Dance Me Through The Panic

It was the year after I stopped teaching in the spring. The spring of 2011. I hadn’t had a drink in  more 30 years and I didn’t this night either, but the night was still one of the most frightening, confusing and disorienting nights of my life.

A friend of mine from my dancing days in the 1990s was calling a dance in Bloomington, Indiana and I drove down to have dinner with her and go to the dance. I palled around with a bunch of gals from Cincinnati when I was dancing.  The dance culture is organized around weekends and these women and a few other friends were  my home group. We stayed at each other’s houses, pitched tents together, and even crowded into hotel rooms together when the situation called for it. Darlene was one of my best pals.

So, I am in the middle of a depressive episode when I head out to Bloomington. I was already taking meds for depression, but this episode was far bigger than any meds I could take or even imagine.

I got there late, very fatigued. I parked off the square on a side street, and we ate at a restaurant downtown. After dinner, I headed back to my car before realizing I had no idea where I had parked. I became frantic and started running and fell, separating the bone in my little finger from where it connects at the wrist.

Finally, somehow I find the car. Only to discover that the keys are locked inside.  I try to call a locksmith but discover he can’t come until the next day. I try to take a cab to the dance but discover I have no cash. I search and search until I find an ATM for some money.

I get a few dollars and am relieved for a minute or two before I realize I left my card in ATM and the machine has eaten it  I take a cab to the dance. at least my body does. My pants are covered in blood stains so I spend the night trying to hide. Finally, I just sit there. I am so frantic.  Dance me through the panic, till I’m gathered safely in, Leonard Cohen sings.

Darlene loans me the money to get a room and stays with me until the locksmith comes the next afternoon. I drive to Chicago happy to be moving but even with all the caring help, I feel defeated beyond words.

Since that night in Bloomington, I have grown a little better at knowing if I am lost or found and if I am lost, just how lost I am. I stay in place through habits. Without them, my life falls apart easily and I find myself anxious and angry. Moves are very tricky for me. This week was tough. I stopped working with my trainer last week, and he was an important element in organizing my week. Without anchors and dealing with a seemingly endless  of calls to make, and things to  remember to do today, and then the inevitability of a tomorrow when I would have to do it all over again, I have floated in and out of anxiety.

A hard week. When I was child, I was afraid of elevators. My father worked out this method to get me through my anxiety. He allowed me to pinch his leg from the time the elevator began to move until it stopped. I am sure that this must have been painful for him, but he never let on. So, with his strong heart beating out my time, I make my way through another of life’s in-betweens and place this prayer in the Chicago winds: Lift me like an olive branch, be my homeward dove. . . .and dance me to the end of love.

(This post began as an email to my friend Lynne Butler, and, due to her response and efforts, it remains largely as the email was written. Between us, we made a few changes, but very few.  As always, I thank her for her wisdom and guidance.)

20 thoughts on “Dance Me Through The Panic

  1. You know when I got the email I just couldn’t believe that night. It was such a crazy good example of what happens when were in such a state that our brains and bodies get completely separated and the universe decides to put all it’s pesky little pranksters in our way just for good measure. Obviously I love this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This wouldn’t exist without you and to have in the middle of an agonizing argument to still find some good is a remarkable feat. I owe this one to your vision. Thank you for this and everything else as well over many years.


  2. Love this piece, which has a sparse poignancy that is so effective. Have had experience of not being able to find my car, mostly in large parking lots, tho also on streets. Terrifying. You are grateful when you find the car; however, then other things go haywire. Scary. I’m sure I misplaced my car a few times when visiting my old boyfriend who lived in Chicago. Best wishes on your journey..

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I bought a house here back in the 90s, I locked myself about seven times. Found a way in every time, but the seventh when I had to break a glass. After that, I worked out a solution. You have to learn to laugh at yourself sometime or remembering these things would drive us nuts.


  3. I really wanted people to have the freedom in reading this to also see the humor in the situation. We stripped it down to give the reader greater freedom so if it made you smile, don’t be afraid to let me know. If I hadn’t learned to laugh at myself sometime, I would surely be crazy by now. One of my closest friends also pointed out how lucky I am to have had women in my life like Darlene and Lynne. There is grace in even the craziest of lives and I am grateful for her.


  4. I’m going to comment here because I know you’re sensitive to criticism. From a creative writer’s standpoint, there’s telling a story and showing one. You told a good story. But it felt like you were in a hurry to tell it because it lacked the lyrical quality of your other blogs. Possibly because you’re not that emotionally attached to the incident, it was just a good story to tell.

    Plus, a boatload of typos.

    Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe that’s all you intended to do, but would go back and fix the typos either way.

    Off to tutor teens this morning. Thanks for greasing my wheels!


    Date: Sun, 20 Sep 2015 13:44:40 +0000 To:

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think of you as a quality reader and writer who knows her stuff. I am most embarrassed by the typos. Was trying something new here and it’s going to take me some time to get some perspective on it. Trust me, I won’t forget what you have told me and I think you for being willing to be bold. That’s not easy to do. You do it for so many good causes, it may come easier for you. Still, whether it is easier or hard, on spot or off, I thank you for willingness to engage me. I promise not to kick the jukebox.


  5. As I read your account, an image popped into my head of van Gogh’s Starry Night, which for me stands in for all those phantasmagoric experiences we call “panic attacks.” They’re really terror attacks, and even someone else’s description of one tightens my chest just a bit. . . . But you have a family of readers and friends wishing you well and anticipating with you the discoveries that lie ahead. It’s a terrible cliche, I suppose. Still.

    I plan to stay anchored today by cleaning house and washing clothes. Whatever works.

    My best to you, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, so locking your keys in the car is an old habit and one that occurs frequently. I should have known. When I was in the army I was assigned as a company clerk just out of basic training. My boss, Capt. Weaver, found a record, “IT’S ALL IN THE GAME,” and insisted I play in whenever he arrived for duty in the morning. It was a story of pain and suffering and resembles your blog in many ways. I find that my dreams these days are pretty much like your blog. I can’t find my car. I can never find my classroom and I can never tee up the golf ball to hit it. I think here was gross dis appointment in our lives.


  7. There’s a context here that is important. In 1985, I was a visiting lecturer at SIU for a few weeks. Marvin remembers me for locking my keys in my car. He was the dean of the college and was involved and was helpful in untying me from my own knots.


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