Happy is the New Sexy This Valentine’s Day!
February 1, 2015 | Mishael Porembski
Valentine’s Day can be a bit dicey in the widow-zone. Most other holidays, you can focus on children and family. But Valentine’s Day is little in-your-face with pink-candy-hearted-celebration-couples. So what do you do if you are not coupled? Just avoid the holiday all together? No! It’s your ticket to adventure…
Your Life is Your Adventure. Period. When I got far enough from feeling overwhelmed by grief, I realized that this pause in my life caused by the passing of my late husband, can eventually become a period of transformation for me. As I craft the next chapters of my life, I can use this time to re-engage with the things that used to make me happy and try things I’ve always wanted to do.
How do you do that? Start by writing down a list of things that used to make you happy that you stopped doing and things that you’ve always wanted to try. Then pick one. This is the secret sauce to how I found my joy in life again after loss. Every time I chose to do something on my list, I had a blast, met new people, remembered who I am or discovered something new about myself. For example, I used to be in a flamenco dance troupe years ago before I had children. Recently, I started taking classes again. Pure joy! Makes me smile every time! So I did it again last week. I happen to love salsa dancing. My father and his side of my family are from Poland and my mother and her side of the family are from Peru. I grew up mostly with the Peruvian side in South Florida. So it was not uncommon for us to have salsa music and even to dance together at family gatherings. Salsa music hits a deep cord in me, the same way smelling a pie that your grandmother used to make. It feels like home and I feel most myself.
I’ve been waiting for one of the guys I know to invite me to go. I have some great male friends, but most don’t know how to salsa dance or have been hesitant to try. Not having a date, I haven’t gone dancing in a long time. I didn’t want to walk into a salsa club by myself. It felt odd. Which means I’ve been waiting for someone else to validate my participation in one of my favorite things to do. Which is crazy, because I encourage others to make the list and I’m not doing one of my own favorite things! So I decided to go by myself to a salsa event held monthly at an Atlanta museum. I’ll admit that I was nervous. What if no one asks me to dance? What if I just stand there on the fringes watching other people salsa the night away? Maybe I should stay home and fold laundry. Yeah, get a jump on laundry. But I didn’t. It had been long enough. I pulled myself together and marched into that salsa event and paid the entry fee at the door. I was in. Now what? Okay, put my coat and purse in a locker for safe keeping. Done. Now to the dance floor.
There were about 250 people dancing in the large Fernbank history museum atrium. Two massive dinosaur skeletons loomed over the salsa DJ and all the dancers on the floor. Pterodactyl-like skeletons hung high overhead in suspended flight. And the salsa music washed over me, reminding me from where I come. Calling me home to my mother’s roots. I did stand on the fringes watching couples dance. It was a little uncomfortable and I tried to look casual. There was a basic salsa class being offered at the beginning of the evening and couples were practicing the steps. I saw a solo, tall, African-American man wearing a hat and long scarf draped around his neck practicing the steps which were called out by the MC. I walked up to him and asked if he’d like to practice with me. He was relieved to have a partner, almost as much as I was. Turns out he was from New Orleans and had recently moved to Atlanta. I smiled as we danced together for a few songs. The music was seeping into me. Refreshing me. He was meeting a friend for the evening and once she called to say she arrived, I thanked him for the dances and stood to the side of the dance floor as he excused himself to meet her at the door of the museum.
Several other men danced with me and then I hit the jackpot. A short, seasoned (meaning “older”) Latino man asked me to dance. He wore back and white wing-tipped shoes. I could tell he was an experienced dancer. There seems to be a bit of a hierarchy in salsa. There are the absolute beginners, the ones who have mastered basic steps, the intermediate, the experienced and the professional. This guy was experienced and I was rusty from years of not dancing. He proceeded to bring me up to speed over the next few hours. Then a few other experienced gentlemen asked me to dance. These were not the physically hottest men in the room. They were wiser, experienced dancers, which was their own brand of hotness. I couldn’t stop smiling as I learned from them.
It was like an oxygen mask had dropped from the sky. The music, the dancing, the way I felt about myself were all so refreshing. I felt most myself that night. I wondered why had I gone this long, why had I let this part of myself become so parched? Because I was afraid of going alone. And then…toward the end of the evening, a man around my age, a good dancer, asked me to dance. He was strong and fun. We didn’t dance perfectly together. I got off beat sometimes and so did he. We laughed when that happened, paused, found the beat and then started again. The fun was learning to dance together. It was nice to feel a strong hand in the small of my back. Even nicer when he dipped me back, way back, at the end of a song. We went out to dinner about a week later and talked over a spicy plate of pallea and fried plantains. Delightful on all counts…
Sometimes you have to step out to make your own happiness. Don’t wait for someone to bring it to you. As widows, we all know that life is short and has unexpected twists and turns. I have no idea where this new path will go. Maybe it’s a short path, who knows? I do know that dancing salsa makes me happy. When I took the risk, I enjoyed meeting others that shared the same interest.
That’s what makes life an adventure for me, engaging with the people and activities that feed and refresh my soul. I Believe that Being Happy is the Ultimate Sexy. No dress size, no haircut, nothing is sexier than happy! So this Valentine’s day…Go Be Happy! I challenge you to take a risk! Do something that makes you thrilled! Something that feeds your soul. You will meet wonderful people along the way. It’s the start of something fun! It’s loving your life today. That’s the sexiest gift you can give yourself! I, for one, will be on the salsa dance floor…Let me know how it goes for you!