If I Had Rhythm, Could I Ask for Anything More?

After Saturday’s column on the weirder side of the news, I thought that today would be a good time to get serious. Concerning posts I have in mind to place here, however, my mind is split in several sections. I’m never quite sure when I sit down to write, which section wins out that day, or where it will lead. I’m not even sure I know what I’m doing writing a blog, but so far that hasn’t stopped me.

Today, for instance, I wanted to write something intelligent on a very serious subject. But then I looked at the clock and noted that I only had an hour before I’d have to leave for my Monday at the gym movement class. That pea-sized portion of my brain that thinks itself brainy would just have to be neglected for at least one more day in favor of an easier “quickie” post.

So what runs through my mind the morning of movement classes when I have only one hour before I have to leave, and while I’m trying to write? The first five minutes of that class, that’s what! That first five minutes of warmup are mentally excruciating for me. In the beginning I thought it would get better; Barb the instructor, who could clearly see my struggle, promised it would. All these weeks later, though, it hasn’t!

On Thursdays and Mondays, as I enter the gym, click in with my ID card, and head down the corridor to class I can hear the peppy music, usually something from the ’50s and ’60s that some of us can sing from memory, and I know I’m about to make a fool of myself once again. You see, I don’t have any rhythm.

During warmup, however, I have to try and do what Barb says to do, so I try as hard as I can to synchronize my movements in rhythm to the music. March in step. (Raise those knees higher!) Right arm. Reach high. (Shoulders back now!) Bring it down, scoop the air, swing it high. (Tuck in that bellybutton!) All the time stepping in time to the music. (“Don’t forget to breathe!”) I do.

That part is okay. I can get through that bit whether I remember to breathe or not. The part where we get into the dancing bit is what floors me. It takes coordination and I have none. It’s when I have to swing my right foot right, while I raise my left arm high; when I have to cross my left foot across my right, all the time raising my right arm across to the left that I have problems. I can’t rub my belly and pat the top of my head either, just for the record. 

I glance at my fellow movers and shakers. They’re all doing great. No problems there. But I’m getting myself tangled up. And I think Barb is doing a good job keeping her amusement to herself. What I have to do is, which doesn’t work altogether well, is to move my body to the rhythm. If I concentrate on the rhythm, my body doesn’t listen. If I pay attention to my body, I can’t keep the rhythm. One or the other, but not both.

But I love dancing. As long as somebody else is doing it and I’m watching. When I was about 13, out of fierce determination, I taught myself to charleston in the dirt road running in front of our house. Why the middle of a dirt road? Because I had to stand guard and keep the cows from heading to the highway while they were being herded into the field. The music? Inside my head I’m hearing “Hawaiian War Chant.” Spike Jone’s version.

It worked! Soon I was making the weirdest foot markings in the dust that you can imagine! . . but I was dancing. In between chasing the errant cow. Over the following months, I added the “knee crossing” stunt to my performance as well. Beginnings and endings were awkward, but as soon as I got the music inside my head, the middle was easy. I still can’t charleston to anything other than the Hawaiian War Chant.

Later on when I was 16, my lunch buddy friends and I liked sitting in the school gymnasium after lunch to watch the school dance champions, a freshman couple (destined to break up by the time they were seniors) as they jitterbugged and bopped as if they had extra joints and grooves in their hip sockets. I was so jealous.

One day as I was watching their jitterbug and bopping moves, I compared it to my charleston moves. Something in my brain clicked. So! By combining those charleston steps with a wider foot movement, slowing it down, and not letting my toes get too close to each other, I conned people into thinking I could dance–a little. That’s how I managed to get through all those painful high school situations that involved dancing, like school proms I’d as soon forget.

One and a half hours later: As you can see, I didn’t quite finish what I’d thought would be a “quick” and mindless posting after all, and must resort to recapping the interim. 

I had to leave without finishing my “quickie” post that turned out not to be quick after all, and drove to the gym thinking how Monday wasn’t starting out quite as orderly as I’d hoped. I not only dreaded the five minute warmup, I hadn’t finished the day’s blogging entry either. Wasn’t there anything I could be the master of? By the time I got to class, I figured it couldn’t get any worse.

After arriving among the last of the group, I gathered my equipment and retreated to the back of the row where a few other stragglers had deposited themselves. Frank Sinatra soon started belting out “New York, New York” over the sound system, and it was time to start “walking in time.”

It was as awful as it was last week, the week before that, and the week before that, and so on . . . I think you get the picture! Soon enough, though I mentally counted every one of them, the five minutes passed. We settled into the rest of the program, and I found my bearings. I decided “what the heck,” they don’t shoot rhythmless people in this country, do they?!

Neither do they shoot bloggers when they don’t post on time, or even when they post gibberish. It only took me about 50 years to work out my lack of rhythm issues.  All I have to do now is work on developing that same “what the heck” attitude about my blogging posts.

I will. Someday. I really will.

3 thoughts on “If I Had Rhythm, Could I Ask for Anything More?

  1. Alice, stop beating yourself up. Your blog is wonderful; that’s sufficient reason for doing it.

    I sympathize with your lack of rhythm. I am equally uncoordinated and have amazing trouble moving right and left arms and legs in some coordinated fashion. Fortunately, the class I go to doesn’t add music to the problem.

  2. I was laughing all the way through your post! You’ve got nothing to worry about in the blog writing arena, you are a wonderful story teller, and that’s what it really is, after all. Now, the rhythm thingie, here’s what I tell all my students: “Practice makes POSSIBLE, not perfect.” Sounds like you might benefit from “chunking” the moves, and practice smaller segments over and over until it feels fluid…

    Eagerly anticipating more blogging and rhythmic reports.

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