I Choose to Dance
Today I took my dog Charlie to the beach. Despite the fact that we are smack in the middle of January, it feels more like April or May. That’s life in Charleston. I really had to push myself to pack up Charlie’s leash and tennis ball and thermos of water. It would have been so much easier to stay home and finish the laundry, organize my closet and relax on the couch catching up on my taxes and writing this post. But a voice deep inside of me propelled me to go. My inner voice; the true wisdom of the soul.
As I strolled along the soft sand with Charlie in tow, there was slight chill in the air. It was low tide and I was thankful for this, because it allowed Charlie and I lots of space to roam and play without approaching the water line. Charlie, like most labs, loves to swim and I love to watch him jump and bounce over the waves, consumed with unbridled joy and passion. But it also means he will inevitably make a huge mess in my car and require a shower later. Selfishly, I hoped he would spare me the trouble of an 80 pound smelly and salty and sandy wet dog. But despite my hope of leaving the beach with a clean, dry dog, I was prepared to embrace the alternative. Because Charlie’s life is exceedingly shorter than my own, and swimming in the ocean makes him so intensely happy. And because time in general is so elusive and fleeting, and my new year’s resolution is to try and go with the flow.
With my baby’s arrival rapidly approaching, I have been consumed with household tasks and projects. Like organizing all the photos my husband and I have taken throughout our 3 years together and arranging them chronologically in albums. Like filing my taxes earlier this year. Like eliminating unnecessary clutter and cleaning our up our living space to make room for baby. My rational mind urged me to stay focused on these practical goals and disregard the non essential leisure activities that threaten to distract me. My heart reminded me that I might feel regret if I fail to hit the pause button and embrace the present moment, however messy or inconvenient it might seem. After all, is this not a skill and a practice all parents must eventually learn to master? And with parenthood lurking right around the corner for me, what better time is there for me to lean? My true inner voice- the wisdom of my soul- pleaded with me to stop and breathe and play with Charlie. As soon as I felt the sand beneath my feet and the cool breeze caressing my face, I knew I had made the right choice.
In between ball throws with Charlie, I paused to fill my jacket pockets with seashells. I selected only the white and pink shells to match the colors of my baby’s future nursery. From the time I first moved to Charleston over 16 years ago, I have made a habit of filling glass vases with seashells and scattering them around my home. When I look at the shells I am reminded of the ocean. And when I remember the ocean I feel quiet and still, serene and free. I have a treasured painting in my office; it is a young woman at the edge of the shore with her long dark hair blowing in the ocean breeze and her cotton dress billowing gently around her ankles as she bends down to collect seashells. The painting caught my eye a number of years ago at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Charleston. I was going through a divorce at the time and the woman in the painting reminded me so much of myself that I just had to buy it. Because I was in emotional pain and turmoil at the time and I was struggling to find my true self again. Because the one thing that has always remained constant in my life despite the constantly shifting tides of time and circumstance, is the power of the ocean to comfort and heal me.
Charlie and I made our way slowly along the shore, finding our own special balance and rhythm. I throw the ball. Charlie chases the ball. I pause to collect a shell. Charlie runs back to meet me. We walk together for a moment or two. Charlie releases the ball. And the cycle begins again. Throw. Catch. Pause. Release. Like the waves meeting the shore and receding again. Like the shifting tides and the changing seasons and the rising and setting of the golden sun.
I realized today that despite my incredible joy and gratitude for the gift of this child, I have also been scared. I have feared losing a part of myself. The part of me that likes to collect shells on the beach with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. The part of me that remembers to trust my inner voice despite what higher logic and reason might suggest. The part of me that fights for my dreams however unlikely or inconvenient they might seem. What if the business of parenting overwhelms me to the point where I forget who I am? What if I lose touch with my innermost child and the joy that comes from just letting go and being free? I felt this fear so strongly today as I walked with Charlie in the afternoon sunshine. Yes, I acknowledged this fear on the beach today and then I released it and set it free. Alongside the ocean and beneath the sky, with the warmth of the sun and the wind in my hair and the sand beneath my feet, I felt my fear and I set it free. I am reminded of a song by Lee Ann Womack now, a song I danced to with my father at my wedding nearly 3 years ago.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
The words to this song remind me that the choice is mine to make. What type of wife and mother will I be? Will I hang onto the core essence of who I am after this child is born or will I lose myself completely? Will I remember to sing and laugh and love and play despite the many pressures and demands of life that will inevitably press against me? Will I still be me? The answer to these questions is a simple one. The choice is mine. The choice has always been mine.
Becoming a mother will certainly challenge me to the core in ways I never thought possible. And there will undoubtedly be days I will want to collapse in a corner and cry. But motherhood does not have to change the core of who I am. Not unless I allow this to happen. My inner voice will still be here to guide me, as reliable and constant as the sun and the sky. And if I find myself feeling lost and confused or overwhelmed by life, there is always the ocean and the sound of the waves. The choice is mine for today and the choice will be mine again tomorrow. And for today at least, I choose to dance. How about you?