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.)

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