Dance. In. The Kitchen.

I’ve always loved to dance. For me, it’s the most freeing expression of joy found in this human experience. I took dance lessons from three years old on, until discovering beer and boys in high school, but I’ve never stopped awkwardly twirling through the decades. I have literally turned the music up and danced through every season of my life- college, marriage, pregnancies, divorce, job and home changes- because it somehow transports me from reality to another plane where my happiest self exists. Doesn’t matter if I’ve had the ugliest day in recent memory, when I put my cottons socks on (for optimal spinning…obviously) and get in the zone, literally nothing else matters.

So this past weekend, when house and kid- sitting for my sister, I found myself doing what I’d do any other day in my house. Burn full batches of Dino nuggets, nag the kids to get off Fortnite and of course, dance in the kitchen.

Despite the understandable hiccups like not knowing how to work the coffee grinder and surviving an ungodly amount of bedroom morning light, all was going well until one of my boys, after walking into one of my kitchen jams, calmly stated: “Mom. you know they have a live camera in the kitchen, right?” Holy. Hades.

I really don’t embarrass easy. My Lucille Ball ways have reduced my personal pride to the size of a chick pea, but gotta say. The thought of my sis and brother-in-law watching my very dramatic interpretive dance to “Then Sings My Soul” from their Marriott room, kinda made me want to cry.

As I sat there, wondering how my old soul had ended up in such an Orwellian big brother society, and whether I should send an apology for the madness text now, or later, a sense of righteous indignation arose deep within. I started thinking, you know what? I might be a weirdo who’s now officially banned from house-sitting duty, but I’m a dancing weirdo. And I refuse to live a boring life devoid of split jumps and tile floored arabesques. I might have many life fails etched into my record, but as far as doing what makes me happy…killin’ it.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a philosophical response to getting caught out using my sister’s counter top for plie support, but the week of Earth Day has always been reflective for me. For most, it’s about Spring and ‘newness’ and celebration of life, which is still how I feel, every April 22nd despite it marking the anniversary of my father’s death. There’s of course always a heightened sadness this week, since losing him when I was 12, but that loss has also given me a special lens to view life through.

Just as we can’t understand the overwhelming power of romantic love before falling head first, or the intensity of loving a child until you first hold that wailing bundle, you really can’t understand how deeply loss affects and molds the heart, until you’ve survived it. For me, Earth Day marks the greatest wound, and the greatest gift, of my life.

My dad was 38 when he died of a sudden heart attack, one day after we got home from a Disney trip. He left my mom and three girls aged 5, 9 and 12, and we still feel the ripples of shock to this day. But I rarely reflect on what could have been. I’m just always in awe of what my dad was able to accomplish and how many people he impacted while here. He bought a supermarket with my uncle, with zero business or food service background. He became an ordained minister and eventually started his own church. He ran a prison ministry, went on foreign mission trips and when I was in sixth grade he brought home a homeless women to live with us. We all went out to eat every Thursday night, and he made sure we always took two solid vacations a year because family mattered most. He did so much in such as short stint of time, and he made every one of us feel like we were the sun and the stars, to him.  

He died before his time, but my dad lived on purpose and he lived with passion. He went after his dreams despite lots of setbacks and opposition, and I’m not sure he really ever gave up on anything.  It’s as if his subconscious knew he’d have less moments to love and live through. That’s what I think about, on Earth Day, when the warm sun and sense of moving forward, warms my spirit.

I feel like from the moment my dad left, I’ve lived with an ever present awareness that everything is fleeting and an ability to live in the moment, and treasure what makes me happy. And also choose to walk away from situations that drain or distract from the person I’m trying to be. I’ve learned to pray instead of worry, because I hate the thought of anxiety stealing the peace I’m meant to live in. I’ve painfully severed relationships because life is too short for tepid ‘I love you’s.’ I’ve sat on the floor playing Legos with my kids ‘til my brain was numb because these are the precious parts of life I’ll miss someday. It might sound fear-based, but it’s totally rooted in a love and appreciation for life that come through the lens of loss.

I’ve always tried to remind myself to say no to things that pull me down or away from what I’m striving to be, or do, because it’s so easy to think we’ll get to that, or become that person, some day. When we have more time, or energy, or circumstances change. But life is too short to wait another year or decade, or permanently settle for a measure of happiness in any situation, when you dream for more.

There are of course parts of life that will always be a drag but I always want to focus on, and do more of what makes me feel alive and happy. Playing the piano, full force while waiting for the school bus, instead of making sure every piece of laundry is folded. Dancing in the kitchen while the water boils because dang it, pirouetting is my jam.  Never giving up the exhausting search, until you find the person who really, deep down gets you. Taking the online Master’s course with one eyeball open at night because it’s now or friggin’ never. Taking vacation with the kids even if it means sacrificing cable and dinners out for a while, because these are the moments that matter.

So here’s to you, dad, for showing me how to treasure life, and giving me permission to always, under any circumstance, dance in the kitchen. Happy Earth Day. It misses you.

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