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Lessons From Ballroom Dancing

Early on in our relationship, Ric and I signed up for ballroom dancing classes. It was a small class for beginners, so we thought it might be a good fit; both of us loved to dance.

“I’m not very good at letting someone else take the lead,”  I confessed on the first night.th-2

“In dancing, you have to let your partner lead or it won’t work.”  The fiery red-headed female instructor chastised me.  “At the same time, if you do not clearly communicate what you expect of your counterpart, you will fail,” Lula told Ric.  “Dancing requires that you are in sync with one another.”

Not wanting to be marked out every class, we made notes about the steps we were learning and went home to practice in between sessions, but Ric was not always able to attend due to Monday night council meetings.

“Ric had to work tonight, so he couldn’t make it.  I hope it’s alright that I’m here alone.”

“Of course,” the male instructor, Rod, advised me, “I know what it’s like when you drive long haul.  Must be hard that he’s away all the time.”

I opened my mouth to respond, and then shut it.  Somehow, this couple thought that Ric drove truck and I wasn’t about to correct them.  Ric and I laughed about it later and decided not to say anything.  Besides, we were there for fun, and this added to the moodth-5

The lessons were progressing well, and we’d even started attending local dances, so we decided to sign up for the second level.  These classes were much more serious than the first set.  Now that we had basic steps down pat, the instructors were focused on fine-tuning our technique.

“Try not to flap your wings,” Rod said tapping Ric on the shoulders during a waltz.

It was true – Ric was flapping.  Neither of us had noticed before, but now that Rod pointed it out, we couldn’t stop noticing and for some reason, I found it ridiculously funny.

“Quit flapping,” I’d call out as he twirled us around the floor.  I laughed so hard at one point that I had to run from the dance floor before I had an accident.  th-3

Lula and Rod were not impressed.  They started to give us the cold shoulder, disapproving of how lightly we were taking their efforts.  We didn’t sign up for the next round, but we continued to dance until knee surgeries slowed us down.

When ME/CFS struck me down, dancing seemed like a thing of the past.  Then last fall, Ric took me on a cruise.  He carefully planned out how to get me there – breaking the travel into three days either side of the cruise allowing for me to recuperate along the way.  On board, he rented me a motorized scooter so that I could get out of the room.

“My goal for this trip is that you and I have one more dance,” he told me.

I had my doubts, but midway through the two-week excursion, I knew the time had come.  “Let’s go find the music.”

Only a handful of couples were in the club on the top floor of the ship.  The night was young, and most people were still dining, but a live band was playing as if the room was full, and when we heard a familiar tune strike up, I nodded that I was ready.

Ric helped me onto the dance floor and gently took the lead, and I gratefully followed. We only made it through a few steps before my energy gave out, but we lingered on the dance floor as long as we could, holding each other and reminiscing.th-1

We learned a lot from structured dancing lessons.  I discovered that letting someone else take the lead isn’t about losing control as I’d always feared.  In relationship, we both take turns leading and as long as we are clear in our expectations, it usually works out for the best.  Relationship is, after all, not unlike a dance.

We both came to appreciate that it didn’t matter who others thought we were, as long as we knew ourselves.  In fact, it didn’t matter what others thought of us, because we weren’t there to impress; we were there to enjoy each other.  Life doesn’t always have to be a competition.

Perhaps the best part of ballroom dancing, for us as a couple, was the laughter.  We were able to let loose and have good clean fun.

Lastly, even when it seemed that life had given up on us, and dancing was a thing of the past, we did it anyway.

 

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Categories: aging Chronic Illnes disability inspiration marriage ME/CFS memoir

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V.J. Knutson

Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.

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