When my older son first got the hang of reading, it was all he did. I spent years teaching him how to read. Starting with showing him flashcards in the high chair as soon as he could sit up. I bribed, I coerced, I’d read half a story out loud and then walk away so he’d have to finish reading it himself. He became the sort of reader who could be completely immersed in a book and not notice someone calling his name. And now he reads almost exclusively on his phone. Text messages and snapchats and articles pared down to the very least.
Obviously, this really breaks my heart, because I am a super reading nerd who not only reads all weekend but also annotates what I read so that I can read about my own reading at a later date. Lately I’ve been using Pixter, a lovely OCR app, which does a pretty good but not perfect job of translating a photographed image of a printed page to editable text. The most efficient way to check the transcription and correct little changes is to ask someone else to read the passages while you look at the text and make corrections. It’s great if someone you taught to read is handy.
So of course, I had my older son come sit down and read me the passages I wanted to include in my notes about the book On Living while I checked them. How did I only just think of this as a way to make him read at least some things that I think he should read? On Living is about Kerry Egan’s experience with postpartum psychosis (it’s just barely about that at all to be honest) and her work as a hospice chaplain. It’s sort of simply written for my tastes, and Egan seems way more comfortable with other people’s stories than her own, but there were some really great passages that I’ll think about for a while.
He read me this and I hope he listened as he read it:
Too often, it’s only as people realize that they will lose their bodies that they finally appreciate how truly wonderful the body is.`”I am going to miss this body so much,” a different patient, many decades younger, said. She held up her hands in the dim light that seeped through the sunshade on the window. She stared at them as though she had never seen them before. “I’d never admit it to my husband and kids, but it’s my own body I’ll miss most of all. This body that danced and ate and swam and had sex and made babies. It’s amazing to think about. This body actually made my children. It carried me through this world,” She put her hands down. “And I’m going to have to leave it. I don’t have a choice. And to think I spent all those years criticizing how it looked, and never noticing how good it felt. Until now when it never feels good.”
Second in intensity to the regret of hating their bodies is the wish of the dying the they had appreciated their bodies in the course of their lives. Mind you, it isn’t just health that they wish they had appreciated. It is embodiment itself. It’s the very experience of being in a body, something you might take for granted until faced with the reality that you won’t have a body soon. No matter what you believe happens after death, whether it be an afterlife, reincarnation, or nothing at all, this remains: You will no longer be able to experience this world in this body, ever again. People who are dying face that reality every day. So they talk about their favorite memories of their bodies. About how the apples they stole from the orchard on the way home from school tasted, and how their legs and lungs burned as they ran away. The feel of the water the first time they went skinny-dipping. The smell of their babies’ heads. The breeze on their skin that time they made love outside. And dancing. So many stories about dancing. I can’t count the hundreds of times people—more men than women—have closed their eyes and said, when describing USO dances during World War II, or shagging at South Carolina beach houses, or long, exuberant nights dancing at roadhouses and discos and barns and wherever else there were bodies and music, “If I had only known, I would have danced more.”
Honestly, I don’t feel much like dancing right now. It’s dark outside and it feels dark inside. I need more than I have right now, which is ridiculous because I have so much. I am really, really, really tired. Of all of it. Of the earth spinning and the days passing and I don’t want to know what bullshit comes next. These things ebb and flow. But right now I feel pretty hollow. I’m functioning–I am washing my face and putting on my shoes and answering emails and smiling most of the times I’m supposed to, but people very close to me can see it. Maybe it’s the solstice. I’m telling you to dance, and I’m also telling you that I don’t want to dance. There’s a solution. An in-between.
The angry dance.
My younger son heard the remake of this song on the radio and was like, “What? This is all wrong! This isn’t the real song.” I taught him how to read and cook an egg and use the toilet. But most importantly, I taught him the discography of Swedish Pop Icon Robyn.
In this video, she is angry-dancing. That’s an option on the solstice. You want to go to 1:26 and check out that choreography from there until about 1:48. Learn those moves. That’s it. That’s your prompt. Be pissed, but dance anyway. That’s what I’m going to do.