I Hope You Dance

9:41 p.m.


Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give fate a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance, I hope you dance

Winter 1968

I was a college bound high school senior with good grades in a very, very small Midwestern town.

I had been going “steady” for two years with a boy several years older than myself.

My mother was dying of cancer.

There was a war in Vietnam.

And he was drafted.

There was crying, and goodbyes, and promises. And an unexpected sense of freedom. He had been my first real boyfriend and we were always together.

The first week he was gone, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. He was cool, exciting, just out of the Navy after 4 years, and a gentleman. I wouldn’t date him, but there were parties with mutual friends, he held my hand, and I began to feel an excitement that had been missing.

Four weeks after he left, my steady called. His allergies were too bad for the war, he was classified 4F, and was coming home. I put the phone down, walked to my room, and sobbed hysterically. My father walked in, stood at the door a minute and said quietly “Honey, are you crying because you’re happy….or because you’re sad?”

I ended the relationship two weeks after he returned.

And two weeks after that the Navy man and I were an item. And two weeks after that I was pregnant.

We married in May, because that’s what knocked up girls in small Midwestern towns did back then. I had known him for less than three months.

And so it began.

I learned about the lawsuits, then the DUI, then a pending assault charge. Then the debt collectors began calling. And he had trouble keeping a job. And there was the drinking. And the anger. And the yelling and door slamming and fists through walls. And I wondered why none of his friends, and none of his family, had told me any of this before I spoke those vows.

The pregnancy was long and difficult – but I had to work, between the bed rest, and the extreme nausea and the spotting, and the cramping, to pay the rent.

We moved twice, the baby was born, and my mother died within weeks. Daddy was heartbroken and lonely, but I knew I could never go home again…no matter what.

We moved again. He needed the car to work a second shift job, and I was alone every evening. He would come home at midnight, or 1, or 2, drunk, wake up the baby, and begin to yell. Yelling became threats, threats became bruises, welts, sprains, abrasions, and finally cuts. And I learned where to hide and I learned how to duck.

Morgan was admitted to the hospital at 14 months with croup. As I sat beside her alone, watching her struggle for breath in an oxygen tent, I realized it was enough.

I had saved a few dollars and as soon as she was released found an apartment close enough to a new job that I didn’t need a car - and a babysitter in the same building. I packed up one day while he was gone and didn’t look back. I was 20 years old.

Someday I’ll tell the story of when he found me. And how he broke down the door to my apartment, then the door to the bathroom, and how I climbed through a window and ran out in the street naked at 2 in the morning screaming for help. And how he kidnapped the baby. And how really difficult it was those first couple of years with little money and no support system.

But anyone who has been reading here for a while knows that life changed, and got a whole lot better, and I stuck it out (and pressed charges!!) and Morgan and I both became happy successful people because we wanted to, and because we deserved it. The message today is something different.

Believe in yourself.

Believe you can have something different.

Believe in the dreams you have for yourself and for your children.
Believe you deserve to be happy, and satisfied, and triumphant in this life.

Believe there are people who are ready, willing, and able to help you achieve it, whether it’s encouragement, friendship, a shoulder to cry on, a loan, a reference, or a room in their home for a while.

And believe you can do it.

You don’t have to stay anywhere, and with anyone. Not for your mutual friends, your parents, a vow you took years ago, and especially – most especially – not for the sake of the kids. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again.


You are worth it and you can do anything you want to do. All that is required is that you take the first step. All the other steps will follow naturally.

And I am here to promise you, with absolute I’ve been there myself conviction, it may not be easy, and it might get harder for a while, but it WILL get better.

And, sooner than you think possible, you will look back, realize you aren’t crying anymore, throw up your arms …… and dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

~~Lee Ann Womack

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