Finding Joy

fullsizerender67Tuesday night is my favorite night of the week. Tuesday nights bring me joy and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. And sometimes bruises.

I signed up for an “Adult Jazz and Tap” class at my daughters’ dance studio. Dance is good exercise, I thought, I could learn jazz. Jazz could be fun. Although admittedly, learning tap kind of scared me. I’ve always loved watching tap, but it always looked so complicated and, well, fast. This was a risk for me, and I was filled with self-doubt.

But I’m also always telling my kids to try new things (usually it’s at the dinner table), so I guessed I should put my money where my mouth is. Literally. New tap shoe- good ones- are expensive. No joke.

I walked into that first class with butterflies in my stomach like I haven’t felt in years (except for maybe at a few PTA meetings I had to run awhile ago). We stretched and did some jazz steps across the floor, and I could feel some confidence creeping in.

Then halfway through the hour, we put on the tap shoes. Learning those first few tap steps were hard. Flap, flap, flap- I tried to make my feet move the way my instructor’s were moving, making two separate sounds for the flap. I was saying the word with two syllables, so it came out like “fuh-lap.” I must have “fuh-lapped” across the floor more than twenty times before I finally got the hang of it. But when I did, it was such a great feeling. Of course, I had to stare at my feet the whole time to make sure they were doing what my brain wanted them to do. And my hands would sometimes do this involuntary flap-thing at the wrist, almost as if that would help my feet tap out the sounds.

There are four of us moms who are “regulars” in the class, and none of us had ever taken tap lessons as kids. We laugh uninhibited and loudly, with each other, at ourselves. I laugh because I look slightly ridiculous when learning a new step, my face a mixture of focus, alarmed amazement, and/or utter and complete confusion. I laugh because we lose our balance and flail our arms, and because sometimes flailing doesn’t work and we fall over. I laugh because I have bruised my own shin learning “shuffle-off-to-Buffalo.” I laugh because sometimes we tap so slowly when we’re learning something new, that it’s the remedial pace itself that is a joke, and we resemble horses pawing at the ground.

But when we all “get it” and tap across the floor in the same rhythm, the taps loud and clear and even (I daresay?) impressive, that’s a powerful feeling of accomplishment. That is a joy- to my ears and in my heart. And I feel that joy in my smile.

We talk a lot about “being present” and “in the moment,” so much lately that I hope those phrases haven’t begun to lose their meaning, because they are so valuable. On Tuesday nights I am forced to do just that- be present. I absolutely cannot talk and tap at the same time. I can’t even think of anything else that might be going on in my life at that time. And that’s a good thing. I’m forcing myself to forget about the dinner dishes that might still be waiting for me when I get home, to forget about the errands that have to be done. For one blissful hour, I learn, and I laugh, and I tap.

From September to June we practiced and learned a tap routine. I learned that the older I get, sometimes it takes a little longer for new things to “stick.” But I also learned that repetition is essential. Lots and lots and lots of repetition. And even more repetition.

Our routine was to Michael Buble’s version of “Summer Wind,” and it was over three minutes long. If you don’t think that’s very long, I will tell you for a fact that it is indeed, a very long time. We performed in the Spring Recital, with all the other students, ages 5 through high school, all of whom had been dancing a lot longer than any of us. The applause we received that night still makes me smile. I’d like to think it was because we all have amazing rhythm and were totally in sync with our taps. But more likely, it’s because we tried something new, put ourselves on that stage, and had fun.

The funny thing is, we never learned any jazz routines. We mutually decided that we liked tap better after only a few classes. There is something immediately gratifying about making those tap sounds, giving our brains and our bodies a good workout. Even when we get frustrated, and sometimes claim that our tap shoes are “broken.”

I’ve found joy in something I’d previously dismissed as too hard, as “not my thing.” I have learned how important it is to do something just for myself. How important it can be to tune out the rest of my responsibilities for a single hour, because I come out of my Tappy Tuesday class completely recharged. I’ve learned not to underestimate how significant (and fun!) it is to learn new things, at any age.

Sometimes finding joy involves taking a risk.

“And I… I took the (road) less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

(Robert Frost)

8 thoughts on “Finding Joy

  1. Oh, how posts like this remind me of something so important – finding joy and being present, in the moment! So hard to do in a life that easily gets bogged down with responsibility and obligation. Great post, Gretchen! Looking forward to reading and gaining more inspiration and joy as your blog grows!!!

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  2. I look forward to your holiday note every year. And now there is a blog! There is something so soothing and real about the way you write. Love you!

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  3. Wow -you are my unsung hero! Not only have you found a fun new way to stay in shape, you’ve learned a fabulous skill that you can share (and perform) with your kids – how cool is that! I am so envious of your Tappy Tuesdays… and hope that I can follow suit by taking some risks of my own, following you down that road less traveled to a life filled with such joy. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself… we have much to gain from your insightful words!

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