The Heartwrenching Freedom of Choice

What if there’s actually a lot more freedom than I thought there was?

This is a question I keep encountering. A hopeful, scary, possibility full question.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there is Black and White, Right and Wrong, Wise and Unwise, but a lot of times there’s just Choice.

IMG_7459This was  a new thought for me when, a few years back, a friend gave a helpful analogy. I was at the brink of a heartbreaking decision, a crossroads that affected my whole life and it felt like the stakes were larger than I could handle. “This may sound like a trite comparison, but go with me for a second,” was the disclaimer she gave up front. “I love buying shoes. Sometimes, at the shoe store, I’ll be torn between two pairs of boots. One is much more practical, durable, and the other one is unique and a bit quirky. I feel more drawn to the second pair, even though they aren’t going to keep me as warm in the winter, those are the ones I want. And that is okay. That’s the choice I go with.”

In the realm of consumer purchases, the process of choice is recognized and acceptable, mundane even. It’s much harder for me to apply this mentality to bigger life choices. I used to get paralyzed by the need to “do it right” (whatever that means) and riddled with anxiety over haunting “shoulds” (I should take this opportunity, I should say yes to that person, I should stay in this even though it’s draining…) If I found myself at any crossroads of choice or the possibility of change, I would demand clarity, not trusting my own intuition. And clarity needing to be an obvious neon flashing light pointing to where I should go. And if I didn’t have that, I’d feel like there was something wrong with me.

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“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” —Isaiah 30:21

I think I used to read this verse and it confirmed my neon-flashing-sign way of needing to hear from God. And there have been times in my life where choices do seem really evident. But sometimes he doesn’t. As I read this verse now, I see this partnership, an active listening and simultaneously, this active movement forward, this collaboration in the adventure. And I don’t want to limit that voice behind me, that way that he chooses to speak, to the way he’s done it in the past or my preconceived ideas about him.

It seems that sometimes, under the banner of “Doing God’s Will” we over spiritualize things to our detriment. When we put so much pressure on needing to make the right choice, we take on this martyr mentality, suffering through the woes of needing to do it perfectly, rather than trusting God’s sovereignty. Now, I deeply believe that God is intimately involved and cares about the mundane details of our lives, but somewhere along the line, that has shifted into this anxiety riddled spiritual guessing game. (Oh Lord, what is your will for the breakfast cereal I should eat today?)

My fear of making a wrong choice belies a suspicion that God can’t actually handle our failures, that he’ll have to scramble into “Plan B mode” if we don’t choose the right thing.

What would it look like if we actually believed that He was sovereign over our choices, our regrets, our story— what it has been up to this point and what it will be moving forward?

Then we couldn’t really lose.

Then we could take ourselves less seriously.

Then we’d actually be free to risk, because failure wouldn’t have to be our undoing.

As I’m trying to step into that reality, I’m realizing that I am far more stingy with myself and my choices than God is. I was reading Ecclesiastes 3 a while back, all the different things that are right in their own time. In the midst of another big life transition, I felt frustrated at the ambiguity. “There is a time to plant, and a time to uproot, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…” well how the hell are you supposed to know what time it is?? But as I kept reading, I read this:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13)

I was reminded of the generosity that we are drenched in. That it is an act of worship to receive God’s good and be happy. If I am rooted in Him, studying his Word with a soft heart, anchored in life-giving friendships with people who love me enough to point out my blind spots, then I am free to “go confidently in the direction of (my) dreams” as Thoreau declares.

IMG_7321If “it is for freedom that we have been set free” (Galatians 5:1) I don’t want be be “burdened by a yoke of slavery”—slavery to fear, slavery to expectations or preconceived narratives that we try to fit into, slavery to the comfort of certainty. I want to enter into the freedom that is intimate friendship and collaboration with the Creator of the universe.IMG_7286

You Must Have the Audacity to do That Which Ignites Your Soul

/audacity/[ôˈdasədē] n. boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions

Occasionally, we come up to certain crossroads in our lives, with one sign pointing to what would be safe, easy, comfortable. The “stay the course” route that is expected. The other one, far more steep and possibly treacherous, is the path leading to that thing: that opportunity, that conviction, that dream that is inviting what is deep within us to emerge, even at the daunting cost of terrifying risks and vulnerability, the looming unknown, and so much bravery.

It may be a moment as small as speaking your truth wholeheartedly at the dinner table with your family or as big as choosing to quit your predictable, safe, (and—let’s admit it, soul sucking) job to pursue that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Deciding to step out on that other path takes guts. Tenacity. Spunk. Ferocity. Gumption. Chutzpah. Call it what you will, there’s something both incredulous and inspiring about witnessing an audacious person step out in bravery and claim the “arrogance of belonging” as the poet David Whyte calls it. To boldly choose to live a life that matches up with what is burning inside oneself, even at the cost of “playing it safe,” choosing to disregard “the way things have always been done,” and the breaking past the restrictions that expectation, fear, and the myriad of other obstacles that life puts on us, begging us to just choose the path of least resistance. I want to honor those moments of audacity— not a narcissistic demand to rise to the top, but a stubborn and resolute declaration that “I am here! and this thing that I must do is important!”

There are two sides to that moment:

The Moments Before

At that crossroads, that brink between safety and boldness, a litany of thoughts and fears, ranging from the curious what-ifs to the nasty accusatory who-do-you-think-you-are’s swarm around relentlessly. The lure of the comfortable battles with the uncertainty of hope. For awhile, you hear the invitation, the call to do that thing your soul is longing to do. First it’s an encouraging conversation here, an inspiring podcast there, a book that resonates with something deep within.  Soon the messages telling you to take that leap, inviting you, asking you, begging you to do that which ignites your soul are everywhere, inescapable. The moment comes where you must summon up the bravery and choose to align your actions with that which allows you to be wholehearted. You decide to pay the cost to lay claim to that which makes you feel alive.

The Moments After:

There are few things sweeter than the feeling of living a life congruent with who we were made to be. Yes— there are those euphoric moments of deep soul joy, and immense gratitude that you are able to do that thing. But there are lots of messy moments too— of self doubt, of wrestling, the weariness of vulnerability  that is uncomfortable and a never ending pull like a riptide back towards the less risky, the safe, the familiar. Precarious though it may be, this is what it means to be fully human. Pursuing that which makes your soul alive is worth the cost.

Think of the people you know who are choosing this— who have stepped out in bravery, had the audacity to follow their dream. There is a magnetic force that draws us in, that awakens things inside us, that call us to do the same. See, we must have the audacity to pursue these things, to make that art, to write that novel, to pursue that job, to speak up for those that are voiceless, to respond to that fire in our belly. Who are we not to sing the song that has been put inside us?

My last semester in college was spent in Brasilia, student teaching at an American International School there. As my trip was coming to a close, I can remember fretting over what I would do and where I would go when I got back to the States. The principal at the school, an incredible and audacious woman, made a comment to me that has stuck with me. “What a privilege and an honor that you have so many things to choose from!” she remarked. “That you get to have the burden of too many options that you don’t know which good thing to choose. Ours is one of the first generations of women to have that problem.”

That blew me away- and shifted my mindset that launched me into my post-college life. Never has it been easier for women in our country to pursue what they want, where they want. Is it only fear holding us back? Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of it being hard, fear of what others will think. Not that I’m trying to downplay the reality of those risks, but even 100 years ago, most women didn’t even get to entertain those fears, let alone step out in bravery to chase their dreams. To have the luxury to fail and still be completely okay. Rather than living under the oppressive fear of the worst case scenarios, what if we were to start stepping out and audaciously asking “What’s the best thing that could happen?”

We can create a life working out an answer to Mary Oliver’s haunting question:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Secret Confessions & Open Frustrations of an Online Dater

Online dating is kind of like walking into a massive thrift store, overwhelming, unorganized, and mostly full of stuff that you really don’t want to take home. Trying to be open minded, you start swiping through what’s on the rack. What starts out as a slightly bemused expression on your face shifts to increasingly unimpressed disappointment. Yet, you have the sneaking suspicion that somewhere, hidden in the depths, is a gem that is perfect for you.

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Am I speaking from experience? While more and more people are trying online dating, there is still a stigma, so we normally keep our online romantic pursuits a secret.  But, sheepishly and begrudgingly, I’m admitting to you, dear reader, that yes, I have been dipping my toes into this bizarre world these past few months. I thought, it being Valentine’s Day and all, that I’d share my mostly amusing, at times disparaging short lived adventures in this realm, for any of you who might be curious or just feeling their singleness more acutely on this particular day. And I feel the need to give the following disclaimer and hope that you believe me: Online dating wasn’t something I did out of desperation or neediness, but a choice I made, mostly out of curiosity and an attempt to lean into the story I find myself in. This is a personal and very vulnerable thing I’m sharing with you all, but I’m trusting there is camaraderie on the other end of the screen. I’m leaning into a transparency that I hope is refreshing and a reminder that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously as we thought.

And so, in no particular order, here are some observations, discoveries, woes and amusements on the topic of online dating:

 1.  Oh questionnaire, you just get me!

As a writer, and an overly self-aware individual, the myriad of questions and steps involved in filling out my profile felt like a fun challenge. How could I most succinctly and eloquently sum up who I am, what I like, where I’m headed? Many others dread this part, but I actually loved it. (Says the girl who geeks out over personality profile quizzes and loves coming up with metaphors for where I’m at in life. Feel free to roll your eyes at this.) I felt hopeful filling this out, feeling giddy at the opportunity to articulate who I am in a platform that was going to be presented to all of these potential pursuers.

2.  The agonizing weight of a picture being worth a thousand words.

The profile creating also was extremely challenging and a process wrought with self doubt. Which pictures do I choose? This is the first impression these men will have of me. How will I be seen? Do I look braggy or cliche if I add too many pictures of my travels? What’s the line between choosing a flattering picture and looking like I’m trying too hard? Should I make it clear that I’m tall, so that men know what they’re getting into? Wait—I need a tagline? What the heck is that? Should I be clever? Ask a good question? Geesh.   

3.  I feel like I am essentially online shopping… for a human being.

Once I got my profile set up, then came the searching. It was a bit unsettling how similar it felt to shopping on zappos.com. Just like shoe shopping, I could refine my search by narrowing which hair color, height, education level, interests, or other features I was interested in. It was both really entertaining and also conflicting feeling like a customer in a consumer market. Yikes, I don’t know how I feel about how easy it is to approve or disapprove, swipe left or right, make snap judgements on humans. Although I guess we do that in real life all the time, whether or not we like to admit it. What exactly am I doing here? And am I ok with it? An equally sobering thought was the reality that hundreds of men were doing the exact same thing as I was, only with me. Swiping past my profile, evaluating the positives and negatives, making value judgements on a human with a story, with hopes and desires, a life.

4.  Really?? You thought that was going to attract women?

Moral dilemmas aside, I tried to encounter people, as they were, through this medium. To be open to possibilities and strike up conversations as they came. So as profiles of men came up on my feed as potential matches, it became quickly apparent that not everyone took the same level of intention or had the struggle of self-consciousness that I did with their profiles. I mean, the amount of selfies I’ve seen in the last two months has been enough to last me a lifetime: the bathroom selfie, the car selfie, the I’m-proud-of-my-beard selfie, the bar selfie, the hey-look-I’m-good-with-kids-but-don’t-worry-he’s-my-nephew selfie… I could go on. I’ve learned a lot about my preferences in the last few months, paying attention to my gut reactions. I’ve discovered unexpected deal breakers, such as not being drawn to people whose main passion in life is “Netflix and Chillin’” and not being attracted to people who claim to “live at they gym,” as evidenced by their flexed-muscle gym selfies. I found that it really made me cringe when men would make grammatical errors or completely forego punctuation. or just decide not to capitalize. (If I expect my third graders to write better than what I’m seeing on your profile, that shows either a lack of intelligence or a lack of general effort.) If you answer the question “What was the last book you read?” with something along the lines of not really being into reading, I’m moving on, buddy. Sorry.

5.  The Subtle Settling

You know that moment when you’ve been shopping for a little too long and you’re getting antsy to leave, but you still haven’t found what you’re looking for? (We’re jumping back into the thrift store metaphor…) Your eyes glaze over, and you start to think to yourself “Well, this shirt isn’t so bad. Maybe I like this?” The thing is, you can’t even tell any more. You wonder if you were expecting too much in the first place. I found myself trying to convince myself to be more “open-minded.” I found myself in this tension between knowing and trusting my gut, knowing what I want, and trying to be open, willing to be surprised. It was good to practice being open, although my gut won out every time.

6.  The Weird Culture of Flirting

There were a few guys that were interesting, seemed intelligent, and attractive. So then what? There’s this whole other world and way of interacting with people on these apps and websites. Is winking a thing? Should I message them? There was this weird pressure to be clever and charming, and yet at the same time, because it wasn’t in real time, there was all this time to (over)think about it, which was stressful!

7.  First Dates Are (Usually) the Worst

A few of these interactions led to a date. It was bizarre—feeling like I already knew this stranger. Will whatever possibility of connection we were feeling online translate in person? The drive to the date is always a brainstorm session of conversation topics so as to avoid the dreaded awkward silence, a pep talk of courage and deep breaths. The debate on whether or not to hug upon meeting? Wondering if I should try to reach for the check like Ted Mosby would want me to, or not. The key, I’ve found, is to not overthink it. Everyone is awkward on first dates, and if you just choose to make room for the awkwardness at the table, it’s not so bad.

8.  Trying to Not Become an Angry Feminist

The thing is, though, that awkwardness aside, none of these dates that I went on were that great. They were kind, they were gentlemen, nothing against them, but I just didn’t feel a connection. Which on one hand is completely fine, but what I noticed after awhile is that I started having these disparaging thoughts towards men in general. After one particularly lackluster date, I shouted “I’m just so sick of boring men!” in my car on the way home. Now listen, I do think that there are incredible men out there, with interesting lives, passionate and kindhearted, intelligent and worth knowing. I just don’t know where they are. I would love to be proved wrong, but in my experience, they are few and far between in the online dating world. And I realized I’d much rather just be single than try to convince myself to be with someone who doesn’t fascinate me, challenge me, or inspire me.

9.  It Isn’t Magic, it’s Just Exposure

A little over a year ago I went to this NPR Event, a storytelling night at this bar that themed around “The Science of Online Dating.” (Ironically, my roommate met her now fiancee there!) I thought I would go to that and be convinced that I should try online dating. There were many hilarious horror stories from other people who’d tried it, and ultimately, I remember the takeaway being that online dating isn’t this magic formula of how to find “the one,” but it is successful in that it ups your odds of meeting people, just through the simple act of exposure. It seems to me that you can’t create a reproducible way to meet someone and get married. Everyone’s story is different. In the advice that I sought out with the dating, they said the people who put the effort into it are the ones most likely to find someone. That being said, I did give that a try for a few months. It almost felt like a part time job. It does seem very possible to me for someone to meet someone and enter into a relationship. In a lot of ways, it’s not that much different than meeting people in real life, it’s just amplified.

10.  This Isn’t the Story I Wanted

I was hesitant for so long to try online dating. Mostly, I just didn’t want that to be my story of how I met my husband. To be completely honest, I’m not living the narrative that I thought I’d find myself in. If I had been asked to write my life story 10 years ago, it would have been very different the reality I find myself in right now, but you know what? It would have been a lot more boring, predictable, safe. The story I find myself in now is much more adventurous, vibrant, and beautiful than what I thought I wanted. If nothing else comes of it, getting an account on one of these sites was a way to enter into my story—both letting go of the what I expected and naming what I desire. Wrestling with what it looks like to both hope and be content at the same time. The truth is, I do feel a longing to share life deeply with someone, I feel ready to embrace that season in all that it means, and hey, if that means going through this roller coaster of a ride with attempting to date online, then so be it. And having found that ride to be exhausting and not especially helpful right now, I’m giving myself permission to get off. To leave the thrift store with empty hands and a smile on my face.

Adventures of a Solitude

I am writing this in an empty Starbucks, on a sunny, windy, cloud-decked sky of a Sunday, on my way back from 48 hours of solitude at a convent—The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde Missouri. In between the long, uninterrupted hours of contemplation that I had in the quiet guest house Sister Judy prepared for me and the to do lists and friends and Superbowl parties and noise that awaits me in Kansas City.

unnamed-1This is perhaps an eyebrow-raising way to spend a weekend. To choose silence and to be alone for two days. Admittedly, I am an introvert to the core, so I am coming back from this weekend feeling deeply energized and refreshed. Increasingly, I have made these retreats an important rhythm in my life. Without fail, I always leave these oases vowing to continue to carve out more time, no matter how busy life gets. Creating space to let the mental and internal clutter settle like a snow globe that’s been set on the shelf is, for me, part of becoming and remaining deeply human. It is always a coming home, a coming back to myself. Especially as one who finds that being alone is where I feel most myself, most able to articulate my story and name it, I find that I need solitude, but it has become a strong conviction of mine that everyone would deeply benefit from going away to the mountaintop, to be alone with God. I believe that “until we experience the freedom of solitude, we cannot connect authentically. We may be enmeshed, but we are not encountered.” (Julia Cameron)

Will you let me (and Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Thomas Merton, and my mentor Lori Adams, and others…) tell you why I think you, and everyone you know, should make solitude a regular part of their life?

“Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life? Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you ‘my beloved daughter,’ ‘my beloved son,’ ‘my beloved child.’ To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”  (Henri Nouwen)

We live in a world with so much noise, where it is easy to miss that voice that is calling you Beloved. It is quite possible to live day in and day out with a constant barrage of notifications, feeds, podcasts, live streams, and pop-ups asking us if we want to continue watching. Multiple sources of distraction, it’s as if our headphones have become an IV, a constant drip of numbing morphine, tranquilizing us from the terrifying thought of facing ourselves, of—heaven forbid—being alone with only ourselves for company. For all this busyness and distraction, we are lonely creatures, are we not? Logic follows that being alone would only deepen this wound we carry, but “we can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.” (Richard Foster)

Because solitude is not just being alone with yourself. That’s called introspection. And that is a nasty, gross, mucky downward slope that spirals into self obsession, self hatred, and despair. I’m not trying to be dramatic, I’m just speaking as one who has been down that horrible rabbit hole. Rather than being this austere, navel-gazing ritual of entering into the inhospitable holy of holies, solitude has been, for me, a childlike playful thing, a restful sweetness, an embracing and murmuring of “it’s all going to be ok. You are ok, my child.” At times, yes, a reckoning and wrestling, of raw reality and facing of fears, but also a time of fort making and nap taking. Of making sculptures out of tree bark and leaping over muddy river banks, giggling at the bewildered cows that watch my adventure from afar. No, solitude is not a lonely affair, it is being alone with the One who knows me deeply, and being delighted by being delighted in.

IMG_4890I want you to know that solitude comes with a rhythm. I have found it usually takes time to exhale first. To dump out the contents of my heart and let them sprawl. The things that are weighing me down are brought up and set aside, and then the myriad of pesky and inconsequential thoughts swirl around for awhile. The laundry I haven’t done, the person I forgot to call back, and the kicking myself for still not filing my taxes yet swirls around and can cause untold frustration. You feel like you “aren’t doing it right.” Henri Nouwen likens your inner life to a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down. If Henri Nouwen had inner monkeys, I guess it’s ok that I have them too. I have found that being patient and gentle with the monkeys is the best way to coax them down. Sometimes it can take several hours, or even days for quiet to come. And that is ok. We are far more impatient with ourselves than God is. He waits.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAnd then the deeper things come up to the surface. The things that have been nagging in your subconscious, or maybe you completely unaware of. The thing that all the other things were merely symptoms of. And God takes your hand, and you go there together. It’s messy. And most of the time there isn’t some glorious moment like in the Renaissance paintings of saints where they are in some spiritual ecstasy. It’s probably a moment on your walk when you see that bird, or when you reread something in your journal, or in a verse that sinks down more deeply because you’ve been quiet.  That’s when you can inhale the things that you need to receive. Almost every time I hear some variation of the same message that I will continue to need to hear until I die. That I am loved deeply. And that being enough makes me enough. It’s a word or a phrase or a picture, but every time, I am changed. Even if it feels frustrating and empty in the moment, there is a harvest eventually. Richard Foster says “the fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts.” And Thomas Merton observed that “it is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them… Solitude and silence teacher me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”

So, what kind of adventure of solitude are you being invited into? I get that it’s intimidating, but seriously, it is so Good! Start small. Maybe it’s turning off the radio on your commute to work. Maybe it’s carving out some time every Tuesday to go to go on a walk and not listen to a podcast, but just have your eyes open. Maybe it’s fasting this Lent from the extra noise that is numbing you to being honest with yourself and entering into a healing dialog with God. Or maybe you’re feeling invited to start planning a solitude retreat of your own!

If you want more resources or to dialog about what this could look like, I would be so excited to share more about this spiritual discipline that has been so life giving to me. 

Salsa Lessons

So, I went salsa dancing a few weeks ago, for the first time in ages. I was excited to reawaken my Brazilian side, first discovered in my days student teaching in Brasilia, but it had been quite some time since I had put on my dancing shoes, so I was a bit apprehensive walking into The Chesterfield’s swanky foyer.

While I was a little rusty, I remembered the basics. I held my head high, reminding myself that I am a woman (My mantra when the moment requires some bravery) and dove into those Latin beats, getting by with a little help from my friends… and the Rum Chata helped too. After the DJ for the night led us through some painstakingly mechanical and basic moves, the music picked up, and the hands came extended to our table, asking us to dance. In the culture of partner dancing, the barriers of strangers comes down in a uniquely refreshing way. Anyone may ask and you just say yes. And you find that it’s okay. And the partners dancing, experienced or novice offer their bits of advice and wisdom as you shuffle and glide on the dance floor. Like the 75 year old jasper who authoritatively commanded to my roommate in his thick accent “Ju speen when aye tell ju to speen! Hokay?”

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The Necessity of Letting Go

Here’s the thing about salsa dancing. It requires a partner–a partner who knows what he’s doing. But here’s the other thing–it also requires that the girl can let the guy lead. Which is harder than it sounds.

I came to this realization when one of my partners asked how long I had been dancing and nodded his head knowingly when I said it had been awhile since I’d been salsa dancing. And with the other guy who outright told me that it was hard to dance with me because I was anticipating his moves too much. So later, after a wrong turn with another man, in the space between getting back in step, I smiled at him apologetically and said “Sorry- I’m having a hard time letting the guy lead.”  

“Oh yeah?” he chuckled. “Why’s that?”

In between twirls and twists, I blurted out “I guess it’s hard to let go of control…” I skipped a beat and then disclaimed “Which sounds like this conversation is becoming a deep metaphor for my life, which it’s not–salsa dancing is just harder than it looks.”

We laughed and then kept dancing, but the comment stuck with me for the rest of the night as I kept accepting the hands of others and being led onto the dance floor. I am not accustomed to so tangibly needing to enter into the moment– to have to trust something, or someone with an immediacy that would impact the next step.  Salsa dancing required me to stop anticipating the next move and trust my intuition. Things got tripped up when I overanalyzed my movement, my partner’s movement. Things flowed more when I released into the moment and let the subtle guidance of my partner’s hands translate seamlessly into spins and twists that I didn’t know I could do and certainly weren’t a part of the tutorial at the beginning of the evening.  

The Effort of the Effortless Moment

And another dancing inspired epiphany I had recently–I was at a friend’s wedding earlier this month and watching a couple who were ballroom dancers glide effortlessly on the dance floor at the reception. It looked like uninhibited freedom. Elegant, effortless, enchanting. What got them to that place? I wondered as I watched them from my seat. Lord knows I couldn’t do that (as evidenced by the moment a few songs later when in an attempt to dip me, a more than slightly inebriated wedding guest dropped me on the floor with a quite inelegant and graceless thud. Ha.)

No, that couple had told me that they competed in ballroom dancing competitions, which means they probably submitted to lots of repetitious practice and guidance and time. There were probably countless hours poured into those moments on the dance floor that contributed to their graceful twirls and dips, enabling them to be fully present on the dance with the almost out of body intuition I was attempting to enter into with my salsa dance partners.

Both sides of this art were necessary. Submitting to the mundane choice of discipline and diligence as well as the brave leap into the moment of letting go.  

What has struck me about dancing these last few weeks is how strongly it could connect to so many things. Not merely a metaphor for relationships, although it is rich in wisdom in that context of what it means to be human. It led me to think about these questions.

What is it that I’m being asked to enter into with diligent practice?

What must I show up to  and work towards that would lead up to those euphoric moments of beauty and aliveness?

In what ways am I being asked to let go of control, to stop the mentally exhausting anticipation and over thinking that I have become accustomed to– where am I being invited onto the dance floor, being asked to trust the process, the hand guiding me?

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