Sometimes, You Can Go Back.

Sometimes, you can go back.

I spent part of my day reading Joan Didion's Blue Nights, a hauntingly gorgeous book written about her daughter, Quintana Roo. Q died very young, not long after a sentiment filled wedding, and only a short time after Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking, about the year after her husband's death, was published. A prose poem, this book. All of motherhood there. The dark side of motherhood, the side that is born as soon as your baby is. The fear, unspoken, of your child dying before you do. This book is all about how you cannot go back. The horrible feeling of not appreciating the moments of your life while you are living them. And then, when they are gone, how painful the memories are, and yet, those memories are all that is left of the beloved child. Tears, yes, but, oh, so much beauty. I am such a fan.

I recently heard an NPR interview with Joan Didion and was struck so strongly with how different her speaking voice is from her written voice. In books, her words flow. She is eloquent and poetic, heartfelt and magical. On the radio she was quiet and hesitant and very shy with her words. The interview made me feel at peace. Here is someone I so admire, someone whose words I literally drown in, and she, too, isn't eloquent with the spoken word. It felt like a blessing.

So my morning was all about not going back. But my afternoon, ah, just the opposite.

I've always been a dancer. Better in my imaginings than in reality, surely, but it's always been there, along with my long legs and my arched feet and my freckled arms. I recently read a feature in Oprah's magazine on finding joy; one of those where you finish sentences with whatever first pops into your mind. I am happiest when...I am most at home in my body when... And there it was, again, dance.

Before Chloe came I was taking class regularly. Frustrated often with my lack of skill and being ten years older than most everyone in class with me, but there, still. I remember being six months pregnant, curled over in stretch class, and laughing that I'd need to take a short break because my belly was just getting too much in the way. Ah, the innocence.

Ten years later. No dance classes. I tried once when Chloe was three, went twice, but the scheduling was just too much. Whatever time I had away from her, I really needed to be at the agency. So my jazz shoes stayed in the drawer and the dancing was only in my imagination.

But today, finally, I returned. Friday I took myself to Capezio and was fitted for a new pair of jazz shoes. Groupon in hand I went right from there to Step One and took stretch class. Kim still teaches, the same teacher I loved ten years ago. The class was filled with older women, Kim's stretches had mellowed, it felt lovely. After three hours on the phone with Quickbooks tech support in India I had left work with my shoulders glued to my ears. But when I walked out of stretch, I felt reborn. Like you are supposed to feel after a good massage (which maybe I could experience if I didn't hate being touched by strangers!)

So, today, jazz. New shoes laced on, ponytail fixed. And there was Keith, another teacher I know from years ago. Keith of the lyrical movement, Keith who makes dance class seem like one unending beautiful dance instead of warmup, technique, combination. He, too, is older. He, too, seems to have mellowed a bit. But not entirely.

I was in class for three hours. Yep. Three. Three hours of bliss. Three hours of that old, remembered feeling of being at one with my body. Of focusing on what it can DO instead of what it looks like. Of looking in the mirror and seeing the dancer looking back at me, all long neck and lines and pointed feet. And it didn't matter that I fell out of my turns, that my body was clearly older. All that mattered is that I was dancing again. Sweating and reaching and living right there, in that exact moment. Right there.

For those three hours, I was home.

And the best part is that I am old enough to know it.


  1. Yes, yes, yes! I see myself in your story and am SO happy that you and dance have reunited. It's truly one of the greatest gifts. Enjoy!!

    1. Thank you Jess. It was a LONG time coming! And thank you too for commenting here. Make me look like I actually have some readers:)

  2. I love this Chandra, beautiful story!


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