“What if nobody wants to dance with me? Everyone here is better than me, more beautiful than me. Everybody can tell that I am not that good. Everyone knows the truth that I don’t really know what I am doing. There is no way anyone would want to dance with me...”
I am glued to the wall, my mind - a menace. It is all I can do not to crawl under a table somewhere, or lock myself in a bathroom stall… but I already did that earlier. My heart is pounding, reverberating through my bones as I watch my panic attack unfold inside me.
There is no escape. Every fear that could show up to taunt me does so with unstoppable vigor. All I want is to be rescued, for someone to prove me wrong, to comfort me, make me feel better. But in a ballroom full of people I am the most alone I have ever felt. All I see is unfulfilled desires, all I hear is a fury of insults, all I feel is my own worthlessness. The panic attack gradually escalates and I am finding it difficult to breath, the vicious rollercoaster thrashing me about.
In the midst of this shit storm I become aware of a distant voice, like an announcer over an intercom that has been talking for a while but I only just now finally hear the message over all the noise.
“You are the source of these thoughts. If you continue thinking these things it’s only going to get worse. You have to focus on something else if you want something different to happen.”
I allow myself to take a deep breath, I lift my head, I tune into the sensation of my body leaning into the wall, I take note of the color of the lights illuminating the space, the quality of the sound filling the space, the multitude of languages spoken around me… But before I fully recover my senses, I find myself walking towards the dance floor with someone. I don’t even remember him asking me to dance, it happened so fast, so easily. As I take the embrace all I can think is “that’s it? That’s all it takes?”
It’s been about ten years since that night and to this day the answer continues to be a resounding YES! The thoughts I think construct my experience. If I allow self-judgement and criticism, if I spend my time comparing myself to others, pointing out all the things that I am lacking, if I indulge in bitterness towards someone who doesn’t want to dance with me, bitterness about not getting what I want, bitterness, bitterness, bitterness…. The more bitterness I experience inside, the more reasons to experience bitterness I encounter.
“Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” - Albert Einstein
Without fail and with uncanny precision, tango reflects back to me exactly the thoughts I choose to think. When I choose to not engage in judgement or criticism and instead pursue something to feel good about, something to admire, to enjoy, to appreciate, consistently I find myself engaged in the most amazing, life-enriching experiences, that sometimes have nothing to do with dancing. I would go as far as to say that it wasn’t until I committed to practicing feeling good about myself, that I was able to really enjoy tango and progress in it. To this day, through experiences of mastery and failure, it remains a practice. And just like tango, the depth, complexity, and rewards of this practice cannot be exhausted.