I retired from full-time dance performance almost five years ago.
“Yeah yeah yeah,” says Mr. Ocotopus.
Sorry. I tend to belabor that point on this blog. It’s a process. Anyway, most people have to face retirement eventually, but dancers, like professional athletes, are confronted with that change in life earlier than others. The questions are daunting, like the dreaded “now what?” And the “who am I without the what I do?” and the “how fat am I gonna get?”
For the dancer/athlete, these questions tend to unfortunately coincide with the mid-life crisis, thereby causing a real spiritual double-whammy. Suddenly, this vast, open space lays before you. You feel alone, lost, and for most dancers, unlike our pro-athlete brethren, without the financial means to start a chain restaurant.
Also, probably like most, I was in a state of mourning and spiritually sick. My pain guided me to seek healing. But once I was more or less back on my feet, I still had to face the void, egads. Some vague notion of home flitted through my memory-bones. I looked to art. I looked to Africa. Something in the sound of the drum said yes to me in the places that hurt and I suspect that is true for us all.
Most recently, I picked up a drum and started to play. To my dismay, the rhythms of the mother-land did not flow effortlessly from my fingertips. Who did I think I was just because I have some Nigerian blood in me? There are no unearned advantages in life regardless of how things may appear. Not for the really hard stuff anyway, like loss or mastery for that matter.
So, here I am, a beginner again. It’s not so bad. I like my new teacher and my husband comes to classes with me. We practice to the dismay of our neighbors. Sometimes in class, my teacher, knowing I am a dancer, will ask me to dance while he plays and I am honored to oblige. In those moments, dancing is in its right place, free from the stress, pressure and fear that I often performed under as a professional.
The teacher of this class, Wole Alade, is a spiritual being in his own right. He has shown me that the place I seek is inside of myself. I know that may sound like a spiritual platitude, or simply obvious, but it’s also easier said than done. How many of us can claim the home inside ourselves? How many of us can really sit in it and not be led astray by the seductive glamour of this world?
Looking back now, I can see more clearly how our gift can be our greatest challenge, how our challenge can be our greatest gift, how our pain can be our salvation by pointing us in the right direction. Even the ego, that part of our humaness that so many teachers of spirituality disparage, has its role to play.
It is the very thing that brings validity to love.