I started this post back in November and this is the first time I've felt ready to go back and finish it. I hope you'll enjoy it and perhaps it will leave you dancing...that would be perfect!
Last weekend was pretty special. Sixty years special. Mum and Dad were married on November 21st 1954 and here they are, still together 60 years later! That's a truly remarkable achievement. I've been with them (or around at least on and off) for fifty-six of those years so perhaps I know more than most what an achievement it is. So first of all - Congratulations Mum and Dad! Didn't we have fun celebrating! More of that later.
We grow up thinking life is a bit of a fairy tale. We watch Disney and listen to story books and read magazines and are bewitched by the fantasy of a life with a hero (or a heroine). We spend a lifetime searching for the he or she that will be our perfect match - our Prince or Princess Wonderful with whom life will be an adventure of glorious proportions. Now and then you hear a story of a couple that managed by some sort of magic to actually have a life together that almost meets those qualifications; I'm sure that is only because we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and they choose not to tell.
The thing is, you see, that we are all human beings. We have strengths and weaknesses, quirks and foibles. We can be charming and funny and unreasonable and downright nasty creatures at times. Being in a long term relationship brings up situations and circumstances that allow the good, the bad and the ugly of both ourselves and our partners to be brought to the surface. Sometimes these things chip away at the fairy tale dream until there is nothing left to help us believe in it any more. The only thing to do is to walk away and start all over again. Deal with the mess of separating joined lives. It's not nice and it's not pretty. Some humans do a better job of it than others.
Expectations are the trouble really. Expectations grown back in childhood. Built on stories and make-believe. Built on dishonesty by people pretending to be happy and asking, "When are you getting married?" and similar. Wanting for all to be part of the story. But how many of them were truly happy? I don't know. They probably had times of happiness and contentment. But I think a lot were probably quite unhappy but doing their best to live up to expectations.
I expected to grow up, fall in love, get married, have children and live happily ever after. Things didn't happen in that order and some of them didn't happen until quite late in life. The growing up part is still happening. I'm not ashamed to share that. I hope it takes a burden off someone else if they know they're not the only one who hasn't got it all sorted out yet.
It would be great to see a lot more time spent in educating young people about relationships and how to live successfully with a range of other human beings; older, younger, different in many ways. To learn how to communicate clearly about needs and wants and feelings. To identify what their wants and needs and feelings are. To know that people all stuff up sometimes and that understanding and compassion is needed to help us meet in the middle. To know how to have realistic expectations of themselves and of others. Not to expect others to be superhuman and not to be surprised by their own disappointment or discontent. To have some strategies for negotiating and resolving conflict, and who they can ask for help and support when things are not going smoothly.
I know my Mum and Dad have traversed some rough territory over the years as with anyone that has 60 years together behind them, but what I really wanted to talk about was how much fun I had celebrating with them. This night was so special to me because it was the night I took to the dance floor alone and the first person there. I still have trouble believing that I did that, but I wasn't going to sit and wait to be asked to dance. We had hired a fantastic seven piece band (it was very extravagant but so worth it) and the music was fabulous. I couldn't sit still and wait. So I had to get over worrying about what other people thought of me. I couldn't have done that when I was younger. I was far too self conscious to be able to manage that. I would rather have died than get up and dance alone. Well, I've come of age at last and I honestly don't care any more. If the music is great and I'm in the mood, you'll find me up there having a blast! Of course I am hoping that someone else will come and join me soon, and it does help if the dance floor is not too bright nor too large!
I can remember looking at a quite elderly lady at a sports club in Queensland a few years back. The band was playing and there was this old lady, wearing dozens of beads and bangles, alone on the dance floor, hips swaying and arms carving a story, feet tapping and sliding as if mesmerised by the sheer joy of moving to the music. She didn't know if she was alone or surrounded because she was immersed in the experience (or perhaps very tiddly, but that doesn't matter). I was astounded - no, I don't think that is too strong a word - that she could do that on her own. So, now I've done it too. Not as gracefully nor wearing as much jewellery but with the same spirit of the joy of living. I feel pretty pleased with myself for being so brave. I hope it will get easier and I hope some other people will think - if she can do it then so can I. Don't you think the world would be a better place if we all danced more often? I'm sure it would be. So put your dancing shoes on and even if it's just a jig around the living room at home, or out in the garden in the sunlight, the movement will do you good and I promise you'll feel inspired.