Control Issues

The music stopped and he let out a sigh, obviously not happy with his performance.”Have you done this before?” he asked.

“No.” This was, in fact, my first-ever official waltzing lesson.

“But you’ve danced before…”

“Well, yes.”

“I can tell,” he said. Was he complimenting me on my skills on a dance floor? My seventh-grade self would never have imagined such a thing in my future. Nor my 27-year-old self for that matter. But there I was in my first waltzing lesson appearing to my partner as an experienced dancer. Ha!

Before I could reassure him that I, too, had once been is his position of exasperation, the instructor directed us to take up our positions again as he started the music. I rested my hands on my partner’s shoulders, wanting to offer words of encouragement but not wanting to disrupt his attempt at counting to the music. One two three, four five six. One two three, four five six.

When the music stopped, I smiled and murmured some positive words before moving on to the next partner as instructed.  I took a few missteps, but gone was the anxiety I once felt about looking foolish on a dance floor.  Don’t get me wrong – I still look foolish plenty, I just no longer care. I smiled recalling my last year of high school. I was the girl who skipped out on the senior prom – instead joining three friends in a father/daughter dinner at the nearby Culinary Institute of America. There are pictures of me and my best friend Carly on her front lawn in our evening finery looking every bit like we were off to the prom.  I think my smile is so big because I knew I would not have dance that night.

Of course, the type of dancing that happened at a high school prom was nothing like what I imagined myself one day being able to do. I had illusions of gliding across a dance floor ballroom style, or maybe swing dancing.  I tried both at various times in my twenties only to find I was unable to let a man be in control.  Years later, giving it another go, I realized that if my partner showed confidence in what he was doing I was fine letting him take over.  It was the ones whose hands felt tentative in mine that led to my difficulties trusting them to take the lead. A parallel to other things in life? Absolutely.

But now-a-days, the dance floor is one of the few places in my life where I don’t have to make any decisions – where someone else tells me what to do with a push of his hand or a twist of his body. I don’t glide by any stretch – and I fumble my fair share. But what I love is that there’s no debate about which move to make – I have no say, nor time to protest. I simply follow, happy to secede control.

I know many women fought for my right to live my life however I choose. For that I am appreciative.  However, there are plenty of days where I just want someone else to point me in the right direction and I, with no time to argue, just go.  And like magic it all turns out beautifully.

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Therapy

This morning at the Folk School the blacksmiths pounded steel and the woodcarvers gouged bowls. The cooking class fried stuffed peppers and the rug hookers dyed wool.  Where was I?  Lying on my back staring at the clouds – doing “cloud therapy” as my writing instructor called it.

It was while watching wispy clouds flow towards each other that I thought back to the the last time I did this.  I was a child – and it wasn’t called therapy.  It was just something we did because it was fun.  In fact, there are a lot of things we did as kids that, as adults, now have the word “therapy” after them: music therapy, art therapy, physical therapy – even play therapy!  How interesting that when we’re ill, our healing involves going back to those things that we did as kids.

Here’s the good news: you can get all that therapy in one place.  Right here at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  You can hear music every morning at 7:45, every Tuesday night at the dance, every Friday night at the concert.  You can get some physical activity by doing Morning Walk every morning at 7:15 (with yours truly), or by participating in the aforementioned weekly dance.  You can take classes in all sorts of arts and play for hours in your chosen medium.  Therapy, after all, isn’t just for the sick.

Dressing the Part

“Oh – look at your pretty toes!” she said. I smiled as I looked down at my Merlot-colored toenails.  They hadn’t been out in public in quite some time.  No, it wasn’t the beginning of summer.  This was last week.  Weather-wise, we are still in open-toed shoe season, but here at the Folk School I’ve taken classes that require me to do something I haven’t done since I was twelve: wear sneakers for a week straight.

I’m not the sneaker-wearing type.  There was a two year period in college when I didn’t even own sneakers.  In general, I’m not a casual dresser either.  Yes, I wear jeans.  But usually with a cute top, earrings, and nice shoes – heeled boots in winter, platform sandals in summer. I don’t have a floor-to-ceiling closet full of shoes like my youngest sister Meg, but I’ve got my fair share.  Unfortunately, most of them haven’t been worn for quite some time.

Why?  Because I’ve chosen classes over the last few weeks that have an unwritten dress code.  In woodturning, there are plenty of sharp objects that can go flying – or falling.  So close-toed shoes are a must.  So are high-collared shirts for women.  No one mentioned this to me, but I was smart enough not to wear my usual V-necks to class.  What I thought was a high neck-line didn’t cut it, though.  Thankfully, the resident woodturner is a woman.  She understood and had a T-shirt on hand that I adopted as my smock for the week.  Prior to that, I had woodchips in places that I don’t care to get into here.

Also no-no’s in woodturning: hair worn down or in a pony tail.  Getting your hair caught in a lathe spinning at 1200 RPM’s – not good.  Getting anything caught in a lathe spinning that fast wouldn’t be good – so jewelry is also out of the question.

Me on the lathe in woodturning.

After my adventures in woodturning, I took a cooking class.  You would think you could wear whatever you want while cooking, but not in a place that has liability to worry about.  Knives can fall and slice toes, so once again my open-toed shoes were relegated to the back of my closet.

Last week, I was building a garden shed.  Well, trying to learn at least.  You don’t see open-toed shoes on a construction site.

Building A Garden Shed (back row: Francois, Cecily, Jane, Louise; front row: Tom (instructor), me, and Matt)

Thankfully, there is at least one night per week that open-toed shoes, earrings, and even dresses are seen on campus.  Every Tuesday night, there is a Contra and Square Dance in the Community Room.  Locals join students for this weekly event that even has live music.  No experience necessary, and no partner is needed.  In fact, this is the only place I’ve been where I’ve actually witnessed a shortage of women at a dance.

Dresses! Skirts! Jewelry! (Well, except Brad) And a little face paint to celebrate Scottish Heritage week. L to R: Lindsay, me, Victoria, Rachel, Julie and Brad

So on Tuesday nights, the dresses I used to wear so often in my previous life finally get to see the light of day.  I reach into the depths of my closet, pull out my open-toed shoes, slip my feet in and smile at my painted toe nails.