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No time like the present

...for remembering the past.

jackiejj's post on holistic approaches to life reminded me of my childhood efforts at physical agility.

I don't think "efforts" is the right word, somehow.

My mother enrolled my sister Mary and me in a triple-threat class: ballet, tap, tumbling. That's how it was done. I don't know if that's as common a class now as it was then. I was maybe seven, and had a good start on being large and awkward and friendless. I remember being interested in the ballet positions and wanting to be good at ballet. Wanting as opposed to trying to be, note.

It was a good day if I had the equipment. If I remembered the soft ballet slippers, the leotard, the tights. And if they were all clean, or almost clean. It was a better day if we didn't do much in the tumbling department. I suffered miserably trying to do somersaults (did they call them "forward rolls?" I don't think so). I was impossibly awkward, inflexible, and terminally embarrassed at myself. I just steeled myself to get through it, often thinking "I should work on this at home."

Funny. I still do that. I still go through the hell, thinking "I really need to work on this by myself." To spare myself the embarrassment. Ballroom dancing comes to mind.

I couldn't get the hang of the tap shoes. Wasn't I listening? I wanted to! I forgot moves in ballet, couldn't keep up in routines.

I think I was a real dreamer then. Am I still? I dreamed of becoming a ballerina, high on my toe shoes, graceful, slender, wowing the crowds. This was one of the subsets of the fundamental dream that one day I would "show them". I would be transformed into some lovely creature and everyone would gasp.

There actually were a couple of times I did that, but it wasn't with ballet, tap, or tumbling. And it had nothing to do with the transformation of my physical self, although later...but wait. It was with piano. I started lessons in second grade, learned some basic stuff, didn't practice much, gave it up after a few years. But I still played. I started again in ninth grade with a different teacher, and this time I was serious. What happened to me in the meantime? Why do I ask so many questions?

I worked this time. I learned the music well, and my teacher felt I had "talent". I played in a recital, my first in several years. And got the reception I craved. People were all over me - "When did you learn to play like that?" "I didn't know you could play." It was a kind of vindication, yet mainly of a perception of myself, of how I thought others saw me. I thought others thought I was a total loser in every department, an object of ridicule. Certainly I was that in the eyes of young boys and girls, but not everyone.

That happened again, more than once, in college. It represents my high "need for approval", something that showed up in a personality test I took in high school. I scored in the 95th percentile for "need for approval". Ever since then I have tried to cut that back, not need it so much, and I think I'm getting there.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
Piano versus Ballerina subject
I was "wowed" by your piano talent when I heard you play as a child, but I never knew that you had wanted to become a ballerina. Thank you for sharing this with us!
your sister abby
Feb. 4th, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Piano versus Ballerina subject
That was the kind of dream that was unattainable. I wonder sometimes if our fantasies are more like this, of the kinds of things that are simply impossible. I didn't have the size, the flexibility, anything needed to be a good dancer. But I have always admired dancers and imagined myself floating gracefully on the floor. That's why I took up ballroom dancing. And learned that I could enjoy it even while being not very good!

Thank you so much for commenting, Abby!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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