It was nearly 30 years ago that I started playing volleyball.
It wasn’t long after I picked up a ball for the first time that I was hooked. Any chance I got to hit a volleyball against a wall or a floor, I did. I practiced setting laying in bed at night. I repeated my approach footwork all through our house. If there was a camp, I was first in line. I wanted to volunteer, to demonstrate. I wanted to answer every question, I wanted to lead. As I got older, if there was a pickup game or a sand game, I was your girl. I would toss balls, hit balls, catch balls, just to practice alongside some of the players I admired.
I wanted to be around the sport. I wanted to be around those who were better than me. I wanted to be around those who saw the potential in me. It was all I was about for a very, very long time.
And then, it was over. It was a natural ending, my eligibility was up. Still – it was over.
When I was playing volleyball, it felt like magic. A feeling like the stars were aligned, that I was in the exact right place at the exact right moment with the exact right people doing this thing together and it felt like my heart was singing.
I could find that feeling in a drill, in a scrimmage, definitely in competition. I could find it nearly every practice – at least once, often over and over again.
Some people call it Alignment or Flow. Others recognize athletes in the Zone.
I like to call it Joy!
When my volleyball career came to an end, that feeling became harder to find. I tried other ways of moving my body: running, Pilates, yoga, boot camps, personal training, cardio, weights. I had some good experiences and some not so good experiences. It was forced. None of it was something I would think about outside of the session. None of it translated to Joy.
I stepped into a ballroom dance studio a few months ago.
Learning to Dance
At my first private lesson, I was SO nervous. I could hear my heart beating in my ears and I thought it might actually explode. My instructor, Tommy, could tell I was a mess (I think). He handled me with care, giving me (and my anxiety) plenty of space. I walked away thinking I would do it. That there was something in dancing for me. Still entirely twisted up in vulnerability, I would do it.
I don’t recall exactly the moment, but at some point in the course of my first month, it happened.
I got hooked.
Now, I think about dancing all the time. I practice with the boys at home. I watch videos over and over again (they didn’t have YouTube when I was learning volleyball – it’s so great!!). I dance every chance I get.
With volleyball, it took an entire season of using ALL OF MY BRAIN just to keep track of how to rotate. The most basic concept in the sport. By the end of my career, I had mastered the basics so that rotating and transitioning were muscle memory. It freed up my attention so that I could feel the flow of the game. I could see the nuance, allowing me to find the opening, close the block, or take advantage of an opponent’s weakness as the play developed.
In dance, I am a beginner, but Tommy says I’m picking it up quick and I have a very strong desire to do exactly that. It will take time before I’m able to master the nuance of dance. That’s okay. Because here’s the cool thing… For me, even as a beginner, there is Joy.
It is also challenging and anxiety-provoking. But so much Joy!!
Appreciation in the Tears
Today, Tommy asked me how long I’ve been dancing with him. I told him it’s been FIVE months and then started to cry. “Do people get emotional about dancing?” I asked to distract from my tears.
“Yes, definitely yes,” he reassured and nodded emphatically before I could get the question all the way out.
It’s just that since I’ve started dancing, I’ve been so much happier OFF the dance floor, too! So much appreciation welled up when I considered that question. Five months of more ease in my family life. Five months of more ease in my business. Five months of more ease in my relationships and in life.
All because I’ve found this thing, this new thing that I’m made for… My heart is singing again.