Losing My Balance, Keeping My Time
When I set out to learn to dance, it was to do so as a layman — to integrate dance into my everyday life. A life with work, with family, and with plenty of other obligations. So, when I was faced with a series of family and work-related travels that would take me up and down the west coast for the better part of a month, I resolved to integrate dance into that, too.
I might be away from my beloved studio, but there are other ways to dance, right? YouTube could serve as a temporary teacher. My destinations all had their own local dance studios I could visit. And at the very least, I had my notorious list of barre exercises I could power through at the back of a kitchen chair if need be. This month would be great! Just another adventure to add to my year!
But then something peculiar happened:
Maybe I shouldn’t today, I thought during one afternoon on a family vacation. We’re all supposed to go do ___. I don’t want to mess up everyone’s plans.
So went one day.
If I dance now, went another self-consciously, I’ll be taking up the living room for a whole hour!
It would be rude to leave now, a voice reminded me another evening. This trip isn’t about you!
Somehow my own deep-seated insecurities convinced me, day after day, that it would be ‘rude’ or ‘selfish’ to go off by myself and dance. Apparently I am just too awesome for my loved ones and co-workers to handle even one hour away from my self-congratulatory presence. Or, depending on the day, I might be the most unimpressive person alive and how dare I think of dancing in the living room where people might actually see me?
Somehow my own deep-seated insecurities convinced me … that it would be ‘rude’ or ‘selfish’ to go off by myself and dance.
The worst part is that these fears had little bearing on reality. None of my gracious hosts would have minded had I taken some time for myself, or even if I had taken over their living room, for a mere three hours a week. They all, in fact, are well aware of the goal I’m pursuing in this year of dance, and would have encouraged it gladly had I asked.
But I didn’t.
Which is strange, because how many times in the past five months have I had to say, “I can’t, I have dance class”? (The answer: a lot.) That’s a healthy level of assertiveness. But outside of my schedule, my home, and the level of control I’m used to having in my own life, it became much more difficult.
I found that if time alone isn’t built into my schedule, it’s pretty tough for me to carve it out. No one’s going to carve it for me, simply because no one can. I have to choose it. I have to step away from the fear of missing out, the fear of being looked down on or being judged, and I have to take it. It feels kind of demanding. It feels selfish, especially for women.
The confidence gap, for instance, is a well-documented phenomenon. Women are traditionally less likely to stand up and ask for what they want. Women statistically ask for lower salaries and fewer promotions, we talk less in meetings, we even try to take up less space on the subway. We’re taught over and over again that it’s somehow wrong or ‘unattractive’ to assert ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with saying “I’m going here” when everyone else is going there.
I realize that there are worse things I could do than miss some classes because of travel. I do, after all, plan to extend my year of dance to make up for the time I’ve lost. But I don’t want to be the person who fearfully chooses to sacrifice her own needs only to avoid a little confrontation. I believe loving confrontation is healthy. I also believe that no one really benefits from my self-neglect, despite what my nervous subconscious would have me believe.
I move forward now with this simple goal: to better understand when and how to say yes to my own desires and no to someone else’s. There’s nothing wrong with taking — yes, taking — time for myself. There is nothing wrong with saying “I’m going here” when everyone else is going there. There is nothing wrong with asserting my right as a human to a little self-care! In fact, there are all kinds of things right with it. If this year teaches me nothing else, I will count that a success.
I want to honor my relationships, but I also want to balance that with honoring myself. I’ve returned after this unfortunate absence and, although my thighs are killing me, my resolve is abundantly renewed. I’d love to tell you more about it, but I can’t right now —
I have to go to dance.
Catch up on previous chapters of Two Left Feet, here.
Image by Sara via Flickr