“Let us go then, you and I …” And so begins one of my most favorite poems … and I do LOVE poetry. It is a haunting tale of one man’s quest for love written by T.S. Eliot called, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” You can read the whole text here. I have often quoted this poem to myself, to my students, with my friends, and just randomly as I drive down the highway — doesn’t everyone?
Our hero, J. Alfred Prufrock, lives in the world of uncertainty … should he, should he not?
“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
“do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
He second guesses himself constantly. He agonizes over the smallest decision of making a decision and what the ramifications will be of that decision. We are surely meant to pity him, except that almost everyone I know who has encountered the poem has identitified with Prufrock. He wants so badly to be loved and yet he cannot bring himself to do anything about it but wonder over and over if he should or shouldn’t.
Prufrock is obviously insecure about himself — read one of his self-descriptions:
“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous —
Almost, at times, the Fool.”
“So what,” you might say as you read this blog post, “what the heck is this chick writing about on her ballroom dancing blog?” To me, all the arts — all of life, really — is connected. Take for instance Prufrock and his quest for love. We listen in to his thoughts as he debates whether to make a move at a social function or not and we are struck as we realize toward the end of the poem we are rooting for his success and he fails … he fails to act. He literally talks himself out of it. It’s agonizing as he envisions his lonely life ahead of him and still — he doesn’t act. Fear of rejection keeps him from acting. Now, turn that on you … and specifically the things in your life. What is it that you want in your dancing and fear is keeping you from it? Doesn’t mean it’s not something hard or frustrating or scary or embarrasing — what is it? Now put that into the same context as Prufrock. You are literally talking yourself out of it … can you feel the same agonization as an observer watching you want something really badly, but you talk yourself out of it? Perhaps I just have a vivid imagination, but I can see it.
I see in my head what I want my dancing to be and look like and yet I’m the one who talks myself out of getting there! I have all the best intentions and desires, but fail to act.
Is this my answer for why I have not become the best I can at my craft:
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
It’s easy for me to find my own excuses: so-and-so is a millionaire — I’ll never be able to buy my way like they did; she doesn’t even have to work; they were born with a dancer’s body; she’s been dancing her whole life; I’m not the favorite; I don’t have enough time; it’s too hard; blah, blah, blah ad nauseum …
Sadly, Prufrock chose as we often choose. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t. What are you goals this year for dancing? This month? This week? Today? What mind game must you win today in order to be a better dancer? Write it down. And force yourself to do it.
My mother, she’s passed away and I think of things she told me often, grew up on a farm and was #9 of 10 children. She had 5 children of her own. One time we were discussing how to keep up with things around the house. She said to me: “Just do one thing every day. Today, dust. Tomorrow, clean the toilets. The next day, do laundry. And before you know it, you start forming habits and you do more and more and then it gets done. But you will be overwhelmed if you try to do everything in one day and then you’ll quit and it’ll pile up and you’ll get frustrated and not do anything.”
She was right, that mother o’ mine. Today, do one thing to help with your dancing — add a footwork drill in-between chores or on your break at work. Call and schedule another lesson. Go to the gym. Walk for 30 minutes. Whatever you choose to do — do something. And tomorrow, do something else, and the next day, and the next day, etc. And all those small decisions won’t become in-decisions and revisions, but will lead to bigger choices and before you know it, you’ll be seeing your future hopes become a reality.
“And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while”
yes, oh yes. Disturb the universe, my friends.