For the life lessons that both passions have provided me again and again are, remarkably, the same. And pivotal. ( If only I’d figured this out sooner….)
Sure, the “respectable” tenets that I’ve lashed myself to for the past half century may have their place, guideposts like conscientiousness, responsibility, discipline and self-motivation.
But it’s these other, lighter but invaluable notions that make life, and me, sparkle. Notions like flexibility, flow and joy.
Countless other experiences can offer the same radiant teachings. But since the metaphors of dancing and baking are my touchstones, I’m running with those. (Your metaphors go here__________ :)).
1. Loosen up. See also, open up and lighten up. Julia Child said it perfectly: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Word.
I’m not quite there yet, but I’m trying. Heaven knows that when I loosen up, I have the meaningful epiphanies–and also much more fun. Whether it’s finding myself improvising fluidly in dance class after running in the “wrong” direction and falling out of a turn or noticing a dancer’s “mistake” in rehearsal that’s richer than what we’d previously done or adding too much brown sugar to the cookies that transforms them into heavenliness.
Time after time, when I’m open to the moment and the so-called mistakes and I roll with them, I’m more likely to make valuable discoveries.
No surprise here, really. We all know we can’t move with grace and speed when we’re bound up tightly in a knot. Aaarrrrggghhhh. When we break free from our rigidity and loosen up, though, we can respond swiftly and elegantly to the ever-changing landscape of what’s right here in front of us. Flexibility and resourcefulness weave their spell and we’re multitalented sorcerers. Yee-ha!
2. Keep moving. Things that aren’t moving aren’t vital. Processes and minds and psyches and bodies need to move or they stagnate.
The importance of movement is related to the value of loosening up. But it’s also about process, whether the process is making art or creating a life (which you could also say is art….)
What I noticed recently, again, still, is that I just need to keep showing up and continue moving myself and the process. Even, and maybe especially, when there are roadblocks. No inspiration? Fewer dancers? No music? Go and move the process along and something will happen.
Same for baking. When “disaster” strikes is when we get to show the depth of our mojo. Make something; make something up. I’ve been there so many times, I’m constantly muttering my mantra–“just keep going.” What can I make since we’re now out of butter? Can I cut the burnt part out? Can I add something else instead? Can I peel something off, re-shape, re-heat, refrigerate, salvage and somehow make it wonderful or at least ok?
Julia Child again, with the wise words for cooking or art or life: “One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.” I.e., keep moving.
3. Enjoy! Isn’t it odd that we often need more encouragement to relish our brief, wondrous visit here on Planet Earth?
In case we seek further validation of the importance of enjoyment, we can check out the amazing read, “Flow.” The book clarifies that enjoyment isn’t just some lazy reflexive state, either.
Quite the contrary. Author, researcher, genius Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi explains that while enjoyment makes the present moment more delightful, the intentional act of enjoyment also helps us expand ourselves and enables us to “….learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows…that allows us to…. make significant contributions to humankind.”
So, as I dodged around the flood of obstacles to rehearsal, I finally scrapped the idea of working dully on an old piece. I went for joy. And ended up with a delightful studio session and then a visit to the Hartford Baking Company for some luscious cookies with my pal, Miss P. Result? A joyful afternoon, inspiration for this post and an idea for a brand spanking new piece–involving baking AND dancing, y’all.
Julia has the last word for now as I head into the kitchen for another edge-of-my-seat adventure with Almond Crescents and Cutout Sugar Cookies: “…try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all, have fun!” YEEEESSSSSS.