Why don’t we dance in parking lots?
I was sitting in my car the other day, working on my laptop — balancing wanting to be outside with having a project deadline. I had keyed up Spotify to the “Peaceful Piano” playlist (highly recommended) and the thought that came into my head as I swayed to the music and struggled to write was, “I need to dance more.” It felt like a direct message from my spirit and I knew that was I was thinking was true. I definitely do need to dance more. And yet I was clearly putting it off to another time vs. jumping out of my car and fully letting myself express what I was feeling from the music right then and there. So, of course my next thought was, “Why NOT now? Why would swaying to music in a public parking lot have the potential of being judged vs. being the norm? Why aren’t people dancing, singing and just generally being fully expressive all. the. time? Why do we operate with such limited definitions of appropriate behavior?!
It’s not natural. Look at any child lit up with joy as they twirl in the middle of a mall. I want to twirl in the middle of a mall. As a matter of fact, I probably have. I have been known to skip down hallways, dance in grocery stores, and shout from rooftops. And yet, even I have been all too aware each time that I was pushing social norms, edging up against — or downright slamming through — boundaries of what those around me found comfortable (pushing through my own feelings of uncomfortableness sometimes). What happened to us as a people that we decided for rules of “civilized behavior” over real emotion, expressive whatever-we-are-feeling-ness, and being just what we are in any given moment?
There has been a real wanting for this type of authenticity of late. It can be seen in self-help books, workshops, etc. Yet even it has sometimes appeared to have limits placed on it. The vision of authenticity that I have encountered (and fought through) in some circles seems to define authenticity (and its cousin mindfulness) as being some unrealistic state of being happy or content all the time. Authentic doesn’t mean happy. It doesn’t mean zen or blank-minded-peace — as though you have climbed the proverbial mountain and overcome that paltry need to emote. The Oxford Dictionary defines authentic as “of undisputed origin, genuine.” Dig a little deeper and genuine comes up as, “truly what something is said to be.” So it just is. It is absolutely, wholly whatever you are feeling the moment — be it moved to dance in a parking lot, bursting into tears, or so angry you can’t see straight. Nowhere in there does it say that it is limited to social norms of politeness or appropriate behaviors, nowhere does it say it requires any element of happiness or clearing your palette of all emotions. It says to be real. Really real, not the semi-real you’ve been taught to be.
I love it when people express their anger to me — especially family, friends and clients. Not because I necessarily enjoy when people are angry at me, but because I know they’re being real with me. It’s what being authentic or fully expressive is all about — being honest about how you feel with people. The full range of it, too — knowing that in order for people to be able to express the fullest extent of their joy, they also need room to share things like anger, sadness, disempowerment, jealousy, regret — you name it, we need room for it as humans. So, this is my call to you. Express. With me, with others, even on your own — let yourself be with whatever emotions you tend to hold at bay. Because I want to be able to dance in the parking lot — with people joining in even. And I want you to be able to safely express what you’re feeling in any given moment as well.