Ten years ago, when I started going to the Swing Dance at the Raleigh Elk’s Lodge on Sunday nights, I had no idea how that new activity would change my life. At first, my husband went with me to practice what we’d learned in our West Coast Swing lessons. But soon thereafter, he didn’t want to go and opted to prepare for his next day of therapy clients; I needed to dance to forget I had to walk into my middle school of seven hundred students at eight o’clock Monday morning where I served as their nurse. My husband told me to go without him, “since you’ve always liked dancing more than me.”; and I did.
Over time, I made many new friends and learned that some of them started dancing when they went through divorce. At that time, I had no idea that I’d be going through a divorce, too.
Now, I’ve found that I really do love to dance and have added other venues including Wednesday and Thursday nights at Loafer’s, also in Raleigh.
In each place, I’ve found lots of support. Last week that was especially true.
I’d been away for weeks due to spending time in a previous relationship, as well as a knee injury. How glad my friends were to see me return last Sunday night. There was teasing about not recognizing me since it had been so long, questions about the break up of my relationship, reassurance that I needed to be back ‘home’. It felt good to have been missed and to be assured they valued my friendship.
On Wednesday night, I had fun dancing with old and new partners to Beach Music played by DJ Gary.
I talked with a man whom I’ve known for years. He has taken an older brother type role with me concerning my dating. He asks each week, “Well, how’s it going?”
I shared my latest account of the break up with the guy I’d been dating over the past five months. Between our West Coast moves to the music, I shared my frustration with the emotional roller coaster of dating, how tired I’d become with the process. He empathized, telling me about some of his struggles as a widower, until he found his new wife.
“You’ve got plenty of time, Connie,” he advised from his vantage point of being in his mid-seventies.
Sometimes, his new wife and I talk about dating and she takes more of a girlfriend approach, letting me know his advice can be too cautious. Last Wednesday night we talked about clothes. I complimented her on her bright blue and white blouse and white bell bottoms.
“I should have bought the black pair, too,” she said, and added, “but I don’t really need any more clothes.”
I told her I’d given myself more permission to shop–especially since my divorce. That day I’d purchased a nice camera and pair of waterproof hiking boots for my upcoming trip to Scotland.
“I don’t know when I’ve spent that much money in a day,” I confessed.
“Oh, go ahead,” she told me. “You only live once. Don’t put off getting what you want.”
On Thursday night, I was back at Loafer’s for Country Night that includes lots of 2-Step, waltz numbers, and swing dances to a different genre of music. Some of the dancers overlap the two venues and some do not. That night I danced with a young man who only comes to the country dances. He’s usually wearing a concert tee shirt of one of the traditional artists he’s seen in a live performance. He noted that I’d been a way for a long time. We’ve shared dating tales in the past and I updated him. He was empathetic and supportive and encouraged me with a “move on” attitude as we circled the floor in a 2-Step.
He told me he’ll miss the next Thursday of dancing to go to a concert by Cody Johnson–a country artist he loves. I’m sure he’ll return in a concert tee shirt. Later, the DJ Kenney played the popular song by Cody Johnson, “Til You Can’t.” I found myself with tears in my eyes as I listened while sitting out that dance, the chorus striking a nerve with me:
“If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, ’cause a dream won’t chase you back
If you’re gonna love somebody, hold ’em as long and as strong and as close as you can
Till you can’t.”
(Writers Matthew Joseph Rogers, Ben Stennis)
After a few more dances it was time to go. I thought about my dance partner going to hear Cody Johnson and how I’d wanted to get a group to go to The Doobie Brothers concert in two days. Changing out of my dance boots I talked with another friend. She’d been one of the people I’d tried to round up to go to the concert–but was unavailable. I told her it was down to just me and while I’d done many things by myself, I’d never gone to a concert alone.
“You should go if that’s what you want. I’ve done that before and it was fine.”
It would be their 50th Anniversary Tour; who knew if they’d be coming around again, or if I’d be able to go when they did. The words of that chorus, “If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance” came to me as I thought about it on my drive home.
I ordered my ticket and showed up last night with 7, 999 others. I was aware of my ‘aloneness’ as I made my way from the parking lot of pre-concert tailgaters circled round with friends, their plates laden down with grilled chicken, pasta salads, and cups filled with beer. Once inside the gates, I found my spot on the lawn and parked my beach chair next to a friendly couple. The rain held off and the air cooled with a pleasant breeze. It was nice being where you had space and could feel the grass under your feet.
The Doobie Brothers, including my favorite, Michael McDonald came onto the stage and played for two hours–the best concert I’ve ever heard. I was ecstatic to hear that band I’d been crazy about since my first year in college.
Alone, with no one else to consider, I danced to “Long Train Running” and stood with the crowd to sing, “Jesus is Just Alright.” At times, I missed being in a couple–as I’d been at my last two concerts with him. At other times, it felt like I was free because while my heart still aches, my head knows it’s the right thing, and I need to move forward with my life. I remembered my friend’s advice, “You have plenty of time.”
On that hillside, listening to those songs that have been there through so much of my life, I felt gratitude for the support I’d received over the past week. My dance community had been my village, my tribe that had my back. When the concert ended, I did one final act of going for what I wanted; I purchased my first concert tee shirt in my sixty-seven years.
Now, I’ll proudly wear that shirt and remember that night and all that happened to get me there.
Here’s to you finding what chance you need to take— and taking it–while you can.
Blessings on you,