Tap Dancing

I've been an entertainer all my life, maybe not like Lady Gaga or Adele, but an entertainer, nevertheless. I began at about five or six to memorize the songs my parents listened to, mainly from musicals and light operas. At night after dinner I would stand in front of our living room picture window and sing and dance. I loved performing and receiving abundant applause from my mom and dad. I sang everything from "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" to "Getting to Know You," to anything and everything I loved.

I realize now, decades later, that as an only child, I was the family hero and mascot. It was the mascot who sang and danced, trying to distract and deflect, trying to lighten a very heavy family. Somehow I believed it was my job to save my family, to help my parents be less stressed and happier. It was never my job. My only job should have been to be a kid, to relax, to play, and depend on my parents to be the adults and create a safe home.

I also see today that I am still tap dancing and have entertained my partners, children and friends with jokes, games, and at times actual singing and dancing. The five year old inside me is still trying to cajole, to lighten, to change people and situations to something better. This is still not my job. I cannot change anyone but myself. Most recently, in a fairly new relationship, I see that I have been the fun one, the silly one, the one who teases, jokes, suggests fun outings to movies, beach concerts and dancing at weekend venues. There's nothing wrong with sharing my joy, my abundant energy and cheerful disposition. It's when I do it to manipulate or control my partner, to change his mood or to distract him or us from something potentially heavy. It is then that I regress, become the child who just wants everyone to get along, who just wants everyone to be happy and the home in peace.

Now, I want to stop tap dancing except when I am doing it out of sheer delight, when I am dancing or singing because I love myself, love my life and everyone around me. I no longer am that kid who danced in her living room, often on eggshells, always being so careful to do it perfectly, do it with a smile and do it for her parents. Those days are over. I claim my adult self who is lovingly parenting her inner child, the child who is free to feel any emotion at any time. Now it's safe to do so.

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