Aug 22 2011
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”-(Unknown)
Last week Tom and I went to the Summer Concert in the Park on the Santa Barbara waterfront and danced to the music of a Beatles tribute band. We moved our bodies in happy abandon in a sweet and sweaty crush of baby boomers and people of all ages. I was high on nostalgia, and at the same time, high on the present moment.
I felt that old thrill of excitement that was ignited all those years ago in the teenage me listening to my first Beatles songs, a thrill that shot through me like electricity, like a defibrillator jumpstarting my heart and my life. “Shake it up baby now, twist and shout!” It all came back. I loved the Beatles and that exciting time in my life, a time of rebirth into a new version of myself, a vibrant new burst of aliveness. I’m feeling that same bright-eyed aliveness now…a gift from cancer.
As I boogied to the Beatles music, my past and present weaved together. Back then it was the 60’s…and now I’m IN my 60’s! I flashed back in time…remembering The Travelons, the Beatles tribute band that was famous in the 1960’s on the east coast, who I loved to dance to and was a bit of a groupie. I dated the drummer a few times, but was so shy I barely spoke – I needed to drink a beer or two to help me loosen up. “It’s a good thing I’m pretty,” I thought back then. On the ride to the Concert in the Park with Tom I caught a glimpse of myself in the car mirror, seeing the fine (and not so fine) lines sprinkled on my face, and thought, “It’s a good thing Tom loves me for who I am, not how I look!” It’s an even better thing that I finally feel beautiful INSIDE. That is a monumental life accomplishment for me! And I no longer need to drink a beer in order to feel uninhibited — I feel so much more comfortable in my skin now…wrinkled though it is.
Dancing to the beat of the Beatles songs, I felt like the teenage me of yesteryear. Yet in present time, there was Tom, holding me close, looking at me with happy, loving eyes, and I felt treasured…something the teenage me never felt. I did a mind-meld through time with my teenage self and told her, “Look who we end up with, this wonderful man! Look at where we live, this beautiful paradise on earth! Look at the wonderful friends we have, dancing with us!” Thinking about the whole of my life, I tell her, “What a journey you have ahead of you!”
I kept looking at Tom, his beautiful blue eyes, his luminous smile, his sweet soul, and I felt blown away that I ended up with such a fabulous man. My history with cancer adds poignancy to my happy moments with him. The uncertainty of it is always in the back of our minds. As we dance to a slow Beatles song, he presses his forehead against mine, looks into my eyes and says sweetly, “Don’t go.” “Okay, I’ll stay” I say, smiling. But I can’t help wondering if I’ll be around for next summer’s concerts in the park. I think about Beatles John and George, gone now. We just don’t know what the future will bring. As John Lennon said, “We are all living on borrowed time.”
Though I don’t know what the future holds, I can allow myself to be fully held in this moment, in Tom’s arms, in a feeling of celebration, savoring it all. Celebrating how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in this life. Celebrating the present moment…that I have arrived here at last! It has been a long journey to the Now, but I am Here Now a lot of the time…another gift of cancer.
At the dance, we talk to a friend who has a bum shoulder and other health issues requiring medical assistance. It is testing his fear of aging. But he tells us that he’s decided to have fun with it. When he goes to the doctor, he messes with them, playfully asking for “More needles please!” Instead of dreading it, he’s celebrating and playing with it all. Ill health can make us feel like a failure; yet, to feel joy in the midst of our challenges is a great success. As Emerson said, “To have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation — this is to have succeeded.”
I’m here, facing my worst fears, feeling my feelings fully, AND playing and laughing with enthusiasm, singing along to old Beatle tunes with exultation! I may be here for many more years to come. Or not. I know that there’s much I want to see and do — I have fully arrived at this earth party and I want to laugh and learn and play more! I’m reassured by Richard Bach’s quote: “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” I’m alive, so it isn’t!
In the Ram Dass book, STILL HERE – Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying, despite a stroke that has incapacitated him in many ways, he sees how perfect it all is. It has helped him to even more fully BE HERE NOW, valuing this life, and knowing more deeply that he is not just a body, he is an eternal soul. That awareness helps make these earthly woes not so devastating. And, knowing that we will die makes life more precious. Because of that, I am not only still here, I am more HERE than I have ever been before! The 1960’s were great, but I can honestly say that this life just keeps getting better and better!
I’ll leave you with this celebratory song I wrote with Nicola Gordon (sung to the tune, The Ants Going Marching One by One):
There’s nothing I have to do today – Hurrah, Hurrah!
There’s nothing I have to do or say – Hurrah, Hurrah!
Just be in the NOW all the way
That’s all I have to do today.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Sing and dance and play!