Sometimes in life, you really do have to, as Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Take me, for example. For over two decades I struggled with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a teenager, I survived a rare, life-threatening illness and then, got stuck in a mindset that just couldn’t let go of trauma. Eventually, nightmares, insomnia, emotional numbing, avoidance, fear and anxiety took their toll on my health. Twenty-five years later, after years sitting in therapy waiting for my psychologist to heal me, I realized the truth: I would only heal when I decided to take responsibility for my recovery process. I had to actually do something.
I decided I needed to figure out what would make me feel better. My thinking went like this: I feel depressed and full of despair every day. What would I rather feel? The answer: ‘joy’. I wanted to feel joy so desperately that I would have done just about anything, including going out of my comfort zone to find it.
Once I decided the feeling I wanted to have, I set about finding it. Looking back over my life I realized that whenever I danced I felt an enormous, incredible feeling of freedom, transcendence and joy. So, I decided to dance, a lot. The only problem was, I only knew how to freestyle, which is what I’d grown up doing in nightclubs. In the small beach town in which I now live, however, clubbing every night of the week isn’t an option. I decided to learn to partner dance at a local ballroom studio.
Not having any formal dance background – and never having danced with a partner before – I walked into my first Argentine tango class not knowing what to expect and only knowing I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I took a deep breath, summoned all my courage, and stepped onto the dance floor. John, a man about my age, was the assistant teacher in the class. Since I was new, he was assigned to work with me privately during the class to bring me up to speed.
With brown hair hanging into cheerful brown eyes with lashes so long they curl up at the end, John’s eyes are set in a broad, round face with a perfectly straight nose. He has the sort of flat cheekbones that hint at some small degree of Native American heritage and skin that is smooth and tan. John’s about four inches taller than I; he leaned his head down until our faces were level and separated by only an inch. His eyes were so intense and impish and merry and full of happy life, I was completely distracted looking into them. I pitched my head a little toward him and returned his smile. When we settled into the tango embrace, John led me into the basic pattern. We danced holding each other’s gaze.