Jungle Brain

Every dancer I know will tell you that there’s a stupid side.

The narrative in dance class often goes like this, “Okay, drop your hip while kicking out your foot at the same moment, make sure you’re turned to the diangle, keep yourself tucked under, pretty hands in your standard W and don’t forget to smile!”

That’s actually a pretty basic move, and it requires remembering to do different things with different parts of your body, and in some cases multiple things with the same part simultaneously.  But it’s fine, because you get into your stance, the music comes on, you feel the beat, as much as you hear it.  And then, you’re just doing it.  You don’t even know how, but suddenly every movement in your body is perfectly tuned to this moment and you go through a whole chorus in precision.

And then you hear those dreaded words.

“All right ladies, turn around and let’s do the other side.  In 5-6-7-8.”

Suddenly, you’re the least coordinated person on the planet.  You can’t drop and kick simultaneously, your hands drop to your sides and your brow furrows in a composition of concentration.  Your brain doesn’t even understand what you’re doing anymore and you look at your dance teacher in bafflement.

This is the stupid side.  If you’re a righty, going left is tough and vice versa.  And when you turn around and face the back instead of the mirrors, your whole sense of orientation is going to be off.

How can this be? I wondered one day in class.  My brain understands what I’m supposed to do, which is clear since I’ve just done it.  But suddenly it’s behaving as though it’s never heard these instructions before and it doesn’t understand how I can possibly expect it to keep up with these demands.

In my favorite novel, I remember reading about the idea of driving through a South American jungle, having to hack out the wilderness to make a path for your jeep to get through.  And then coming back a few days later and having to hack the same path again because the dense forestry had already regrown itself.

I think this is the way my brain works when it comes to dance.  I can clear the path for the first side, but when I turn around, the jungle is back and needs to be cleared once more.  In fact, maybe this is the way my brain works with everything.

How many times, I ask myself, have I had to hack out that path in my mind that leads to self-confidence.  It gets a little easier every time, because the overgrowth hasn’t completely returned, but every time I try to re-travel that path in my mind, it’s cluttered with the vegetation of doubt, insecurity and hopelessness.

This is truly use it or lose it, and I think it applies everywhere.

It’s something I’ve really been reflecting on lately – that feeling good about myself takes daily mental exercise, focus, and a good tearing down of boundaries that would like to stand in my way.  I recognize these foreboding trees and bushes and vines of lies that wait in my path, and once again I must take my machete to them.  Rip them out of the earth and cast them aside.

I will love myself.  Not just today.  Not just in 2015.  But for the rest of my life.  And I believe, very strongly, that love is an action, even more than a feeling.  I need to put on my work gloves, take out my tools and delve deeper into that often treacherous jungle of myself, to the center where the truest part of myself resides and work every day at developing a deeper relationship with that woman.

Tomorrow she’ll be lost behind some overgrowth of a busy life once more.  That’s fine.  I remember the path, and I won’t hesitate to tear down again anything that stands between she and I.

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