Living in My Head

A few years ago, I visited a chiropractor because of some vertigo I had been experiencing. I originally saw my primary care physician who diagnosed me with an ear infection, despite not being able to detect any real infection. “It’s probably clearing up,” he explained. But the vertigo continued for weeks. After a friend recommended that a chiropractor could help, I made an appointment.

During my first visit, the chiropractor asked a lot of questions about my physical health, my mental well-being and my family background. She then asked a question that no one had ever asked before. “Do you live in your head or in your body?”

While the question caught me off guard initially, I answered without any reflection, “I live in my head.”

As I explained to the chiropractor, I’ve always had a strange disconnection from my body. It has basically served as a vehicle to get my head places. While this brain/body disconnect doesn’t cause any significant challenges for my work as an academic or as an educator, it isn’t ideal for learning to play sports or mastering other physical activities. I lumber through most sports without any real success.

While the vertigo subsided after several visits, the chiropractor’s question has become an ongoing joke at my house. The brain/body disconnect so aptly described how I navigate the world that my wife would regularly ask how many meetings I took my brain to that day. While the disconnect is kind of amusing, it can also be challenging. And that’s really the point of this post.

For Christmas 2019, our family decided to give experiences to one another rather than tangible gifts like a sweater or a pair of socks. For example, I bought my son tickets to see one of his favorite bands. My wife bought my daughter tickets to see an art exhibit. Each gift was an experience we planned to share as a family through 2020. But then a global pandemic hit and most of those experiences have gone unexperienced.

Jump ahead to this past weekend. I’m happy to report that my wife and I are fully vaccinated and that we’re trying to wade our way back into the regular world again. We’re still socially distancing and wearing our masks, but we’re trying to catch up on some experiences we had hoped to have last year, including the gift I gave my wife for Christmas 2019: dance lessons.

So, this past Sunday, my wife and I took a beginner class on “West Coast Swing.” While we were beginners, it was clear that some of the other people in the class had a bit more experience than my wife or me. They already knew basic moves like the “sugar push” or the “left hand pass” or the “left hand under turn.” While the teacher reviewed these beginner moves for us, I found myself struggling to keep up with even the basic steps or the count. My brain was rattling off “one, two, three and four, five and six” and my body was just doing its own thing. My brain/body disconnect was on full display.

At the end of the class, the teacher came over to my wife and me and asked how we thought it went. With everyone masked, I’m sure it was difficult to read our facial expressions. We explained that while we had taken dance lessons 25 years ago prior to our wedding, it had been some time since either of us had been on a dance floor. He thanked us for joining the class and said that he hoped we’d return next class. He then offered some words of encouragement.

“It’s important for us to get out of our comfort zone sometimes,” he said. “That’s where learning happens.”

So, while I doubt I’ll become a proficient dancer any time soon, my hope is that these dance lessons will help my body and brain learn to better communicate with one another.

I can live in my head. But I need my body to dance.

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