Today in my undergraduate Level 1 Beginning Jazz Dance class that I am taking as an elective for fun, to help relieve the pressure of my other classes, I broke down crying. I went down my list of things that might normally lead me to such a state of panic…like the insensitivity of my spouse, the clutter in our home, worries about health, stacks of ungraded student papers, our monumental student loans combined with statistically hopeless career paths…and none of them seemed to ring a bell.
As close as I can figure, I had to go into the bathroom and cry because I do not want to do the final group performance for my dance class a week from Friday. Our little group of four—me and three other students—has to choreograph a three-minute piece and perform it for our class combined with another dance class. This is not high pressure. Get up there, stumble through it, have a laugh, everyone claps, and you get your “A.”
But I don’t want to. I dread it to such an extent that the dread is creeping back in time so that I now dread going to my dance class already. I dread doing our little routine in the center of the floor with the class split in half. I dread moving across the floor in small groups. My brain freezes and I can’t remember any pattern longer than four counts.
I have to assume that this is not really just about being horrified to stand on a stage for the length of the song “Kiss” by Prince. It must harken back to some other traumatic experience…like being unable to learn all of the “Maple Leaf Rag” when I was ten, or the time I forgot the bridge to “Sonata in C” at a piano concert and had to get up and leave the stage. Or maybe it’s some other stuff that even though they’ll nod understandingly, I don’t really think will make any sense to the graduate student teacher, or anyone else who sees my red splotchy face and asks what’s wrong. Like that I’ll turn thirty-seven on the day of our performance, or that this week and next will mark the third anniversary of my cancer diagnoses and surgery. That after everything I’ve lived through, and all the things I’ve tried to change, I am still unhappy with certain aspects of myself: that when required to keep my head in front of an audience, I can neither overcome my inherent weaknesses nor achieve the lightheartedness and acceptance of them that would make everything all right.
It’s both eye opening, and fairly unhelpful to witness, how, despite most of our illusions to the contrary, the same old shit is alive and well and living in the suburbs of our souls.