Monthly Archives: May 2024

New Dance Partner

ID 28292912
© Makar

I’m not the first to waltz my way into this metaphor of life and dance. There are times life feels like a Tango, deliberate, full of beauty and intrigue. There are moments of joy and celebration akin to the Charleston. And then, there are seasons where you feel as though your two left feet leave you stumbling and consistently one step behind.

A new dance partner has interrupted the general choreography of my life. I may have mentioned him before. His name is Professor C. (C is for cancer for those just joining.) I gave him that title to help minimize and categorize this experience. A fitting title as the treatment was scheduled to take six months and I expect to learn something. However, this whimsical label did not have a minimizing or diminishing effect. I’m a few months into the treatment cycle and realizing I may have underestimated the reach of Prof C. Professor C has ignored the polite rules of society and appropriate academic boundaries, and has launched a full-on invasion into my life and my personal space. (Maybe “C” is for cad.)

He has become a dance partner everyone tries desperately to avoid, and reminds me of the Hungarian linguist in “My Fair Lady” – loud, obnoxious, controlling, presumptuous, and an inflated sense of his power to ruin one’s life. Statistically speaking, some of you may have never seen “My Fair Lady.” (I cannot imagine this world, but for the sake of argument, I’ll concede it may exist.) “My Fair Lady” is a 1963 film, set in 1910 London, where Professor Henry Higgins makes a bet with an old army buddy determining he can refine Eliza Doolittle, a crude flower girl. At one point, Eliza is taken to a ball to test the success of the experiment, and subsequently handed off to dance with a man, the Hungarian linguist, who believes he can speak to anyone and immediately surmise their lineage. But did I mention he’s a pompous ass…much like Professor C, my current dance partner. The pure gall and audacity! (And I shall leave it at that. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out if the ass succeeds.)

But, like Eliza and square dancing lessons during 3rd grade PE, I didn’t get to pick my partner. Nor am I familiar with, or have any control over, this new dance. My treatment was postponed last week to give my white cell count and liver enzymes a chance to recover before the next dose of chemo. It felt like a betrayal, a detour from the goal of finishing and moving on. The damn linguist whisked me off the main dance floor, out on to the balcony in some sort of forced side quest. UGH!

Professor C (now a weird cross in my head between a faceless academic and a Hungarian linguist), the unwanted dance partner, has started to teach me some things. Actually, that’s not accurate. The interval of being forced to dance with him has created a space where my perspective has been altered.

I was reminded recently of a poem that demonstrates this perfectly.

The Guest House – Jellaludin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I have no idea what comes next in this dance or who shows up tomorrow. But, I’m dancing, and here’s what I think I’m learning:

  • The unexpected appearances of joy and pain no longer get a wave and brief acknowledgement but are invited to sit and stay as long as they like.
  • I’d like to think my gratitude has found deeper roots. I don’t take for granted the moments of connection with my family or my friends.
  • I’ve discovered there’s so much beauty in the world and in my space than I realized. And, the beautiful things have so much more meaning. They become the colors I paint my daily life with.
  • There’s value in learning the discipline of letting each day unfold and resisting the tendency to brace myself for the unknown. I cannot live in the future and trying to do is a colossal waste of energy.
  • I thought I controlled a lot of things. I control very little. And those things I thought I needed to control aren’t that important anyway.
  • Being undone does not make me weak or needlessly vulnerable, it just makes me human. The humanity of me is what connects me. And, those connections have tremendous meaning and value. Maybe even the most meaning and value.

As my new dance partner takes me places I don’t want to go, I’m learning the dark moments don’t destroy beauty or joy, and as invasive and tumultuous as Professor C can be at times, he cannot take away my ability to love, to create, to laugh, to pursue the best version of me. Honestly, I’m still remedial at all this. But maybe that’s the most important thing I’m learning…

one of the most beautiful parts of being human is the ability to learn and grow.