My Dance Card is Empty

Paula Mould
May 22 · 3 min read

The act of showing up, it seems, is not a one and done but truly a few steps forward, a few back. A shuffle until it becomes a walk and then a dance.

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

Over the weekend, I lost a dear friend. She slipped away without fanfare. The quiet end to a full life.

Her heart gave out.

And in that moment, when I knew she was gone, so did mine.

The world is relentless; it just keeps going. There’s no stopping because someone amazing passed. No period of mourning. The sun doesn’t pause and wonder if it should shine today though I pause wonder if I can shine.

This morning, after seeing my kids off to school, I sat on the couch and turned on Netflix. Binge watching a sitcom I’ve seen before. Drinking coffee. One episode, I promised myself. A moment to laugh. Then, dishes, meetings, teaching live online and more. The detritus of being self employed filled my planned day.

But one episode wasn’t enough. No laughter. No lightening.

I let it stream into another. And another. And even another. During that last one, coffee drunk, I wiggled my butt deeper into the couch and decided that maybe the day wasn’t worth facing. Maybe I could, and should, get off the relentless merry-go-round of life for a moment.

Behind the showing up live online, there’s the effort. Getting into the head space. Stepping into the person I am in public. Some days, it’s easy. I am her, after all. Some days, not so much.

But you know, you KNOW the path that’s familiar? The one where you don’t show up because you’re too tired, too sad, too busy or whatever? This is the path we all know. You know the outcome, more dreams not met. Life not truly lived.

I sat on that couch, doing a back and forth with the idea of facing my day or tossing it aside, responsibilities be damned.

Can a person call in sick on their life?

As I was sitting there, I felt inside, a demanding, “get up!” A shove to stop wallowing. To start moving, not looking at the path but at the first step only.

The act of showing up feels like it needs to be constantly done and redone. The decision, made once, to live life loudly and brightly doesn’t stick. Can’t stick; motivation is fickle.

When I think of showing up as a shuffle, one step only, stand up, do one thing, it’s far, far easier than looking at the big picture. And after doing the thing, if I then sit down, I can get up again to do the next thing. I’ve stood up once before; I have the proof that it is doable.

And in time, I will add the next thing before I sit down. Stacking tasks until there is no pause between.

But right now, right now even though my dance card is empty and it could take a while before it gets a mark on it, I am not on the couch.

Paula Mould

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Contemporary artist and writer. Follow my work on and