Dancing Dreams

There is a little girl in my neighborhood I often see when I walk past her house. I would guess her to be eight years old, but tall for her age. She is very pretty with long blonde hair that falls in ringlets to her waist. She is very energetic and I usually witness her skipping and jumping around the front yard, waving and flapping her hands as she goes. She always looks to be happily immersed in her own universe.

I recognize this behavior. As a child, I did it myself. As I got older, I did get the message that it was strange behavior, so I sought out more private locations to dance my daydreams. In winter, I took advantage of the fact that all the houses we lived in lacked central heating, so there was always a cold room I could have to myself. My grandparents’ house had a covered veranda I could enjoy on rainy days while everyone else was in the living room on the other side of the house. At night, I would often keep the light off for additional privacy.

But I sometimes forgot myself. One evening I could not contain myself and skipped back and forth in the kitchen which had a large, wide window. Our neighbor saw me and shook his head and rolled his eyes. It was very embarrassing as I was fifteen years old at the time.

When I was little, my dancing dreams were often of riding horses. But as I got older they were about hanging out with imaginary friends, some of whom were loosely based on people I knew and worshipped from a distance. As an adult, my dancing dreams became more about trying to imagine myself accomplishing something — and I dialed down the energy, pacing instead of skipping.

I still pace on a daily basis. And I actually find it productive sometimes. Yesterday, I was struggling with a coding project and each time I got stuck I got up from my chair and paced around until my brain clicked into gear (working at home allows me do this whenever I want.) When I am depressed, I can sometimes “talk myself back to happiness” by pacing and having out-loud conversations with imaginary people.

Every now and then, I succumb to dancing dreams — usually after I have had several glasses of wine. I grab my iPod Touch, put in the earbuds, and find tunes on YouTube to take me someplace else. I turn out the lights so that I do not cast incriminating shadows onto the window blinds. And the next morning I feel silly.

I always say hello to the little girl. Sooner or later, someone will make fun of her and she will have to be more mindful of where she enjoys her dancing dreams. I suspect I will not be seeing her much longer.

Pacing

When I was a child, I had my favorite places for daydreaming. What I looked for was a space that I could pretty much guarantee to have to myself without someone intruding on me. I was able to take advantage of the inclement weather of English winters combined with the lack of central heating in the houses I lived or stayed in.

My grandparents had a house with a verandah that faced north. So it was not an appealing place to spend time except in an unusually hot summer. On rainy days, I spent hours on that verandah, hopping and skipping back and forth as I immersed myself in my imaginary world.

One house we lived in was very cold in winter and the family huddled in the kitchen-dining room where there was an old-fashioned Aga range for heat. Meanwhile, the living room next door was decidedly chilly — so I had it to myself. In between reading, I would get up and skip around the room. The trouble was, my mother would go out into the garden every now and then and would see me through the window. I once drew the curtains for privacy. And she thought I was crazy for wanting to block out the sunlight.

As I grew up into my teen years, I got the hint that skipping back and forth was strange behavior for someone who was no longer a little child. So I dialed it down and learned to just pace. But for a few years, we were in a living situation with little opportunity for privacy. I shared a bedroom with my sister in a tiny house with just a living room and kitchen downstairs. The kitchen was often available for pacing — but there was no privacy. Once I accidentally burst into a skipping pace, and a neighbor who was walking by gave me a really sarcastic look.

Living alone has been a blessing. My second-floor apartment has complete privacy with the window blinds closed. I do not skip, because that would disturb the downstairs neighbor. But I can pace to my heart’s content.

My smart watch records my steps and mileage. I can log two miles or more in a day without leaving my apartment. And my apartment is not exactly big — only four hundred square feet.

Even when I am working, I get to my feet several times an hour to pace around. Not to daydream — but to gather my thoughts. Whether I am composing an email or writing code, every few lines my brain suspends activity and I have to get up and move around to slam it back into action.

When I am not working and there is nothing on TV or nothing I want to listen to, I enjoy going back to my daydreams. Later in the day, I might have a glass of wine on my kitchen counter — and take a detour every few minutes to take a sip. Sometimes I enjoy chatting with an imaginary person in my daydream. It is one of the happiest ways I spend my time.

I cannot imagine not doing it.