Return to site

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Some lessons you keep learning over and over again, from different points of view.

I, for instance, have spent lots of nutritious time learning how to be present for suffering. I have learned how to allow myself to be sad, to hurt, to grieve. I have learned how to permit pain to go through me. I have learned to accept my own emotions of betrayal, hurt, and outrage.

But now I have to learn the same lessons from the other side. I'm such a champ at handling hard times, but now I have to learn how to accept...happiness. My knee-jerk reaction is stark terror and dread: if the pain doesn't come now, won't it be so much worse when it comes later? Actually, you have to be a lot braver to allow yourself happiness than to allow yourself sadness! I find my walls by accidentally barking my shins on them in the dark. “Oops, wall right there! Anyone have a band-aid?” —Apparently I have all kinds of great coping mechanisms for tough stuff, but no defences against things like joy, relief, and trust. If I let them in, if I let them go through me, won't they render me weak and unprepared for the next storm?

Nonsense, I know. I am always telling my friends, when things go well, to enjoy their moments. To let themselves feel what they feel. I'm always marvelling at how generous God is, and yet, when he really does give me some unexpected present, I tiptoe around it like a scared cat.

And here's the thing of it, tangueros. You can't dance if you only allow yourself a limited range of emotional experience. You can't dance half the Oreo. You can't say, “I just want the dark crumbly cooky. You can keep your sweet creamy insides.” Because if you block out huge swaths of what's going on inside your own heart, how can you even pretend to hear someone else's? And if you can't listen, there's no point to dancing and you should just sit down.

So: it is our civic duty as dancers to embrace what joys life offers us, even if they threaten to be large ones, and to own them as fully as we do the easier lessons we're handed. Difficult as it is, it is blessed to receive.