Change: The dance of Life

Fred: a unique being!
Fred resting his head on Luke’s toy and looking up at me with his cute, crossed, eyes!

Years ago, someone in my family got quite angry with me for not acknowledging her daughter’s birthday. I remember the feelings of guilt and embarrassment, but it wasn’t because I hadn’t remembered. I was particularly un-wealthy at that point in my life, and didn’t want to just send a card (what 10-year-old is happy to get a card with nothing inside it?!).

When I did explain my reason for not sending a gift, this family member wasn’t any happier with me, and actually didn’t speak to me for some time. This was the way my family was, and I was just as guilty of this as the rest of them. There were set, unchanging, rules of conduct that everyone obeyed: You sent gifts on birthdays (even if you didn’t want to, or didn’t have the money), you went to every party that you were invited to (even if you didn’t want to), you called each other on a regular basis (even if you didn’t want to)….the list was endless, and if anyone stepped off this path of accepted behaviour, they became the subject of extreme scrutiny. There was no room for the individual on this path, no room for change.

I also remember when I made a decision to step away from this way of relating, not only to my family but with everyone. I made a decision to be honest in my relationships (which sounds like an easy thing) but felt like a huge risk. In time, I became aware that the people who were going to get angry at me for saying no, or not giving in a way that they thought was appropriate, were eventually going to get angry with me anyway.

I saw that I could drive myself crazy trying to be who they wanted me to be, or I could be true to myself see what happened.  Much to my surprise, I found that the only loss I experienced was the feeling of desperately trying to be liked.

You cannot lose true relationships by being yourself.

If I want somebody to “dance to my tune” then I’m not even seeing who they are. Can I then call myself their friend? And if I am not being myself, I’m not really giving anyone the chance to like me. If you dance to your own tune, and I dance to mine, we may not like each other and that is OK …but we might Love each other, be surprised by each other, …we might learn that there are millions, billions, of dances in this incredible universe and we might make room for them all.

Who are you? Maybe you’re not the kind of friend who brings casseroles in a crisis, but sits and holds a friend in silent love. Maybe you don’t like to meet for coffee, but love to talk on the phone. What if you took this weekend to honor your own dance? What would it look like? Isn’t it time we found out…and started dancing.

Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will not dance but will gossip about those who are dancing. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time“. don Miguel Ruiz*

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10 thoughts on “Change: The dance of Life”

  1. Dear Mary, this is a beautiful and powerful post. Thank you. I too have experienced the remodeling of my relationships when I decided to make honesty and self-worth at the center of my actions. When I gave up wanting to be understood or liked, I found the person who is the most important one to accept me is myself! I’m still working on that every day, but as I become more self aware and more loving towards my self, all the relationships in my life have become a vehicle for expressing tolerance, acceptance and being able to go with the flow.

  2. Expectations…mine and others that keep us separated instead of connected…silly silly! Thanks for the reminder of authenticity in relationships. I am learning to accept my new normal in regard to “dancing with CHANGE” first summer without Pete, and our island home , two huge changes….but life has provided other experiences. I may have lost the love of my life, but I am not (gratefully) without love.

    1. Hats off to you, Sandy, in this summer of transition. I can feel through your words that you are strong, even in sadness, and learning your new way forward. Cosmic hugs to you, along with my admiration.

      1. Suzanne, thank you for your kind words, I love and will hold on to your “summer of transition” message.

  3. These words struck me as I relate to my young adult daughters: “If I want somebody to “dance to my tune” then I’m not even seeing who they are.” and “but we might Love each other, be surprised by each other.” That’s way more fun and rewarding, to see the surprises and delight in them than to be worried about how they might be perceived in my world. I’ve quit trying to explain their choices and find and focus on the positives.

  4. It is wonderful to finally be relaxed enough with myself and with life to allow others to dance their dance while I dance mine. I wish I had found this freedom a lot earlier in my life, but I didn’t. Am I lamenting this? No. It is what it is.

    Many years ago, Marlo Thomas wrote a book for kids called, “Free To Be You and Me.” Now that I’ve found this freedom, I must say I’m wallowing in it, and everything looks different “out there” since I’m viewing it from this new prism.

    Dancing in the streets……and it is GOOD!

  5. Thank you, Mary. this post is particularly pertinent today for me. Hopefully my worst enemy/best friend will continue on his exploration of letting me be me. It is hard to let him be himself, he is so wrapped up in me, but I get more hopeful every day…

  6. Mary, all I could think of when reading your post was….what a guilt trip that sort of family dynamics induced…and how judgmental. Holy cow, I couldn’t imagine that going on in my life growing up and yet, in many other subtle ways families have unspoken expectations of behaviour that, if not followed, one knows one is going to be denigrated and discounted. I know that with my mother, all it took was that ‘look’ of hers and I’d feel guilty. My husband tries it once in awhile and sometimes more than once in awhile and he gets told that I spent many years dealing with that sort of guilt trip and it isn’t going to work now. If you let people push you around, there are always some willing to do it. And yes, it does mean loosing relationships but those were uneven and unbalanced relationships and only when you step out of line, do they fall apart. Of course, if you are the one stepping away from the dance, you’re of course blamed. More guilt…if you’re willing to accept it. Too bad I learned this later and not sooner in life.
    SandyP in S. Ontario, Canada

  7. I can tell when someone is doing something to accommodate me, and by what they’re doing, not being true to themselves. It makes me horribly uncomfortable, and a little sad for them that they feel they have to conduct themselves that way. They mean well, I’m sure.

    The opposite occurred several years ago when a young woman, who was a close relative, died, and another family member was very angry that we didn’t send her a birthday card for her birthday a month later. She didn’t live near us, and had no idea what we were going through here with grief and having to clean out her house and sell it. She appeared to only care about the recognition of her birthday. This really angered me.

    You hit a nerve, Mary, and reinforced my life time MO of being myself. The people who know me, get it. The rest, oh well.

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