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    BWS Stories - "Go Your Own Way": Discovering Midlife Passions

    "Go Your Own Way": Discovering Midlife Passions - My Passion

    Bonnie Lewis is a divorced mother of two grown, successful, children (boy/girl). She manages a cellular phone business to pay the bills, but she’s passionate about writing, theatre, and dance. She still believes in Prince Charming...although he's probably a bit long in the tooth by now!

    My Passion

    I bought cowboy boots last week. They are really cool! They’re kind of slouchy and made of distressed brown leather. They have really neat stitching on the top and gold trim on the pointed toes. Wearing them makes me happy. I’m sort of embarrassed to admit it but I’ve worn them every day since I bought them. (The salesman DID say I needed to break them in.) All I need now is a sparkly, silver, belt buckle and I’m set.

    About three years ago I had a midlife crisis or, perhaps, it was just my Drama Queen persona kicking in. Either way, I was bored. I knew I needed more. My old routine just wasn’t working. I was frustrated and felt empty. I craved creativity and passion. Plus, I felt that old biological clock ticking away…it kept saying; “old is coming, old is coming”. I sensed I had a very small window of opportunity before it caught up with me. Then, it would be too late to indulge a passion – if I was even lucky enough to find one!

    Sometimes life steps in and surprises you with a serendipitous event. An action taken results in a reaction that is so completely alien from the expected outcome that you’re blown away and it totally alters your life. (I admit it – that’s my inner Drama Queen talking but I like the theory!)

    I’ve spent most of my life searching in vain for a passion. I discovered a myriad of interests but none fulfilled my passion requirements. There always seemed to be a glitch.

    Last February I went to meet my friend DJ in Memphis. We both needed a break from the mundane, bleak, winter worlds we inhabit. He was into dancing and, while it sounded interesting, it didn’t spark any particular urge in me to follow suit.

    DJ wanted to take a dance lesson. I assumed I’d be his admiring audience. It never occurred to me that I could dance – should dance – or would have an affinity for dance. To be honest, I was terrified I’d embarrass myself. It seemed safer not to risk ridicule or failure.

    We dressed up and went to the dance studio. I was transported to another world the minute we walked in. Pretty girls in skirts and high heeled dance shoes pranced around the dazzling mirrored room in the arms of well-dressed men. It didn’t seem to matter what music was being played as each couple danced to their own rhythm. Waltzes..Swing..Tangos..ChaChas..all were going on simultaneously. It was exciting to watch and I was immediately on sensory overload.

    Val introduced herself as our instructor and, at first, I thought I’d be safe and hide in the corner. As I watched Val and DJ dance, I began to get itchy feet. The music was great and it was obvious they were having fun. I began to regret my decision to stay on the sidelines. I allowed myself to be led to the dance floor where Val taught me basic swing steps. DJ and I learned a Tango which was romantic and thrilling to perform. I became Eliza Doolittle singing; “I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT” while the Beach Boys fought for equal time in my head singing “DO YA WANNA DANCE?” Both songs are still loud and clear in my mind, only now they have dance steps attached to them.

    DJ was a great partner and made me feel like I could dance. His patience and support was all the encouragement I needed. The icing on the cake was dancing with the instructors and other students. The common motivation was a love of dance and the desire to achieve synchronicity with my partner. When it worked, it was better than any aphrodisiac – although that’s only conjecture on my part!

    Once home, I found myself humming and smiling at work, as my feet practiced “step/step/rock/step” under my desk. I realized it was impossible to be in a bad mood while dancing. I wanted more. I was out of control.

    I went online and found Maureen, The Ale House, and the Jumpin’ Jive Club. On Tuesday night, I gathered up my courage and walked into the Ale House. There must have been a hundred people at the bar. Maureen called us over and began to teach. Without a partner, it is difficult to practice, but I’ll keep taking lessons as long as she keeps teaching.

    DJ recommended line dancing because a partner is not required. That kind of threw me for a loop since I had never even listened to country music. But, Wednesday night, I walked into the Circle B Lounge for a line dancing lesson. The minute I walked through that door, I loved it. The people…the atmosphere…the music… I began to smile and three months later, I’m still smiling and I’m still line dancing – several nights each week – only now, with my boots on!

    I’m not a good dancer yet, but yet is the key word. I’m getting better each week and I’m eager to put forth the necessary effort. To that end, I’ve attended an all day line dance workshop and two 3 hour swing classes in addition to my regular endeavors. I now know several dances well and quite a few adequately.

    I’ve made new friends and I feel a renewed confidence in my abilities. Best of all, I’ve discovered my passion. With dance, I’m secure in my space. I don’t feel the need for instant perfection and I enjoy the learning process. Watching my new friend’s exhibit pride in my achievements is so gratifying. When I’m out on the floor attempting to mimic the “real” dancers’ steps and failing miserably, it’s only a matter of seconds before I hear voices whispering; “jazz box… mambo step… grapevine…” They are all invested in my success and it’s a pretty great feeling. We laugh when I screw up. They’re quick with encouragement and stories from their own early days of dancing.

    Dance has also afforded me the opportunity to gain some insight into myself. My initial reaction was to give total credit to DJ for opening the door and exposing me to the world of dance. But, I realized I have to thank myself for having the courage and stamina to walk through that open doorway. Others can show us what’s there, but we’re responsible for what we do with the knowledge. I’m expending the time and effort required to become a dancer. I’m the one deriving the pleasure from my successes and experiencing the frustration from my failures. And, now that I have my cowboy boots, I can’t lose! To paraphrase Nancy Sinatra, “my boots were made for dancin’ and that’s just what I’ll do”. Now, I just need those high heeled, gold lame, swing dance shoes……………..

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