Dancing Outside The Lines
When I learned to waltz, polka and tango — the last two were thought extremely scandalous when first popular — there were definite routines to learn. If someone does not perform those dances inside the lines, everything falls apart. Dance partners can literally hit the boards. So can we.
Sometimes we have to dance inside the lines, follow the rules, to keep moving forward.
Get on with it.
Let go of the past.
Those are all ways of saying the same thing. It’s time for progress. When it seems as though everything in life is seen through the prism of being totally fabulous or absolutely awful for more than two seconds, you’re stuck. Life is not continually superb or utterly miserable all of the time. There are peaks and valley. When too much is the same, it’s an indication that life is out of kilter.
Over the course of the last year life has altered in sometimes amusing ways. Humans are infinitely amusing for all of the little nonsense in our lives.
I could never recount the number of times over the past twenty-some years I’ve been told how lucky I am to have been a monk. Those who said that clearly have never been in a religious community. They have no idea how being a monk meant constant work. It was returning to the world which gave me time for luxuries like prayer and meditation.
My work life as a monk rarely permitted the time for communal or private prayer and meditation. A couple of times I went to other monasteries on retreat. All of a sudden I had time to pray! I was free to enter into meditation!
No one was knocking on my room door telling me they needed me to do something. I was not spending fourteen or fifteen hours a day in the office. I was not telling my superiors there was too much work piled high on my desk to relax on Sundays.
I was pulling in a spiritual lasso on myself, tightening it more and more every day. That lasso was my focus on the material world. My job was to make sure that others could continue to live in a place where they were able to meet their spiritual commitments. Make it a place where retreats and schools for spiritual directors could continue to be held.
Did my spirituality suffer?
In the short run, yes. Without question.
I didn’t just dance inside the lines. I took a piece of chalk and kept drawing those lines closer to myself until I had nearly strangled my own soul.
Not exactly a brilliant move.
But God — remember God? — had a plan which I’d never remotely considered. God had an eraser. Like the chalk erasers our teachers had when we were in school.
God had a spiritual eraser. The way the Spirit used Its eraser made those lines disappear bit by bit from the inside out. With each minute smidgen of time, it became easier to breathe. To feel more comfortable inside my own skin. To sit back. Relax. Let the world go by while I observed all of those other people who were suddenly frightfully self-important, when I was not, exercise their silliness.
The lines one uses to dance a waltz, the one-two-three, one-two-three of swirling, turning, feeling the lightheaded freedom of the dance, all came tumbling back.
Enormous features of daily life like the maddening wonder of again feeling hope rushed back. I was released by the knowledge that someone else had to deal with being in charge. That was no longer my burden.
The Great Dancer had returned me to the dance of life.
What appeared to be happening in the world was no longer my concern. I was not in charge. Rather, I was freed to internally deal with life. To look weak in the face of adversity because it so clearly was not what is most important in my life.
What is penultimate is determined by my willingness, my determination, to have faith in the Spirit. To hope that life will be better in the next minute than it was in the last.
I get to dance outside the lines.