Encourage Your Loved One Who is an Inmate in Prison to Try New Activities Like Dancing

When I was little, I took dancing lessons. All I really wanted was a horse, so these dance lessons were my way of passing the time until I could convince everyone that life only made sense with at least one horse.

I was a terrible dancer. I think I maybe got a little better, but it just wasn’t for me. I kept doing it long enough to do quite a few recitals. The recitals ruined the whole experience. I loved the sequins and the fancy costumes, and it seemed like it was going to be the best thing ever. Then one of the mother’s backstage went into some diatribe about fires and if there ever was one, we would surely all die. I guess there weren’t obvious exits and according to her the place was set up all wrong. I have no idea who this woman was or where she got this professional opinion from, but she gave me my very first anxiety attack. I remember looking down and thinking about all my beautiful sequins engulfed in flames. I never felt comfortable in that place or on that stage. So, I did what I do when I feel anxious, I find something shiny and fixate on it. I spent most of my first recital picking up all the lost sequins the other dancers had carelessly left behind. They were EVERYWHERE and I could not believe anyone would leave those fabulous things behind. I think I was three at the time. No matter how many times I went to a recital, that woman’s words rang through my head.

The older I got the chunkier I got. My mom told me I was pretty, so I believed her. Until it was recital time and during one costume fitting session a “helper” was struggling to get my costume on and kept telling me to think thin. I remember thinking “does that actually work?” I’m pretty sure this was a defining moment in my life. ALL ABOARD THE BODY DYSMORPHIA TRAIN!!! I became extremely self-conscious and from that point on you could pretty much stick a fork in me, because this tiny dancer was DONE!

Throughout my life dancing was an imposition. Parties, dances, clubs, raves, fraternity formals, weddings, Ugh!!! I really didn’t want to dance. Well I didn’t want to dance sober. No, No, Nope! However, with the right amount of alcohol and drugs I would go jiggle about. Maybe swing around the dance floor casually holding my Cosmo. My friend Anne Marie and I were the crazy dancers that just swung each other around mercilessly to country music for hours while sipping, not probably more like chugging whiskey.

Trying to dance sober I felt like a fish out of water. I thought everyone was judging me and even worse, I was constantly judging myself.

Then there is my great uncle Marvin. He is one of the coolest people on the planet and I don’t think he realizes how special he really is. He is a huge inspiration for me. He has always been a dancer. I can always remember him dancing and singing and he was always so fun to be around. He sang funny songs that I still sing to this day. Oh, and did I mention he is 96?

At one point, he was struggling with his health and was considering hospice. I was devastated. I put him on every prayer list I could find. Well those prayers worked! He changed his mind on the whole hospice thing and went dancing instead. He even has a new girlfriend! That’s right!!! Go Uncle Clunky! Oh, that is his nickname by the way. I told so many people about this and how much of positive influence he has been in my life and what an amazing person he truly is that a lot of people know about him here. People ask about him all the time. He inspires so many people that he has never even met.

I decided I wanted to be like him when I grow up. So, I thought to myself, “self, it’s time to start dancing!” It’s working for him, so I decided to go for it.

It’s convenient that I’m the class coordinator for recreation at this prison camp. I talked a friend into doing a Zumba/dance class. She was reluctant but I promised her I would be her best student and would never miss a class. We put it on the calendar and now Thursday nights are a big hit!

Having a head injury and coming off a lot of drugs I struggled terribly with my coordination, but I have come a long way in the past five and a half years. I now teach step aerobics, HIIT (high intensity interval training), and cross fit. Eight fitness classes a week to be exact. I also teach sign language… I don’t think I can hide behind the coordination thing anymore and dang it, I want to be like my uncle when I grow up.

I’m in this place that I have no reason to be afraid. I’m doing all of these things I never thought I would do, things I didn’t know I could do, things that even the idea of them would have immediately dead in the water because it’s terrifying to do these things in front of people. Now I am doing all these things every day, so I’m going to dance too.

I’m still a bad dancer. I was also a terrible step aerobics teacher when I got thrown into that pool without floaties. I would have nightmares about not being able to catch a beat and falling off the step-in front of everyone and forgetting what to do next. Oh, and all those things happened and for a while I died of embarrassment and fear of failing. I prayed to God to help me with this and I was determined to make it happen. It turns out everyone falls, stumbles, and misses the beat at some point, it’s all about how you handle it. Now I just laugh and look at everyone like they must have messed up. I have found that when you are the one leading the class, if you keep going, they will follow. Now I’m good at teaching step and all my classes. If I can do that, I can surely get this dancing thing down.

I really want to learn to dance. I love learning all these crazy dances that other people make look so easy. When I’m struggling, they remind me that is how they feel when I am teaching and encourage me to keep going. The best part is I have this whole group of friends helping me and having fun with me. I love it! I finally figured out that when you are dancing and loving it you don’t care what’s going on around you and its fantastic. I think when you throw your whole heart into something you can never go wrong.

We are now organizing a dancing event for our Halloween celebration. It’s turning into a big deal and a lot of people are really looking forward to it. My crazy friends are talking about putting together dances to perform… What?!?! Oh well, you sure put me in coach, why not? Stay tuned on that one.

In conclusion, no matter where you are or what your situation is, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Break out of your old mold and try new things. Then do what Uncle Marvin does, dance.

I started blogging from a Federal Prison and now I have come down from my Ivory tower to face the world…