a lesson in dancing
My father taught me how to dance.
Not ballet, not tap, not jazz or hip-hop—my father taught me how to dance around people, how to tiptoe gracefully through conversations to avoid being an inconvenience, to avoid being disliked. My father taught me that I must be careful with my words, that I must be meticulous in what I say and when I say it. My father taught me how to dance in uncomfortable shoes while others stroll comfortably, my father taught me to be anxious.
My father didn't mean to teach me how to dance, but the instruction happened naturally. I learned through experience, I learned through interaction. If he was angry, I shouldn't talk, I should sit in the discomfort of his frustration. If he was tired, I shouldn't talk, I should sit and avoid being noticed. If he was frustrated, I shouldn't talk, I should anticipate his needs and act accordingly. If he was happy, I could talk, I could say words so long as they were packaged appropriately. I had to dance my way through my childhood, and I became good at it, I became so good at it. There's a verbal filter that permanently examines the words I intend to say, there's a sense of restraint that guides my limbs and guides my actions. I thank my father for teaching me how to dance.
My father also gave me intentional lessons: my father taught me how to fish and how to ride a bike; my father taught me how to pitch a tent and start a campfire; my father taught me how to use a saw and how to ski down steep terrain; my father taught me how to drive over alpine passes and how to whittle.
My father taught me how to survive in the wilderness while simultaneously teaching me how to survive in everyday interactions. It's funny—I don't need to dance in nature, and when I'm alone with the trees and flowers I smile and sit down, I take off the pointe shoes and rest for a moment. But when I go back—and I always go back—I put those pointe shoes back on, I dance through life, I bend and sway to the wishes and needs of others.
My father taught me how to dance, which is funny, since he's no ballerina, since he's not very graceful himself.
My father isn't a bad person, and he's improved through the years, but he taught me how to dance and I do not know how to stop.
My feet are sore and my body aches. I wish I could rest, but I know I cannot stop until the performance has finished.