Dancing around That Little Voice Inside My Head

It was not going well. The choppy steps, coordination (or lack thereof), rhythm (or lack thereof) and That Little Voice Inside My Head all conspired last weekend to turn yours truly into a momentary grump.

“I just want to do this … now,” I said.

And that's when Johnny Gonzalez, our ever so patient instructor, said the following:

“Don’t be like some of these milennials who want something but don’t want to work for it,” he said.

Whoa.

Shots fired.

Good thing, too.

Because Johnny’s words resonated.

He shouted down That Little Voice without ever shouting at all.

And while I still contend that most drunks leaning against lamp posts have more coordination than I do, the dance routine is coming along for Friday’s local “Dance Showdown” at Waterford High for the benefit of mental health services for youth and suicide prevention efforts.

I was at a basketball game maybe a month ago when Dani Gorman, who runs Waterford Youth Services, asked if I’d be part of “Dancing With The Stars.” Because my speech patterns are essentially “shoot, ready, aim,” I blurted “of course!” without processing a particular detail:

I dance like a turtle with a mild case of gout.

Hence, my frustration over the weekend at a routine stuck in neutral.

That’s until I realized a few things:

Jimmy Dugan was right in “A League Of Their Own,” when he said, “if it was easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

The task of conquering That Little Voice is a process. Hell, anything worthwhile is a process. This has been — quite literally — an exercise in one foot in front of the other. (Or in my case, one foot on my dance partner’s toe). One foot, one step, one move. Rinse. Repeat.

What a feeling when it begins to flow.

And who knew, really, that something as innocent as dancing could peel back the cognitive onion with such verve? What I’ve learned in the past few weeks has been immeasurable.

And is there anything more satisfying than stifling That Little Voice?

I’ve come to appreciate performers — artists and athletes alike — so much more. It’s hard to put yourself out there with the spotlight shining. But soooooo worth it.

I drew some inspiration from the kids at Waterford playing basketball in the state championship game the other day at Mohegan Sun. The whole town watching, cheering, hoping and critiquing. I’m thinking about being on stage Friday, just me and my (ever so patient) partner Ellen Bellos, who will clearly be the cleanup hitter for this operation.

I can’t wait.

Because no longer is That Little Voice relevant.

This is why I advocate so strong for sports. And the arts. I see it with the kids and the games they play. I’m learning about the arts more, too, through the New London Youth Talent Show. They overcome their fears and Little Voices to become more confident, vibrant people. Because they learn to rely on … wait for it … themselves.

It’s been a historic year and a half for me, if for no other reason than a realization of how That Little Voice had been running my life. One friend of mine in particular has been responsible for showing me a light for the way, giving me the confidence to conquer That Little Voice.

Last winter, it was sledding. (My friend can be persuasive). And so in spite of my distaste for being cold, wet or going downhill too fast, I was going 70 miles per hour down the hill near Waterford High, deftly avoiding trees and other stationary objects.

Last spring: road racing. Completed two 5K races.

Last summer, it was paddle boarding. I kept falling. And falling. Finally, it was like the old lady in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial. It was getting harder to get back up on the paddle board. So I do what I usually do: complain.

My friend was in the water with me that day to provide moral support. (And make fun of me).

“Why can’t I get back up on this thing?” I said.

“Because you’re fat,” my friend said.

We burst out laughing together (even though the instructor looked horrified.)

Yet it was that moment, after a funny line, hearty laugh and the realization that life’s too short to be scared, that I stood up.

Now it’s on to dancing.

So thanks to Dani, Johnny, Ellen and my friend who have all conspired against That Little Voice to teach me a great lesson.

One foot in front of the other.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro 

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