I'd like to write about music therapy and other forms of creative coping skills. As always, your enduring support means the world to me, and I'd love to hear from you.




Published On: July 24, 2007