There are people who seem to shoot through life on a straight arrow, right from the get-go. And then there’s me.
Even in grade school it seemed to me that he rest of the world was operating with a set of instructions that had somehow completely eluded me. They cruised along at a steady clip, on a cool stream that was obviously heading some place, while most of the time, I didn’t even know how to find my way from one classroom to the next.
Metaphorically speaking, I had landed — from birth — in the deep end of the pool and it was all I could do to keep my nose above the line. Somewhere, along the way, I had obviously missed the life boat. I was treading water.
I remember once, when I was about seven, I found myself standing in a classroom, smack in the middle of all the fuss over something called a “recital.” Serious preparation was going on all around me, scurrying, hurrying, hair combing, mothers applying make-up and toe shoes, but I had no idea what I was doing there — absolutely no recall of what had lead-up to this moment.
It was as if I’d been been beamed into that room, a true-life non sequitur, a tiny, 35 lb alien in black leotard and pink tights with a slice of elastic a strapping down pink dance slippers.
Someone was combing back my hair and fussing over me. Rather than reveal my confusion, I just quietly went along as we were herded onto the auditorium stage and arranged ourselves into neat rows. The place was packed with happy parents. I was ‘stage left,’ at the back, in a haze of confusion.
Below us a lady was gingerly tapping out dance exercises on an upright piano. The ballet teacher was calling out instructions in a thick accent, in time with the music. She had on a flowy chiffon scarf wrapped around her waist and thighs that hardly disguised the strong possibility that she spent more time on the sofa with a bag of chips than in a studio, doing plies.
The children around me seemed to magically anticipate every next step. I was struggling to follow along unnoticed. Then, a wave of pure empathy washed over me, snapping me into awareness. Some poor kid was about to be publicly humiliated in mid-performance. The teacher — unbelievably — was interrupting the show to correct this loser. “No! No! Noooo! Zat ees not codect. Stop now!” she commanded, punctuating each shout with a clap of her hands as she loudly stomped her way up on to the stage.
Oh no, that poor kid I thought, even as I feel a hard tug at my left leg. She was yanking my left leg into a proper turn-out.”Left! Eet ees de left leg. Out … like zees!” she barked.
Me. Oh for the love of God, I thought … it’s me.
This is how it was for me… everyone just clipping along, and then there was me, spaced out, dazed out, lost in a fog, goofy little dork on stage with the teacher holding up her big fat mistake leg for the world to see. And so it went. At six, at sixteen, all the way into to mid-life. Absolutely clueless, treading water, trying to figure out how everyone else seemed to know how it all worked, waiting for a lifeline