Come to the floor for adagio.

Those words signaled the testing of my dancer’s grace.

In ballet, the adagio is a monologue of sorts. The dancer pushes her body to extremes while crafting a narrative. Her character is in love. Her character is in despair. No one would know that the dancer is in pain.

We prepared for those moments by practicing adagio in class. The movements are slow–painfully slow–and controlled. Adagio is the hardest part of each class, but the standard of grace and effortlessness is never lowered.

My muscles shook as I lifted my leg high in the front, then slowly swung it to a full extension in the back. I held balances. I rotated in balances. These are the moments that I felt strong and beautiful, on a good day, or too curvy and inadequate, on a bad day.

This is where I learned grace.

The idea of contrived effortlessness as grace follows me long after I stopped ballet. I live my life on a stage, balancing commitments the way I used to balance en pointe.

Something in me wants to prove that I am that a chic, go-getter who does enough,

has enough,

is enough.

Treating life as a stage comes at a cost. I’ve learned to share the right amount to appear vulnerable yet still admirable. A dancer’s grace requires distance to mask the shaking muscles. That same distance keeps anyone else from entering into the pain.

Case in point: It is late at night. I’m in tears for whatever reason. Was it a fight with my fiance? A rough week? A hard life?

What I want most desperately is to call a friend and to be loved, but a part of me is back in ballet class, in adagio.

Must push through.

Must stay graceful.

Most nights, I can’t bring myself to dial any number. It will ruin the illusion. Or worse, they won’t answer. Worse yet, they’ll be repulsed by my pain.

I sleep.

Grace is a virtue, but this dancer’s grace leaves my shoulders stooped and my heart weary.  

I hope to learn a new step and to dance recklessly in unmerited favor. I hope to show my full story instead of the narrative that I’ve crafted.

But I don’t know how.