Put Your Best Left Foot Forward

Okay, I’m running on three hours of sleep here. Well, all right, fine. I’m also running on four blueberry pancakes and thee glasses of Glenlivet. But the pancakes and the scotch are just making me even more tired that I already was, so I don’t think they should even be figured into the equation. No, I’m sure they shouldn’t. Regardless, I’m seriously considering using duct tape to keep my eyes open, maybe taking a cold shower and substituting the bar of soap with a nine-volt battery. Hello!

I got up early today in order to attend the Arkansas New Play Festival, which is a two-weekend–uh–thing involving–damn it, brain–plays. (I’m gonna try this again.) It’s a multiple-day event where new plays, or plays that are still in production, are read in front of live audiences, after which the writers and directors get feedback about what works, what doesn’t work.  It’s like a trial-run for theater shows. At least that’s my scotch and pancakes understanding of it.

Today the festival was at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville. (Tomorrow it’s at Theater Squared in Fayetteville.) Y’all, I have never seen so many people in all my life. It was like the population of Queens descended on the lobby of Crystal Bridges. I guess everyone was there to see the Chihuly exhibit, which I thought had something to do with hot sauce, but actually has to do with blown glass. Here’s a picture of the only exhibit I could see for free. I don’t know what the official title is, but I’m either calling it Pretty Glass Balls in Ugly Water, or simply, Jesus Left His Toys Behind. (As my friend Mary recently said, “Marcus, I wonder about you.”)

But back to the festival. Today’s schedule included two plays with a break in between. I thought both plays were extremely well-acted, and I especially enjoyed the writing of the second play, which was called Comet Town and was written by Rick Erhstin. I’m not doing so great with descriptions tonight, so I’ll just say it was about a fucked-up family with a grandfather with dementia who thought the planes flying over his home were comets and the sounds coming from the pipes in the basement were his dead wife. The dialogue and acting were so compelling that for probably thirty minutes I had a steady stream of tears running down my face. If things had gotten any sadder, I would have needed my bathing suit.

Thank God I sat in the back row.

When the play was over, the lady next to me–who was one of the actors from the first play–struck up a conversation. For a few minutes we talked about the festival and then progressed to–Where are you from?–Where are YOU from?–What do you do?–What do YOU do? (You know how it goes.) Anyway, she was the nicest lady you’d ever want to meet, and when I told her that I was a dance teacher and a writer, she asked if I taught a class on Friday nights. Well, we’d been talking about theater, so I thought she was talking about theater classes, so I said, “Oh no, that’s someone else.” But then she said she meant dancing classes, since she’d heard of a dancer/writer who taught swing dance classes in the area. Well, I have a friend who does that, so I said, “No, that’s someone else. He’s Asian.” And then–AND THEN–she said, “No, this guy is white. He writes a blog about his therapist.”

That’s funny, I thought, I write a blog about MY therapist.

Wait a minute.

Oh. My. God.

(She’s talking about me.)

Seriously, my head got so big that I thought I was going to lose my balance and fall out of my chair.

I told the lady–whose name is Rebecca and has a sister who’s danced with me a couple of times and recommended the blog–that she was the first person I’d met “in real life” who’d read the blog that I didn’t already know. So I asked her if she’d take a selfie with me (I think she said yes) and told her I planned on putting it on the blog because that’s not weird. (Right? That’s not weird?)

Okay, I really feel like we can stop there. Period. The end. What else is important after your day has been made? But fine, I’ll keep going. And don’t worry, my head will return to normal size by this time tomorrow.

Leaving Crystal Bridges, I headed for my friend Betty’s house to spend the night and save myself a lot of time on the road tonight and tomorrow. When I got to Betty’s, she’d just started a yoga workout, so I said I wanted to join. Well, I haven’t done yoga in over six months, so for thirty minutes I stretched, moaned, and discovered aches and pains in muscles I didn’t even know I had. When the video ended, I lay in a pile of sweat and regret and decided to turn my life over to Jesus and repent of my sinful eating habits. I thought, chocolate cake is evil–carbohydrates are for heathens–fried chicken is the devil’s workshop.

And then Betty asked if I wanted pancakes for dinner, and I said, “Hell yes” because–life is ironic.

So the coolest thing. Sometime shortly after 2005 when I opened my former dance studio, I designed the studio’s one and only t-shirt. I think we sold like twenty-five of them. Well, Betty was one of my first students in those days, and she bought one of the shirts and still has it (and wore it tonight for yoga). The front says, “Put your best left foot forward” because I can’t tell you the number of times someone has told me, “I have two left feet,” as if that’s a legitimate excuse for not dancing or not being willing to learn. I mean, THAT’S WHAT LESSONS ARE FOR. Anyway, check out the shirt.

I just remembered that the phrase “put your best left foot forward” came from the guy I was dating at the time. I thought it was so clever–and still do–that I put it on the shirts and planned to use it for fliers, coffee mugs, and maybe a personal tramp stamp. But alas, best laid plans. But even now, I think it’s a great encouragement. So many nights–most of them–I sit down to write this blog, and it feels like I have two left feet. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. More often than not, I think, Just quit–stay where you are. (This happens in life too.)

Standing still is no longer good enough.

However, I’ve promised myself I’m going to write. Of course, I want every word to be glorious. (Is that too much to ask?) I want people to laugh and I want them to cry. I don’t like it when it my words stumble along anymore than anyone else does. But the fact is that sometimes we move with grace and sometimes we move with struggle. This afternoon when I watched the plays, it was evident that things were still in progress. I mean, there were some glorious moments (I laughed–I cried), but there were also moments that fell flat. And whereas I’m often critical of such things, I’ve reminded myself this evening that we all have a right to put our best left foot forward. In fact, it takes buckets of courage and vulnerability for someone to do that.

Maybe I’ve never said this before, but when it comes to dancing and dieting and writing and living–I don’t have it all figured out. (There, I admit it.) I’m sure I never will. But rather than giving up, I’m willing to give it a try, willing to stumble along, willing to put one left foot in front of the other, since standing still is no longer good enough.

Quotes from CoCo (Marcus)

"There is a force, a momentum that dances with all of us, sometimes lifting us up in the air, sometimes bringing us back down in a great mystery of starts and stops."


Writer. Dancer. Virgo.
Full of rich words. Full of joys.

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