Feel the beat

In the latest edition in the saga of facing challenges and stress, I bring you the musical number.

Andy and I are taking Salsa lessons. Yes you read that right, the couple that rented a jukebox in lieu of dancing at their own wedding has decided to give it a try…. I am almost as surprised as you are.

I have some personal issues with dancing. For one, I don’t hear beat or rhythm. I am not just bad at it, I really cannot. Apparently ‘Beat Deafness’ and other forms of musical disability are related learning disabilities to dyslexia and its related disorders. They come from the same malformations in the same part of the brain. Fascinating, yes?  Well what it translates into: I got no rhythm and can’t feel the beat. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have done any form of dancing in public as an adult, I can count on my fist the number of times I have done so sober… that would be zero.

I have really developed a mental block about anything music related. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. When I was a kid, a music teacher used to hit me with xylophone sticks or bang a cowbell next to my head for messing up, regularly. I felt so guilty when I found out that the teacher had died over the summer, because I had secretly wished he would. Later, by about 10, I was asked to pick a musical instrument to learn, and chose the viola. The teacher tried kicking me out of class more than once for not practicing…except I did practice. I used to fake sick to get out of dance units in gym. So yeah, my inability to relate to music is long standing and embarrassing.

So far, after two lessons, my dancing primarily consists of staring fixedly at Andy’s feet, trying to get my feet to move correspondingly. Just one step above standing on his feet while he tries to dance for both of us.  Andy very considerately wore socks that were marked right and left. You wouldn’t think that would improve my performance much, but it really did. Oh the elegance that is the two of us salsa-ing. I am incredibly glad that so far, our lessons have been private; the public can’t handle our mad skills just yet.

There is a recurring theme for me in these times, when I try things that are stupid hard: petulance. It still pisses me off that life isn’t fair. Mature of me. So when the instructor tells me not to look at my feet, when I am asked to count to the music to find the one beat, I feel crabby and embarrassed. I am not proud of it, but it is what it is. I get frustrated. Who is this guy who doesn’t know me from the primordial soup to tell me I can find the beat?

I didn’t say it was logical. But in an attempt to inject some sanity into the process, I remind myself that I volunteered for this. No one forced me, certainly not the instructor. I am trying to improve my brain. After all, there was once a time, not as long ago as one might think, when I thought writing well was impossible for me, and it was by working through the difficulties and frustrations that I gained the abilities I have. This dance instructor was, in fact, very patient and encouraging with us. Far more patient than I might have been with someone mangling so completely an art form that I was passionate about.

Now did in fact have one small advantage over Andy in this situation. I am a girl, and in salsa, girls get lead around. It is the primarily guy’s responsibility to lead, keep the beat, guide the movements. One of the few situations in life where sexism works in my favor. Poor Andy, he is just learning a new skill himself and is also having to bear some of the responsibility for my performance.

In the end, this has been a growing experience. Stretching my comfort zone in more ways than one. As much as I am not excited about my ever expanding list of challenging commitments at the moment, this is something that I feel like I need to see through. If I can succeed at this, even if its only subjective success, than that will be another achievement in life that I once thought was too much to hope for. At least now I have hope, which makes all the difference.

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