Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 1:56PM
Daniela Gitlin in Dance, Oh-no! Moments, On Being Alive, Relationships

When I realize: Eighteen years living in this house with Hubby and Son, and only I don’t have a room of my own, I make up my mind to take back two.

I survey the smaller one. That desk? Straight to the curb. Those ugly file cabinets holding must-save paper? In the closet? I slide open the door.

Boxes and boxes, every which way, lids scattered, Son’s middle school comic book collection. (He’s twenty now.) Clothes crumpled on the floor, fallen hangers, a dusty duffel bag, unzipped and stuffed with— guy gym clothes, soiled. (From when? My lip curls.) A grimy window fan. And much more. I don’t need my glasses to see what I’m up against.

My eyes close. My shoulders slump. I sigh. This closet is nothing. I consider the acres I must reclaim from Nature to make just one room my own, much less two. How bad do I want it?


Overnight forsythias yellow, crab apples pink, windshields green. Rain. Fog capped mountains, silver lake, gray bright sky, water-dark tree trunks. Colors— yellow-greens, blue-greens, whites, golds, fushias, purples— burn through my eyeballs straight into my brain, and explode—


If I do the following passive ilio-psoas stretch every day, my alignment should correct and dance posture improve. It’d better. I lie on the floor, one leg elevated on an end table, the one getting stretched straight on the floor, arms out with palms up, for fifteen minutes. Per leg.  

It’s torture, just lying there, doing nothing, still and unmoving, releasing into the ground. I tense. I twitch. I crave a shortcut. Something, anything to make it go faster, get it over, I have things to do. As if I wasn’t doing something. Monkey mind, the Buddhists call it, that false urgency. Reality check: fifteen minutes take fifteen minutes. No more, no less. Ditto, the second fifteen.

Today, I actually dozed off. Progress?


As I slip into sleep— thunder booms. Rain rushes. Cicadas saw, the metallic whine swelling and receding. A growling-yowling-snarling rips through.  At least two…. What? Cats? No. Dogs? Definitely not. Next to me, Poodle Oodle lifts her head, lifts her ears. We wait.  It comes again. Again, I don’t know. One more time. We wait. Rain shush shush-es, the cicadas silent.


Poodle Oodle rides shotgun, unbelted. She’s just a dog. I’m late, speeding a little, admiring the view, calculating my e.t.a. when the black Honda far ahead is suddenly much too close, flashing red brake lights.

I slam the brake to the floor. Poodle Oodle crashes into the foot well. The Honda turns left into a driveway. I glance down. She’s not moving. I pull over.

Heart racing, I lean over, she’s lying on her right side.  She lifts her head and looks at me— What happened?— unfolds one limb at a time, rises slowly to her feet, hops gingerly up onto the seat and settles, one limb at a time, onto her left side. She’s eleven. She had knee surgery six months ago. She’s eleven.

I stroke her. Gently, I palpate her joints, especially the right shoulder, which took the blow, and the bad knee. No yips or jerks-away.  She’s OK.  She gazes at me with only love.  My eyes burn, my throat swells. Just a dog.


When I shimmy-walk out with the troupe, the sun blinds me, spotlighting in through windows above the bleachers. It’s half time at a home bout of the local women’s roller derby club. We are the entertainment.

The derby dames in their crash helmets and roller skates, ripped fishnets and knee pads, short shorts (plain, ruffled, skirted), tagged tanks (Khaos, SuffoKate, Bam-B), elbow pads and tats, grin as we goddess by.  

Our sleek belly dance costumes— low slung mermaid skirts below bared abs of steel, one-strap tops above, glittering strands of faceted beads— assert the same seditious message theirs do: We are female. We own our bodies. We own our prowess. Estrogen rocks! Enjoy.

The crowd oh-s and wow-s, woops and claps. Smiling, I surrender to the sun in my eyes and the music, and nail the next move. First time, ever.


When the music shifts, so do we, from two rows into a circling wagon wheel, backs to each other, facing out, in time to the music. “How did you do that?” my friend asks after. Days later, the answer comes: One step at a time.


Open window—

sun-warm breeze and


Article originally appeared on danielagitlin (
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