I haven’t ventured to blog post in over a year. I’m not clear about the reason, but it seems to have to do with my own “rumbling” with an overload of social media, too much bad news, and distractions of all sorts. Somehow I have translated this into: I have nothing of interest to say that hasn’t been said before by someone more interesting than me. For today, I’ll let that go and get this blog out before I change my mind.
My story is about my morning and Beatrice’s gift. I awakened at 4:30 AM, early even for me. I lay in bed thinking about an hour “talk” I was scheduled to give later in the morning to a small group at the beginning of their weekend retreat. I affirmed to listen as much as talk and gently meet them where they are.
I spent the early morning quiet, as I often do, reading a book that inspires me. Today I picked up Pema Chodron’s comforting book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Slowly, I went through the many tabs I had placed in the book and found what stuck with me throughout the morning: “Our experience is the ultimate teacher.” I knew that I would be “presenting” to a group of people I had never met and that how I responded to them, my experience, would be my teacher. But I couldn’t have predicted how this would play out.
Because I had gotten up so early, I decided to run a few errands before my regular Friday morning dance class. I have been procrastinating about having a new passport photo taken and decided it didn’t matter that my hair was a wreck and that I was in my workout clothes. Passport pictures are awful anyway. The woman at CVS reminded me that for a U.S. Passport it is verboten to smile. She said forbidden, which sounds so foreboding, that verboten feels appropriate. She took several shots as I grumbled about not even wanting to see them. I was totally aware that I would be dissatisfied. And, yes, it’s pretty awful. Back in the car my inner critic went nuts, even spoke out loud. How did I get so OLD? How did my mother’s face suddenly turn into a face shadowed by my FATHER’S great nose? OY VEY! I told my critic: it’s OK. I LOVE my AGING self and who looks at passport photos anyway? If it gets me through the border, it’s fine! It’s way better than dead! Maybe if I get dual citizenship with Italy I can get a passport picture with me smiling…. Our debate continued as I drove.
And then I met Beatrice. I arrived at School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance a few minutes early. A classmate was just arriving with her granddaughter. She introduced me to Beatrice, who is spending the whole weekend and is almost 3! Grandmama helped Beatrice into her ballet clothes. Beatrice takes a pre-ballet class at the school and would be joining us for our kick-butt dance class this morning. Beatrice was not really in the mood to change her clothes. She had a look on her face that could only mean trouble, it was just too much to change. Mission accomplished, her wise grandmother said, “Look, Beatrice, look in the mirror!” Beatrice looked at herself in her pink leotard, ballet slippers and headband and a HUGE smile filled her face and whole being! Suddenly the dressing room got brighter and I swear the sun came out! She was totally in love and in awe of her very own preciousness; her response to her image in the mirror filled my heart with love for the little ballerina in me. How could I be so hard on myself?
When do we lose that self-love? When did I lose that? When did life’s experiences and people’s responses to me teach me that I’m not enough? I know it happens very young. Not much past Beatrice’s age for some of us. It happens when we are compared to others, to some sort of “ideal” way of being, behaving and looking. Then we begin to compare ourselves to others. It’s not always those closest to us who give this message. We are experiencing a culture of scarcity, comparison, never enough and just “not good enough”.
I was so happy to see that Beatrice had not yet lost her self-acceptance and true love for the sweet, gentle soul in the mirror. She danced her heart out along side the rest of us, smiling and laughing. I hope she gets to experience this kind of love for a very long time.
My experience with Beatrice changed me and filled my day with light. When I met with the retreat group, I shared this story to open our time together. By doing so, I hoped to encourage each of us to look inside to find the precious light-child that we all possess and know that, just like Beatrice, we are whole. There is nothing missing. We are worthy of love, connection and belonging. The first step is to belong to ourselves completely.
Thank you Beatrice. May you continue to teach us old folks how to love for a very long time.