When I was seven, I was expelled from ballet class for lack of coordination and absence of rhythm. The ballet teacher wasn’t being cruel; she was being realistic.
I have never been able to dance. I watch other people dance and it seems so effortless. But when I try it myself, I look like Elaine in the infamous Seinfeld episode featured above. Actually, she dances better than I do.
Needless to say, I seldom dance in public. I don’t dance in private either. Even alone, I am so self-conscious of how poorly I dance that I can’t enjoy it. It’s not just dancing. I have difficulty clapping to a beat. If there is a gene for rhythm, clearly, I am missing it. Only my foot stomping seems unimpaired.
That is why I love walking. For decades, I have walked to music, first to cassette tapes and now to MP3 music. When I walk, my body seems to know how to keep time to the music, or maybe it doesn’t, but I am so wrapped up in the sensations of movement and music that I don’t care. I swing my arms wide, I raise them up high, I wave them in slow circles. I may look ridiculous, but I love it.
Did I mention that I also sing while I walk? My singing is almost as bad as my dancing. I never sing in public… unless I am walking. Then I sing loudly and gloriously. Sometimes I sing to the melody, sometimes I create harmony. Wearing headphones, I can’t hear the outside world, so I imagine they can’t hear me. This assumption is wrong, of course, as the many stares I receive bear witness. I have seen people smile at me. I have seen people pull their children closer as I pass, lest I be both dangerous and crazy. I don’t care. Nothing embarrasses me when I am walking.
I’ve given much thought recently to the concept of mindfulness, of being totally in the moment. I confess that I am not mindful in most aspects of life. Too frequently, I mentally multi-task, thinking of one thing even as I am doing something else. But not when I walk.
When I walk, I am totally in the moment. It is just me, the music and the sound. It is exhilarating to do something that you love mindfully. Though I am not religious, it is while I am walking that I feel most spiritual, most grateful to be alive.
So I am OK with my ballet teacher; I bear her no ill feeling. I may not experience the same joy as others do when I dance, but in my mind, I am always in tune and on beat when I walk. I walk joyfully. I walk exuberantly. I walk like no one is watching.