How would you complete the statement: I stopped dreaming when… Have you ever considered that? Considered even what your dreams are? Or do you live in a closed off or fearful place where dreaming seems frivolous and unproductive? Do you perhaps consider that if you were to share your dreams with another that they might be met with ridicule and thus the dreams snatched out of your realm or buried deeper inside your psyche?
“I stopped dreaming when…” is part of an exercise I have participated in dozens of times. The goal is to just let the words flow and find their rhythm until you stop thinking about what you are saying. For many sessions the things that popped out of my mouth were based on childhood experiences that gradually moved upward through my adult years. And then several months ago, I was demonstrating this process and out popped “I stopped dreaming when I couldn’t dance.”
These words came out with a ferocity that surprised both the partner with whom I was working and especially me (probably me more so, because I had no clue from where they came.) Today, I started to write “while I have always enjoyed dancing” and then realized that is not really true. I thought I wanted to tap dance when I was about 5, but I think that was more a product of my mother’s urging. I did, however, really love the shiny black shoes with the wonderful clicking heels. I quickly decided though that I much preferred staying home to watch “The Three Stooges” and “Tarzan” on television over the discipline and embarrassment it took to learn the complicated steps in dance class.
I also grew up in the age where social dancing consisted of sock hops at which couples bobbed up and down to the beat of the music individually or else draped their arms around each other when the rhythm slowed enough to warrant closer contact. A neighborhood friend had aspirations to be a ballerina and occasionally worked with me to learn the five positions of her classical dance. I was never too sad when I couldn’t do them perfectly and definitely did not long for more time at the barre.
In middle school I made an embarrassing attempt to learn how to move and do a flip so I could try out for cheerleader. The results were near humiliating and I opted for cheering in the pep club instead of gyrating on the sidelines. Growing older I talked my first husband into a couple of “hustle” lessons, and later, my second into an evening of ballroom classes with other friends. Each time there was no lasting commitment and no lingering loss after the lessons stopped. I do, however, love a really great (and sometimes not so great) dance movie. My heart always sings when I watch the likes of “Dirty Dancing,” “Strictly Ballroom” or “Shall We Dance?”
All of this to say, I do not really consider the actual act of dancing to be what I was referring to in my exercise outburst. It feels bigger than dancing to me. It feels representative of something deep in my soul. It feels like a rhythm lost or possibly a dream or a gigantic culmination of loss. It feels like a loss that is sometimes too big for words. Even this writing feels really big for these pages. It does not feel despairing, but more like a mystery to be considered. It seems like much more to be explored which is exactly what I plan to do. In the meantime, however, I would love to know how you would finish this statement: I stopped dreaming when…
collage by lucy