Her eyes sparkle with joyful trust, her feet skip with abandoned freedom, her voice rises with no apology and her hands reach for the dust that dances with her in the glittering sunlight. She is free and wild an ecstatic expression of the bliss which always is…
Her face was lined from years of living. Her eyes danced, bursting with memories etched like fireworks on a dark night. Her smile beckoned one to sit and listen. Her legs no longer danced, they lay bent and disfigured on the bed with raw open bed sores seeping at her hip joints. Her vibrant spirit encircled you the moment you stepped into her space, there was no victim in this room, no woe is me, instead one was greeted with dynamic passion, simple happiness, and a peacefulness that gently kissed you on the cheek.
Who are the “her’s” I speak of? The first is me, dancing in my childhood living room, chasing the sun dust I stirred up with my exuberant joy. The second “her” is a divine woman I was blessed to care for in a nursing home years ago. Her aliveness, grace, peace, and love still dance in my memory. She and others I cared for knew a truth, as did the child in me.
What did they know?
- They knew that happiness, love, peace and contentment always exist.
- They knew that it did not exist in things outside themselves.
- They knew that it was accessible in all moments.
- They knew that no one could give it to them, yet they lovingly shared it.
- They knew it was a choice.
The years and space between innocent curious childhood and the wisdom of one’s latter years is full of “shoulds”, “comparisons”, “judgments”, and the measuring of the self against a society often ruled through fear and distrust. I do not have to sit very long in a cafe before I can hear someone criticizing themselves or attacking someone else. Stories swirl around like the sound of the espresso machine, surging with blame, shame, hurt, victimhood and discontent. It breeds like the flies on the patio tables, snatching up every scrappy morsel to add fuel to why their life is so miserable.
Why do humans choose this?
A question I have pondered since I was five years old.
- Why do we let go of our passionate desires to instead choose to fly someone else’s kite?
- Why do we slam the door on the pure potential of joy?
- Why do we kick happiness to the curb, to welcome and invite stressful frustration?
- Why do we say “have to” instead of “get to”?
- Why do we choose going through our days and moments on auto-pilot, waiting for someone or something else to make us better?
- Do we prefer to wait, to lie on our deathbed watching the autobiographical movie of regret?
- Why do we look in the mirror with such self contempt, as young children we loved our reflection?
I ask all of this with curiosity and a desire to understand.
In my sophomore year of college I was blessed to work at an international daycare. Here I witnessed children from all over the world. They danced, played, laughed and cried, living their moments very presently. They saw the world as a frontier to be explored. I sensed that the older children were on the fringe of losing this curious wonderment for life. In their play I observed them mimicking adults, their eyes would change, their jaw would set tightly, their voices would take on a serious tone. The joy, spontaneity, compassion and kindness evaporated, leaving behind a robotic body, controlled by the “taught” mind.
Three years after working in a daycare, I found myself working in a nursing home. Here I discovered the grace and vengeance of aging. I was gifted to share time with souls who lived a full passionate life and others who were embittered with regret. The extreme chasm between the two slapped me stingingly as I would leave one room to enter another. My heart and soul ached for those fighting their own shadow. They carried their anger and sadness like a suitcase loaded with boulders, burdening their final days. These souls expressed through pinches, punches, and verbal abuse while you assisted them to the toilet, shower or dining hall. Off the clock, I cherished the moments I got to sit and listen to the stories from those celebrating life. Stories of falling in love, having children, riding in a car for the first time and rising above struggle. Reflections of the gentle flow of seasons, years, experiences and the pure grace of a life lived fully.
In my forties I found myself teaching language arts to junior high students. Here I witnessed the cross over in technicolor poignancy. A few young people desperately clung to their innocent pure belief that anything is possible, that one could reach for their dreams with unbridled passion. The majority of the students had given up, they did not dream, instead they chased visions of their future painted on the wall by parents and society. They swallowed hard the doses of expectations fed to them with the famous mantra, “When I have lots of money I will be happy, when I get my degree I will be happy, when I buy a house I will be happy, when I marry I will be happy, WHEN I… I will then be HAPPY”.
Ironically the joke is on us, for much of life is lived between the wild child and the wise elder. Thus I am forever grateful for the life altering gift of witnessing snapshots of age through my diverse professional life. They have graced me with an awareness and microscopic view that life is really just a brief sojourn. A brief interlude to experience as I choose.
Today I watch the sun dust with the pure delight of my four year old wonderment, I dance with unlimited joy, for I am not young, nor old, I am in between, kissing each with gratitude for their wisdom.
Today I invite you to join me, breathe deeply into the child you once were before life manipulated you.
Today I encourage you to take back the string to your own kite, feel it dance freely upon the wind.
I wrote this piece originally over a year ago, today it whispered at me, beckoning me to share in this time of change upon our planet. We all sit unexpectedly in a space of suspended uncertainty. As we float between what was and what is becoming, we are being graced with a crystal ball that plays scenes from childhood, while positioning the paint brush towards a canvas of our elder years. Posed on a precipice, can you hear the whispers of grace and freedom? Or do you cling to the chaos of fear?
The wise gentle elders I was blessed to care for no longer inhabit this plane, yet the way they embraced their journey is written in permanent marker on my heart, soul, and mind. I shall not lie on the bed sores of life embittered and shriveled, I shall dance vibrantly in the sparkling company of dust particles…