A long time ago my husband and I used to work with a lot of young people. We worked in schools and centers and with youth groups plus had four kids of our own. There were always extra kids and extra teenagers hanging around our house. Like, a lot 😉
It's funny because after a while, no matter the subject, I felt like I was answering the same question over and over again. Eventually I came up with Lynda's rules for drinking, dating, and other quandaries.
The first two seemingly irrefutable rules became:
1. Dance with the one that brought you.
2. Don't mix and match.
I forget the other ones now, probably because more often than not, the answer to the question at hand could be found somehow in one of those first two rules. It became a running joke.
Fast-forward about 20 years. I am re-watching Brené Brown talk on vulnerability and she makes the statement that you gotta dance with the one that brung ya.
But she's not talking about drinking or dating. She's talking about shame.
The ability to walk into those places that have formed us – that brought us to where we are and who we are today, and dancing with those issues instead of running away from them.
Instead most of us try to pretend that they don't exist – that we have somehow escaped unscathed; unmarred. As if that is the ultimate victory – to come through life without any visible scars.
But would you really trust a sparkling clean warrior with an impeccably tailored and perfectly pressed uniform to bring you through enemy territory? Me neither. And I don't care how many stars and ribbons he has decorating his chest. I want the guy who knows the enemy's camp. The one that's been through what I've been through. That knows what to look for, and who to look out for.
I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when I was giving those teenagers that often tongue-in-cheek advice and speaking in layered metaphorical generalities, the idea of encouraging them to dance with their own vulnerability and shame was far from even my noblest of intentions. But perhaps it should have been closer.
Often we spend so much time trying to fit ourselves into someone else's skin that we have no idea what it's like to live in our own. We dance around our issues and called it a bachata when it's more like an awkward middle school dance.
In case you're wondering what a bachata is, watch this:
Now believe me, after watching that I know what you're thinking: “there's no freaking way I'm getting that close to my issues” and I don't blame you. But think about it for minute. Daniel and Desiree have danced together so long and so often, you can barely tell where one of them ends and the other begins. There's no curve that hasn't been traced, no heat that hasn't been felt, no breath that hasn't been shared at one point or another.
And although what you're looking at is a beautiful practiced dance, I'm sure they've flubbed, stumbled, maybe even twisted an ankle. Argued. Cursed. Wondered if it wouldn't be easier to just dance with someone else. One thing is obvious: a lot of hard hours were spent sweating it out in private spaces, away from judgmental eyes.
And yet, the results of sticking it out are irrefutable.
When all is said and done the hard work is always worth it. It is.
It's not about other people recognizing your new-found strength. It's about you recognizing it. Acknowledging the beauty that truly comes from within. Being fearless, which is a lot less about being unafraid and a lot more about just being willing – willing to take the long way around. Willing to dance with your fears.
So keep dancing. More importantly, keep dancing with the one that brought you.
I promise, you won't regret it. Trust me. I know the enemy's camp, and it doesn't scare me anymore. Take my hand. We'll go together…