[the palaverist]

Friday, April 20, 2007


Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

That's the Second Step, and it carries the obvious implication that in our active addictions, we were insane. In my case, there are plenty of things I am looking back on and recognizing as pretty distinctly nuts, but two stand out.

The first is dancing. For years, Jenny has wanted to take a ballroom dance class with me. I have always demurred. Dance was one of those things I just didn't do. I had been made miserable in my youth by episodes of forced Israeli folk dance, which made me feel awkward and oafish, and I was not about to expose myself to that sort of thing again. The part of my mind that kept secrets and fed my addiction recognized dance as one of those dangerous situations that could lead to exposure of my true self, and so I steered clear.

This was insane. Since opening up, admitting my powerlessness over my own desires and revealing what I had kept secret, I have gone through a lot of pain, but I've also felt a new freedom that is extraordinary. I no longer have to defend my persona, to prove that I have my shit more together than everyone else. I don't. I'm an addict and I've made a mess of things. So now I can dance.

For the past few weeks, Jenny have been going every Saturday to the Dance Chelsea studio for classes in ballroom, Latin and swing dancing. It's ridiculously enjoyable. Nor am I half bad at it — which is not a big surprise considering how many half-witted, inbred Hapsburgs learned to waltz without injury. Dancing is great fun, and it turns out it's also a great way to make amends for broken promises. Who knew?

The second insanity that stands out to me is my longstanding aversion to Legos. In my adult life, I've always maintained that I shouldn't have Legos around because I have an addictive relationship with them. Sure, I smoked pot every day and broke promises to my wife, but at least I wasn't doing Legos. Clearly, I had this whole addiction thing under perfect control.

Legos were my favorite toy as a kid. Renouncing them, at around 12 years old, was a painful step away from childhood and into what I thought I had to become in order to be popular and cool. Since then, I have only occasionally played with Legos, but I've found them absorbing every time.

Now that I'm no longer wasting huge chunks of time on my addictions, it has become clear that I need new hobbies. I talked to Jenny about how maybe it was time to try Legos again: it's something healthy that I can do with my brain on idle, which is helpful when I just can't read any longer, and that doesn't make a lot of noise, so I can do it when she's still sleeping (unlike practicing the guitar).

For the last week, Jenny and I have been apart. To give us the space we each needed, she went to stay with friends. I resisted this time apart, but it was a huge help to both of us; for me, it was the first time I'd spent with myself, without hiding behind drugs or addictions, in many years. During this time, Jenny made it clear that the goal was to strengthen our relationship, not to end it. She sent me playful emails, and she used her credit card points to reserve a hotel room in Philly to celebrate our anniversary with a weekend away.

And then yesterday, a huge box arrived for me at my office: Jenny had bought me a fabulous Lego set. I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but I definitely will — when Jenny and I aren't practicing our box step or our cuddle-turn.

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Anonymous Phaedra Lari said...

I started to feel like that about dance while I was taking bellydance classes. As you know I've loved to dance improvisationally to live drums for a long time, but I tended to shy away from any lessons because every time I tried taking a class I felt like the klutziest person in the class. In my first bellydancing class here in Seattle I had a revelation: no one *cares* in your average non-professional adult dance class how well or badly anyone else dances or how long it takes who to learn things. No one is trying to decide which of us is the klutziest in the class. Everyone is there to get what they want out of the class and they are not spending the whole time watching me. They don't even notice when I screw things up, they are focused on their own dancing. If I have to repeat the same class series to get really good, the teacher doesn't mind and the other students won't know or care if they do know. And honestly, tripping over my own feet in front of everyone and picking up steps slower than average just isn't a big deal because I am the only one who has to find value in being in dance class. It was valuable to me also to realize that taking longer than some to learn dance steps and the like doesn't mean that once I do learn them I can't execute them gracefully. I'm not a klutz, just someone who takes a while to transfer what I see visually into kinesthetic awareness in my own body.

I think it can be hard to unlearn the social lessons we learn as teenagers, when many people *do* spend a lot of time judging and ranking others. Many adults outgrow doing it at least quite so much, but it's harder to believe that the people around us have likely outgrown it too and so we hold on to a fear of being judged and mocked.

Enjoy your legos :)

11:36 AM  
Blogger [the palaverist] said...

Yeah, I think it's in Infinite Jest that there's a passage about how much time we tend to spend worrying about what other people think of us, and then discovering that mostly they don't think of us very much because they're too worried about what everyone else is thinking about them.

11:45 AM  

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