Dancing In A Supermarket
Or How I Let Anxiety Govern Me For Too Long
I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was late, and my brain was scrambled from too much work. Maybe I was unusually happy for some reason I don’t remember. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that one minute, I was scanning the chips aisle for some worthy movie snacks, my wife by my side and on her own treasure hunt for some oven-baked crisps she favours, and the next I had taken her hand and pulled her towards me. In the next moment, we were dancing.
Late in the evening, in the center of an empty supermarket aisle, we were dancing.
The song wasn’t particularly suitable for it, and I’m a clumsy dancer on my best days, but I was having the time of my life. My wife was considering me like she would a dog who’s just gone zoomie after peeing on the carpet at three a.m., but she had gone along with it, which made her just as crazy. After maybe twenty seconds, we stopped, and I glanced around to see if anyone was watching. As though we’d just wrapped up the performance of our lives.
I think that was the first time I truly let go. Often, even when I’m happy, and even, sometimes, when I’m alone, I’m hovered over by a buzzing cloud of anxiety that makes me check my every move, my every thought, against the idealistic standard of the “normal” person, and I end up restraining myself more often than I’d like. Mind, I’m not even talking about huge, life-defining situations (where a modicum of restraint and reflection is often preferable), but about everyday stuff: deciding against making a joke that might have killed because I deemed it too risqué, not always saying things directly lest I upset someone, or choosing not to ask a question that’s been bugging me because the risk of seeming stupid had been too much to bear.
That evening, something in me was clicked shut. I was done caring. Amid mountains of unhealthy snacks, I took the biggest public risk I’d ever taken, did something silly and stupid, and gave not a damn about the consequences. I felt ecstatic, and free, in a way I never had before, but would again, many times over.
Revisiting the scene days later, I wondered what I should have been so afraid of in the first place. Sure, there might have been some awkwardness. Someone might have filmed us and we’d have gone stupidly viral. So what? It’s not like any of that would’ve gotten me killed. Nothing that could have happened then, or on any other occasion when I’d kept myself in check for fear of being judged, seemed so bad anymore.
Dance like nobody’s watching. Such a cliché. But as with all clichés, it has its roots in ancient wisdom.
It was, I’m sure, partly my wife’s fault. When we got together nearly four years ago, I was like a chick freshly hatched. I was used to some degree of physicality, but not the kind she and her family practice: kisses on the head, hugs that are more like bearhugs, and constant handholding. I hadn’t held hands with a woman for such lengthy stretches of time since I was five. It felt awkward at first, all this contact, all this laying myself bare for another person to prod. But I got used to it; I had to, else my wife (then girlfriend) would feel ill at ease with me. And after enough time had passed, I realized something. I had begun to like it. And not just that: I had begun to reciprocate it. Finally, I was allowing myself to be vulnerable. I was entrusting my squishy, hairless heart to another person’s care, consequences be damned.
This is how I want to live in 2024. To dance like I don’t give a damn who’s watching, to let myself express the full extent of my personality, blemishes and all. Because the truth is, life is short. Another year has passed, and sooner or later it will all be over. I can’t afford to hold myself back any longer.
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