Three years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to compete as a star in my local community fundraiser version of Dancing with the Stars. It was an incredible, life changing experience for me. I fell in love with ballroom dancing & have been dancing since then. I even began competing in ballroom this past year.
That initial experience was marred by one large omission–my parents were not in the audience. I had been provided with two free (usually $125 each) tickets to the VIP reception & prime seating for the show. Even though my parents were traveling around that time, they refused to attend. My tickets went to two close friends, one of whom traveled a good distance through several states to see me.
This year, I just had the opportunity to return to the stage for the same event. My dance teacher & I were invited to perform a showcase dance for the latest Dancing with the Stars local production. He was also competing with a new star.
My parents had travel plans and had made arrangements to travel to my city & stay the night of the event. I bought them two tickets to the show.
A few nights before the show, my mom called me and told me my dad was changing their travel plans. He was tired & wanted to get home sooner. There was also snow expected for their area the Sunday after the show. I kind of expected this might happen. They would no longer be in town for the show, but they would be here the evening before when I had an evening of rehearsals lined up from 4 pm until about 9 pm. I made arrangements for them to stop by & see my 4:40 pm rehearsal.
They arrived at my rehearsal after we were already up on stage. My mom waved as they walked in. We ran our number two to three times. I then got off the stage and went over to greet them.
I saw my parents for maybe 30 seconds. We hugged & they told me great job. My dance teacher was on stage with his star & I asked them to watch that dance with me. (Each of our dances were about a minute and a half in length.)
My dad blew up at me, right there in the auditorium in front of everyone involved with the cast. “You cannot tell me what the hell to do. You are not the boss of me!” And he stormed out. My mom apologized, hugged me, and dutifully stalked out after him. It was pathetic and hurt me to the core.
That is how I began that evening of hours of practice before the show–feeling as if I had been physically punched in the heart and gut. And facing a swirl of memories my family would rather I forget. All the times I was screamed at and belittled as a child and made to feel worthless and wished I were dead. The times my arms were grabbed so forcefully I was left with bruises & shaken. That time, when I was teenager, when I was slapped in the face just prior to going to church to sing a solo.
I had worked so hard all week to be in the right mindset & headspace for this amazing experience that meant the world to me, and, in 30 seconds, my father attempted to destroy that.
But I did not let him this time. Wanting to cry, I bit back my tears, I held my head high, and determined that no longer would my family’s toxicity and pain set the course of my life. I am worth so much more. I worked my ass off that night.
Performance night was perfection. Right before I got on stage, I let go of my nervousness and danced my heart out, not only facing the demon stage fright but also facing my history of abuse & neglect.
And the audience and stage that night were filled with people I love cheering me on, my dance family and friends and my boyfriend.
And I dance away from those who are toxic in my life. No one will ever treat me that way again. I shall live my life in joy, surrounded by love and dancing. I accept nothing less.