I don’t think I truly realized how much I love to dance until I was much older in life. As a kid my mom enrolled me and my siblings in Scottish highland dance lessons. My sisters and I would practice by dancing around rulers at home. It was fun but felt like work, as it was structured and there were very specific ways we had to hold our hands and move our feet. There was a lot to focus on.
The next dancing I remember is from my high school dances. As a teenager, I felt very self-conscious on the dance floor, aware of my every move. Oftentimes I’d choose to sit on the sidelines and watch to avoid the discomfort of putting myself out there. Before too long, my small town friends and I discovered that alcohol was a great way to dissolve self-consciousness (and self-awareness unfortunately). Even though I then had the liquid courage to dance, it wasn’t very graceful and the memories are foggy. It was fun, but still not overly satisfying at the end of the day.
As I got older and more self-confident, I’ve learned to let go of inhibitions in many ways. My understanding and awareness of my ego and it’s effects on me helped immensely. As you’ll recall from Good Morning, Life!, my ego is a self-image, a picture in my mind of myself. It’s how I perceive myself, but it’s not really who I am. I am much deeper and indescribable as compared to my ego.
Once I became aware of my ego and the impact of it and of others’ perceptions of me, I realized I could let it go. I didn’t have to be so worried about what I or others thought of me. It doesn’t impact who I am. I was free! And that included being free to dance without inhibitions. Now, to be honest, I mostly dance in the privacy of my home anyway, but I still dance. And once in a while my friends and I find a dance club where we can go and “cut a rug”, as we used to call it in my hometown.
Dance as a metaphor
The more I practice mindfulness and letting go, the more I see dancing as a beautiful metaphor for life. We can control our movement/actions, but there is much to life we can’t control. Going with the flow of life is the best way to enjoy and learn to weather its ups and downs. Life swings and dips. It jumps and sways. Always moving, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Just like dancing.
While we may feel that we are the leader at times we are never truly in control of all of it. We just control our own moves. The music sets the rhythm and we can move in motion with it. The more in sync we are with the rhythm of life, the easier and more enjoyable it is. When we fight it or try to move to a different beat it becomes unnecessarily difficult. The times when I find it most arduous are usually the times that I’m fighting or going against the flow. It’s usually when I’ve let my ego take control. That’s when I need to stop and pay attention. I can either find the flow, or perhaps it’s a sign I need to change the music. Maybe it’s time for a change.
I can think about my career as a dance in this same way. When I’m not enjoying it or finding it stressful, that’s my cue to consider my work flow. Am I trying to do too much? Perhaps my work-life is falling out of balance? Do I have the right ‘dance’ partners at work? Are my values aligned with the work that I’m doing and that of the company?
When my son was born and I was due to come back to work after my maternity leave, I felt five days/week wouldn’t work for me and my family. Rather than taking additional leave, my boss negotiated for me to come back three days/week. It ended up being a beautiful part of my dance that gave me the work-life balance that worked so well at the time.
My husband is experiencing a great career dance. He worked in one field for nearly 15 years before taking time off to be a full time dad and pivot to a new career path – web development. He’s in the process of getting certified and plans to re-enter the workforce with this highly relevant skillset. He’s the leader of his dance while flowing with the music and changing it up as needed.
Dancing as a parent
I feel the dance as a mom, ebbing and flowing to my kids’ beats. Just when I feel like I’ve figured out how to handle one age and stage of life, my kids move past it and they are on to the next thing.
From sleep and potty training to starting school, developing friendships, technology usage, to the teen years, I need to change my approach as we go. Right now with the teen years, I’m really learning to let go while trying to positively impact my son’s choices. Parenthood is never static. I’ve learned that I have to stay agile and tuned in to my kids’ needs of the moment. My two boys are so different from one another, they are each a unique dance partner for me. I have to find the flow with each of them.
Find your flow and enjoy the dance
My Uncle Bert (as you may recall from Good Morning, Life!) passed away from ALS in his early forties and at the same time he passed along the wisdom to those around him to enjoy life. He showed us how to deal with its flows the best we can. I’ll leave you with a quote from a Garth Brooks’ song that was played at my uncle’s funeral. It leaves a reminder in my heart to make sure I don’t miss the dance or sit on the sidelines of life. It’s not always easy and almost always uncomfortable to truly get off of the sidelines and dive into the dance of life, but it’s 100% worth it.
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance.Garth Brooks, The Dance
As another year of our lives comes to a close and you spend time reflecting, consider your dance and whether you are in the flow.
What’s your next dance move going to be?