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Stressed About the Holidays? Just Beat It.

How I learned to let go, from a dancing nun.

Just Beat It like Michael Jackson. Image courtesy of David on Flickr.

Today I danced behind a tiny nun and a married couple in their eighties, wearing matching tank tops. Real people, not costumes. How did I get here? The other day I confessed to my friend Lisa that I wanted to beat holiday stress, and my tension around budget meetings with my husband, plus upcoming doctor appointments. She suggested I dance.

I wasn’t excited about going to a dance class and feeling how much mobility I have lost since they removed the tumor last year. I didn’t think I could take looking at myself in the wall-to-wall mirror, and seeing how stiff I am now. Nor did I want to be around other people, twisting and shouting and swinging their hair around like they were made of supple somethings. But when Lisa said the class was at the local recreation center and not at one of the fancier studios in town, I felt less intimidated. I paid my $7.50 and went in.

I tried to stay in the back row, but Lisa called me forward. I didn’t want to move up, in case I caught my image in the mirror. I was chicken. But then a tiny, elderly nun in a navy blue track suit, still in her wimple and veil, walked past me and stood in power pose up front. I accepted her wordless challenge and moved up, at least into the middle of the room.

The music starts. My mind has no choice but to go along. It has to drop the to-do list if I’m going to keep up with the beat. I can’t take my eyes off the nun’s quick feet. The songs get faster, the lyrics more explicit, and our instructor has us stepping right, left, forwards, backwards and punching the air. Then several people in the class shout out “Yes!” when no one has asked them a question. 

About thirty minutes in, I am drinking the Kool-Aid and feeling it. I’ve left my holiday stress behind. I shake the parts of me that I can still shake. I feel loose, even sexy. I close my eyes. Then the group kicks forwards when I kick back. I hear a grunt, and turn around to see  a bearded man bent over a little. I keep moving, knowing that I may have given a hippie a charlie horse.

Two minutes later, I find my new favorite dance move. Strut to the left, then strike a pose with the back of your hand to your forehead, Scarlet O’Hara style, like you’re saying, “Alas! I cannot go on.” It’s how I feel about the world sometimes, and the holidays, but turning it into a dance pose made me laugh at myself and my unproductive despair.


This time of year, I get caught trying to keep up with the Jones: I want the holidays to be perfect. This morning, it was good to try to keep up with a tiny nun instead. Going to the dance class was my “brave over perfect” move of the week. It only cost me $7.50 and an hour of my time to change my state of being from tense to free.

Joy during the holidays is dazzling, brilliant, and magnificent. It is also fickle. One hint of a cool breeze of perfectionism, and joy leaves the building. To invite it back in, try getting out of your head and into your body. Step together step, then strike a Scarlet O’Hara pose, spin, and shake it off. I’ll see you on the dance floor.

Love,

Susie

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Image credits: featured: flickr-by David,  dancing nun: b3ta.com, fainting gesture: tvtropes.org.

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