The Rewards Of Discomfort

When my voice is cracking on the high notes of a song I have chosen to sing in a foreign language and I am stumbling over the alien steps of a ballroom dancing class, I can be  certain that I have moved out of my comfort zone. Is this a good thing? Can it be helpful – even refreshing – to release the comfortable mediums of expression one is secure in and risk the natural awkwardness that comes with something new?

I was high on a mocha latte and good conversation with my friend, Lou Ann, when I stopped by the Mary C O’Keefe Center and signed up for the classes. Not that I hadn’t been pondering this action for some time… I had been watching Dancing With The Stars for years with interest and some pleasure. I especially like to see the progress of some of the older stars and those for whom dance has been an alien thing thus far. I am definitely in the older catagory, though I have been a dancer  for most of my life. It is the social aspect – and the partnering – that requires my courage to kick in and face the music (certainly not classical) and the room full of strangers. The accomplished dancer and teacher of umpteen million years has to swallow whatever pride still lingers and be a bumble-butt as she learns the waltz, the tango, etc. The box-like structure of this “waltz” bears no resemblence to the free-form waltz I have leaned ecstatically into when dancing to The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss. Oh the pain of restraint, of practicing the upright posture while partnered by a small bouncy elf or a tall suave guy who keeps reminding me that it’s his job to lead.  Yes… Swallow, darling. You can handle anything for an hour. And you know how you’ve always  loved a challenge.

This sounds like my mother speaking, and I guess it is true. In a poem Mama wrote for my birthday back in the early eighties – when I had taken up residence in New York City with my two children, three cats, and barely enough in my bank account to pay the first month’s rent – she celebrates her dancer daughter’s daring.

Sometimes I catch you up

at the still point where seasons meet

or night greets day.

And feel the flow of power,

the poise of peace.

Is it because you go with the earth’s spin?

Travel the paths of bird?

Run with the tide?

Were you born to the tick of creation’s clock?

I bore you; I should know.

What a surprise to find that you were there!

No long and wearing passage

to the world

with soggy pain and weariness –

One sudden clap of thunder –

“A girl-child -”

your father said.

“Still she is Leif,

Discoverer, Braver of new shores,

All for the braving’s sake -”

No seeker after gold or spice –

They come to her as adjuncts of her call

to sail this sea -”

 ” All for the braving’s sake… ” Dearest Mama… Such faith allowed her to overlook the shyness that plagued me from early childhood, or maybe she simply understood that only a degree of impulsive braving allowed her child to overcome the tendency to hide  from the world.  The poem was written thirty years ago when dreams were grander and my mother was still physically present with her encouragement. I’m not so sure how she’d feel about ballroom dancing. She might raise a brow at the oddity of it, but as for the singing, she herself taught me the song that presently challenges my voice. The song is Oh Holy Night, but sung in French. We were driving back from taking my sister to Delta State Teacher’s College. My brothers had been left at home, so it was just Mama and me. The drive was long. Wise mother and teacher that she was, she took it upon herself to teach me Minuit Cretiens. I was ten or eleven and basking in the attention. I have never forgotten the words or my tired, sweet mama’s patience as I learned and sang them. So, Mama… I brave the high notes again – for you.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “The Rewards Of Discomfort”

  1. Kendall Says:

    All for the braving’s sake. What a lovely perception of a brave young woman…who has become a brave woman and is still braving new shores. I hope one day I can hear you sing Minuit Cretiens.

  2. Christopher Says:

    Thanks, Leif, for the brave and funny news from the ballroom and for the wonderful poem by your mother. I linger on that image of “the still point where seasons meet / or night greets day.” I think of the seams of a river. I wish someone would publish a little book of her poems. I love the calm joy of the poetry and prose she wrote late in life. Selecting the very best would be a delicious task.

  3. leiflife Says:

    Thank you, Kendall, for seeing and affirming the brave – and for believing in new shores and in me.

  4. leiflife Says:

    Hello Cristopher… Thanks for appreciating the humor in this post and its subject matter. Yes… Mama’s poems are special and worthy of publication. A delicious task… I wish it were that simple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: