What the funk?
Andre Hairston has his own army. Loyal followers who attend his exercise classes all over the city of Charlotte. We, I mean they, join the Y or Sports Connection or simply cough up cold hard cash in order to be in his presence for an hour at a time, several times per week, in order to get our funk on, Cardio Funk that is. It's the real deal. Dancing and jumping and singing and doing jumping jacks and laughing and gulping down swigs of water between songs and hoping he'll come dance next to us, I mean them, and sweating, so much sweating. It is the toughest workout I've ever done - and also the most fun.
My daughter and I went to Funkytown last night. As I danced and shook my groove thang, I found myself getting annoyed. The woman in front of me was consistently off beat. Doing it all wrong. Why the heck did she have to be in front of me? And the woman in front of her was even worse.
So I told myself to keep my eyes on the floor. Just do my own thing. I know how to do the workout. I know what the moves are, so just do it. Keep my eyes on Andre or at least on somebody else who knows what the funk they are doing.
During the class, Andre makes us turn and face all four walls in the gym. He moves from place to place in the room and we, his loyal followers, follow him with our eyes and our bodies. When he's in the back of the room, we are all facing the back of the room. When he's at one side wall, we face that wall. Last night, I was all the way on the right side of the room - and at various points, when he would come over to my side of the room, I was aware that everyone in the room was behind me, facing me, but watching him. At those moments, I wondered if I was on beat, leading the processional well or leading others astray. How did my butt look in my shorts? Was my shirt covering everything that needed to be covered or was I displaying more than anyone in the room needed or wished to see? I was glad every time he moved on from my side of the gym. I was far more comfortable criticizing others for their faulty moves than I was with the thought that they might be criticizing me.
Care to take a listen to my inner dialogue during last night's class? Here goes:
Can these people even hear the music? Their moves are so wrong that maybe they can't hear it at all. Nobody can be this confused if they can actually hear the music.
But if they can't hear the music, then it is all the more impressive that they are here and moving their bodies and getting their sweat on anyway.
What is she doing here? She's already in great shape. Why doesn't she stay home and leave space for others who need this class?
What is he doing here? Since when do guys take workout classes like this? That's some outfit, dude. You don't look too crazy. Not at all.
It's too late for her; she will never catch on to the cardio funk craze. She may as well go get on a treadmill; she is a lost cause here.
Who am I kidding? It's too late for me too; I'm 44 years old. If I'm not in good shape at this point, it's never going to happen. I may as well stop now and head over to Fresh Market for cannoli and plum wine.
Gail, what are you doing thinking about this crap? Just move your body. Take care of your own business and stop judging everybody. What the funk are you thinking about all this stuff for?
Oh, shoot. There I go, losing the beat again. Keep your eyes on the prize, G. Keep moving.
What if it's okay for some people to never be on the beat? What if "being on beat" is simply another category that I have defined in order to judge others and try to make myself look or feel better? How many other such categories have I created?
You don't know anybody else's story, so you have no idea what it took to get each of these people here tonight. Nobody here knows your story either, so don't worry about what other people think of you. (Turns out that for the woman in front of the woman in front of me last night was her first time in the class. Once I found that out, my thoughts changed completely. For a first-timer, she had done quite well.)
Don't you remember? Everybody is so busy worrying about how they look and how they're doing that they have no time to think about what you're doing or how you look. People spend so much time thinking about themselves that they barely notice anyone else. Just like you, Gail. Just like you.
It is okay to close your eyes and do your own thing. You don't have to watch what anybody else is doing. You don't have to follow anybody else. And you can be wrong, too. You will frequently be wrong, in fact. Right now, you are wrong in how judgmental you are being. But sometimes being wrong is the right thing to be. Just don't stop moving. Don't stop dancing. Don't stop thinking or challenging yourself to think better and more clearly either.
Not even Andre gets it right every single time. But he sure does look like he's having fun every single time. And he is in fantastic shape.
Just shut up and dance. Or don't shut up - sing along with the songs. Laugh. Smile at other people. We are all in this sweat box together. Working hard. Making the most of a very difficult situation.
In spite of all that hyperdramatic psychobabble, I managed to get a great workout. And I recalled the time I took that class at a different Y and we steamed up the mirrors so much that, by the end of the hour, we couldn't see ourselves or each other at all. That was a fabulous moment for me: I can't see them. They can't see me. Freedom!
And absolutely no thing about that class made me think about my spiritual life.
Or my life with my husband and children.
Or my tattered and battered and delicately repaired friendships.
Or making the decision to leave our church.
Nothing at all.