My family’s lake cottage is old, almost decrepit, and I still fear its collapse as I lie down on a bed which is adjusted parallel to the floor by the help of a healthy stack of books under two of its legs.
The entire house sags in the center.
It’s really no surprise; the original builder stood the house on aluminum beer kegs. He thought it was an efficient foundation material at the time because he knew the kegs were sturdy and would not corrode or rust. He thought they would do their job for forever.
When we eat corn on the cob and smother our corn in butter, the butter all pools to one side of the plate – the side that’s closest to the middle of the dining room. The kegs are shirking their responsibilities.
On one of the many summer mornings spent at the lake, I had an epiphany that I struggled to wrap my brain around.
I stood at the foot of the twin bed while my mother made it, straightening out the sheets and tucking the corners so perfectly. I leaned forward, gripping the iron rail of the baseboard, trying to comprehend, “So there’s someone out there, anywhere, making a bed or eating mac n’ cheese, or doing anything, right now, the same time as I’m moving and breathing and talking to you?”
The idea that the world didn’t revolve around me was amazing. And shocking. Really, I was coming to realize my place in the universe: that what I was experiencing and doing was not the only existence possible. Many, many, many other people, people I didn’t even know and couldn’t even see, were living in the very same moment I was. I thought the world was on pause if I couldn’t see it.
That was a mind-boggler for my 6 year old self.
It’s amazing how much one can learn with the passing of time.
Practicing tango constantly reminds me that I’m not only having my own experience but someone else is having their own experience, too. In one embrace, there can be two separate experiences as well as one shared experience. It seems like a science fiction time travel story sometimes to me!
This past season, a conflict arose as my ego took me back to that world-revolves-around-me space my 6 year old self occupied that summer at the cottage. I started dancing less and less because I was only dancing with the same people week after week and I knew more than them. This was the biggest lie my ego told me. I was starting to feel bored rather than challenged.
After a few months and a pep talk, I made a commitment to dance straight through a practica. Beginning to end, asking for dances at the end of every damn tanda! Dance after dance, some dances with the same people I danced with frequently, some dances with people I haven’t danced with in over a year!, some dances with strangers, I realized something: I gave my ego no room to comment. I had to be present as each new dance started. Being present made me realize everything NEW that was happening, even in very familiar embraces! That friend’s injury is healing more progressively – she can pivot easier compared to last week. Another dance had music that suited mine and my partner’s tastes and personalities together magically. Another friend was just getting to meet boleos – what fun energy to give and receive, it’s been so long! And hot damn, I have so much I could work on and get better at.
Sometimes, or if you are me, Ego needs to get kicked off the dance floor.
What are some things your ego tells you? When does it help you and when does it hinder you?