A tornado touches down several times a week in Chapel Hill, and her name is Gaby Zinn.
Gaby is a Zumba instructor at Studio 54 and Monday and Wednesday evenings in the St. Thomas More gymcafeterium.
If you aren’t familiar, Zumba pairs dance moves and high-energy music. You don’t feel like you are exercising while you are in class, especially when Gaby is teaching. She is warm, welcoming and an amazing teacher and dancer.
An injury was keeping me from enjoying all the yoga classes I used to take, so I had to find another form of exercise. Zumba is pretty much the polar opposite of yoga. Instead of walking into a serene, peaceful environment with chanting in the background, you walk into a room with remixes of popular songs blasting.
I am definitely what you would call a beginner in Zumba.
There are two things I always find myself doing as a beginner, whether in Zumba, yoga, rowing lessons with the Carolina Masters Crew Club at University Lake or whatever else I am trying. First, I laugh. A lot. For me there exists an inverse proportion between knowledge and fun. I always seem to have more fun when I have no idea what I’m doing.
While I’m certainly entertaining myself, I am also hiding. I hang out in the back of class, back of the boat, back of the studio. I do this until I can get things “right.” It makes me wonder where I got the message that I had to hide from everyone else until I was no longer making a ton of mistakes. Why is shame associated with being a beginner?
Two weeks ago, I moved up to the second row of Gaby’s class.
It wasn’t because I had gotten all the moves down. Rather, it was because I realized I was never going to be right in Zumba. I am an Irish white girl. We don’t do salsa, we do Riverdance. When everyone’s shoulders are shimmying right, I am shaking my booty to the left. When everyone is swaying their hips in a circle to the left, I am waving my hands in the air like I just don’t care.
Gaby calls it “doing a solo.”
This may all seem inconsequential, but I’m in a year of my life where I am examining everything. This month I have a birthday with a big zero at the end, also known as the colonoscopy birthday.
There are two types of people in the world: those who love their birthday and those who hate it. I am definitely of the latter.
My family is evenly divided this way. My younger son, Thad, loves his birthday so much we call it Thadakuh – the eight days of celebrating his birth. He used to have three parties which he felt he needed. My husband also enjoys celebrating his big day with a nice dinner and gifts.
My older son and I both hate the attention a birthday brings. We don’t want everyone asking what we want, how we want to spend the day and staring at us as they sing. He used to begin worrying about his March birthday as soon as we finished celebrating Christmas. We have figured out a routine where each of us gets to wish him a happy birthday then nothing else is said until we have his traditional birthday meal at his favorite restaurant and return home to open gifts.
I completely understand his reticence about bringing too much attention to the day. My husband has been asking me for months what I want to do, where I want to go, what gift I would like and when do I want to celebrate. Yuck, yuck and yuck.
Please know I am so thankful to be granted another year and to be in good health – and of course, for a great husband. I would just like my gratitude to be enough without all the pomp and circumstance.
These milestone birthdays bring with them their own form of gifts. What’s really important keeps getting clearer. It isn’t found at the mall. It’s an appreciation for who is in your life rather than focusing on who isn’t, an unvarnished perspective on your own history that allows for your limitations and mistakes, and yes, getting down with your big, bad self in a Zumba class.
Mary Carey lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, two sons and two dogs. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @maryhelenecarey on Twitter.