It’s four-thirty in the morning, and Daddy is tired. My dancer friend Matt drove down from Springfield yesterday, and we’ve been dancing and (only because this is a blog about honesty) drinking since seven-thirty last night. We met at my friend Bonnie’s house, and we started off Blues dancing, which is slow and easy and not demanding at all. Next we picked it up with a little solo jazz work, choreographing a dance routine for Matt to teach to a rock-a-billy song. Then we worked on Lindy Hop, which if you don’t know, is a swing dance that requires a lot of bouncing, running around, and acting a damn fool. And then–and then–after five hours of all of that, we thought it would be a good idea to work on lifts and aerials, things that required Daddy to jump up in the air and turn himself upside down. That part required A LOT of energy.
In retrospect, we should have done everything in reverse.
The last time Matt and I worked together, I showed him a move called the saxophone. The idea is that the leader steps in front of the follower, basically shoves his hips into “her” pelvis, and slings her around the front of his body, landing her on his opposite leg and simultaneously inverting her. Here’s a video of what it’s supposed to look like. (The video includes two moves. The first is called the pancake. The second is the saxophone.)
When Matt and I worked before, I just demonstrated the move as a leader, since I’d never done the follower’s part. I mean, I’m thirty-six, and that’s no exactly the age to START putting your ankles above your head, at least on the dance floor. Plus, I weigh a hundred and ninety pounds. (People say, “You wear it well,” like that’s a compliment, but is more like code for, “I didn’t realize were that fat.”) Anyway, tonight when Matt asked if I wanted to try following the saxophone, I was like–Uh, uh, uh–sure.
So for over an hour, we tried and tried and tried again. I fell down. Matt fell down. Matt dropped me on my back. Matt dropped me on my side. Bonnie recorded over thirty failed attempts. Bonnie’s friend Corban was there, and he recorded probably just as many. (No one recorded the ONE time we got it right.) I’ll spare you most of the carnage, but here’s a video I love that Corban captured in slow motion. All things considered, it’s pretty good, except of course the part at the end when I land on my back.
About one-thirty or two in the morning, we wore out and quit. I mean, sometimes you have to know when you’re licked. I guess I could get frustrated that it “didn’t happen,” but I can’t tell you how good it felt to try something new, to be slung through the air, even if it wasn’t perfect. Now, whether it will feel good in a couple of days is yet to be decided. I’m guessing it won’t.
The last time Matt and I worked on lifts and aerials, we worked on a move called the frog jump. It’s basically just a simple jump where no one turns upside down, but the trick is getting the follower to jump high enough and lift their knees. If the move is done right, the leader can hold the follower still above his shoulder before letting them down.
Even though the frog jump is considered simple, it’s not easy. Everyone has a job to do, and the timing has to be just right. Well, Matt’s been working on the frog jump since the last time I saw him, and he’s made a ton of progress. So we tried it tonight, and check it out.
After Matt and I finished working, Bonnie fed us, and we all hung out in her kitchen for a couple of hours. We talked about getting older but not feeling older, except for the fact that maybe your hips hurt more than they did a decade ago. (Corban, who just graduated high school, didn’t chime in too much on this part of the conversation for some reason.) We talked about dancing. We talked about tattoos. (Corban’s the only one who has one.)
Here’s what I loved about out time in Bonnie’s kitchen. At any point after ten in the evening, Bonnie could have easily kicked us out of her house, but she never did. We only left (about four in the morning) because I wanted to blog and also plan on getting up before noon tomorrow–er–today. (This is so confusing.) But as for Bonnie, she wasn’t in a hurry to end the conversation, to have us leave, to go to bed.
In contrast, I know that so many times as a dancer, I get in a hurry. I start working on a new move and want to “have it,” like now. Even sometimes when I’m working with a talented dancer like Matt, I want him to have it, like now. Not because I’m impatient with him, but because I’m excited. It’s fun to watch those “aha” moments happen. But really, those are pretty rare. More often, successes in dance are hard-earned. They come in pieces. You fall down, you get dropped, your body hurts for a week. But you just keep at it and keep at it, and one day, like nothing, you’re up in the air with no effort at all.
At that point, if it looks easy, it is. There really does come a time when all the effort pays off, everything clicks, and even moves like the saxophone are a breeze. Again, it’s easy–it’s just not always easy to get there.
The journey is worth all the bumps in the road.
I think this is true of many things in life, things that are really worth having. There have been so many times in therapy over the last three years that I’ve thought, I can’t–I can’t have that confrontation, I can’t be honest with that person, I can’t tell them no. But eventually, in every case, I did. Now that I’m on the other side of a lot of drama, life feels easier. Sometimes I wonder what took me so long to get here, but I realize that I was learning something new, and that always takes time.
I guess we all have things we haven’t mastered yet, whether it’s turning ourselves upside down, growing older, or having a tough conversation. And sure, those things can be difficult and scary. You’re going to fall, you’re going to hurt the next day. But I think the journey is worth all the bumps in the road. Besides, I don’t think anyone came to this planet in order to get it right the first time. What would be the point? Rather, I think we came here because this is a place we can learn, a place we can fall down and get back up again, and a place–like Bonnie’s kitchen–where there’s all the time in the world to do just that.
[I promise I’m not going to start referring to myself as Daddy on a regular basis. It’s probably the American Honey talking.]
Quotes from CoCo (Marcus)
"We can hang on and put everything safely in its place, and then at some point, we’re forced to let go."