The past week I have been disappointing people left and right. Excited for me and curious about the Windy City Open dance competition, family, friends and acquaintances ask, “ How was the competition? Was it fun?” “ No, but I did expect it would be. It was however what I expected and I did what I set out do”, I reply. Their hopeful faces crumble a bit as the word “No” rides sonic waves from my mouth to their ears. What is most often missed when they first hear my response is that for me, the competition was what I needed and successful, because I achieved my goals, which had nothing to do with having a fun with all the classic trappings of smiles and laughter.
One goal was get out on the dance floor, looking as if I belonged there in my division by age and dance level. More importantly my other goal was to contend with a full-scale assault launched by my Gremlins. Both were accomplished, but not without deliberate, focused action. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, look out 46th Harvest Moon Ball Championship here I come. And you know what? The next competition will be easier and much more fun.
Performing, being the center of attention has never been enjoyable for me. My nature is to be introverted, despite finding people and their company immensely fascinating and enjoyable. Some people thrive on getting up in front of a crowd and speaking, dancing, acting, playing football… I don’t. However, personal excellence is a value of mine and it drives me to get the most from and put forward the best foot I can in the moment. To push past the whisperings of anxieties fed by Gremlins, because the short-term pain of growth is a price worth paying for the long-term gains of personal agency and the profound contentment of knowing you honestly put your whole effort in to something.
Practice makes perfect so goes the adage and there is truth in it. Last weekend was one long practice session. Each difficult moment was countered with twice as many easier moments. There were multiple rewards of being in action:
- The messages of support from my husband sent each day.
- The fellowship of many dancers, some more skilled, some less skilled, but all dancing for the joy of doing something loved.
- The joy of cheering for someone dancing his heart out.
- The pleasure of spending time with beloved companions.
- The kindness of a fellow competitor helping me to rub out the cramps seizing both sets of calf muscles of my first round of heats.
- I am proud to say there were some heats where I placed.
The most meaningful reward was feeling an uncontrollable smile as I danced my final 6 heats, growing from just doing something loved and shared. On Oct. 9 and 10, it is that memory and generative power in it that will make the next competition fun.