I went dancing the other night!
Over the past couple of years, I've had some measure of success in overcoming a lot of the psychological and sociological remnants of my previous life, including many of those related to male/female interactions, but being able to freely dance in a mixed crowd was something I hadn't been able to muster up the courage to do. The one time I did do it, I was very uncomfortable with myself the entire time, and have avoided it ever since. There's a variety of issues playing out in my head that's holding me back, but for some time I've been making efforts to overcome them, and so last week when I found myself near an establishment that hosts a bi-weekly dance night, I decided to step in and see what it was like. I had heard about it from a number of friends who had encouraged me to try it out, and knew it wasn't anything I'd find objectionable (no bump-and-grind, inappropriate provocative stuff, etc.), but I still had been pushing it off for a while. Now that I was right there, I figured I'd just step in briefly, take a look around, feel the atmosphere, enjoy a little music, and leave. But as I was sitting there on the side, watching everyone just let themselves go so freely, I decided that I had to at least try it a little bit. So I did, feeling awkward and uncomfortable, sure that everyone was watching me make a fool of myself. Maybe they were, maybe not, I don't know, but after a while, I felt myself gradually escaping the constricting limitations of my mind that were preventing me from enjoying myself. I don't really know how to dance, and I probably looked kind of silly to anyone that really cared to notice, but everyone there was just so free about it all, moving in any which way they pleased, that I found myself getting caught up in it all, just letting my body express what the music was doing to my heart.
So I danced and danced and danced. For three hours. It felt good. And it felt good to finally be able to be there, past that point that was holding me back.
Most of the crowd was fairly young, mid to late 20's, and there was a fair number of kipa's (which I realized later might not accurately reflect the actual demographic, as I eventually stuffed mine in my pocket after it kept flying off), but there was one girl there that was distinctly different from the rest of the group. She was dressed in a way that suggested she was probably quite a bit more religious than the rest of the crowd (or rather, that she typically associated with a more religious society), both by the style she wore and the fact that she had a long skirt and sleeves that extended past her elbows. She didn't seem to be there with anyone. But most noticeable was the fact that as she moved, her demeanor was not like the rest of the dancers. She was stiff, not as uninhibited as the regulars, and somewhat self-conscious, glancing around at the others around her every so often. I had never seen this girl before in my life, and had very little to base it on, but I was willing to bet anything that what was going in that girl's head was an exact reflection of what was occurring that very same moment in mine. I so wanted to go over to her and just tell her, "I know exactly how you feel. So let's dance together!" I didn't do that, figuring it probably would have done way more harm than good. Thankfully, just like I managed to do, she eventually seemed to loosen up and let herself go appropriately. I couldn't help wondering how the night's experience affected her, and if it was as significant a breakthrough for her as it was for me.
There was one other amazing thing that happened that night. At one point in the dancing, I noticed a guy in a wheelchair wheel himself into the room, and as he got closer I was able to see that he was missing both his legs. Such a thing is a heartbreaking sight to see, and I felt it stir in me that rare emotion of appreciation people sometimes feel for the good health they may be fortunate to have. But he seemed to know a number of people there, and was in good spirits, so it wasn't putting too much of a damper on my mood. The guy then rolled his wheelchair to the periphery of the dance area, and all of a sudden just started swinging his arms and head around in every direction, wildly, uncontrollably! And for a second I thought to myself, "What the hell is wrong with that guy?", until a moment later, it dawned on me: He was dancing! This was the only way he could do it; to let himself go like we were able to; to let himself just be carried away by the music. It was such a moving sight that I had to stop and just let myself take it in for a few minutes. As I watched him flail about with complete and total utter abandon, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. The guy had no legs, and he was dancing his heart out. Unbelievable.