August 1, 2013

Thank You for Yelling “Stop.” ~ Mary Stowell

Photo by L.Bö on Flickr.

We all have those moments that stick with us.

Like in a round of  “name your most embarrassing moment” at the dinner table, we all have something that pops out right away. If I’m ever asked this question, I have a “safe” answer to share—I like to be prepared.

Eighth grade. I was carrying my violin down the hall. The floors were wet and slippery and I was wearing my also slippery Keds. I slipped and fell with my violin. Not once. Not twice. Three times! The social studies teacher nearby had to stop his class to come out and help me up. It’s an embarrassing story, but we all giggle and my pride remains unscathed. Always prepared.

For real, I have a more embarrassing story.

To me, it felt humiliating. Maybe it will sound silly to you, but when I do tell it, I still get a little red in the face. It’s so emotional. Set the stage:

College. Ballet Class. My strict, poised teacher, wearing a scarf, dances turns across the room.

Dance has always been a passion of mine, so I had decided on a double-major along with studying to become a teacher. Dance was a language of mine, really. I knew that it would somehow be a part of my future—it had to be!

But dancing turns across the room was a hot mess. This was not a part of my dance language. I felt incredibly inferior to my dance peers, yet when my turn came, there I went: turning and turning and turning.

“Holy crap, I’m dizzy!”

More turning. Then, the teacher suddenly shouted (and to my ears it felt like screaming),


I think the whole room stopped. I did, too. I looked at him like a drunk deer in headlights.

“Stop!” he said again. (I had.) “Do you even know where you are going? You need to slow it down. Figure it out.”

All was said in proper ballet-teacher dialect. And I’m sure there was more, but this is what I remember clearly and vividly. I stopped, walked to the far end and watched the other turners. Why did they make it look so simple, but for me, it just made no sense? When I was spinning, I felt like even my thoughts were spinning. I felt totally out of control.

This story sticks with me now because the lesson I learned from it resonates a lot, at least for me.

As you grow up, if you’re watching closely (and honestly), you start to see patterns in your life. Certain ways that you deal with chaos, pain, stress or fear. We all have habits.

I’m a big-picture kind of gal. I get an idea—usually a really big, awesome, shiny one—and then I want it, like, now. I always seem to forget that, oh yeah, “it’s the journey that counts.” (I’m sure there are a bunch of fantastic quotes that would fit here).

There really is something to be said for having a plan. Or laying out small, measurable goals in order to get to your big goals. Patience. And slowing down, in order to not just get somewhere, but to get there well.

Maybe this resonates with you, too? We’re all so fast-paced now. Maybe I’m not the only one that spins out of control across the room from time-to-time. To be fair, I can see the positive in this crazy, spinning frenzy as well. It is driven by excitement. And passion! And a desire to try even when failure might be inevitable.

Just as it’s painful to watch me turn across the ballet floor like a wild puppy let loose from its cage, I think it’s equally uninspiring to see something done so perfectly, it’s predictable.

So, when that feeling of insane excitement for something big and amazing bubbles up inside of me, I sometimes hear a clear “Stop!” in my head. I’m not as paralyzed anymore when I hear it. I’m not embarrassed, either.

I’m thankful.

I take a breath. I still might move a little bit quicker than I should towards whatever endeavor it is, but I’m aware of where I am. I’m setting up the turn. I’m looking at my focus point. And then, I turn-turn-turn away.

I still get a little dizzy sometimes, while turning and in the excitement of this fast-paced life, but at least I feel like now I can make it to the other end of the room and remember how I got there.

Oh, that journey!

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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