Dance With Fear

Though I've been an artist all my life - with my creativity leaving its footprints on everything I do - I feel I'm only beginning to see! Art, wild encounters in the natural world, and mind-body ... [+]

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Old woman dreaming -
Things always come to hush you,
but dance anyway.

You are having the dream again. It is the one you have been dreaming your whole life - that dream you long to hold on to - to wake into - and live. Yet, it seems always just out of reach, on the tip of your tongue.

You can see shadows of how big and beautiful it is; you can hear its melody faintly drumming within the hollows of your life. You feel it has grown large enough to swallow your small self and is wriggling around inside you, looking for a way out.

Yet, for some reason, whenever you try to write or tell of it - to capture its essence in your waking life, somehow - the dream gets stuck at your elbows and eludes your memory.

This time, the dreaming feels different. It is even more vivid and wonderful than usual - making its imprint in you. So, when you awake, the magical calm is still within your heart, and the lonely ache is deep in your belly. Though you cannot explain this expansive dream to anyone, you feel it flows through you as naturally as blood and oxygen. It is real.

You know that it alone can weave all the experiences of your life together in a way that makes sense - this dream that frightens and lightens you at once.

Your eyes flutter open in a small, dark room to the bright impression of this dream resting somewhere between your heart and gut. Your body moves slowly from bed, your mind attempting to dismiss these tight, funny feelings as an odd combination of early morning jitters, bad food, and the side-effects of aging.

In front of the bathroom mirror, you pull a handful of loose hairs from your brush and gaze through thick glasses at the well-known worry resting in your eyes. Are they coming today? You wonder fearfully.

Although you hope they will not show, you know they are coming. Today.

You could laugh loudly, sob, run fast-as-an-old-woman-can, and crumble. All this incongruence translates on your face as a half-smile, your sad eyes brightening a little.

A cup of coffee and bowl of oatmeal later - sitting with the fresh, funny feelings and your too-familiar-fear - you decide to neglect the newspaper for a little adventure. Simply put, you give into the urge to let your heart and gut - the illusory hope blossoming there, between - lead you. Fall is settling, the messy majestic leaves colorfully smearing in the cold rain. Your days, too, are dwindling.

It is painful to ruminate on how many times you have ignored the call to live, instead, shuddering through life to the rhythm of dread.

Not today! You inwardly exclaim, the silence resounding to the tips of your toes. You put on a tattered jacket.

Outside, you saunter gently - contemplatively - in the drizzle, down the street lined with dilapidated houses, careful not to fall upon the uneven sidewalk blocks. You bypass several businesses long closed and churches long emptied. The weather and the wild have taken over the remnants of these places. You think of the outflux of wealth to the suburbs, away from the heart of the city. You see no one.

Again, the half-smile appears. Oh, the irony! You muse. How the movement of life seems always away from the heart.

You shuffle under the raised highway, barely hearing the noises above. You are immersed in willing yourself to see by heart, driven by this dream that presses on you to be freed. You surprise yourself with the agility of your maturing limbs. Not bad for an old lady!

Across the park, you glimpse the community house with its dark red bricks, window panes of different shades, and peeling shingles. The curtains are drawn so you cannot see what is inside - whether fullness or emptiness. On the north end, there is a stone stage, slippery from the spitting sky. You know this alluring place well.

The half-smile lingers on the curious trail of your thoughts. What is hidden behind those curtains, longing to be danced upon the stage?

The benches, worn, have been painted bright green to hide their age. The grass grows up around them. Beyond the eighteen rows of your absent audience, you sense your readiness to step upon the slippery, stone stage.

You suddenly know the only way to liberate your dream is to dance it! Ah-ha! Of course!

A chuckle squeaks out behind that half-smile, now spreading full across your face. Nothing like a dance debut at seventy-seven! You are tickled by the idea.

The rain comes, steadier, giving you every reason to turn back. Though the rain and the weeds hinder your pace, the funny feelings in your core keep you falling forward, a step at a time.

Always doing what we should, but never being who we are. These profound opinions rise inside you. How seldom we trade the illusion of safety for a life that is bravely authentic. How scant are the times we have leaned away from security and into something altogether more abundant and alive...

Your contemplations animate you and propel you to the base of the steps. You climb slowly, then hobble to centerstage and turn your face upward, eyes tightly closed. The rain drops kiss you enthusiastically.

Focused, you ask yourself the deepest, truest questions you can: What is the song that longs to be sung? The dance that longs to be danced? Here. On this slippery stage of my life?...Today. On the day when THEY are coming?

Your wholehearted inquiry opens you vulnerably and powerfully to face what is darkened in the shadows of yourself. To face your deepest fears.

Cancer is coming.

And, death is following right behind.

You need not pull back the curtains to see their caravan approaching. Your body has been telling you. The handful of hair in your brush has been telling you. Even, the funny feelings tell you, right now, that you are in for a fight.

You can see them - your worst suspicions - through the back of your eyelids, striding toward the stage. You don’t want them to come for you, but they are!

Full of emotion, you want to run and hide. And, yet, you stand still - exposed to the elements - out in the open. You cry, and you yell, and you laugh. You feel the intense battle between desire and fear, which takes you down to the ground. You hug the wet stone with your weariness.

Then, you stand up, the strongest you have ever been. Your cheeks wear the waters of rain and grief mixed together with the dampness of deep joy.

After this wave of emotions, you feel a settled calm. You embody the belief that you have trained your whole life for this moment. You have never faced cancer - it is true that you have never looked her in the eye - but you have faced many others so much the same. Betrayal, broken dreams, a shattered self. Disappointments and fears actualized. You have known struggle, and it has made you brave.

So, you take a deep breath and open your eyes wide.

With pace and pause, you welcome your enemies - the very things that threaten your existence and your happiness. You go to meet them. You touch them and know their stories. You invite them to sit on the green benches and watch you twirl. You go so far as to let them dance with you and receive their strange mercies in return. The misery they carry causes you to cherish each breath. The dance of struggle makes you grateful.

You dance and sing - not with elegance, but with quiet courage. All the blessings and trials of your life are felt in your body and given voice.

You dance yourself into a changed relationship with fear.

Then you speak aloud from the stage to any who will hear: “The empty stage you have been dreaming of your whole life is calling you. Today. At the same time, all these things come rushing to busy you, to hush your imagining, and to lull you back into the sleep of barely living.”

“Courage wills you to choose - in each small moment - to sing and dance dreams into your ordinary waking life.”

“And, when the dark things come - because they always will - Courage elevates you to be among the bravest, to be one who dances - fully alive - with your fear.”

Old woman dreaming -
Things always come to hush you,
but dance anyway.