I feel as if time has sped up and, in many ways, is leaving me behind. I’m not sure when the change in pace began—or why—but suddenly the buds on the maple tree outside of my front window have changed to fiery red leaves. Suddenly, my younger cousins are saying “I do” and changing their last names. And, yes, suddenly, I am at the end of my twenties.
Getting older isn’t the problem; I am still here, living, breathing—and that in itself is a miracle. I have earned every scar on my body, every frown line on my forehead. No, the problem is not my age or the dreams deferred or altogether lost to cancer. The problem, when I stop long enough to really think about it, is the pace of this life. I feel dizzy, like a dog spinning around after its own tail, trying desperately to check off everything on my daily “to do” list. I am so busy, even, that I am missing not only the finer details—for instance, the way the poplar leaves are falling like golden confetti on the sidewalk—but the bigger moments, too, like the fact that Wallace the Wonderful and I now share a home with a man that is, I swear, the best thing since pancakes with cheddar cheese on top.
How does this happen? How can we be alive and not present in our own lives? How can we stop the dizziness?
I recently took up English Country Dancing. Joining the dance group is, clearly, an extension of my love for Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride & Prejudice and my obsession with the 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley. There’s something magical about donning a Regency-inspired gown. There’s something that defies time in the clap and thud of footsteps on a hardwood floor.
Am I good at English Country Dance? No. I struggle with knowing my left from my right (which I plan on remedying by buying initial rings, one “R” and one “L” and wearing them to every practice session and ball).
Is English Country Dance part of my career plan? Certainly not. I am not going to get rich by mastering moves such as the “set” or the “Duke of Kent”. There isn’t a future for me in dance, but there is fun.
And, that, I think is the first way to halt the “dizziness”: make time for fun. Schedule it if you have to, but stop the endless career planning, house-cleaning, familial obligations for just one second and do something that makes you feel alive. Step outside of your routines and take a long, steadying breath. Center.
Finding center, of course, is not as easy as it sounds. It’s taken years of practicing yoga to realize that “centering” isn’t just about breathing and finding calm in a stressed body; it’s also about mental and spiritual alignment.
What is important to you?
Where is your heart?
What makes you feel alive?
Those are difficult questions to answer, and even having the answers doesn’t automatically guarantee a prolonged sense of center, calm. It’s all too easy to be pulled away from what matters to us—to grow dizzy from competing obligations and interests. Maybe it shouldn’t be as surprising as it is, but English Country Dance provided some insight into this, too.
My first experience with English Country Dance was at the Macomb Ball this past September. One of the many incredible events included in the annual Battle of Plattsburgh celebrations, attending the ball had been on my bucket list since 2011. Although it took me five years to summon the courage to actually attend, the wait was worth it; the ball was everything I had hoped it would be. The gowns, the vaulted ceiling of the ballroom, the music—it was magical.
It should be noted that I had no intention of dancing. I just wanted to watch the ball unfold, like a scene from Pride & Prejudice. Instead, I was pulled out onto the dance floor by one of the callers (aka instructors) and encouraged to take my first steps as a dancer.
“If you get dizzy,” my dance partner advised after a spin or two, “it helps to keep eye contact.”
There are moments in this life, amidst our regular routines, that are so vivid, so infused with color and sound, that even as they are unfolding you know that they’re important, that they mean something. That moment—when my dance partner uttered those words—I knew I had been offered something important, something that had applications beyond the ballroom.
We get dizzy sometimes—with the pace of our lives, the obligations and cares that often preoccupy us. And in the midst of all of that, when breath seems short, refocus. Keep eye contact with what means the most to you, where your center lies. It won’t stop the dizziness from happening in the first place, but it might make the room stop spinning for a little bit.
So, as this week unfolds with its three article deadlines and all the other obligations on my plate, I may just have to slip on my dance shoes, practice my “set”, and remember to keep my eyes focused on all that is near and dear to my heart.