Today I ran into a friend that I see at the coffee shop almost every time I go there. She was diagnosed with breast cancer this past year. Mary Ellen has two little boys, 8 and 6. She’s only a few years older than I am. It’s been two months since I’ve seen her. The last time I saw her, she was about to undergo her last round of chemo therapy. I was walking out of the shop today and I was beginning to worry that I hadn’t seen her when she pulls into the parking lot and gives me a hug.
I was so happy to see her smile. Life is too short everyone says. Hug your loved ones for one never knows, is posted on timelines every now and then. Get out and enjoy life I often hear. But what do we that? Do we really understand what it means to be so close to the edge of death that every day is truly a miracle?
I think a lot of us tend to think we do. We hear or see these messages and give it a thought or two, but yet continue on our day that is the responsibility of modern life. You need a roof overhead, heat, food. Giving up the creature comforts is an unpleasant thought. Work provides security, benefits and for many a sense of purpose.
I’ve been struggling this past year. Struggling creatively and professionally. Dance was getting boring. I was no longer feeling inspired. I was dancing and going to support my friends at their shows, but was anyone really watching or was everyone else to wrapped up in their own performances to care? There was an overabundance of me, me, me. I felt ignored, let down.
Work was no better. I was struggling to break free of the mundane and illogical nature of a corporate job. Everything is a rush, top priority! Drop everything at the whim of a totally arbitrary date set by some executive striving to achieve their revenue targets. Find a different job or be happy you have a job I often hear. Sure, I’m happy to have a steady and decent pay check, but every corporate job is the same scenario. Everyday feels like is a slow walk to my grave. So, should I be happy?
As I step down the stairs of the plane the warm moist Spanish air hits my skin and I immediately feel at home. I see the palms trees, the red glow of a fading sun on the horizon. I did it. I broke free. I didn’t give it much thought when I handed in my notice to take my leave. It was rejected. “What are you going to do?” asked my friends, coworkers and boss. Leave of course! I was determined. What is but a few weeks, months or even years in the span of lifetime? There will be never be a perfect time, there are always responsibilities waiting.
As I crawl into bed, my knees ache, my feet hurt. I can’t walk anymore. I’ve spent all day dancing and walking the cobblestone streets exploring every corner, alley and nook I can find. Dance class is hard, but fulfilling. I get lost, confused and take breaks often for my feet really do hurt! I refuse to miss class lying in bed bemoaning my aches because the sacrifices I’ve made to get here are much too big. I’ve left my job and family behind, yet I’m happy to be doing something I love and to wake up every morning to be surrounded by music, friends and dance.
“You look so relaxed!” Mary Ellen says to me as she gives me a hug. I look back at her and smile. Her hair has grown back. It’s short and grey now. I no longer see the beautiful blonde bouncy curls she used to have. She’s still beautiful, but she has a sophistication about her that I hadn’t noticed before. “You did it!” she exclaims. Yes, I did! I fulfilled my dream to study dance in Spain, tour the Iberian Peninsula and have an authentic French croissant in Paris! Many years ago, I was at the wrong end of a barrel, begging to live. I had a chance after that to take charge of my life, but I didn’t. I’ve felt the panic that overcomes the body when a doctors asks, “Do you have life directive?” Spending my days in a hospital bed, waiting and wondering if this is how it all ends. I had a chance again after that to take charge of my life, I didn’t.
We hug, part ways. I get into my car and drive to work. Yes, I still have my job. Armageddon didn’t happen while I was away. Things picked up almost where they left off. I now see that the opportunity had always been there, I just needed to stand up for myself and not accept no for an answer. As for my creative dilemma, I got a fairly good dose of inspiration while I was away. And does it matter if anyone is listening, watching, reading? I’ve been gone awhile, I had a lot of time alone to ponder… it doesn’t. Do you what you enjoy and ignore the noise. Choose to create, dance, sing, explore and to spend time with people you love.
"Live" your life!