Once upon a time, I moved to the beat of an invisible drum, swaying and twirling whenever the music took me. I sang without shame and danced with abandon, moving for the sheer joy of it.
But all too soon, the music screeched to a halt.
I became aware of my body. Ashamed of its awkwardly moving parts and lack of rhythm. My goal became to blend in at all costs. To never lose control where anyone could see—and in seeing, point and laugh.
And so I stopped dancing.
Sure, there were a few exceptions. I politely shuffled at a few school dances. Swayed during slow numbers at a few more. I danced a bit at my wedding (where no one would dare laugh at me) and a bit more at those of friends.
But I always felt…stiff. Awkward. Unnatural.
Fast forward a decade or two. I’ve spent the last four hours making new friends on a rooftop in San Diego. Had a glass of wine (or three). And maybe even a whiskey sour (or two).
I enter a dark room pulsating with the bass from the sound system on stage. Hundreds of women are gyrating on the dance floor, spinning their glow sticks around their bodies as they twirl.
Laughter swirls up to the ceiling. Delighted, half-drunken hoots and screeches are swallowed by the night air, but not before they light the smiles on the faces of those around them.
For a moment, I hover on the edge of the seething throng, standing motionless. After all, I may be drinking, but I’m not drunk. And there are people here. I can’t dance.
But then someone grabs my hand and pulls me into the vortex.
I look around. At the heads thrown back, the arms flung wide, and the grins spreading from face to face. And I realize it’s okay. No one’s judging me. No one cares what I look like or how I move. They’re all lost in the joy of the evening. In the power that comes from being surrounded by a few thousand women who understand you.
And so I begin to move. Tentatively at first, but then more freely. Then as Lady Gaga’s voice rallies the women around me into another rendition of the lunchtime flash mob, I give up any remaining sense of propriety and surrender to the music.
I dance. I dance and I dance and I dance, smiling and laughing and waving at my friends. And somewhere deep inside me, something shifts. The wound that’s been festering since that first tumble to earth so long ago begins to heal.
For a few hours, I am free.
Eventually, I stumble back to my room and tumble into bed. But even as my mind escapes to dreamland, a smile remains on my lips and a song plays in my heart.
Because now I know. I can still dance.