A have a Facebook friend who entertains us daily with stories of her recent move to a farm. She particularly enjoys thrilling us with tales of the exploits of her chickens and their rooster, Batman. I get a kick out of reading her posts because they are so well written and upbeat. I truly believe that her daily updates on “Cluckingham Palace” are the stuff of a best selling book. She has a way of creating joy out of life’s ordinary irritations that sometimes make us fret. Today she posted a meme that spoke to me in a most personal way, “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” That little quote sent me back to a memory that has stuck with me for decades.
I had enrolled my five year old daughter in a dance class and she seemed to enjoy the experience of learning different steps and routines. She was an exceedingly shy little girl, but somehow when the music started she forgot her inhibitions. It delighted me to see her so happy and excited about an upcoming recital. She and her fellow dancers were learning to sing and dance to a song called “Tattletale Duck.” I had the task of putting together her costume by fashioning a little skirt out of yellow toile. Both of us worked hard in the days before the big show.
On the night of the recital my daughter looked adorable all decked out in yellow, complete with a feathery tuft pinned to her hair. The sweet little troupe of girls did indeed look like a flock of ducklings as they walked on stage and waited for the music to begin. After the first note they were as precious as can possibly be with their tiny voices chanting the little tune and their feet shuffling and turning out of unison more often than not. All eyes were on whichever little girl they had come to see.
My daughter was perfection. A smile lit up her face as she danced with the precision of a Rockette. Then, just as the routine drew to a close, disaster struck. The fastener on her yellow tutu came apart and the skirt fell around her ankles. I was mortified that my seamstress skills had failed so miserably in the height of the moment. Nonetheless, without changing her enchanting expression or missing a beat, my girl gracefully stepped out of the circle of netting and completed the routine. When the music stopped and the girls began to exit the stage she bent down as though continuing the dance, picked up the fallen garment and then raised it into the air with a flourish and then a bow. The whole audience went wild with applause.
That moment seemed to define the grit that my daughter would continue to exhibit in difficult times. Behind her quiet exterior was a strength that would come out whenever life hurled hardships her way. She continued to dance and charm audiences all the way through her high school years. She accepted challenges again and again, always finding ways to make her most difficult moments part of the dance. Even as she headed to college she was willing to stretch her mind with courses that pushed her beyond her comfort zone. Over the years she would face difficulties with the same determination and creative spirit that she demonstrated as a five year old dancer.
Life is rarely easy for any of us, but some people appear to be more adept at creating joy out of even the most horrific circumstances. None among us have never stumbled and felt that horrible feeling of looking foolish. The greatest in our midst have a way of making those ghastly moments part of the dance. They smile through the hardships and gracefully keep in step. They understand that the choreography of life is not about a single moment but is instead an entire routine that continues right up to our final bows.
Happiness and sense of self confidence comes from somewhere deep inside our souls. Some of us can bring laughter from stories of chickens. Others dance their way through the ups and downs. None of us are immune to feeling as broken as the tutu that fell to my daughter’s ankles. Something snaps and we don’t feel that we have effectively done our jobs. That’s the moment when we choose whether to just lie on the ground defeated or become a flash of loveliness waving in the air, resurrected from the ashes.
If you are feeling down or broken or defeated it may sound trite to suggest that you just keep dancing, but what else is there to do? Think of that little girl in her yellow leotard shuffling her way to the end of the routine. Sometimes it’s the best we can do.