Give me my music back!

The day my husband told me he was leaving I called a friend and asked her to meet me for lunch. I wasn’t hungry, but I had to talk to someone. I don’t remember any of the specific songs playing on the radio as I drove to the restaurant, but most likely more than half of them made me cry. I love music. I’ve tried driving around without playing the radio, and I can’t do it. Music usually makes me feel better. When I’m dragging and need a pick-me-up, I usually turn the stereo or radio up real loud and soon I’m bouncing around like the Energizer bunny.

Even before the breakup there were two or three songs guaranteed to make me cry. Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven definitely tops the list. I can’t imagine going on living after losing a child much less writing and singing a song about it. I love Eric Clapton, but I have to hit the off button when this song comes on or I will turn into a blubbering mess.

Another song that causes me to reach for the Kleenex and the power switch is Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band because it reminds me of my Dad who passed away years ago and our long unresolved issues.

From that fateful Valentine’s day on, there were very few songs playing on the radio that didn’t make me cry. After a week or so of crying while driving, I finally gave up and  turned the dial to news radio. It was much more soothing to listen to news of the failing economy, political scandals and local crimes than any of the love songs I usually listened to.

There were a couple of songs that really hit me especially hard and still do. One of the worst was 1,2,3,4 by the Plain White T’s. When the song first came out, our daughter had teased her Dad for downloading the song to his Ipod. (She obviously thought he was too old for hip music.)  I didn’t necessarily think he was thinking about me when he listened to the song, but I certainly didn’t imagine he was thinking of someone else. Now, that’s all I can think of when I hear that song.

I’m a little embarrassed to say Avril Lavigne’s When You’re Gone was another tear jerker for me. There’s nothing like a surprise separation to make you feel like a pimply-faced, love-sick teenager again.

Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now would send me running to the liquor cabinet no matter what time of the day or night it was. It helped me feel really justified in imbibing, but Billy Vera’s At This Moment would turn on the tears and convince me I could sing. Not a good combination.

Obviously, I could go on and on with my list of songs. Now, I love my satellite radio, but sometimes I really needed either a commercial break or even a good pledge drive to give me a break from the memories dredged up by love songs on the radio.

Eventually, it was actually my dance lessons that gave me my music back. I found after a few weeks of lessons that instead of listening to the words of the songs I was listening to the beat and trying to figure out what dance you would do to a particular song. Now I can drive across town listening to music the whole way–until that is Leader of the Band or Tears in Heaven comes on.

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Dancing Without Stars

I’ve wanted to take dance lessons for years, and, Dancing With the Stars has just fueled that desire. Over the years,  I’ve  asked my husband several times to take dance lessons with me, but he always responded “We don’t need lessons, you just need to learn to feel the beat.” I “felt the beat” when he told me recently (on Valentine’s Day) he was unhappy and was moving out of our home after 26 years of marriage.

After the initial shock wore off, I decided to do a few things for myself that I had been wanting to do for years, but kept putting off either because it cost too much or I didn’t feel right about taking the time for myself.

I screwed up my courage and called the local Arthur Murray studio for an introductory ballroom dance lesson. I was excited, but also incredibly apprehensive. At the top of my list of anxieties was my lack of coordination. The idea of stumbling across a dance floor with a complete stranger horrified me. It’s bad enough to stomp on the toes of the man you married, but a complete stranger? My second concern also involved the partner. Frankly, I expected a smarmy, aging taskmaster with a bad case of halitosis—basically Fred Astaire in living color. I know Fred Astaire had charm and grace. It’s wonderful to watch him dance in the movies, but I never really understood what Ginger Rogers saw in the man.

My next concern was what shoes to wear. I very seldom wear high heels. When I do they are usually sensible heels with crepe soles. At almost 5’8” I’ve never become very comfortable in heels, and besides my feet are at least as old as the rest of me and have seen better days. Let’s just say I have the podiatrist on speed dial. I spend most of my days in tennis shoes, but I knew those wouldn’t really cut it for dancing. I dug through my closet and even prowled a few shoe stores looking for a suitable dancing pair. I eventually settled on walking in to the studio in my tennis shoes and carrying a pair of heels that I have worn to the occasional wedding. These shoes start off fairly comfortable, but after an hour or so Cinderella is kicking them off under the table and counting the minutes till she can go home.

Because my Cinderella shoes were sandals, I was also concerned about the condition of my feet. My pedicure appointments are often few and far between. It had probably been more than a month since my last pedicure, so my feet were beginning to show some wear. (Even with a pedicure, they aren’t much to look at.) I convinced myself that it wouldn’t matter. After all, no one would be looking at my feet.

I’m not sure to this day what gave me the nerve to walk through the door of the Arthur Murray studio that day. Sometimes I think it was knowing that my soon to be ex’s office was just down the street and I was spending “his” money on something for me. Anyway, something propelled me through the door. The staff was very friendly and welcoming from the very beginning. My instructor on that first day was James. He was very unlike the visions I had of an Arthur Murray instructor. He was young, looked nothing like Fred Astaire, and was very warm and engaging. We talked some about why I was thinking of taking dance lessons, what dances I particularly wanted to learn, and a little about me personally.

James seemed genuinely interested and very in tune to my needs. I didn’t tell him a lot about what was going on with me personally at first, but as we danced and talked I revealed more and more about my personal problems.  I’m a fairly private person, so it was very unlike me to reveal so much of my private life to a stranger. But James seemed genuinely interested and I think it actually helped that he wasn’t an acquaintance who knew the ins and outs of my marriage. He was hearing it all for the first time and didn’t seem to be making judgments. I was also surprised that I could talk about the separation without crying. I hadn’t been able to do that since my husband left.  I had actually avoided telling very many of my friends and relatives because I didn’t want to burst into tears.

After several minutes of dancing and getting to know each other, James stopped looked down at my feet and asked. “Who does your toes?”  I winced. How stupid to think that no one would be looking at my feet during a dance lesson.

At the end of the lesson, James gave me an assessment of my abilities and told me a little of what he thought they could do to help me feel more comfortable on the dance floor. (There was no mention of needing to feel the beat, although it would rear its ugly head later.) There were several options to choose from (including not taking any lessons at all). Normally, I would have gone for the cheapest option—the safest involving the least commitment. However, this time was different. Spurred on by rejection and spite, I signed up for the biggest, most expensive plan. For one of the first times in my life, I jumped in with both feet unafraid of the consequences (at least initially). I knew this was something I wanted and something I deserved. I made an appointment for my next class and walked out with my head held a little higher.  I would be taking two to three private lessons a week, attending group lessons twice a week and practice parties on Friday nights. I had a plan to learn to dance. There was no looking back.  My only regret was that a friend had asked me to wait to take lessons until she could afford to take them with me. I had selfishly signed up alone. I think it was one of those times that it was either now or never. If I didn’t go through with it now, I might never get around to it. (Stay tuned for the next installment.)