Getting Back Into Dancing

Now that much of the chaos of the past year is gone — buying a house, moving, settling in to a new town, meeting people, fixing things that need to be fixed — I’m gradually getting back into exercise. There is still much to do around the house, such as having a garage build and a bit of landscaping done, but on the days when no one is here working, there is certainly no reason for me not to exercise. Except laziness, of course, but that’s not a reason, just an excuse.

Nor is having all the stuff that was once in my garage piled into the back room (aka enclosed porch, aka exercise room) a reason. It finally dawned on me if I removed the folding table and chairs from my dining area, I have a perfectly acceptable workout space. Even better, it’s warmer than the back room.

So, having run out of excuses, I’ve had no other option than to exercise.

It’s appalling how quickly one loses flexibility when one has not been exercising or even stretching. (“One” meaning me, of course.) Yikes. I can still get down on the floor, so it won’t be long before I get some flexibility back. Meantime, I’ve been having fun practicing belly dance steps.

From the first time I took a belly dance class, I thought it would be a perfect way for me to get in shape because it seems more intuitive — more natural — than other dances. (Ballet, for example, is known for going against nature, and it certainly went against my nature, though I did work to the best of my ability.) Although I loved the belly dance class, I became disenchanted because so much of the class time was taken up with performance talk and costume planning. What was left of the hour went to learning and practicing a routine, so there was not much time dedicated to basics.

Since I can now schedule my own “class,” I am focusing on basics. I’m curious to see if a concerted effort at this sort of exercise will have the benefits I hope for, but if not, well . . . dancing. Dancing in itself is a benefit. Every step I take, every move I make is a blessing, and I am grateful to still be ambulatory, still breathing on my own, still fairly active. (I was going to say “spry,” but I’m not old enough yet to be spry.)

I do miss the energy of choreographed dancing with a group — it always seemed I could do more than when I was by myself, but I don’t miss performing.

I did my first belly dance performance with the group only a few months after I starting taking classes, and though I was no slimmer then than I am now, I was okay with it — I had a fabulous costume, a flattering wig, and a great attitude: “This is who I am. Deal with it.” As time went on, I lost that attitude, and so performing became more of a chore and less of a joy, though I did retain the love of dancing for dancing’s sake.

Of all dance forms, belly dance seems to lend itself to solo dancing, to pulling energy from the soul rather than the spirit of a group, to being one with one’s body. It helps that I’m not dancing in front of a mirror — I can feel young and beautiful and graceful without the unpalatable truth glaring at me.

Once the garage is built and my back room available to me once more, I will be able to do some barre work, maybe some tap or jazz, and perhaps even Hawaiian. Until then, there’s me, a veil, an open floor, and belly dance.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Life, Death, and Dancing

I’ve gotten so used to living my uncoupled life, that I seldom stop anymore to think of what has happened to get me where I am, and yet, this past week, I did marvel at the strangeness of it all.

If Jeff hadn’t died . . .

If I hadn’t gone to take care of my nonagenarian father . . .

If I hadn’t stopped by a dance studio to inquire about classes . . .

And so there I was, all last week, in rehearsals for dance performances that would take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Me? Rehearsals? Dance performance? Remarkable.

This might not seem strange to people who have only known me in the post-Jeff phase of my life where I have become rather adventuresome in a small sort of way, but before that, I lived a quiet life, a bookish life. I have always tried new things and looked for challenges, but never have I gone so far out of myself as I have in these solitary years. I suppose it makes sense — all comfort died with Jeff, so it doesn’t make that much difference if I am comfortable or not.

Oddly, though, I was perfectly comfortable performing this weekend, though I still remember how hard it was in the beginning to push through the discomfort and be able to even think about dancing in front of a crowd.

(I’m second from the left, costumed for “Rejoice” from The Wiz.)

I sometimes wonder what the person I was all those years ago would think about the future she is living, but I’m glad she didn’t know. It’s taken many painful years to get to this point, and it was probably better that she didn’t see what was before her.

I should remember this when I worry about the future. Back then, I couldn’t know what my life would be like eight years in the future, so any worry would have been wasted. And perhaps it is the same now. In eight years, my life could be so different, that any worrying I do today would be wasted.

For me, then, the moral is to take each day as it comes while trying to go beyond what is comfortable, and to enjoy any accomplishments that might ensue.

All that and dancing, too!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Lonely in a Crowd

I spent most of the past three days alone, and I made an interesting discovery. It’s not being alone that makes me feel alone and lonely. It’s being with too many other people that makes me feel alone and lonely. Every grief upsurge I’ve had recently has come after spending too much time with people who don’t enrich my life. (I don’t mean you, of course!) So often when I am with others, I sit and listen. I can’t contribute anything to the conversation because they talk about things that have nothing to do with me or my life, nothing to do with anything but their own insular and insight-less agendas. So I sit. And listen. And slowly disappear.

ReadingA friend invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with  her five-generation family, which was very nice, and I was invited to dinner and a movie Friday evening, but the rest of the time, I was alone. (Didn’t even have to see or hear my strange roommate because he’s gone for the week.) Yesterday I did nothing but read. Just lolled around with a book in one hand and fruit in the other, which made it a doubly fruitful day. Today was a repeat of yesterday, though I added a hike in the desert to round out my solitary festivities.

And I never once disappeared. Never had a single pang of loneliness.

As it turns out, this isn’t such a great discovery, this realization that other people make me feel lonely, because there’s not much I can do about it. Obviously, I can’t spend my life alone. (People need people. Isn’t that the general thrust of life, love, and happiness?) I suppose I could make an effort to talk more when I am in a crowd, maybe even try to steer the conversation to make it more about me, but if I had anything to contribute, I would already be commenting. The sad truth is, I have nothing to say. (Which is why I so seldom blog any more. No insights, no interesting observations, no emotional highs or lows to ponder makes for mighty boring reading.) Admittedly, most people have no problem talking when they have nothing to say, but I have never quite mastered the art of talking to no purpose. Pointless conversation seems . . . pointless.

Anyway, this is not the week to worry about such things. My belly dance class will be performing a couple of numbers in a dance program at the local college this coming weekend. I’ll be with people most of the time — dance classes in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon or performances in the evening, so I’ll set this conundrum aside for another time and simply enjoy being part of this special event.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)