By Marina Smerling
While I regularly encourage my clients to practice self-listening, and while I'm a steadfast believer in the power of self-connection, there are some moments (and days) in which for all my self-awareness and personal growth tools, I can’t figure out what the heck is going on.
This weekend was “one of those days.” As many of you know, I moved from the metropolitan superstar land of the San Francisco Bay Area a little over a year ago to Gainesville, and I’m still adjusting.
A life-long dance lover accustomed to boogying down in all kinds of dance classes with adults in Oakland and San Francisco, here, where the dance pickings are slim, I’ve resigned myself to taking dance classes with people less than half my age.
Thus, this weekend was the annual “summer recital” to the theme of the Disney movie Frozen, where I performed in a hip-hop piece with a stage full of fourteen year-olds.
It went well enough, with no overt tripping and falling as the elder on stage – thank God – and yet, afterwards, I felt so down, a heavy weight resting on my shoulders and my chest, and try as I might to psychoanalyze myself and get to the core of the sadness, I just couldn’t pinpoint it. It may have been missing the company of dancing adults in Oakland, it may have been nostalgia for “the old days” of summer recitals when I myself was a young ‘un, it may have been jealousy of the immensely talented youth who could still twirl and do back flips in multiple dance pieces back-to-back, then skip off stage singing their favorite Cardi B and Maroon 5 tunes.
So much to decipher and discern amidst the heaviness. And yet, it was one of those weekends where the root just didn’t unearth itself. Down in the mud it lay, hiding and hurting and heaving quietly beneath the surface.
For so many years, I condemned myself here – that famous Buddhist “second arrow” – wondering what was wrong with me for not knowing myself better, scowling at myself for not “doing my inner work,” essentially sending myself to my room, like a scolding parent, until I could figure out what was wrong, and why.
But this time, I remembered: I don’t have to wait to have it all figured out before turning toward what opens me.
I can simply ask – of this life, God, the universe – “How can I serve today?” Not waiting to be good enough. Not waiting to figure it all out. Not waiting to have my core self analyzed and laid neatly out in columns on an Excel spreadsheet. Turning instead toward the opening that is service, even without knowing how or what it will look like.
“How can I serve?” Asking, and letting my whole body turn toward the question. And then waiting (and sometimes waiting some more) to receive and hear wisdom.
I share this with you today because I want you, too, to not have to wait until you’ve figured “It” all out – whether “It” is your current emotional state, or your relationship, or your five or ten-year life plan. I want you not to have to wait, but to feel free to move toward that which opens you now.
Yes, let us keep asking the questions that allow us to know ourselves better (“What are you feeling, sweetie? Where does this remind you of? What’s important to you? What do you need right now?” etc., etc.), and… when the answers don’t come immediately, may we allow ourselves the solace of that which opens us, its own kind of mercy, be it:
A sense of service
Or all the hundred needs on the human needs list
Allowing ourselves to open in the face of the unknown toward that which we love.
Daring to open without having our sh*t all together first. (Indeed, having our sh*t together is so overrated).
Ironically, I have found within this opening-toward-service more clarity about the heaviness of the weekend. I notice the association of these dance recitals which I performed in as a young ‘un with a life-long need for approval, for accomplishment, to be loved and to belong, a pressure to “succeed” by performing along a certain hard and narrow track society has called “good.”
And the truth is, I want to dance out in the open, feeling the wildness of the earth beneath my feet, in Rumi’s field out beyond right and wrong and expensive Riyana costumes and the praise of clapping strangers – and where aging bodies and ageless hearts are wholly welcomed alongside back-flipping young bodies alike.
May this being be the one to serve. The one in the aging, dance-loving body, the one with emerging wrinkles on her face.
I want this for all of us. No perfection required. Turning toward that which we love – again and again – amidst our sadness and confusion and not knowing and wanting things to be different.
Making ourselves – aging and wrinkling and uncertain and sorrowful – into an offering to what we love.
“Here Life, here I am, this human mess, non-omnipotent and non-certain, unfolding at your feet like this. May you use me well.”