Sunlight streamed through the holes in the tent roof. It bathed the gold medal I held, making it appear almost liquid in my sweating palm. I earned the medal for performing the hornpipe, a difficult solo step, at an Irish Step Dance competition. The sun rays warmed my body on that cold September day in Estes Park, Colorado. There was no need, however, of an external heating source for my soul. The happiness and pride I felt at this accomplishment flowed from my heart to the corners of my mouth and produced a grin that easily could have been on the face of a small child unwrapping Christmas presents.
I wanted to enjoy the moment. I wanted to remember it forever. I also was determined to never forget what it took to get there and the odds against a fifty-year-old woman taking this trophy. Even though I was delighted, I could not help replaying the unkind words and laughter some of my friends delivered when I told them of my dream, several years earlier, to learn this art form. Their words initially stung. Once I judged their opinions invalid, I assigned their voices to a category of challenge. I was determined to meet and overcome that challenge. It was as if they had thrown down a gauntlet. I chose to pick up that gauntlet and run, actually dance, with it.
When I discovered my passion for Irish Dance, in my mid-forties, I sought out resources for learning everything I could about it. I took classes, practiced every day, paid for private lessons from a personal coach, went to workshops, and listened to music for competitions and shows constantly. Frankly, I never liked competitions. But, they forced me to practice and elevate technical merit. Over the years, I accumulated a few silver and bronze medals. And that day, I held the gold.
For the most part, medals were a source of pride; they validated the hard work. But on this particular occasion, winning a medal provided an avenue for learning a valuable lesson about art and heart.
At the end of the competition, while I stood in the dancer tent admiring my medal, a pair of Irish dance shoes went flying past my head. The shoes were not intentionally aimed in my direction. But the words of an angry fellow competitor were.
“You have no right to that medal, Padgett. You are way too old to be dancing, competing or even thinking about performing an art this demanding and athletic. Even if you were of an appropriate age to enter this level of competition, I should have won. I am so much better at technique, timing, and all around dancing than you will ever be,” she yelled before exiting the tent.
I did not know what to say. I felt all the words of those who did not believe in or support my little dream were resurrected and flung at me through an invisible, high-powered sound system. While trying to regain my emotional balance, in the face of the insult, I felt a hand rest gently on my shoulder. An unfamiliar voice asked, “Do you believe her?”
I turned to face the judge who moments ago had awarded me the gold.
“Yes ma’am. She has better technique and sense of musical timing. She is just all around better than me,” I admitted.
“No, she isn’t,” the adjudicator told me. “Do you know the difference between the silver and gold? Do you know why you were awarded this medal today?” she asked.
I dropped my gaze from hers and shook my head.
She lifted my chin, looked into my teary eyes and said, “You reflected hours of practice and honing of your craft, just like many others. You managed to keep the beat and execute a difficult step, like many others. Your posture was straight, and you demonstrated ability to remember the intricacies required. You were up against some tough competition out there today, and you gave a flawless performance. From a judge’s point of view, it can be difficult to select one dancer over another when awarding medals.
“But, if mechanics and technical merit are equal, the decision will fall to the one who dances her heart. Some do the dance; others are the dance. Today, you were the dance. And that, my friend, is gold.”
That was my last Irish Dance competition, not because I feared decapitation as the result of airborne footwear. It was because the calendar does not lie. My years of hard, competitive Irish dancing were over. I entered the contest carrying that reality before me.
I am not prone to melancholy over things out of my control – like the passage of time that brings aging of body and mind. And I honestly cannot say I spend a lot of time looking at dance medals accumulated over the years. Truthfully, there are not many uses for my little treasures beyond evoking smiles from a face that carries wrinkles fashioned by determination.
Nonetheless, the medals do come in handy once in a while. For example when someone tells me they cannot realize a dream because of age, perceived inabilities or opinions of critics, I extend this invitation, “Would you come to my house for tea, please? I want to show you something.”
The flatbed truck was lined with hay bales for riders (including several of my friends and I) to sit or stand upon so we could greet crowds lining the downtown streets of Golden, Colorado. The vehicle crawled along Main Street as part of a celebratory parade announcing the arrival of the Christmas Season. The truck occasionally stopped and allowed photo ops for, and with, the gathered spectators.
This is a lively event that thousands of people look forward to every year at the beginning of December. It is full of music, food, and entertainment. I unashamedly admit I love being part of the excitement. It may seem odd to some but you see, my friends and I – well, we’re elves. Yes, you read it correctly – elves.
The elf troupe has been blessed to be part of the holiday celebrations in Golden and the surrounding area for over five years. Our job description is varied but primarily consists of playing with the crowd, waving from floats, taking pictures with willing kids and their family members, as well as spreading all around playful cheerfulness.
We have been at the center of these crowds on many occasions. And for the most part, I am at home in the performance arena while hanging out with thousands of strangers. But this year was different. Our country had broken out in an epidemic of violent attacks on innocent citizens, mostly in crowds of some sort. The nightly news was littered with stories, one after another, of shooters walking into crowds or buildings to deliver death and destruction.
To say I was a little nervous on that elevated flatbed would be like Noah coming off the arc and calling his experience the result of a minor rain shower. I did not want to alarm my elf mates and so kept up the smiles and waving while I diligently watched the crowd for any possible perceived threat. More than once I breathed a sigh of relief upon spying a uniformed law enforcement person.
In all my years as an elf, I could not remember feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable ushering in sights and sounds of a season typically associated with cheer and good will. I found myself wondering why I had gathered my friends and neighbors, dressed them in these crazy outfits, and marched them into what could be considered harm’s way. I suppose I was mentally bringing my pointy-shod feet up to my velvet-clad backside and delivering a good thrashing for being so careless with the safety of others.
To make things worse, I was reminded of the words of a friend who said he no longer felt safe enough in public to visit restaurants with any amount of frequency. He said we are becoming a nation of people afraid to be around strangers and be in strange situations.
I was pulled out of my guilt-ridden musings by a familiar voice in my right ear, barely audible above the noisy crowd. The voice belonged to a lady I have been honored to share the spotlight with in previous Golden Christmas Parades. As she spoke I am sure my face registered surprise – not at her voice, but her words. It was almost as if she read my thoughts.
She said, “You know, this is exactly what we needed today.” Then she went back to waving holiday greetings to the happy onlookers.
I am pretty sure no one else on the truck heard her words, but I know I did. And she was right. We needed to restore our sense of play and joy for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
My attention was momentarily diverted by three of the elves belting out a Christmas carol in their best imitation of Super Bowl halftime entertainment. Their antics were met with laughter and cheers.
I looked at the crowd through a new lens and realized there were thousands of people refusing to be confined and restricted by the threat of terrorism. I saw children and adults gathered to be part of a small-town tradition despite the potential harm others may choose to inflict on them. Now as I gazed on the people gathered below, I released my perceived need to comb the onlookers for uniforms. Instead I soaked in the smiles on upturned, rosy-cheeked faces of my neighbors, young and old. I rested in my appreciation of faces reflecting a quiet rebellion against being held hostage in chains of fear.
I felt my elf heart burst with happiness at being part of their party that day. I was proud to live in a community that chose to collectively resist the oppression of “what if’s” that can keep us hiding in our basements while handing over our freedom and lives to others.
Then I turned to the lady on my right and said, “Yes ma’am, Mayor. This is exactly what we needed. And today, we came to play.”
Copyright March, 2016 Laura L. Padgett Lakewood, Colorado
Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or check out my first book, “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.
See my Publications tab on this website for other books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.
“Oh, I am so jealous,” the lady in the Starbucks parking lot said to my sister, Mary, and me. “My sister lives in Seattle and we see each other very seldom. She is my only sibling.”
This proclamation came from a woman Mary and I almost bumped into as we were making our way into the store for our morning coffee. We excused ourselves in unison which made the stranger laugh. We rather do resemble munchkins, (being only 5 feet tall), and when we answered together, it really was funny. We joined her in the laughter.
She then asked if we were sisters and we told her we were. She asked if we got to spend a lot of time together. We told her we are together as much as possible. Tears welled up in her eyes and she made the above statement.
Without thinking, although Mary and I do tend to think almost identical thoughts from time to time, we each took one side of her in a group hug and said, “You can be our sister too if you want.”
Sister and I assured her there was plenty of room in our sisterhood circle and she was most welcome. I did tell her she would have to darken her hair a little, for the continuity of the family photo and all. She told us it was a small price to pay and she would get back to us on that. She went to her car and we went to meet our pumpkin spice lattes.
As we parted company she looked over her shoulder and called, “Have a nice day, sisters.”
We responded, “Nice day to you too, sister.”
As we enjoyed our coffee, Mary grinned at me and said, “That was fun. I think we cheered her up.”
“Yep,” I said, “one more for Christmas Dinner.” Sister winked.
Now, I may never see that lady again but here is the deal friends. There is no need to be competitive, compare ourselves to, or envy each other. Our job is to build each other up, however that may look. That day my sis and I helped a lady who was missing her only sibling. And she gave us a wonderful gift too. She reminded us how lucky we are to have each other and time to spend together.
Our beautiful Savior demonstrated loving others as we travel this ole world. Maybe there is a dear one in your life who needs to feel the love of another woman and know she is always in kinship. Perhaps there is a stranger who has been put in your path because she needs to belong. Help her darlings. Because see in the end, sisters all are we. Okay?
Have a great day sisters.
Copyright September 2015
Laura L. Padgett, Author, Speaker and Dancer
Check out my book “Dolores, Like the River,” about beauty in aging and appreciating all our women friends and family
available at Westbow Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major book retailers on line
My husband, Keith, and I have traveled to many places in this astonishingly beautiful and diverse country/world we live in. I love to travel and am hard-pressed to say what I like best about it. But in all honesty, I have two very distinct parts of traveling I find enriching. The first is meeting people from around the world, celebrating our differences and embracing our sameness. The second is flying into DIA and seeing the western mountain ranges that announce we are indeed home.
No matter where we travel, we consistently hear people describe our home state as “beautiful” when they learn we are from Colorado. Without exception, people tell us they have been here and found it breathtaking or they would like to visit because someone they know has described Colorado as one of the most beautiful places on earth.
When using the adjective “beautiful” to describe this state, I think it safe to say most people refer to God’s architecture from the wheat fields on the eastern plains to high country mountain ranges and the deserts on the Western Slope. However, I have a different take on this descriptive term that goes deeper than what is evident to human senses.
When I think of the beauty of Colorado, in addition to the landscape, I think of the western spirit that resides in the friendly, neighborly people here. This year in particular I was blessed to see, and feel, this spirit from friends and strangers alike.
Several years ago, my husband and I chose not to participate in the frenzied shopping, gift-giving, cooking, partying and plan-making that have become traditional Christmas for many Americans. Instead we decided to intentionally walk through the season looking for opportunities to talk to, and even briefly share the lives of, strangers in our community of Lakewood/Golden.
The blessings for us multiplied as we shared ourselves and encouraged others to share themselves with us this season. We were touched by stories of children and adults who are struggling with health issues, finances and divorce. We have felt cared for and held in tenderness by those who offered support through sincere inquiries into some of our personal family struggles. In all of this, we were reminded that although we each have different paths, joys, and difficulties, we are knitted together with the bond of frail humanity and that bond is strengthened by sincere concern for each other.
I do not exaggerate when I say I feel this warmth and comradery stronger in my Colorado homeland than anywhere I have ever been. It is part of the spirit of our western heritage. It is what makes Colorado beautiful – inside and out.
We live in a time of violence, fear and division in our world right now. On a community level we certainly can, and do, make attempts to reach out and negotiate political, racial, religious and economic differences. But none of that happens unless we reach into ourselves to find, and share, a home-grown light of genuine concern for our neighbors and communities. It is my belief that no matter how long you have lived here, feeling “Colorado-grown” becomes part of your personal make-up, if you let it.
As 2014 winds down, I find myself grateful for more things than I can mention here. But I am especially thankful for where I come from and what I have learned by living in this glorious state. It is my sincere hope that personally and on community as well as state-wide levels, we will all strive to keep Colorado beautiful.
Copyright December 2014
Laura L. Padgett
We’ve all heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” right? Well, not necessarily.
There are few places I honestly can say I don’t like. Las Vegas is one. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m just expressing a personal preference.
So this year I was less than enthused when I learned our clogging team was going to Vegas for a national competition. Don’t get me wrong. I love my teammates. These ladies are good friends and I’ve been blessed to dance with some of them, on and off, for almost twenty years. Truly I could be in no better company, no matter where my little dancing feet take me.
The few months prior to the competition were not as smooth as I would have liked. I pulled a hamstring months before and had a hard time catching up to the level of dance needed for such an event. It’s rare I say that I am too old for something. But let’s face it, friends, the calendar doesn’t lie. Injuries are harder to recover from now days. Still, I practiced and trained (I laid out a fortune for chiropractic care and massage too). Did I mention how much I love these ladies? Then the big week arrived.
I remember asking, “Lord what am I doing here?” I wasn’t sure I was up to it, and didn’t want to cost the team a medal they so richly deserved. And then the final day came – hours before show time, and one of my teammates, Miss Stephanie, asked, “Laura would you be my stage mom?”
What this means is I was agreeing to help Stephanie out of one costume and into another, complete with all necessary accessories, hair adjustment and makeup check. I was thrilled. Of course I would be there for her. I said to myself, “Oh perhaps this is what I’m doing here. I’m here to help my friend.”
Right before we were called to dance, our director, Miss Colette, gathered us in a circle and told us how proud she was of us, how we had worked hard, and she had nothing but confidence in us. I cried as she spoke and we clustered together, listening to the coach and holding each other up, figuratively and literally. I said, “Oh this is why I’m here – to be part of a group I admire and love and to take the stage with my mates in what is likely my last national competition.”
When we were on stage, the lights went up and the music started. The game was on. There was no worry about forgetting steps/patterns or not being worthy to stand on that stage because of age or injury. There was a belonging and the knowledge that I am part of something I love and people I love dearly. There truly is something stimulating about flood lights, house lights and a room full of young and old alike (not just our families) rocking, clapping, and jumping around because we are dancing our little hearts and souls out for them.
When your peripheral vision shows young kids (competitors) cheering you on and hopping around, there is a joyful feeding of the soul that is inexplicable. The experience was made sweeter by the sight of judges coming out of their chairs with hands clapping over their bobbing heads. And I said, “Oh, this is why I’m here – to offer others the bliss of the dance that I feel every time I move.”
There are so many blessings listed here, but perhaps one of the best ones came after our performance. A young, (maybe thirteen years old), beauty from Honduras came up to me and said, “Tu eres muy bonita, Senora (you are so beautiful). Cuantos años…” She stopped short of asking the question, which in all cultures is considered rude and disrespectful. “How old are you?”
I took her beautiful young hands in mine and said, “I am sixty-three years old my dear. And I want to tell you that you can do this for the rest of your life if you take care of yourself, honor your body and never allow anyone to take your dream. Ok?”
She smiled at me and said, “That is what my grandmother says.”
“I am a grandmother too my dear,” I told her, “and we are always right.”
She ran off with her friends, then turned to wave at me. I smiled and mouthed, “Good luck.” I winked, and she winked back.
I looked up to thank God for all my dancing friends and experiences over the years and around the country. Dancers ran by me, stage moms and teachers issued orders, and my stomach growled in annoyance at being denied. But I stood amidst the chaos, excitement and craziness saying out loud, “Oh this is why I’m here – to encourage a young person to be her best, treat herself well, and hold onto her dreams. Thank you, Father.”
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t tell you we won a platinum award for that dance (one level better than gold). I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I had the time of my life with my mates (dancing and just hanging out). I won’t insult you by trying to make you believe I’m not tickled to know, “there is a dance in this old dame yet.” And I’m sure it’s not hard for my readers to imagine I shall always treasure the conversation I had with a young dancer about age, dancing, and dreams.
But most important of all, beloveds, I want you to know that what this grateful little dancer learned in Vegas this summer, will not just stay in Vegas.
For me, the river is a special place I go with God, to learn, heal, rejoice, question and praise Him. It is there I can more easily remember who I am, and whose I am. The lessons I take away every time I sit in His presence, especially at the water’s edge, are precious to me as are all of you.
If you missed the previous entry about what I learned from meeting two beautiful women in Silverthorne, Co this summer please read Lessons from the River – Part II “Leaving the Door Open or How We Met the Nancies”
Copyright November 2014
Laura L. Padgett
I have learned something these past two weeks, and I wanted to share it with you. Actually I have learned a lot, but let’s take one thing at a time okay? A few days ago, on FB, I told of a brutal verbal attack I weathered at the hands of one of my husband’s friends. It has caused me great sadness, shaken my confidence, and caused me to go into hiding for a wee bit. But this incident also provided opportunity for personal spiritual growth through meditation, alone time, and prayer. There has been lots of praying going on. Thankfully, after a week, the abuser came and apologized. His wife, however, tried to lecture me on love and forgiveness and said she was “using” the words of my book “Dolores, Like the River” which was all about love and forgiveness. I held my tongue and just looked at her instead of saying, “You seriously do not get it, darlin.”
I told her that I have had a history with her and some others in her circle who have always made me feel like an outsider. She responded with a comment that parroted a philosophy I too have had up until this time. She sat straight up, looked at me, down at me really as she is about a foot taller than me, and stated, “I have no control over how you feel.” To her, this was the definitive statement that exonerated her and indicted me. What had happened over the years was somehow my fault because my injuries were merely a personal perception, period. And the history confirming injury was somehow of no concern.
Certainly I could have cited example after example of her actions over the years and even the few days I spent with her recently. But I did not. I just sat there thinking how I agreed with her in that it was my perception causing me pain. It was my fault.
Then a few days later (middle of the night it was) I awoke to a new epiphany and I wanted to say, “Baloney. That is total nonsense.” Where did we get this attitude? When did we decide our right to say whatever comes into our brains, to or about someone else, outweighs our obligation to first consider if we are hurting or helping? When did we decide to abandon this consideration altogether? So rather than criticize the person who offended me here, I want to focus on how I can keep from doing the same to others. However, let me state up front that sometimes we have to stand up to abusers and take our own dignity back. Actually folks, that is what “Dolores, Like the River”, is all about.
It has become a popular posture in our society to think we have a right to say what we want and have adopted an attitude that lets us off the hook because how the hearer takes something is up to them. They have to find a way to let go of hurtful statements or actions because it really is “their problem” right?
Well, no. This old adage is not right. I am not trying to tell others how to think or perceive situations. I am only saying I had the realization that what I have hidden behind, in order to not feel guilty, and what I have championed as my God-given autonomy, may need a little revising here. Please know that I understand we all have feelings that may be a result of personal history and baggage, irrelevant to current issues or exchanges. That truly is a different issue. And that is not at all what I refer to here.
Think about it this way. If I doubled up my fist and connected with the end of your nose, would you be at fault for the injury incurred? It is not probable you would look at your nose and say, “It is your choice to hurt nose.” Would it fall at all into the realm of logic to assign blame to the assaulted part or person while acquitting myself of any wrong doing? This is ridiculous isn’t it? Then why am I so quick to sidestep my responsibility when I injure the tender soul or heart (also known as feelings) of another? (This counts for unintentional wounding too, friends. We all do that, no?). Worse yet, how can I, in good conscience, make sure they know I really don’t care how they feel because I certainly had nothing to do with it? And how can I accept that posture from others?
I believe it is true that I can do nothing about the behavior of others, and I can choose to do whatever I want with hurtful behavior directed toward me. I also can and in some cases must remove the toxic people from my life. More importantly I have the choice to learn (in this case from a very hard emotional poke in the nose), and to HONESTLY reflect upon, reassess my own behavior and call myself into accountability for the way I treat or speak to others. Truly if any good has come from this situation, this is it.
You see, here’s the deal. In the end, we all belong to each other. And that makes me accountable for my actions, and words, toward another. At the end of the day friends, injury is injury. We are all injured, some more than others and some more at some times than others. If I walk in a world remembering that fact, I am much less likely to fall into the category of the one inflicting injury. No doubt that has and will continue to happen. But thanks to the actions of others, I walk in a new awareness and now know that I often do have control over how others feel or how I can make them feel. I want to remember that. I am asking God to help me remember I have responsibility and am accountable. Perhaps that attitude as opposed to the flip, “I have no control over what you think or feel,” can bring me into a place where I continue to heal and be a healer in a world that hurts and needs us to be tender with, and care about, each other now more than ever. I pray this new philosophy will call me to walk into a posture that is readied to offer amends when needed instead of defensively refusing to admit blame, even when I have unintentionally created harm. And I recommit myself to extricating those from my life who cannot understand their responsibility to me or others. I encourage you to do the same. Speak your truth, move on.
As always, I love to hear your feedback. Please be safe out there and help others feel safe too. I pray daily I will have new awakenings (hopefully not in the middle of the night) and put to rest the old saying, “Old dogs cannot learn new tricks.”
Copyright September 29, 2014
Laura L. Padgett
I fell in love with Irish Step Dance in my forties. I took lessons, practiced every day to refine technique, took two classes a week, hired a personal coach, went to workshops, and listened to music for competitions and shows constantly. I never liked competitions. But, they did force me to practice and elevate technical merit. Over the years, I accumulated a few gold, silver, and bronze medals.
For the most part, medals were a source of pride and validated all the hard work. But on one particular occasion, winning a medal was an avenue for me to learn a valuable lesson about art and heart.
During a competition, at the Scottish Highland Games in Estes Park, I took gold in a hornpipe, one of the more difficult hard shoe solo dances. As I stood in the dancer tent and looked at my medal, a pair of Irish hard shoes went flying across the tent. The shoes were not aimed in my direction, but the words of an angry fellow competitor were.
“You have no right to that medal, Padgett. I am so much better at technique, timing, and all around dancing than you will ever be,” she yelled before exiting the tent.
While trying to regain my balance, in the face of the insult, I felt a hand rest gently on my shoulder. An unfamiliar voice asked, “Do you believe her?”
I turned to face one of the judges who just moments ago had awarded me the gold.
“Yes ma’am. She has better technique, better sense of musical timing, and she is just better than me,” I admitted.
“No, she isn’t,” the adjudicator told me. “Do you know why you were awarded the gold medal today?”
I just shook my head.
She put her hand on my shoulder and gently said, “You reflected hours of practice and honing of your craft, just like many others. But, when mechanics and merit are equal, the decision will fall to the one who dances her heart. Some can do the dance; others are the dance. Today, you were the dance. And that, my friend, is gold.”
It was my last Irish Dance competition, not because I feared decapitation as the result of airborne footwear. It was because the calendar doesn’t lie. My years of hard, competitive Irish dancing were over. I entered that contest having no doubt about that. (I still clog in performance and some competitions from time to time. It is a gentler form of dance.)
Even though I no longer participate in as many competitions as I used to, my artist’s heart will not be denied. Now my artistic expression is in the form of writing. I practice every day and go to meetings. I read writing blogs as well as talk to other authors. I try to go to conferences, and I am grateful to those who are willing to “coach” me.
I don’t see writing through a competitive lens. Yet, I know that after refining, honing, and practicing, there still are better writing technicians than me. Even though I work hard, I’m sure there can be missed commas, perhaps a misspelling, and an occasional dangled participle in public. But I do my homework, I try my best, and my work doesn’t ever come to my readers without my heart leading the journey.
You may say, “Now that’s tricky. If you leave your heart exposed like that, it may be trampled, bruised, or broken. How do you deal with that?”
Well, that’s the topic of my next blog entry in this series. It’s called, “Playing Hurt.” Until next time, please remember, I luv ya.
Copyright February 2014
“Don’t let your heart rule your head.” How often have you heard that statement? I heard it enough, as a child, to make me keep my heart in a cage on many occasions. I believe it probably was a good discipline when trying to live life through the lens of something besides extreme emotions. I blame my Scottish, Irish, and Sicilian ethnicity for my frenzied emotional make-up. Actually, I blame my ethnicity for many things. But, that is not the point here. Sorry.
I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I find it safer that way. However, during the last sixty two years, I’ve picked up a few things that helped me unleash my heart, while respecting the little grey cells in my head. I would like to share those with you. Please know that in my world, dancing and writing are both forms of storytelling. My observations here reflect lessons learned during twenty years as a competitive, performing dancer and choreographer. I am a rookie writer and have no trouble admitting that. But when it comes to storytelling, I believe dancing and writing live in the same creative camp.
Over the course of my life, I have come to see that dominance of either the head or heart can be a setup for intense internal battles. Those struggles can stifle, postpone, or altogether defeat the creative process. When God called me into the world of art through dancing and writing, I was forced to rework the theory I was taught as a child. On my journey, I discovered my own truths relative to polarization of heart and head.
One of those truths is that heart and head don’t have to be on opposite sides of the process. Head is responsible for assuring technical merit, logistics, and all around solid structuring. Heart is responsible to interpret life events, recognize good story, and to dream.
Another truth, for me, is that heart and head must live as teammates. They cannot see each other as enemies or, worse, competitors. My heart has come to respect the analytical practices needed to author a good product. This is called discernment. Likewise, my head now values heart’s sensitive tentacles reaching outwardly, or inwardly, to catch visions God wants shared. This basically amounts to spiritual breathing.
Perhaps, the most valuable truth I’ve come to embrace is that head keeps heart centered, and heart teaches head to fly. Neither of these can happen when impatience with the discernment process gets in the way, or ego (acronym for “edging God out”) is not kept at bay.
You may be asking how all this happy heart with head posture comes about? That is the topic of my next blog entry in this series. It’s called, “Silver and Gold.” It is just in time for the most collaborative yet competitive, and in some ways polarizing, arena known to humans. It’s called the Olympic stage. Stay tuned. Luv ya.
Copyright February 2014
I promised several friends and former/current dance students that I would post this entry as a way of letting my readers in on a little secret. The secret is that perfectionism will rob us of the ability to learn new things, will add to our stress levels, and will make us all around grouchy boys and girls. Please know I am talking to you adults out there. Children have no need for perfectionism until we adults successfully teach them they need to be perfect. Kids are more concerned with freedom.
I can think of no better example of how perfectionism can be a detriment than when trying to teach dance to adults. It doesn’t matter what kind of dance we are talking about, perfectionism is in direct contrast to freedom of movement.
Because I know the above statements to be true, there are a few fundamental rules that I lay down when I am at the helm. I stick to this pattern of steps (forgive the pun, please) whether I am teaching at retreats, workshops, or in dance studios.
First, I never teach class without the “Bucket of P.” The contraption is a round, plastic receptacle that saw its better days several decades ago. It was rescued, by me, from my husband’s treasures that he cannot live without because he might need them at some future date. The collective female sigh is duly noted. The bucket sports the largest printed “P” that my computer could provide. I place the bucket with the giant “P” on display at the front of the room from the beginning until the end of class.
Everyone who walks into my class must deposit their perfectionism in the bucket. I explain to my students that if we are so hung up on doing things right the first time, and easily frustrated when we make a mistake, we will derail ourselves on the learning track. I also let them know that when it comes to team dancing, we can easily transfer our impatience with ourselves to those we are dancing with. Trust me when I tell you that kind of behavior authors unpleasant experiences for everyone involved. Since our country looks to be leaning toward more conceal and carry laws, it could be argued that being less than nice to others may not only be viewed as unkind, it could actually be downright dangerous.
Second, because some people are initially very attached to their perfectionism, I offer students opportunity to visit the bucket throughout the class and/or collect any personal deposits when class concludes. In almost 15 years, I have never seen one person go sorting through the plastic container in order to retrieve their perfectionism treasure.
It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that we can’t just take something from folks without giving them something to fill the void. So that brings me to my third step. I teach people that when tempted to criticize ourselves or others (especially Miss Laura, the teacher), we can benefit from some positive mental imaging. Simply build a bridge and get over it. Many bridges have been constructed and crossed in my classes over the years, or so I suspect.
The fourth step, and perhaps the most important, is to try taking this philosophy into other places of our world. I think the actual expression is, “lighten up.” So I say lighten up on ourselves and on others. We all want to do our best, but we must allow for the failures that come along on the learning curve, right?
Please allow a disclaimer here. Although I strongly believe in the above philosophical step dancing, there are some people I do not recommend it to for daily practice. Those include, but are not limited to, brain surgeons, dentists, auto mechanics and, of course, tax accountants.
So there you have it folks, a little romp through the world of a dance teacher who is more interested in teaching the love of the art than in hammering dancers into precise and flawless performers. I feel myself to be a successful instructor not when students know the difference between a jig and a reel, or between Messianic and African dance, but when I see my dancers being gentler with themselves and others.
The advice offered here is free. No doubt, in some opinions, it’s worth every cent. However, whether you believe me or not, I can promise that we will find more enjoyment in life, play better with others, learn with more ease, and reduce our personal stress if we can just remember, “pobody’s nerfect.”
Copyright Laura L. Padgett
August 11, 2013