I don’t remember what class it was, but somewhere during my pre-teen days we were taught to square dance. You must understand that my middle school class consisted of 26 students, with about 18 countries of origin between us all. We were a diverse and spirited young group, with teachers who introduced us to all sorts of off the wall things – including square dancing. I liked excitedly screaming out the “do-si-do” (pronounced ‘dough-see-dough’) part, but generally disliked square dancing.
Besides the fact that I abhor organized dance, I think I particularly disliked this one because it felt like we were going nowhere. Also, it was not particularly elegant. Sometimes my life feels that way. It feels like I am square dancing. Going around and around forming the same invisible pattern. School, then work, then church, then school, then work, then write, then light bulb moment, then stalk more schools, then work, then pray, then light work on the light bulb moment, then do-si-do. It is not particularly elegant, and more importantly its hardly meteoric.
Deep down I expect more evident results. I expect more accelerated progress. It is usually only in retrospect I see how far I’ve come. Then I see the actual pattern I’ve created and count the steps I have covered (more than initially expected). Sometimes progress and success are like the square dance. You find yourself taking a few steps forward only to have to take a few back. It can be frustrating because you don’t particularly feel like you are going anywhere.
Sometimes though, in the pursuit of a goal, you have no choice. You go forward, only to realize the weakness of your argument or the necessity for more information or increased work experience, so you go back. You continue with this back and forth, fighting discouragement and fatigue. As I remind you, I remind myself, in the longer run, it is well worth it.
When I forget the reasons why I am square dancing and start to get agitated, I close my eyes and envision my future self:
She is well accomplished.
She is happy.
She is well traveled.
She is physically fit.
She is well read.
She has versatile experiences.
She has many memories, good and bad, that she reminisces over for different reasons.
She has good friends and loved ones who can point to periods of time when she was their rock.
She has taken some risks.
She has learned many a lesson by following the road signs and creating her own diversions here and there.
She has lived.
She has not given up.
When I see her, I love her, and I realize I owe it to her to keep square dancing and gathering those years of experience. To keep attaining those triumphs over challenges and trivial feelings. For her I must remain uncompromisingly focused yet centered, living each day and embracing every experience – even when it feels like I’ve danced that patch before.
She looks back at me with pride, thanking me for doubling my days and pursuing that further education – so that now I can qualify for that job.
She looks back and thanks me for spending that time getting to know God, so now I have enough faith to see that He will surely make a way even though there seems to be no way.
She looks back and thanks me for sticking to the work out regime that didn’t seem to be working, because now she’s just had a baby and her body remembers its muscle memory and she remembers the results that can be achieved if she doesn’t give up.
She looks back and thanks me for not giving up on developing my gifts, even on the days I was feeling talent-less.
She looks back and it becomes evident that even though
the dance may seem mundane sometimes – it is well worth it.
If you keep at it you will eventually realize you have mastered the dance and made progress. The more you dance the more you realize it isn’t a dance at all but something much more foundational.
The continuous steps are gaining you work and life experience. While it feels like the sameness of the situation is wearing you out, you are actually building up your staying power. Many of life’s battles are won through staying power. What you thought was simply square dancing is actually the perfection of a repeated action (responsibility, resilience, willpower, work – repeat) that wears down the floor till you’ve dug a foundation that allows you to build higher. After all, the deeper the foundation, the higher the structure you can put up.
If like me, you came to build skyscrapers, empires evident from outer space, then ‘do-si-do’ it is – let the square dance continue.
Monotony is not a reason to quit. Don’t let the weariness wear you out. Keep stepping to the beat you know and enjoy it, for soon enough the music will change and your focus will be shifted to learning new steps.
Sometimes life feels that way, two steps forward, and two steps back, don’t fret – just keep dancing. Enjoy the music, embrace the present routine, and take it one step at a time.