I was at it again, and I knew my mama would be proud. Here I was on a dance floor rotating my hips and waist front way and back way to the percussion of a great song, and this time, it was to Drake’s One Dance. With hands raised high and face emoting what could only be joy, I bobbed my bouncy ‘fro to his last appeal for one more dance. I was, however, on the flip side of that song, because my night had just started. My sweet friend was celebrating her 35th birthday, and a group of us had gathered for dinner, shisha and dancing. Her birthday was the fourth one we were celebrating that summer, and we had a few more to celebrate before the year ran out. We were clocking numbers in the 30s, and our faces wore like a cloak the lines we developed in our roaring 20s, but tonight was for celebrating not reflecting.
We had just moved from the dinning section to the lounge of the restaurant, and without missing a beat, she dragged a couple of us, including yours truly, to the dance floor where I now was moving with pure, undulated and shame-free delight. It was the quintessential me, and my mama would be proud.
Proud to know I’m choosing to dance again, because not too long ago, dancing felt like a chore and infusing joy into dancing felt like a luxury. I look back on that season of my life ever so often, and I’m aware of the many bricks that laid the bridge I walked on to get to today. One of those building blocks was my mother’s words of wisdom spoken in a season I needed to hear it the most. You see, many years prior to this moment on the dance floor, we were all living in the middle of the recession, and I was living at home, looking for a job and hoping to make something worthwhile out of freelancing. I had also hoped the move home from Washington DC to Minnesota would rekindle my romance with an ex; we were both optimistic that this was our chance. But nothing turned out as I planned! I couldn’t find a job, my dad fell really sick, freelancing was moving so slow, my mom and I got into a bad car accident, our bodies were messed up, my savings was depleting, love wasn’t working out as we both dreamt, I was fighting with my parents and life was in limbo. Everything was all up in the air, and I wasn’t sure how or when it all planned on dropping back to solid ground. Depression set in! I was also a monster to be around, and the trajectory of my life was everyone’s fault, but mine. So I yelled at everyone about everything.
For a few months, my mama watched me crawl around the house. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she walked into my room one chilly, but sunny Sunday morning, got into bed with me, and said, “you are young, and this is the time to enjoy yourself. You are not married, you don’t have kids and you are healthy. Go out and party, dance, volunteer, meet people, fall in love, and have a blast. You go to bed at 7pm and wake up at 2pm. It breaks my heart to see you go from happy and giving to lying in bed depressed over the outcome of your life. This is first world problem, and we both know you can do better. You are young, and this is the time to make mistakes in love and in life. Go party and dance your heart out. I haven’t seen you dance in months, and that is unusual for you. When I was your age, I had a blast at life. Get out of bed, go out with your friends and have some fun.” It was unexpected advice coming from my mother, who was as African and Christian as they come. Go out? Dance? Fall in Love? Break hearts? Party? Coming from her, the advice was odd, but she could see I was selfishly wasting away.
Sadly, it was advice I couldn’t receive, because I was angry at my parents. If I wasn’t fighting them, I was ignoring them. And honestly, I couldn’t receive it, because I had my eyes on me and couldn’t see beyond myself. It wasn’t the end of the world, but privilege has a way of making things look hazy. Nonetheless, even though I couldn’t receive it then, what mama said stuck and stayed with me. It stuck, because it was true, but it also echoed a word I received in college at a Christian conference I attended in my Junior year. A lady walked over to me and simply said, “I don’t know you, but God wants you to never stop dancing. You are a dancer, and he doesn’t want you to give it up. He wants you to dance exuberantly and vivaciously through life and to dance without shame regardless of where you are and who is watching. Dance at every party, dance at church, dance in your room and dance no matter the pain your heart is holding in, because pain is coming and pain will come. Dance through it. Dance when they talk about your dancing or poke fun at it. Dance!“
The strange lady’s words stayed to me, and so did my mama’s. Before they spoke into my life, I’m known to dance like my life depended on it, and I live life abundantly and with joy. I have always danced, still dance and love to dance, but then life happened, and I find myself struggling to put my full self, bruised and broken, on the table. Though it took me a few years to fully receive and appreciate what mama had to say, I finally leaned into it despite the pain and hurt I’m still walking through, because i realized every bit of me, quirks, brokenness and all is enough to bring to the party and to life. I think of my mother often when I dance and while I was on that dance floor celebrating my friend’s birthday, I thought of her again and am reminded of the fruits her words have produced years after she spoke them.
My prayer is to keep producing the fruits of dance and celebration well into my 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond no matter the circumstances of my life. Truth is in this life, we will have problems, but we don’t have to stress, because Christ has overcome the world. He is for us, with us and never against us. Some days will be harder than others, and others days are just flat out dark, but an intentional choice to choose joy does make a difference.
You will almost always certainly find me living loud front way and back way by his grace.
And that was what mama said…
Which life lesson’s have stuck from your mother or the mother figure in you life?
PS: You are Immensely Loved!
PSS: I wrote this listening to Drake’s One Dance on repeat!