Hello, Dazzling Dancers.
It was Christmas Eve and I was at Laguna Honda Hospital for my regular Tuesday evening hospice shift. It was irregular, but wonderful, to be accompanied by my husband. He’d been a hospice volunteer for almost 20 years, so he fell easily into his role again. It was irregular, but festive, in that I had donned a Santa hat. I sat in the commons area for a while, chatting with a favorite resident. I then moved on to a man who was sitting at a table on the edge of the room with his back to everyone. He had a newspaper on the table with him, but he seemed completely uninterested in it. I approached him and introduced myself but he did not acknowledge my presence with words, though he did look me in the eye. Often, it’s difficult to discern the extent to which a new resident is lucid and conversant without hearing the news from our check-in meeting or reading the chart. Alas, I had access to neither at the moment. I didn’t take the time to sit with him, but I did want to say “hi” and welcome him so I stood at the table and tried to reach him in some way. I attempted small talk; asking his name and how he was doing. Nothing. There was a hard look in his eyes, but I was willing to believe I could be misreading that look. As I went to leave, I gently touched his shoulder, at which point he yelled at me (unintelligible words, but it was clear he didn’t want to be touched). When residents behave in ways we don’t understand, it’s easy to forgive them as the behavior could be due to the illness, the medication, the circumstances, anything. I simply turned and left, but I did get curious about my own role in the encounter. Was I truly present? Had I slowed down enough to meet him where he was at? Was I sensitive to his nonverbal cues? Was I distracted by the Santa hat on my head; hiding behind some unconscious persona? I realized I had a bit of the energy of “rushing” in my being. For some inexplicable reason, I was subtly rushing to the next thing. I had no idea what the “next thing” was, but I felt the energy of haste in my veins. And with that awareness, I took a deep breath, softened, and pressed pause. The next resident I encountered, I’d be more available to meet them at their speed.
And so it was with some small sense of amazement when my husband told be about his encounter with the same man as we were driving home that night. Roy explained to me how he had seen the man (let’s call him Charlie) seated alone at the table. Roy went to the table, sat down and calmly asked Charlie if he could look at the newspaper. The response was a flick of the wrist, indicating, “take it”. Roy sat and read the newspaper for a while and then looked up, saw Charlie gazing at him, and carefully engaged him in a type of conversation (Charlie struggled to express himself, getting a bit frustrated, but Roy remained calm and just listened). Roy was slow and easy, open. Roy talked about the most powerful moment of the encounter, which happened as he got up to leave. Roy extended his hand to Charlie, and verbally asked for a handshake. Charlie slowly moved to place his hand in Roy’s and then gave him a warm shake. Sweet. Roy’s energy was much more in alignment with Charlie’s and so they were able to connect. I had met Charlie with an unconscious agenda; I was in a hurry and wanted to connect and then move on. Sigh.
Do you ever dance with someone and get the subtle sense they have an agenda? You can feel it. Or do you, while dancing with someone, suddenly realize you’ve got some expectations of your own for how this duet should proceed? You’ve got your own agenda. For me, the magic happens when I can quiet the internal energy of expectation and simply be with what is; pause and attune. Attune to what’s needed in this moment. Attune to what’s authentic right now. I need to learn how to pause and attune. Blessedly, I get to practice on the dance floor with you. 😊
It give me goosebumps all over to tell you that our deliriously delightful Davida will be carrying us along the river of dance tomorrow.
Here’s a poem for your consideration:
How the Light Comes
I cannot tell you how the light comes.
What I know is that it is more ancient than imagining.
That it travels across an astounding expanse to reach us.
That it loves searching out what is hidden what is lost what is forgotten or in peril or in pain.
That it has a fondness for the body for finding its way toward flesh for tracing the edges of form for shining forth through the eye, the hand, the heart.
I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does. That it will. That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you, though it may seem long ages in coming or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.
And so may we this day turn ourselves toward it. May we lift our faces to let it find us. May we bend our bodies to follow the arc it makes. May we open and open more and open still
to the blessed light that comes.
- Jan Richardson -
May the light come to you, to us all. Every. Single. One.