First: A very happy birthday to my brother…who is leaning forward into a new year today.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to approach thresholds with many surreptitious glances over my shoulder…sometimes walking backwards into the doorframe in the process. Over my life, as I have prepared to transition from one role to another, from one vocation to another, from home life to vacation, from vacation to home life, my instinct is to lean backwards (like a member of a tug-of-war team), to get my heels firmly dug in, and to resist the onward pull which feels like it is dragging me into danger (Precipice! Abyss! Unknown!) I would like to have the giddy abandon of a toddler, but the fact is I no longer have bones and joints and muscles that recover from falls easily. And I have a lot of neural pathways that have been conditioned over the years to prefer balance to unbalance. Why do you think teaching an old dog new tricks is so hard?
And most of life encourages us to look backwards. After all, how much time do we spend studying the future? It is only in the high, thin atmosphere of any profession or discipline, after you are already thoroughly grounded in history and ‘everything up to now’, that you begin to ask provocative ‘what if’ questions or get close enough to the edges to vision what ‘might be.’
We are simply not trained to lean forward (into un-balance, into non-control); we are socialized and educated to be repositories of the past (to seek stasis and balance and control).
What I absolutely know as a former dancer (I still dance, but I don’t think of myself as a dancer any more) is that every single step is a tilt forward, out of balance. I cannot move at all unless I consent to be unbalanced. This is as true of normal walking as it is of ballet. My foot hits the floor and I am (usually) perfectly balanced for the split second before I lean forward, deliberately eschewing stasis, into the next step. You would think I would be used to this by now, that the larger leaps of life would be a normal extension of the little balance-unbalance-balance-and-repeat of my everyday activity. But once my brain is involved as well as my body, that simple activity becomes fraught with emotional baggage (sometimes an easily carried backpack, sometimes a barely moveable trunk.)
Surrounded once more by the familiar, the normal, the usual, the awareness and epiphanies of the sabbatical will seem unrealistic, or silly, or meaningless, or I won’t be quite able to remember why they felt so important. The yearning that pulls me forward (out of stasis) will have to fight to stay alive. The new ideas will tend to evaporate because there are no hooks in the old patterns on which to hang them. As a result, they will not easily find breathing room in the structure (physical, emotional, spiritual) that already exists to receive me (and them). That structure is already full of old information, old ideas, old behaviors. Essentially, this new knowing is just free-floating wisdom-theory until it has been around long enough to create a neural pathway in my brain.
This may happen to you, as well. A miraculous event occurs and your mind (sometimes even your heart) immediately begins to explain it away…because the very nature of miracles means they don’t “fit” into any of our usual explanations of how the world works. You feel a deep desire to reconfigure your life with vastly different nuance and priorities…but within a week or two, the desire dissipates; to change is too much trouble; it is irresponsible; it is insane; it is unrealistic. Our psyches have all sorts of tools to keep what we think or believe (about ourselves and our world) in neatly accessible categories and pigeon-holes. To keep us attached to what worked in the past – for ourselves or for someone else.
The only option is to lean forward, to use gravity to topple ourselves off our perch in the pigeon-hole, out of our comfortable box. We need to use our trips and stumbles, the moments when momentum tips us off-balance to stagger off the well-worn paths of our daily life. I have had the amazing blessing of spending almost four months doing things differently simply because I have had to adapt to different cultural expectations, a different path to the bathroom in the dark of night, different refrigerators, different grocery stores, different road signs.
Even so, it will be hard. I will need to let go of some of the old, outworn habits in order to have room to fit new, more life-giving ones.
And so I ask:
tango into my life,
exuberantly partnered to broom and brush.
Whirl past my storage shelves,
tossing out the threadbare costumes
with the abandon of Isadora.
Shimmy into the tight corners
where the dust of dead dreams accumulates,
and under the bed
(where long-gone seasons tend to linger
with the moth-eaten sweaters
and sweat-stained sundresses).
Clear the floors for
waltzing and line-dancing,
and flirtatious cha-chas.
Then swing me into step
with the new tempo.
Yes, O Yes!
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, 2014, 2015 Immram Chara, LLC