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At first, it’s just something you do: a hobby, something to do instead of watching TV in the evenings, a way to exercise, an excuse to meet new people or a means to escape from an unhappy home. You begin slowly, allowing a modest addition to your regular schedule, maybe once a week. You don’t talk about it much, except maybe with close friends. You’re not even sure if you like it. You don’t, at this point, change how you think of yourself.Basically, one of three futures unfolds:1. Passivity: You drift away from the new interest because it turns out you liked the oversimplified idea of doing it more than the effortful reality. You have no talent for it. You lack enthusiasm. You get bored.This has happened to me countless times. I have gotten so excited about growing my own herbs, joining activist organizations, studying biochemistry, taking singing lessons, studying psychology, building furniture, playing violin – but actually doing any of these doesn’t excite me at all.Here’s a specific example: When I imagine myself sliding the bow regally across an A string, my fingers deft as the wind and an appreciative audience moved to tears by my tremulous B-flat, I have such a summer breeze. However, when I open my violin case and practice, I don’t enjoy it at all. My back hurts, I don’t like the music I’m able to play and I feel like I’m missing something – like only my arms are active, not my brain or my spirit.I say this having played violin on and off most of my life. I even took weekly lessons for two or three years in college. In contrast, after a few classes in neuroscience, I moved onto some new fascination. But violin almost nabbed me.2. Pleasure: You continue because you like it, but you don’t mind when you don’t get to do it. You enjoy it without commitment, without much effort and without self-criticism. You don’t expect to excel. You don’t do it for any deep reasons.I feel like this about camping, painting, watching “South Park” or “The Simpsons,” riding my bike, swimming, playing volleyball, traveling and, to some extent, running and playing tennis, although I really, really like both.In the summer, I run a couple times a week, mostly in places where I have to watch the ground very carefully to avoid rocks, roots and sometimes my dog, who likes to stop and smell these treasures. Michael and I also play tennis two or three lunch breaks a week. I wear beautiful tennis attire, as does Michael.Anyhow, the first few weeks of winter, I hit the court in gloves. Unable to grip anything but snowballs, I threw my racket with every great get. To be fair, there weren’t an excessive number of these, in part because of the excessive number of pairs of sweatpants encasing my legs. Eventually, we gave it up for the season, and instead, we do Dance, Dance, Revolution and Wii Sports to stay limber.Regardless of the particulars, these activities enrich life the way raisins enrich an oatmeal cookie: They are so magnificent, but dried cherries or dark chocolate chips do just as well.3. Piety: It becomes an essential part of your life. You look forward to it. You plan other activities around it. You identify yourself with it. You feel all weird if you don’t get to do it.Anyone who knows me – which includes a broad segment of my reading audience – Hi Mom! – has figured out where this column is heading. In fact, you probably figured it out in the first paragraph and have been patiently awaiting.“She already wrote, at length, about her passion for ballet,” you told your spouse, who doesn’t like “Thinking Makes It So” at all. “It was one of the best pieces I’ve ever read, but even so: Why is she wasting space in the Kaleidoscope/cyberspace?”As we used to say in the ’90s, I have two words for you: “Snow White.”Devotion, just like love for a person, hits you over and over. It’s not a flat, emotional prairie. Anyhow, I danced in New Mexico Dance Theater’s original ballet of “Snow White” this past weekend, a show full – blooming – with gorgeous performances all around. I had never seen my classmates shine like this.After my more imperfect than usual footwork Saturday, I stood backstage during an intermission, idly watching the other company members leaping chaotically behind the curtain, each warming up his or her part for the finale. I, too, was bouncing a little, despite my continuing self- condemnation.I didn’t have a part in the finale, but it was cold back there and what better way to keep warm than to pirouette, or try to arch back, pulling up my leg behind me, and touch my head to my toes?It was at that moment I realized or remembered: I love ballet. It has become part of who I am. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being a writer who takes ballet lessons. I’m more than I used to be. I’m a writer and a dancer.I know I did a whole lot of it myself, but I can’t thank you enough, Susan, for giving me the stage.
E-mail your tremulous B-flats to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.