Dance with more than just your toes!

I admire the lack of inhibition in children.  Of course it has it down side, but for the most part, I think it is a trait to be nurtured and emulated.  Children have not yet learned to be afraid of what other people think of them.  They simply experience the world around them and engage it with undaunted enthusiasm and vigor.  A rather potent example of this is dance.  We are all hardwired to dance.  It is part of our nature as human beings to physically respond to music.  I have never met a young child who did not dance.  It begins almost as soon as they are able to make voluntary movements and continues till the time they learn to be afraid.  A baby who cannot even sit up by himself will bob his head to music and older children will jump and bounce and swing around the dance floor with an excitement that cannot be held back – as though they can’t help it.  And why should they?  It’s natural, joyous, active, FUN.

Children dancing at the "Delta Mountain Boys" concert at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

I recently attended a bluegrass concert where the music was as lively and dance-inducing as it ever gets.  And, as I looked around the room, I noticed that every single adult, without fail, sat straight and calm in their seat while their feet bounced in rhythm under their tables.   Try as they might (in order to maintain “dignity” and “self-respect”), they could not keep the dance inside.  Not completely.  It was wiggling out their toes, trying to escape.  But the children . . . they didn’t even try to keep it in.  They danced wildly around the floor as though no one was watching.  Or perhaps as though everyone was watching but they loved it.  When do we lose this sence of freedom?  What are we so afraid of?  Is it because we are so quick to judge others, that we assume everyone else is judging us?  Well, as my sister’s teacher told her in high school, “You’ll become much less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”   Children believe themselves to be the center of their own little world.  And with that understanding, they make the rules.  It doesn’t matter what other people think because it’s their world, after all.  As adults, we come to understand, rather brutally sometimes, that the world does not, in fact, revolve around us.  But some residual part of that belief holds on and we still believe that people are analyzing every little thing we do, because, I mean, why wouldn’t they?  But despite our immense worry, people are far less preoccupied with the things we do than we give them credit for.  And most people are much less judgemental than we often assume.  When you see someone dancing spiritedly at a concert, unconcerned about how professional they look or whether or not they’re messing up their hair . . . just dancing, do you think, “Look at that stupid person!  Why don’t they just sit down?”  Or do you smile and wish you had the nerve to live in the moment as they did?  If your answer is the former, than you deserve to be self conscious and fearful, because you will probably receive the same judgement you give out.  But if it is the latter, know that MANY people have that same thought.  And most likely they admire you for taking chances and living outside of a box.  Perhaps if we all lost a bit of our inhibitions, and let our kids teach us as much as we teach them, we might inspire one another to live a bit more vividly, with open eyes, open arms, open hearts, and more than just our toes dancing!

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Unlikely Friends

I am a people person. Far more than most. Although, I think getting older has made me a bit more cynical or selective about who I chose to befriend. But I recently found myself wondering if that is a good thing. Shouldn’t age and wisdom teach us tolerance and open-mindedness rather than keep us bound to the immaturity of judgementalism? All people, from all ages, walks of life, classes, and cultures have something to offer. We can all learn from each other if we are open enough to receive the lessons. Even from people we deem to be beneath us. Perhaps especially from them. I have learned more from my son in the two years he has been on this planet than I have from many of the “intellectual” adults I have encountered. I have learned more from old people who many would call out-of-touch than I have from some of the hippest acquaintances I have made. Some people who I may have initially thought too immature to contribute much to a balanced friendship, end up being the light-hearted relief that I crave in the middle of an otherwise stressful time. Others, for whom everything seems to come easy, who have never had to fight for their supper and electricity, may once have spawned jealousy in me, but lately inspire gratitude for the richness that the struggle has brought to my life.

Unlikely friends

This awareness of the unseen value in friendships that we might not have initially given much of a chance, came yesterday as my husband was making plans with a relatively new friend. Without being asked, I volunteered that I was not very fond of this friend. My husband was quick to point out that I used to say the same thing about another of his buddies who’s friendship I now consider myself lucky to claim. If he had not prodded me to overcome my initial judgements about that person, I would have missed out on a valuable, affirming, kind relationship simply because I was too closed minded to be accepting. Patience with people is an immeasurable virtue I am only beginning to comb the depths of. Acceptance of differences is what connects us with people unlike ourselves and these people then bring balance and change to our lives in ways our other similar, like-minded friends never could have. Friendships come in all kinds of packages and sometimes it’s the oddest looking ones that have the most valuable contents.

Embracing the Clichéd

In today’s society, where individualism is hailed as one of the highest virtues, we are often afraid of being too clichéd. The phrase, “That’s such a cliché!” is used as an insult. But sometimes I find myself wondering, is it really such a bad thing to be somewhat predictable, normal, or even unoriginal? Some things are clichéd for a reason. Because they have stood the test of time and multitudes and still hold true. I’ve taken flack from plenty of friends and sometimes my own alter-ego, for my desire to move to the suburbs. And I must admit, the individualistic, young, and still edgy side of me cringes at the idea of moving into a cookie cutter, “stepford” neighborhood, with picket fences, matching roof lines and tiny trees. But not all the suburbs are so scary. And some things are more important than being in the middle of it all. Like my son’s education. I certainly see the value in sticking it out and fighting for better education in the city rather than fleeing, but I will not use my son’s future as a weapon in that battle. And then there’s crime. Does staying put and risking the robbery of my possessions and possible harm of my family help bring crime levels down in the city or should we just move to where it is safer? But considering these things makes me wonder if I have been too quick to judge others in the past. Most of the suburbanites have probably had similar lines of reasoning that brought them to where they are today. Most of them probably have histories and lives every bit as interesting as mine, or more so. And yet I have been guilty of looking at them and thinking, “What a cliché!” We are taught from such an early age to never judge a book by its cover and yet we fight judgementalism well into adulthood and old age.

Yesterday, as my son and I were downtown enveloped in a sea of people who had gathered to celebrate Independence Day, I found myself looking around at all the faces and imagining the stories behind their eyes. We are all on wildly different journeys, and yet, too often we tend to approach people as though they should be in the same place we are. The whole event for which all these people had come together was, in and of itself, an incredible cliché. Americana at its finest. There were flags and people in patriotic attire, face painting and glow sticks, catfish and burgers, and an orchestral band playing “Yankee Doodle.” There were kids everywhere and frazzled parents trying to keep up with them. There were lawn chairs and lovers making eyes at each other. And of course, there were fireworks. But there was something beautiful and calming about the cliché. So many different people, from different walks of life and in different places in their journey, coming to celebrate the same thing. And celebrate it in the same way it has been celebrated for generations. It may be a cliché, but it is a damn good one and I’m happy I was part of it.

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain,
all leading in the same direction,
so it doesn’t matter which path you take.
The only one wasting time is the one
who runs around and around the mountain,
telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.
~Hindu teaching