Spiritual Direction

What a Great Thing That Was

Last week I wrote about derailments in life. Sometime we are waylaid and sometimes there’s a train wreck. Both slow us down. The latter insists on a new mode of transport. I want to tell the next part of the Hushabye story and will soon but for now I am compelled to share an interesting happening and want to get your input too. My background as a kid and young adult was in acting, singing and dance. I found joy in them all. Dance for me was where I could allow my spirit loose. I wasn’t the best dancer. I was good. Good enough to make money doing it within the realm of musical theatre. But not good enough to be stellar at it as a stand alone profession. I could sell that triple pirouette with a grin and a twinkle in my eye and you’d forgive me even for not sticking the landing. I could make you believe in my pull backs even if every one was a tiny prayer that they would, indeed, happen as they were happening. Never the less, I loved dance. And I believe it loved me too. But over the last ten year I haven’t dance much at all. Certainly not professionally. Aside from leading in light choreographed pieces for children and adults when I teach in early childhood music education, my tap, jazz, and pointe shoes have been languishing in a circa 90s floral duffel; obedient in a dark corner of my closet a bit like Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 3. So I’m in the Library of Performing Arts picking up a book on marketing. That’s an incongruent sentence but that’s where the book was. And there’s an exhibit happening on Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Oklahoma; the dance pieces. There are 12 small screens together making up the whole digital experience of the dream ballet from Oklahoma. It stopped me cold and I disappeared into it for about 5 long mesmerized full dance-filled minutes watching Laurie and Curly fall in love – the young women waving their hands in the “new” modern dance celebratory style. Then seeing all go dark as Jud appears as her worst nightmare. This was the first time, at that time, (according to the exhibitor’s synopsis), that music and dance had been fully integrated into a musical – actually part of the plot – forwarding the story as opposed to taking a dance break before getting back to the story. But what struck me as a fire bolt to my heart was the undeniable beauty of the piece. The ballet. The modern dance. Or what was considered modern at the time.  Watching what was new. What I was lucky enough to experience in dance through summer stock work where classic productions and a nod to original choreography was still alive in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I do not sense that beatific glory of movement anymore on stage in the same way. There’s still a pomp and circumstance. But the simple beauty seems to have evaporated. Now everyone is too busy being edgy. What Agnes DeMille created may have been cutting edge at the time. But the glory and the beauty still remained at the forefront of the work. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a “dark, nuanced, avante-guard, like-you’ve-never-seen-it-before” piece of … work… on Broadway in New York now. As I watched this retrospective I realize I have seen it like I never see it now – and it was better. It was beautiful. And yes, with the depth all those dark dreary pieces aim to convey through their depth=darkness equations. My heart began to sink and open at the same time. Arrows. Darts. I began to tear up. Missing that 21 year old body that could I do so much with for so long! I missed dancing. Real, true, dancing. Spirit flying. A hot blue flame on stage or in some old rehearsal hall. Thighs aching but hard as rocks from 10 hour days of Maxi Fords and Cramp Rolls. (For those of you who don’t dance, I’m not talking about sushi.) I missed sleeping with my legs propped up alongside the wall perpendicular to my torso just so the blood would run down from my throbbing feet. I longed for the freedom to get lost in the music with the movement again. But most of all I missed that kind of beauty. The pure loveliness of it all. Then I recovered. Got my Crushing It book by Gary Vaynerchuck and left. But of course that thorn in my heart stayed with me. And as I went through a list of thoughts like: 1. I should start dancing again (Uh. No.) 2. I should create a class for 40 and over “used to be a dancer” dancers. (Nyet.) 3. What’s wrong with me? (Ha.) 4. I wish I could experience that again. (Sigh. Mmmm, this Tahitian vanilla gelato may be a new favorite.) And not too much more from that. I’m aware enough, luckily, to know when something isn’t worth suffering the downward spiral. So I read the intro to the book. I sat under a shady tree. (I really did. Even in New York) and savored the gelato. And then it hit me. I just need to fill my dance tank. I need more from that well of beautiful movement. But I have to replenish it. I need to experience the dance I love. Watch those movies. See those ballets. Soar with them while knowing that there will be no chiropractor bill for me afterward. The well had gone dry and I hadn’t noticed. Too busy living my new life. But it’s ok. You see it’s still there for me when I need it. Albeit on a different level. We have to sing farewell to things. We can revisit them through new eyes. Allowing new filters to show us a new point of view. And still enjoy. There’s a bittersweet grieving there. But better to grieve it, remember it, and cradle it in our heart instead of deny it’s place in our past and present life.
What well do you need to fill? It’s ok that you might not be able to (or desire to) experience it in the same way. Or you might. Maybe you can’t. Getting upset or feeling that emotional flip switch over “what was” that made you so happy long ago is ok. It doesn’t mean you are wrong for not living the younger season of your life now. We are meant to progress through seasons of life. We can reminisce. We can close our eyes and be there again. We can watch the younger generation help us re-live it while we champion them. Whatever that “thing” is still lives in you. That little flame will never die. Wistfullness can be beautiful too.  It may be tempting to look back with longing. But look back with love. What a great thing that was! And is in your heart. But you’re not done are you… Nope. They ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

2 thoughts on “What a Great Thing That Was

  1. Look back with love…I love that. Looking back sometimes cuts into your heart with such a fine edge, you’re bleeding before you notice. I’ll remember to look back with love and progress.

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