My last completed solo started with me in a spotlight raising a tissue to my eye in slow motion. In time, I let it go billowing to the floor, as I fell backwards running, the light opening up to take me on a journey that lasted for a non-stop, high paced 20 minutes. I made that dance after one of those losses in life that we all have to go through at some point. Sometimes the loss happens sooner than we expect or are prepared for, but we all share in that common experience of losing one of the closest people to us. In retrospect, there were many gifts in that loss, gifts that could only be understood in time, gifts that can’t be comprehended in the actual moment of losing. But, sometimes, even these seemingly big life losses don’t prepare us for the one loss that actually disrupts everything. The one that takes the ground underneath us and seems to keep us falling for a period that is unfathomably long. A fall we can’t imagine being able to recover from. But, we do. And, when it happens life can no longer be what it was. We are changed in a way that we know we can’t go back to our old way of being. The difference in this experience (and it may not be a life lost, it could be a relationship ended, a career closed, a dead end met) is in knowing that despite anything that happens in this short period we get to be on earth, nothing can take from us our ability to love. It is untouchable. Our capacity to be generous, kind, playful, joyful, warm, wondrous can’t be taken by anyone or anything. It is almost superhero like in its power. It is a profound understanding and one I wouldn’t trade any loss for.
Knowing that all losses coming forward, of which there will be many, won’t take this understanding from me, gives me humbled strength and courage. Everyday we have moments of losing, of struggling, of floundering, of fumbling and of forgetting our value. But, even if we temporarily forget, we have the ability to recall. To recall this inner, unshakable understanding that love resides in us and that we can choose to handle any situation, any conversation, any interaction with kindness and genuine care, is an amazing gift. It is the one thing that we do get to take with us when we experience our own inevitable leaving. It is a pretty powerful thing to own. I often wonder if it is possible to arrive at this place in youth. Why not? If it can somehow be taught, experientially, early on, that love is all we really have, what a world this would be! It is beyond having good self-esteem or having good morals. It would involve learning a softness, a tenderness, toward oneself that knows the value of self-care, of compassion, of being able to remember what matters. I do think we can do that, at a young age, if it is reflected around us.
And so, on days when difficulties arise or, even simpler, in those commonplace, daily moments when we lose inspiration, motivation, meaning, self-worth, we can say to ourselves, “hey there, you’ve forgotten love, you’ve forgotten that no one or thing or situation has taken it from you. Go and love. Love yourself for your courage to feel and not run. Love the tree that manages to grow on that city corner. Love the ornate, cast iron grating on the door on 9th Street. Love the dog wagging its tail as it walks ahead of you, delighted to be outside. Love the person who looks you in your eyes as you pass and acknowledges the life in you. Love the person behind the counter who made it to work and helps you, though you know not what struggles she may be going through. Love because you can and that’s all there really is to do here.”