I was nervous. It had been a long time. But it was Valentine’s Day weekend, so I thought, why not? My husband had surprised me with dinner and swing dancing, lessons included. After eating our meal, we made our way out to the small town where the dance was taking place. Dark winding roads finally carried us to our destination, a small town that had a Center for the Arts building where the event was being held. As we parked the car and made our way to the entrance, we were suddenly aware that we were the minority of our age group – which was ok. It made it not as nerve-racking.
We entered what looked like a Senior Center Hall, with bright flourescent lighting, a stage, a small dance floor, and an open window where some treats were being served as if we were at a school fundraiser. We sat with the others on mettle folding chairs, awaiting the dance lessons. Other nervous eyes might ours, and it felt like the first day of high school. My mind was filled with thoughts of “what in the world is this place?” and “can we leave now?” and “well, it’s just an hour”. The majority of the crowd looked like the characters from The Peanuts, except all grown up and close to retirement. They were actually cute, and a part of me admired their tenacity for this romantic evening with the one they loved.
Then the dance lessons began. We all awkwardly made our way to the dance floor, all knees and elbows, literally bumping into each other because of the tight space. The next hour was filled with giggles, stomps, sweating, and an eventual charisma that looked close enough to swing dance that we all were convinced. It was beautiful, really. Throughout that hour our lives melded into one story on that dance floor. Age disappeared, body type faded, fashion (or lack of it) became unimportant as we all stood face-to-face with the one we loved, united in a bubble of commonality – a space to hold onto the one we had been hanging onto for years.
Then the band came out. It was now time to try out our newly learned skills. The lights were lowered, and the evening air was filled with jazz from this small town music group. I sat down to catch my breath for the first time since arriving, and what I saw truly astounded me. It was the dance. Double step, rock step. Repeat. Hands and eyes locked. The souls swayed their imperfect bodies, creating a story, a poem, a dance. Age varied. Body size all-over-the-place. But all that was now gone. Instead what could be seen were the knowing glances from yester-year. The flirtatious grin. The nervous laughter. Life stresses forgotten, at least for this moment. Brave souls who had decided to show up for this small town shin-dig. All of us choosing to say “to hell” with society and aging, to expectations and stereotypes, and the mad rush that has become our existence.
It was the dance of Love. I saw it there right in front of me. That familiar love – that love that small children know, and that we all can recognize deep inside of us, but so many times the insecure among us tell us to swallow it and hide it in some deep cavern within our souls. But I saw it that night. Love. This love that is not dressed up, because it doesn’t need to hide anything. This love that can look broken so many times, because it knows that in the broken is where healing happens. This love sometimes has a beer belly, or an awkward gait to the music. This love bumps into us, but it never gives up the dance. This love sometimes has quirky glasses, or a cordaroy jacket, an 80’s hawaiian shirt, or grey hair, wrinkles, or tattoos. This love has a girlish giggle, and a boyish grin, sometimes hid behind old, leathered skin. This love has a twinkle in the eye, as all the stories of love are remembered when the music starts, and the hands are clasped, and the eyes hold each other, just like they have for all these years. This love is old and young all at once. This love is all around us, and it thrives in the imperfections of life. Because that’s where real life happens – that’s where love is found. That’s where we don’t pretend. That’s where we are ourselves. That’s where we are seen. That’s where the Sacred dwells.
After that first song I jumped in the mix with the love of my life, and we joined the dance. Totally accepted, totally held in that space. Because the dance held each of us. And so the dance goes on. Do you hear the music? Step out onto the floor. Grab a partner. And dance.