When I was a little girl I used to watch my ballet teacher and her words would float past me uselessly, but her movements spoke to me. I understood each graceful move and how to move my body in mimicry. There was a freedom in motion, a beauty in how the collection of moves created a moment. Now that I am older and am too weak to dance I realise something else. When I was a little girl I learnt what movement meant. So attune was I to the facial expressions and body language of those around me that I could easily take the temperature of the room simply by observing for one moment. I could no more ignore pain in someone than I could ignore it in myself.
When I was a little girl and I heard the uneven heavy footfalls approach and retreat past my door, the slam of a cabinet door, the bang of a plate on the bench, the tight angry voice, I knew what that composition of noises meant. My heart rate would escalate and all of my senses would heighten, my muscles would tighten, coiled and ready. I would step quietly into the kitchen and listen for a moment. Once I understood what the newest accusation or complaint, I would wade in. I would cause a distraction and pull focus. It was a different sort of dance. One I’d unconsciously learnt the steps to. Every night needed a different combination of steps and flourishes. I ducked and weaved, spun left then right. It was exhausting trying to remember the correct order and sometimes I had to repeat part of the routine just to get it right.
When I was a little girl, my heart got broken every day. The soundtrack of my life was a cacophony of violent noises coupled with jerky stumbling movements. At night when I retreated to my bed, tears would stream down my face and I would hug my pillow hoping tomorrow would be different. That the harsh words that rained upon me, untrue and unkind, would stop their battering of my self esteem. That someone would change the record, put on a different song.
When I was a little girl, I lost something. I lost the chance to be a little girl. Now I look back and realise I was never really a little girl. I was always a warrior in training. And in some ways I am thankful, because had I not learnt how to steel myself against the unfairness of life, I might not be able to keep fighting.
When I was a little girl, the universe gave me what I needed. I learnt the steps to every dance I might ever need to know. I know the choreography of life.