…. But not just any senior citizen. I want to be a senior who dances.
For the past several years, I have had the privilege of teaching a dance-fitness class to several women in their 60s, 70s and 80s. These women have shown me all the things I want to be:
- I want to be brave enough to face breast cancer head on – surviving chemo and radiation and mastectomy. I will feel weak and battered to the bone. And I will still get up and dance.
- I want to be patient enough to spend the night fielding 20 calls from my mother, who has dementia and constantly fears for her life. I will be worried and exhausted and frustrated. And I will still get up and dance.
- I want to be loving enough to care for my husband whose Alzheimer’s has progressed so far that he no longer remembers my name. I will consider and reject alternate living arrangements for the 100th time. And I will still get up and dance.
- I want to be resilient enough to become a widow in my late 50s. I will feel empty and alone. And I will still get up and dance.
- I want to be strong enough to face arthritis, back trouble, torn muscles and weak knees. I will feel old. And I will still get up and dance.
You see, I’m not old yet, but I am aging. I have officially reached mid-life and I see what lies ahead.
I see what these women have been through. And I also see them light up on the dance floor. I see them shimmy and shake with abandon. I see them move their bodies as well as or better than the thirty-somethings dancing next to them. I see that being a senior comes with a certain amount of pain, but also with a certain amount of “f-you” privilege. For these women, dancing is not simply a way to keep in shape – it is defiance; it is freedom; it is community; it is pure joy.
These seniors dance because they still can. They dance because it sustains them. They dance because they know their lives depend on it.
I watch them dance, and I realize: that’s exactly what I want to be when I grow up.