dancing shoes

The kids arrive home this afternoon, and I am so incredibly ready to see them.  It’s felt like a long week for sure. I think my introverted self has been a little too extended on the social outings and distractions, but that aside, it’s feeling a little easier to settle into a comfortable pace around here alone. Silence and stillness at the end of the week did not feel as strange as they did in the beginning.

I lucked out that a reunion celebration coincided with my kid-free time this weekend, and it brought so much happy. I’m grateful for the timing.  This keeps happening to me (Thanks, God) that these glittering moments and experiences shine through any darkness that starts to creep in.  Sometimes these little things happen alone – when I’m driving and the scenery is sunny and pretty and the perfect song is on the radio, when I settle in on the couch and my dog curls at my feet to snore a bit.  And sometimes they happen in the presence of others I know and love so well.  However they unfold for me, I’m so grateful for these little moments of happy.

So last night brought an anniversary celebration for the ballet studio where I trained and grew up. I’m not sure that I’ve written much about my life as a dancer and my love of ballet before. But as any dancer knows, once that gets in your blood, so to speak, it’s impossible to shake it out.

Dance was such an enormous part of my life growing up, and I think I spent more time at the studio than I did at home by the time I was in high school. I eventually quit – after dabbling a little in a few classes in college but realizing my calling was certainly elsewhere – but the lessons ballet teaches you stick with you forever. Grace under pressure, determination, calm focus, and perseverance. And most importantly, a notion that you are competing with yourself, not those around you. As a tiny child of only three years old, I was placed in a dance class by my mom who enrolled me in ballet simply because I was so incredibly quiet and shy that she wanted me to maybe open up a little and have a new experience. As I look back at ballet pictures and memories, I see that tiny shy girl slowly evolve to something more self-assured, and it’s largely because of my dance training.

recital 1989

So many people don’t quite understand the focus and practice that goes into a ballet class or a dance performance. Whether it’s remembering choreography on the spot or trying just that much harder when you thought you’d already exceeded your abilities, it gives you skills and perspective that stay with you forever. In the midst of high school stresses and usual dramas and adolescent uncertainty, the dance studio was always the one place I could go to leave it all behind.

Nutcracker 1998

Nutcracker 1998 25

But the very best part of dancing all those years is the friendships I made. I was lucky to fall into a group of girls in my studio who can always make me laugh and shed some new light on the world. We were mostly from different area high schools which was enormously helpful in getting out of your own little bubble that seems to exist in high school. When I walked in the studio after a day at school, I remember knowing that these girls knew me for who I was and could put a smile on my face, no matter what. My greatest memories are not in the spotlight onstage but backstage and in dressing rooms and in a sweaty studio.

Nutcracker 1998 30

backstage 1995

So when I got the chance this weekend to honor our Director and catch up with old dance friends, it felt like such a treat. And these girls? We have known each other more than 20 years, and so much life has happened since then. Happy things like career accomplishments and graduations and marriage and babies. But also hard things – parents lost too soon, medical trials and surgeries, divorces, heartbreak, and even the loss of one of our dancing sisters to Ovarian Cancer before she reached thirty. There were laughs and tears last night. And laughing through tears which I am convinced adds years to your life on the rare occasion that it occurs. Life, man. It’s crazy how fast it’s happening, no? But it just keeps getting better, and friendships just get richer once you weather a storm or two. It takes some heartbreak to know joy, I think. And I’m starting to feel grateful for that perspective.

Dance Reunion 2015

These women. I’m thankful for everything they are and realizing that sometimes it takes someone who’s known you a really, really long time to understand you in the way the rest of the world just never will.

Dance Reunion 2015

And my abs got the best workout imaginable last night because I laughed until I hurt. And I mean that. My voice was raspy this morning, and my tummy is tight and sore from the laughter. How can old friends and old memories do that to us in the very best way?

Dance Reunion 2015

It makes me see the possibility in everything else, too. I feel so old and so new, all at the same time. So much behind me and so much in front of me. And at 34, I still find myself laughing and dancing in a parking lot with my oldest friends, and I hope it will always be this way.

Dance Reunion 2015

I drove home thinking of all I know now that I didn’t know then, the many ways my life has become better and richer since I was 18 with a world in front of me. And the very best part is that I will have those same thoughts twenty years from now as well. It’s getting better and better, y’all. It feels so good to look ahead and see nothing but possibilities on the horizon.

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