Coco Ihle has not missed her blog day ever since she joined this blog after the publication of her novel, She Had to Know. (If you haven’t already read She Had to Know, I recommend this atmospheric mystery set mostly in Scotland.) Because Coco was faced with the threat of Irma and didn’t know if she’d be able to post today she asked me to post something for her. I agreed, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to thank Coco for the role she played in my life.
In February 2013, Coco posted a blog about being a belly dancer called Belly Dancing…Dangerous?
At the time, I was looking for something to jump start my life. My life mate/soul mate had been dead almost three years, and I was still prone to tears and sadness. Though I was getting tired of the sorrow and the feeling that perhaps I too had died, I didn’t know how to move away from the void. Belly dancing seemed to strike a chord with me since it was vastly different from anything I’d ever attempted (my exploits have generally been more cerebral than physical), but I didn’t see myself dancing. Somehow, what would be alluring for a young woman did not seem quite so exotic for a woman tottering past middle age.
But Coco didn’t agree. She said, “Oh, you’d be surprised, Pat. I taught at Auburn University and my students were all ages. Interestingly enough, the older ones were overall more confident, graceful, and generally more creative than the younger ones. The beauty in dancing, like many art forms, comes from within. Perhaps you may like to try it.”
I thanked her but never really considered taking dance classes. I presumed one had to be graceful, athletic, willowy, and musically inclined, all characteristics that elude me, and yet, late that July I happened to notice a nearby dance studio that taught older adults. I tiptoed into dance on August 7 with a jazz class (jazz because it was the one class I didn’t have to buy any shoes or accoutrements). By mid September, I was taking not only jazz but Hawaiian, tap, ballet, and yep, belly dancing.
To my surprise, I found that learning to dance gave me a vacation from myself and my grief, allowed me to surrender to something greater than myself, offered me a new challenge, and most of all, brought me moments of happiness at a time when I thought happiness would forever pass me by.
In the intervening years, though I still am not as graceful as I wish, and still am not willowy or musically inclined, I’ve learned dozens of numbers, performed many times with my class, and continue to find joy both in learning to dance and in surrendering to the movement and the moment.
All because Coco put the idea of dance into my head. All because Coco inspired and encouraged me.
So thank you, Coco. I hope Irma treats you kindly.
(P.S. The last I heard, Coco was all right, hunkered down behind hurricane-proof windows at a friend’s house.)
Pat Bertram is the author of five suspense novels: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.