We plan, God laughs.Yiddish proverb
It’s March already, and while I’m not surprised that there is still a foot of snow on the ground, I am surprised and disappointed that I’m not back to taking ballroom lessons. I shouldn’t be surprised because I was there at every turn that delayed my return to ballroom. Always a good reason! But silly me still didn’t want to let go of her original plans.
If any four words were to sum up Life, it would be these four: We plan, God laughs.
You can interpret it in different ways, but I see it as a reminder that we cannot control the world around us. The Earth keeps rotating and Life keeps going, whether we like it or not. We try every day to control or at least predict, what the future will bring, but the best we manage is an illusion.
In my efforts to live a happier and more aligned life, I’ve tried to go with the flow instead. I aim to make decisions and take action based on what I want to accomplish and where I want my life to go. The final result is out of my hands. As much as I’d like to think I do, I don’t actually have any control over the outcome of my decisions and actions, only the decisions and actions themselves.
The problem with thinking you have control over the outcome is you set yourself up to be disappointed, no matter how well you did with your decisions and actions. As competitive dancers, we’re no strangers to disappointing outcomes. We work our butts off in the studio, leave it all out on the dance floor at a competition, and can still end up with the result we didn’t want.
For me, doubt is the bigger foe. A disappointing result at Embassy Ball in 2017 cast doubt over everything positive I had been told about my dancing over the previous four years. I questioned my talent and capabilities at a core level. Every time I couldn’t afford to go to an event or I watched other students drop thousands on custom-designed dresses that I couldn’t afford to even think about, I questioned if I belonged in ballroom at all.
I got over the disappointments, but the doubt can linger in the shadows, just waiting for the next opportunity to show itself.
More recent disappointments have re-triggered those bigger doubts around ballroom and even this blog. Are you really interested in following a ballroom dancer’s blog when she isn’t ballroom dancing? Maybe it’s time to pack it in and try something else?
I’m really enjoying the dance classes I’m taking now – ballet and Zumba. I’m even getting better at pirouettes. But damn, I miss ballroom! I miss dancing with a partner to a nostalgic Waltz or a fierce Tango. I miss that feeling of flying across the floor during a Viennese. I miss working together with someone to prepare for a performance. Will I ever get to perform again? Would it be smarter to just settle with what’s available right now?
Going with the flow is scary because it takes trust – trust in myself and in the unknown outcome – that my hard work will pay off eventually. I have to trust that even though I can’t see what’s ahead and even as the path bends around a corner that seems to take me away from what I had planned, everything will work out. I’m still on my way to fulfilling my dreams. I have to trust that my efforts will be enough.
I also have to trust that just because one outcome wasn’t what I hoped, that doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail in everything. Sometimes a disappointment leads to a different success. That Embassy Ball disappointment led to the creation of The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing. What I considered an epic fail ended up being the catalyst for one of my favorite creations that’s helped hundreds of dancers and also brought me back around to winning the World title at Embassy Ball the following year! I couldn’t have planned for those outcomes.
It’s easy to look back and see how things connected and got me where I wanted to go, but yeesh, when you’re in the thick of it and have no clue if you’re on the right path, it’s frustrating and nerve-wracking. My anxious brain does NOT like not having a plan and knowing exactly where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. When I’m going to a new place for the first time, I even look at Google Maps street view ahead of time to plan where I’ll park! Too bad Google Maps doesn’t have a Life view (though I wouldn’t put it past Google to be working on that).
Going with the flow is an uncomfortable approach to Life. It sounds like you’re relinquishing all control and giving yourself up to the whims of the Universe. But really you’re giving up what you never had control of in the first place and fully focusing on what you can control, i.e. your own thoughts and actions. It doesn’t mean you can’t plan or hope, but it does mean at some point you have to trust that you’ve done everything you can to make that plan happen and realize that the final result is not up to you.
As painful as it is for my anxious brain, I’m going to do my best to avoid predicting exactly when I’ll be taking my next ballroom lesson. I’m going to do my best to trust the flow and not lose heart when it doesn’t bring me to where I want to be when I want to be there. Who knows, maybe there’s something greater out there for me that I haven’t even thought of!
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