• Lynn McWhorter

Lessons in learning

In both cases, there are times when I’m afraid all the things I’m trying to monitor–head up, por or para, left elbow up, estar or ser, stomach in/shoulders back, indicative or subjunctive–will explode out of my head and start bouncing around the room.

Other times my teacher and I are in the middle of the waltz or foxtrot or tango or quickstep or viennese waltz, and all I notice is the magic of our synchronicity–with each other and the music. Of course, that’s also the time I’m most likely to forget that going farther doesn’t mean going faster and foot rise is not the same as leg rise.

For those of you who aren’t ballroom familiar, in everything but waltz it’s usually foot rise only. Foot rise means keeping your knee flexed so for the most part your head and body don’t actually rise. Unfortunately I keep forgetting and my slow foxtrot (smooth and sultry) turns into the Bunny Hop (speedy and silly).

The same kind of thing happens when my Spanish teacher is talking. I start thinking (with delighted surprise), “wow, I’m understanding her–that is so”–the thought isn’t even complete when I guess she switches to Chinese (or Russian or Farsi) because suddenly I can’t understand a single word.

I try to trust my teachers, believe them when they say I’m improving, but, on the other hand, what are they going to say? I’m hopeless, maybe I should try something less demanding? Like knitting, for example?

Now the good thing about dancing and learning Spanish is that I only need my teachers–no agent, no publisher. I could just focus all my energy on my novel but the first one is finished and needs an agent. Or a publisher. Or serious revision? Like starting over

And the second one is still in that impossible stage. You know. Where working on it feels like trying to hold up a king size mattress made of pizza dough? You lift one side and the rest just sort of sits there or you try to shift the whole thing and rip a giant hole in the middle and when you try to pinch the edges back together it reads like you tried to pinch the edges together but you didn’t really have enough dough?

In fact now that I think of it, writing is pretty much the same as the others. Except. I’m actually trying to sell my writing.

If only (right, that phrase never goes anywhere good does it?)–if only I’d started all this when I had sixty years left to learn instead of twenty, it would be different. As it is my brain and my body are wearing out and I still haven’t mastered the imperfect much less the subjunctive. And the feather step seems to get more mysterious not less. AND agents aren’t exactly knocking down my proverbial door begging to represent my novel.

Oh well. Tomorrow’s another day. Maybe if I keep ice on my knees all day I’ll be able to walk by Monday. And I’m sure if I think about it I can figure out how to keep my left side forward while my right hip, leg, and foot are stretching back and my head is staying vertical. And maybe I can memorize the twenty-five rules that govern the use of por and para and ser and estar. MOST of the time. And probably one of the agents I’ve queried will contact me in the next couple of days and say they can’t wait to see more of my manuscript. Right?


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