Brand building through storytelling

How I learned that I can finally dance

It takes quite a repertoire of movements, most of them repetitive and few of them good for the soul, to get me through an ordinary day. I shuffle in line-ups, run for streetcars, grope for my keys while maneuvering doors and grocery bags…you know the drill. Once or twice a week, in a frolicsome class at my club, I leave all that behind and dance. Bring on the shimmy and the cha-cha-cha!

When I joined this ragtag chorus line a couple of years ago, I fretted about messing up. At least no one could see me tripping over my feet —no one, that is, except my sisters in klutziness (not a Ginger Rogers in the bunch). I told myself that part of being human is claiming permission to do a few things badly instead of grimly striving to excel across the board.

The other day we all noticed our first audience: three white-coated cleaning ladies who had downed their squeegee bottles to watch us strut our stuff. And not just for one number, either. There they stood, following our every kick, as if we had a flair for this stuff.

Afterwards one of them approached me and said, in halting English, “You are a good dancer.” Her smile took on a mischievous, appraising look. “I watch for a long time. One year ago, not so good.”

How many times had I seen this woman trundle our towels to the laundry? What had we ever said to each other, beyond a quick “Good morning”? Now here she was, noting what had somehow escaped me. Nature might not have blessed me with a dancer’s body, but playful persistence has made me a dancer. When I can’t nail a move, I improvise.

At this morning’s class, I told our teacher what the cleaning lady had said. “Nothing goes unwitnessed,” she replied. What also strikes me—not for the first time—is that mentors wear a multitude of guises and can cross my path at any moment. They don’t have to be mavens or bosses, nor do they have to counsel and prod me over time. In a fleeting conversation outside a locker room, an observant cleaning lady cared enough to be my mentor. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Gratitude is on my mind as 2010 draws to a close. A few other gifts this year has brought:

* Two sprightly and beautiful new nieces.I initially thought my sister Joyce was much too old to be adopting Almaz and Birtukan from Ethiopia, but my husband and I are delighted to have them in our life.

* An exciting new project: one-day memoir workshops for women who leave my sessions charged up about their writing as never before (I’ve just announced new dates for 2011).

* A whole day of touring and reminiscing with the long-lost girlfriend who saw me through a bitter adolescence.

* A school reunion that transformed my vision of the small New Hampshire town where I grew up itching to leave.

* The joyous rediscovery of another old friend, without whom I never have met my husband. At a life stage when mortal illness is subtracting friends from my world, I didn’t dare hope that a person presumed lost for good might ever reconnect with us. Now it’s almost as if he’d never left.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May you steal a peaceful moment from your shopping, wrapping, decorating, carolling, baking and the rest of the seasonal frenzy to reflect on your own gifts from 2011.


Posted by Rona

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