When the Introvert Dances


I took a little poll on Facebook today. I wanted to ask my personal collective hive-mind what they thought about me. Specifically, I wanted to know if they thought I was an introvert or an extrovert.  The answers, surprisingly, were all over the map. I got everything from extreme extrovert to extreme introvert, and lots of in between.
I was mildly amused to see the wide range of answers, and kept a running tally on a Post-It note on my desk. When I left work today, the introverts had it by 4 votes.
So, who was right?
Actually, everyone.
I tend to be a pretty open person. On the most obvious level, I’ve involved myself in the local goings-on in Carlisle where I live, and have become a bit of a public figure, so I do have a very outgoing, public face. Some of you know me in that context.
But, as Shrek always said, ogres are like onions.
Yes, I do have a public facade, who doesn’t mind being in the newspaper, going to City Council meetings, chairing events and running nonprofits… but that’s only one layer.
If you’ve been lucky enough to make it onto my personal Facebook page, you’ll know that it’s far different from my public figure page. I get a lot more personal there. I share vacation pictures, stories, my thoughts. I’d like to think I’m a pretty open person. I’m very social. I do enjoy being right in the thick of things when they’re happening.
But, as open as I am, there are huge swathes of my life I don’t share. There are things that only a few people get to know. There are things only one person gets to know. The closer things get to my heart, the tighter I hold on to them, and the fewer people I’m willing to share them with.
I have one friend who, I’ve jokingly said, “gets to know things.” She gets to know the nitty gritty, sometimes not so nice, messy corners of the way my mind works. She gets to know dreams that I won’t share with anyone else. She gets to know numbers nobody else gets to know.


Occasionally, she scolds me for keeping things to myself that I really should share, and not carry alone.  I especially struggle was sharing the hard moments. The moments when I can’t do it by myself. The moments when I’m less than perfect.
When I think about it, it’s always been this way. Major life decisions are made in retreat. I hide away and think things through, and quietly decide.
When I left the army, only 3 people in the world knew that was happening until it was already done.
When I decided to leave the nursing home, I quietly started searching for jobs and said nothing until I had an offer, and even then, only one person knew.
This past year on October 15th, I quietly made another decision.
It’s no secret that I have Lupus and MS, and have been on steroids and other medications for the better part of two decades. Steroids are not my friend. I found this out the hard way and gained a lot of weight. It was unavoidable, and to be perfectly honest, I’d rather be fat and alive than skinny and dead, so it is what it is.
It is what it is, but fat shaming is a thing, and has been a very real part of my life. I’ve had people moo at me when I walk down the street, oink at me as I go into a restaurant, and assume that I am lazy or dumb because of my size.


I know that I’m neither of those things. That doesn’t stop the words from stinging or making me feel like I have to be twice as good as everyone else to be seen as half as competent.
I’ve gotten used to it. Grown a thick skin— but there are certain things I’ve never gotten used to.
I used to dance.
I used to teach liturgical dance classes.


Yep, you read that right. I used to dance. Miss “I broke my foot during Annie, fall over on every spin, can’t dance to save my life”  used to dance.


[proof — me dancing with a class I taught during a recital,

and the class portrait of one of my first dance troupes in Maine] 

A lot of it is the MS. It causes balance issues, and I have a hard time controlling my left leg sometimes. But my size doesn’t help either. It limits me in what I can do, what roles I can play when shows come in at the theatre.

This past October, they announced next year’s shows at the theatre I work for. Two of them are my dream shows. TWO. In one season. And I cried. Not tears of happiness, but tears of frustration, because there would probably be no place in either of them for a middle-aged fat woman who can barely dance.
I cried because I have to wait several years between shows sometimes until there’s a role for an old fat chick. I cried because the roles that do come up are caricatures. The butt of jokes. The funny fat girl.
The next day I went to the doctor and found out that my blood work showed that I’ve been stable for over a year now, and she is comfortable pulling me off the steroids permanently for the first time in almost a decade.
That same day, I took my last $40 and joined Weight Watchers. I did it very quietly. Only told a few people, and only one person the starting number.
The longer I’ve been on it, the more people have found out, just because I’m eating differently and choosing wisely how to spend my points. Still, only one person gets to know the number though. And it’s going to stay that way.
Why haven’t I posted about it on my Facebook? Well, for the same reason I didn’t tell anybody about the relationship I was in for several months. It’s really not everybody’s business. Yes, I know that some people thrive on the encouragement and the ‘fitspiration,’ but I don’t. Just thinking about everybody knowing and waiting for some sort of weekly update is enough to send me into a panic attack.


What if I don’t lose any weight this week? Have I failed? What if I only lose 40 pounds and my body won’t let me lose anymore? What if? What is? What if?
I’m happy to report that, so far, it is working for me, I’ve lost almost 11% of my body weight so far, and I’m going to take this as far as I can. Please do not expect updates.
And last night, I made another decision. A big one. But again, I made it very quietly, all alone in Community Aid.
Almost ten years ago now, I donated a pair of almost brand new Bloch character shoes to a thrift store  because I couldn’t dance anymore.
Last night, as I was strolling the aisles at the thrift store, my eyes lit upon a very familiar pair of shoes.
Bloch character shoes. Black. Almost brand new. Size 9 and a half.
I stared at those shoes for a long time, then I finally picked them up.As soon as I touched them, the new decision was made.


Someday soon, this introvert is going to dance again.
I’m going to get up on the stage, throw the extrovert switch, and dance like I mean it.
Until then, I’ll be curled up in my blankie, wearing my softest pajamas, drinking tea, and emailing my friend in Spain, because she gets to know things.


And the shoes will sit on my dresser, ready and waiting for the day when I put them back on and dance.



2 thoughts on “When the Introvert Dances

  1. Reading this was a great way to crawl out of bed this morning to get ready for work, albeit sometimes I ask why aren’t I retired. The images and the struggles of humanity that your little vignette pokes a window into gives one a moment … a moment to contemplate and understand how many stories we are unaware of the bring people through this mystery in exile…life. Thank you. Joe


  2. I never saw you as someone who plays small. What is important is that you play, even when you’re scared of catcalls, of violence aimed against you, and against the lies you believe about yourself thanks to the world’s “preferences.” Keep dancing, acting, signing, being you — creating a world that is yours; defiant in the face of those whose fears wish to keep you on their level. Take it from someone who learned to f*k it to society, too.


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