Monday, January 26, 2009

Dancing Queen

So I did actually just watch "Mamma Mia" two weekends ago, but that isn't exactly inspiring this post. It's a few weeks of using our new YMCA membership that has my spirit tripping the light fantastic. Our local Y has an in-house babysitting program, which means that Noah can happily play with other kids and zillions of toys in a secure room with trained adults while I spend one hour moving my body as much as I can in the cardio room upstairs. This has already proven incredibly freeing and energizing for me, after two-and-a-half years of parenting without regular play groups, programs, classes, or childcare.

I quickly created a routine at the gym, half an hour on the treadmill and another twenty minutes or so on the bike machine, devouring whatever magazines were left on the shelves there. This was great for the first several visits. Although I don't necessarily have lots of baby weight to lose in terms of pounds, there has definitely been a redistribution of things since having Noah, which doesn't feel great. So I quickly was feeling hopeful about that, after a long time of lowered energy, coupled with the inevitable winter-will-never-end physical shutdown.

Then last Thursday I introduced music into my workout. I dug out my black and yellow walkman from the packed up boxes in the garage. It has a radio and tape player in it. I loaded new batteries in it. I also found my two boxes of cassette tapes, some dating back to high school, which include a wondrous stash of mixed tapes. Many of these are from college, including the music lineups from some of the best campus-wide parties. Even more are from after college, during the stretch of years when I danced at Zootz in Portland at least once a week, even after I'd moved back to central Maine.

So my first cassette selection was a mixed tape of dance music I heard at Zootz all the time in 1994. I felt a smidge self-conscious on the treadmill because the women on either side of me had tiny ipods smaller than credit cards, and were wearing ab-baring tops and shorts to my Adidas sweatpants and white men's v-neck. I felt righteous too, but old. Parenting has a way of making me feel that way at times. Used up. Not an ounce of hip left in me.

It took me two songs to figure out how to make the headphones work, which meant I missed hearing "Move This" by Technotronic, and "I Want You" by Julie Roberts, but then it kicked in when I accidentally hit a switch on the walkman that I didn't remember about. A dance beat! Loud! I started running much faster, and grinning at the memories flowing from each song. "A Deeper Love" by Aretha Franklin was poignant, as she just sang at the Presidential Inauguration earlier in the week. My heart was working much faster, and endorphins flooded my brain. I was dancing and running, and fantasized about everyone in the gym noticing how attractive and hip I really am, and giving me an ipod as a group gift so that I wouldn't have to listen to the old walkman any more. It's amazing how music and dancing can torch up the inner flame. I used to feel this way when I'd go out, caring less about whether I interacted with other people all that much, and more about getting this natural buzz going. I used to go to Zootz and dance from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. straight without stopping, and usually without alcohol.

I felt like I could run on the treadmill forever, even though I had to tap the right ear piece regularly to keep the sound streaming on that side. "Life" by Haddaway. Ace of Base, often described at that time as the next ABBA, but really, not so much. I went a half hour, and then the walkman ate my tape when the first side ended. I had to slow to a fast-walk so I could pull on the ribbon and get the twist out. I felt a smidge self-conscious again. Proud and embarrassed to be so old-school. But I fixed it, and ran again. "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I wondered if Mark Wahlburg looks back fondly on his beginnings. It's a great song, and I ran another twenty minutes. I picked up Noah downstairs in a state of total euphoria, and recreated this bliss for myself on Friday, and Sunday.

So, all to say that in the frozen wasteland that is Maine right now, the passion exists again. These few weeks of getting physical have helped me recapture a small amount of that old strut after way too many years. It's not just parenting, and the stress of going back and forth from feeling that glow of parenting a perfect child to wanting to commit terrible violence to myself so they'll have to take me away from here in an ambulance. It's years before, of doing difficult violence prevention work, dating people who didn't dance, seeing my wardrobe change from mostly interesting clothing to mostly conservative, growing up and leaving clubbing behind... But it's amazing what dancing did for my body, and how it elevates me. Latest lesson learned. If anyone out there is feeling less than, find that song that rips it up, and let it move you.