A writer friend of mine blogs daily. I couldn’t imagine finding a new topic every day. She said she blogs about her personal life, just something that happens in her day. Several years ago, she encouraged me to try it.
I couldn’t imagine my everyday life being so interesting others would want to read about it. I still don’t, but on that day I rose to the challenge. I wrote a post about buying corned beef at Trader Joe’s, my mouth watering at the remembrance of my mother’s corned beef and cabbage stew. I couldn’t believe the enthusiastic reception it received.
After revisiting an essay writing class purchased years ago, and hearing once again about Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), the first to experiment with connecting with others through sharing his personal experience, I decided to try it again. He often wrote, “What do I know?” Who knows, maybe my personal experience is more bonding than I envision. So, here goes.
Last Thursday Morning
Upon awakening, I groaned at my need to get up and out the door to the lab for a fasting blood draw. With winter heading our way, I preferred to linger under my comforter. I snuggled there as long as I could before throwing on jeans and a sweater. Should I take the time to tint my eyebrows? I don’t feel dressed without earrings and eyebrows. I’m not sure, but I think I decided to forgo the eyebrows. “Who cares? I won’t see anyone I know anyway.”
As I pulled out of the garage, a sprinkle of rain beaded on my freshly washed car. A typical-for-Ohio overcast gray sky greeted me. I set my resolve to get this over with as quickly as possible. After the lab, I needed to go to the bank, the gas station, and the grocery store. Would I go out of my way to the market that might stock the white potatoes my daughter and I prefer? I brought their ad along just in case. While filling my tank at the gas station around the corner from the bank, I shivered as the temperatures dropped and the rain turned to slush. I elected convenience. Whole Foods was just across the street. Tracking down white potatoes could wait for another day.
A Surprise Encounter
I grabbed a cart and entered the sliding glass doors. A man circled around the vegetable case and approached me, “We know each other. Are you still serving a church as a pastor?”
I corrected him. “I only served a church for four years. My ministry was in counseling.” I noticed and was irritated at a concern emerging into my consciousness … concern about how I looked in the presence of a man I know slightly … as if that has anything to do with my worth.
I first met Randall years ago when I organized a major event for our single’s community. Randall is a great ballroom dancer and dancing with him was one of the highlights of the evening. Later he volunteered at the Dayton International Peace Museum where I served as Volunteer Coordinator. I remember engaging conversations.
Randall launched into filling me in on all the activities he is involved in these days … they are numerous and significant. After several genuine “That’s wonderful’s” I threw in that I had written a memoir … my noteworthy retirement accomplishment. After a perfunctory “That’s great” he launched back into his achievements.
I changed the subject. “Are you still dancing?”
Oh yes, he is … loves it … is going to a dance in Cincinnati on Saturday.
He didn’t ask me if I did.
The memory of the last time I saw him flooded me. We were at a single’s dance held at a local church. I was there with three of my single women friends, one of whom hoped to meet someone for a serious relationship. She left disappointed. I assured her that she needn’t get discouraged. I could tell by her energy that she would eventually meet someone. She did and they married a little over a year ago.
I was there because I love ballroom dancing. Much to my amazement, my body seems to know how to dance. It may take me a few steps, but once my body catches my partner’s style, we glide across the floor and around the room smoothly. It is thrilling.
I left the dance that night disappointed, too, but for a different reason.
A Favorite Memory
My favorite memory occurred years before … at my favorite ballroom dancing studio. I’d ended a relationship with Joe the week before. He refused to speak or dance with me. It was uncomfortable, but I was determined to have a good time anyway.
Then a young man who whirled around the room like a pro asked me to dance the Merengue … to music from the Dominican Republic rooted in Africa with a marching rhythm, strong side to side motion, and creative arm movements. I wasn’t sure I could do it.
I hesitated, “I’ve never danced it before.”
He stretched out his hand, “Come on. I’ll show you.”
He was such a good lead, my body almost instantly knew how to follow him. We soared around the room, our feet barely touching the floor as our arms and torsos moved to the beat. It was thrilling.
When he walked me back to my seat, my smiling group of friends who came to support me that evening clapped and jumped up to hug me. “You are a much better dancer than Joe,” they declared. I was elated.
Back to My Surprise Encounter
Standing there listening to Randall, I wondered, “Is there anything about me that might interest him?” I mentioned my involvement in Better Angels. His eyes brightened and he mentioned a way we might collaborate on a project to bring Better Angels to the attention of the wider Dayton community. He said he loves to collaborate with people.
I pulled my business card out of my purse … the one about my memoir … and invited him to send me an email about how we might do that. I asked him to remind me of his last name so I’d recognize the email when it came in. He barely looked at the card. Five days later, I haven’t heard from him.
He began telling me about his journey of personal growth. I was growing weary of listening. I’m not a therapist anymore. I much prefer reciprocal relationships. I tried to connect by mentioning how writing my memoir had given me a whole new perspective on my life. He didn’t bite.
I acknowledged, “It takes a lot of work to grow into a conscious human being.”
He nodded in agreement.
I added, “It’s worth it though.”
I Couldn’t Help Thinking About …
… the book I’m currently reading (Know My Name by Chanel Miller … the survivor of local Brock Turner’s assault) and the section where she wonders if men think they are entitled to have women be there just for their pleasure.
Randall asked if we might hug. I automatically complied. We exchanged, “Nice to see you’s.” He picked up his basket and turned. I pushed my cart in the opposite direction.
The whole time we talked and as I meandered through the store, I couldn’t help thinking about the last time I saw him … at that church’s single dance … how disappointed I was that he didn’t ask me to dance … in fact, no one did. An even worse experience years later … at my favorite dance studio … brought my fling with dancing to an end.
Ballroom dancing is something that fills me with joy … or was … the kind of joy I imagine a mother and grandmother feels when she beholds the miracle of her child’s or grandchild’s growing and becoming … coming into their own.