I Hope You Dance

I started dancing when I was 6. Gymnastics, tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop. I did it all. I had headshots and auditions, competition after competition. Trophies lined my walls at home and the dance studio windows were full of them as well. We would travel the U.S for National competitions. Groups, trios, duos and solos. We had matching sweat suits and bags. Our hair was in rollers, bright red lipstick and my chest duct taped in place. Blisters, ripped tights. 12 hour practices to prepare for the big day. Vitamins and thousands of crunches. I felt amazing. When the spotlight came on and all of that hard work was put into play I came alive. Something inside of me that I just cannot put into words would wake up. Sometimes I would cry, I did terrible, I know I did just awful. Then we would win. 1st place overall. I was my biggest critique. My mom would listen to me yell and cry and then smile and laugh and pose for pictures with our trophies. As I got older, boyfriends would come to my shows, watch me dance. I danced until I couldn’t dance anymore. My most favorite of the boyfriends and I were going to have a baby.

When my beautiful baby girl was born and I was finally of age (18) and able, I danced anywhere I could. My best friend and I would go to clubs just to dance. We would dance for hours, shutting the place down. Line dancing, salsa dancing, just dancing. It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to dance. Eventually I met my future husband (ex husband now) and he did not dance. He started out ok, he would go with us and watch. Watching turned to sulking and sulking turned to “you just go.” So I did. I loved it. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just wanted to dance. I danced until I couldn’t dance anymore. That future husband and I were going to have a baby.

Two kids. 21 years old. Life was different now. When my son was 9 months old I married that future husband of mine. It has taken me years to accept the fact that I married him because it was right. Not because I was head over heels in love. Two kids, two men. That looks terrible. What everyone else thought became much more important to me than what I thought or what I felt. He accepted me, loved my daughter as his own. No one else would ever do that. I would be alone forever. And ever. I knew that because I knew it all. That saying “If you want a good laugh, tell God your plans.” Yep, God laughed at me all the time! Money was more than tight. We were a young couple with two kids trying to survive. Somewhere along the line I stopped talking about dancing, I didn’t even think about it, ever. My grandma brought out my videos one night to show that hubby of mine and something inside me started stirring again. I know! We can take ballroom dancing! That would be so much fun! My excitement was not mutual so I dropped it. Because it must be a dumb idea…

That was 11 years ago. Facebook put me back in contact with all of my dance friends. They all still dance. It’s true that most don’t have children. The ones that do have kids still dance, but just for fun; it’s a good workout. I think when dancing is in your heart the way that it was ours it never really goes away. Like your first love, those feelings stay buried deep in your heart. They surface sometimes but we all teach ourselves to keep those feelings under control.

This past year has been a year of self-growth and really digging deep inside myself at things that I haven’t really faced or dealt with for 15 years. There have been some really ugly moments, some nasty demons that I have had to come to terms with. Nightmares that were a reality that I have buried so deep inside that I even forgot about some of them. Nights of crying so hard I would scream into my mirror. Who am I? What is your problem? When did “this” become ok? A mentor of mine told me to write down “I am first, my kids are second” My kids are my world. They are my #1. They come first, I don’t. Well that mentor also kindly but firmly pointed out that if I’m not important and I don’t love and take care of myself, I won’t be here to put my kids first. It hasn’t been easy for me but I am working on loving me. I can be pretty awesome so this shouldn’t be THAT hard… A step in this journey was finding adult dance lessons and actually going.

Last night I put my tap shoes on. I walked into a tap class, and I tapped. I cannot put into words the way I felt. That thing I wrote about earlier that comes alive. It was back. I haven’t felt that way in 15 years. I don’t think I have smiled like that in years. I felt a happiness from the inside out that I forgot was even possible. I have a long way to go before I can say I am any good at it again but for the first time in 15 years, I don’t care. I don’t care how I looked or what people thought. Middle aged lady with 3 kids trying to tap!? Yes, and I will be awesome at it again one day. If not, that’s ok too. I am never giving dancing up again. I LOVE it and I deserve to feel that happiness and to have that silly smile on my face all night long. I deserve to be happy. A happy mom means happier kids and my kids deserve a happy mom. My kids also deserve to have a mom that knows what it is like to give something up that she loves so much and then to find it again; that means I have the experience and the knowledge that I need to ensure they NEVER stop living their dreams and doing things that make them smile.

I hope my kids always dance.

-S

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