Children and Family

The Last Dance Recital: Living a “Both/And” Life

Fall Into Dance Photo

Nineteen years ago, I became a Dance Mom.  No, not like the ones you see on TV (which, by the way, is not just acting).  I actually sought not to be a made-for-TV Reality Dance Mom.  Instead, I just wanted to be the Dance Mom who loved the rehearsals and recitals, the fierce competitions and the fixing of the costumes, driving the girls around all over the place and standing backstage for costume changes for hours at a time. I loved watching my daughter dance and being part of her world!

Our daughter started her first dance class in September 1999 and after 7 months of classes, at the age of 3, she performed in her first recital.  She had pink tights and colorful tiny tutu with Shirley Temple blond curls and a big smile.  She tripped in the parking lot as we were hurrying with excitement into the theater and ripped her tights, but that didn’t matter. She waved to us from the stage in the middle of the song and stopped dancing in order to help her little friend next to her get her steps correctly performed.  I will never forget how proud I was of her!  I fell in love with my daughter’s ability to light up a stage as she herself fell in love with the art of dance.

It is now November 2018 and on Saturday of this last weekend, I watched my daughter dance her last recital.  She graduates college this December with her degree in Dance Business. With only a few weeks of college left, she performed on the stage for the very last time.

The OT writer Solomon has something to say about a time like this.  He writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….(there is) a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”.  While it is clear that Solomon is delineating different times of life in which one emotion or activity takes precedence over another, to only consider life as categories that we maneuver between is, I suggest, reading the text too narrowly.  Notice he does not say a time to weep OR a time to laugh.  He says AND.  This suggests that instead of doing one OR the other, there are times when we should expect to transition from one TO another and experience a bit of both simultaneously.  We may have a season where one emotion is pre-eminent, but when that season is done, there will be a transition to a new normal that will embrace the old joy as well as the new grief.  We live “both/and”, not “either/or.”

I am happy with my memories of my daughter’s performances and sad there will not be new ones to watch.  I am happy for her many, varied accomplishments and sad there are no new performing goals to strive toward.  I am happy she found her place in the spotlight and sad she will now be sitting in the wings.  I am indeed “both/and” (crying with a smile on my face).

Thankfully, I have already lived enough of these kind of moments to have learned how to live within them.  By embracing both emotions (joy and sadness) and not trying to choose one over the other, life is actually more stable.  Any sense of peace that can be found in such a tumultuous place is only found when we recognize, accept and experience our emotions.

Living in the world of “both/and” is sometimes very uncomfortable.  When we try to choose just one OR the other to live out or deny, we enter into unnecessary conflict within ourselves. When we choose which one is more valuable than the other and which one we must criticize ourselves for, we cause turmoil within ourselves.

My suggestion:  name and experience all the different emotions you have, and don’t fight them.  As you “own” them, decide what you will do with them.  For my daughter and I, we didn’t take the tissues offered but both smiled and cried as we hugged.  We laughed with tears rolling down our faces as we experienced the moment of a dance career well done.

Dear Reader, I encourage you to live a “both/and” life.  Be both laughing and crying, mourning and dancing, knowing that life is rarely as nice and tidy as we wish it was.  And with both your smiles and tears, enjoy the first and the last moments of your life, praising God within all the different seasons.

Until next time, may your days be filled with both teachable moments and precious memories.  Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth

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