Dancing in Public
[This blog will show to have been created on Monday, September 12, but it's really 5:15 A.M. on Saturday the 10th. Monday is simply the next time I'll be around a computer this AlphaSmart can talk to.]
Before July 23 I worried about dancing in public with my son at his wedding. I've shown you one picture. I've seen others of that momentous event. You know what? I've been surprised at how happy I was to dance in public. I wasn't just happy during the dancing. While I was beaming, David would tell you there was still a part of me that was self-conscious, that wanted the dance to be over. The me I've seen in all the pictures of that day though didn't care what the rest of the world thought about me, wasn't thinking about the world thinking about me, and had a grand and glorious time. I'm glad that me was captured in pictures, because I want to become better acquainted with her.
I sit at the kitchen table in Quanah at my parents' house. It is an appropriate place for this coming-out party to be happening. This is homecoming weekend in Quanah and I've come home, ready to embrace the town as I failed to do when we moved here in 1956. In years past I might have described the event as the town's having failed to embrace me, but I would have been wrong. It was simply a matter of a shy 9-year-old coming into a town where everybody knew everybody else, and I didn't. My mother, when I mentioned the difficulty I had all those years ago coming to Quanah, commented that I had a lot of friends in Lubbock. I needed that perspective, and it fills in part of the gaps I've been working with as I have thought recently of my past, present, and future.
It is my habit to write structured essays here, seldom to actually "blog" if that means extemporaneous journaling. The key word is structured. I've tried at least since 1956 to conform to the structure, not only of essays but of life in mid-twentieth century West Texas small towns. There are plenty of rules about that structure. I know them. I can follow them. I just chafe at it sometimes. This is not a structured essay, and I ramble with no apologies. Maybe you'll find when I reach the end I've tied the strings together. If they're not tied to your satisfaction, sorry. But that "sorry" means that I regret you've wasted your time, not that I accept guilt for my having wasted it.
I didn't sleep a lot last night. It was like other nights in this house, often nights before holidays (especially Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning) when anticipation and excitement prevented sleep but left me rested and refreshed without much. I went to bed at midnight and by five knew I needed to get up, get dressed and go out to get the AlphaSmart from the car to record the blog I was writing in my head. Yes, I've actually planned this blog whether it conforms to rules or not. I do know what the strings are, though additional strings are welcome to wander in.
I was reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés' Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype before I went to bed. I endorse the book. The word is carefully chosen and differs from the word "recommend." It's not a book I can read quickly or for long at a time, because it doesn't follow the rules I've always accepted about writing. It seems to me she could have used about one word for every ten she chose, but it's her dance, and it's mine to accept the reading of or to turn away from, not to critique, not to want to rewrite. Whether or not there actually are superfluous words, the ones there are all worth reading in my life and my situation. Perhaps that's true in your life as well.
Can you imagine your future? The word "imagine" is not the same word as "plan." Can you envision what you're going to do, what's coming? If that seems to be an absurd question to you, I'm glad. I can, too. At least I can a little, and I've been trying for a while and I think I've made a breakthrough in that area. I wrote down last night the truth that helped me get there. Maybe it's a non sequitur to you, but it makes sense to me. Here's what I wrote:
- When the dance gets recognized as valuable, it becomes a value, an "ought" and therefore repulsive to the dancer who is me. I "ought" to finish She Who [Must Be Obeyed] because it's neat because of my excitement about it. But it's work, it's burden [now] when it was dance. When I told people I was writing again because of Frey [James N. Frey's How To Write a Damn Good Mystery] it became an ought and I quit. Computer games and sneaking sweets never reach acceptable and endure!
Yet, I am a public person. I have been an elected judge for more than 17 years. I have two degrees in education and one in law. I take leadership roles in most things I do, either by election to office or by forcefully expressing my opinion. How can I be both?
A child ought to go to school. A child ought to get a good education. A grown-up child ought to get degrees. A grown-up ought to put into use the degrees she has. It's okay to lead when you ought to lead.
It's okay to be good at playing, too. It's okay to dance. The tasks that spin my engine are okay even if they're not in the line of oughts.
Do you know why I keep finding She Who Must Be Obeyed so darned difficult to write? These women judges in Texas were Wild Women. They don't fit the "oughts" and it's terribly difficult to structure the book. Their stories, their collective story, could easily be as convoluted and difficult to read as Women Who Run With the Wolves. So what? They"ve earned the right to dance!
What does the future hold? If the voters see fit to let me next year, I'll serve another four year term as judge. [As I sit here Monday morning editing, I feel the need to say I expect I will be reelected. Still, the sentence needs to sand as written. It's not self-deprecating. It's simply the fact of the political process that comes with the job.] That will give me an opportunity to see through the project of upgrading the technology in the courthouse one more time (not that it's my project, just that I have a shepherding role I'm willing to accept. Heck, I'm good at it. Gee, that's tough to say.) The part about what my professional future holds is easy, though. What can I see happening in the future that comes from dancing in public? If the ladies of She Who Must be Obeyed will dance with me, I can see my passion for dancing with them leading to that book coming to fruition. I can see the joy of many people at having these wild women receive the recognition that's their due. I'll not look at it as "due" though because that could choke the flow of the dance. I can see reclaiming my body and at 60 hiking in Scotland. That reclaimed body has a rematch coming with one certain Nicaraguan rain forest canopy ride. I can see my book The Devil's Right Hand or perhaps Her Honor or, as they say in sports, a player yet to be named, in paperback and sold in the grocery store, which I see as the ultimate success for those are the New York Times Bestsellers. I can see talking to more and more people about my passions like Texas pioneer women judges, about writing, about photography and how to get it published, after I see my photography published.
When I'm 89 and looking toward my 64th anniversary, as my mother is now, I can see sitting back and telling my grandchildren and great grandchildren about a pretty neat life.
And I'll teach them to dance and tell them it's not breaking rules to dance in public.