I Hope You Dance

By: Bethanie Jones

As we head into the holidays, it’s pretty normal to have a plethora of conflicting emotions and to swirl things around in our minds. While the world tells us, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”, sometimes, the holidays can serve as a magnifying glass for all of the things we still don’t have, or all of the things we still want to acquire, or perhaps reminiscing about what once was.

I remember being young and wishing my family was different. I wished I had two parents, and that my house was different. I wished I didn’t look like I was poor to all the other kids at school, I just wanted to be someone else and be anywhere else but there. On Thanksgiving morning, to my mom’s absolute embarrassment, we would wait patiently until our box of donated foods arrived at our trailer home. Sometimes we would have a turkey in the box and sometimes it was just Campbell’s soup and crackers. My siblings were like all children, grateful and excited to see what was “in the box this year”, but me, I always had this gut-wrenching feeling to run away and try to escape and find the place where normalcy existed. My mom would bring my brother and my sister into the kitchen and they would sing and dance and play, and I would never partake.  I was so concentrated on what I thought things should be like, I was doing everything I could to resist reality. I couldn’t absorb or enjoy what was around me. I felt immense pain and I couldn’t get past it. My young mind wasn’t as evolved, so all I could feel was grief and disappointment. I felt as if I was unlike any other child in the world. I was all alone, not even my siblings, who were in the same house experiencing the same things, understood me. In fact, I thought no one could ever love me or understand what it felt like to be me.  It is because of that mentality, I don’t have as many childhood memories as my siblings do. I couldn’t get out of my own head and I was unable to be present.

I look back on all of the time I’ve missed, people I could have loved better, things I could have experienced more fully had I not been resisting. What if this year, I make a promise to myself to just accept what IS? What if, instead of stewing over all that isn’t, maybe I should just open my eyes and see what IS in front of me? What if instead of thinking about all the ways I am unlovable, notice all of the people who actively DO. What if this year I try to just be a little more vulnerable and allow myself to be softer? What if I start living based on how my heart feels, and not based on “the rules”? What if this year instead of seeking love, I make a commitment to tear down all the walls that prevent me from experiencing it?

This Thanksgiving, I want you to be aware of your thoughts. Notice how often your mind goes to what you expect, instead of what you accept.  If you burn the turkey, try a new sauce you maybe otherwise wouldn’t have tried. When Uncle Joe starts talking about politics you don’t agree with, just try to listen and understand why he might feel differently than you and love him anyway. If your house is a little small, or if your family isn’t exactly what you think they should be, or if you feel like something is just missing, I want you to slow down, take it all in, absorb the moment you are living in and be here now.

If you find yourself in a home where you are celebrating alone, I want you to still celebrate, do all of the things that bring joy to your heart.  If you find yourself with friends instead of family, I want you to still be grateful. And finally, if your turkey gets dropped off in a box of donations to a single mother, I beg of you, go inside and tell her you love her. Give her the biggest hug you can possibly muster up and tell her you appreciate everything she does. Tell her she is doing a great job, and tell her that it is because of her that you now have everything you will ever need, and this year, I hope you dance.

I Hope You Dance

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