He offers his hand out to me.
I am petrified. Still, I take his hand and let him lead me to the dance floor.
He is the painfully optimistic type – the kind I like to call happiness on steroids. It doesn’t take long for him to start counting down the familiar:
1, 2, 3,
5, 6, 7,
My mind ruminates on memories of late nights dancing to salsa rhythms. I am trying desperately to stay in the moment and focus on my breathing, but it is so damn hard.
Sorrys begin to tumble out as I try to explain; since my chronic pain started, my body has completely lost its balance, and the turning and spinning make me lose focus and get dizzy very quickly.
‘It’s ok. You’re doing great. I’ve got you.’
I almost snort. My body feels stiff and unfamiliar. Even with the patience and skill of the instructor, it is struggling to follow.
Always ready to put me down, my mind quickly puts on its bully hat:
Rev, rev, rev it up, you groggy engine yoooou
What kind of train are you
if you can’t even choo choo – it teases, and just for good measure, floods me with images of a puffed out Thomas the Tank Engine.
Walk liiiike an Egyptian – it sings to me as mummies make their way up and down its blackened staircases.
This depresses me even more: I suck so much that I can’t even bully myself right!
‘Look up. How are the boys going to see your lovely eyes?’
I smile, but I can’t wait for the dance to be over.
‘You’re triggering my anxieties’, I laugh nervously, and scream ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!’ as he turns me.
But despite my protests, I’m ok. As clunky as it is, my body is ok and will be ok tomorrow morning too, because I know now how to manage it. And for some reason other than money (this was a free lesson), he is still there, holding my hand.
It is at this moment that I realise what this is really about: the fear of pain has become stronger than the pain itself.
My pilates instructor looks at me suspiciously. He knows that grin very well.
‘So do you think I can do salsa?’
To be continued…