My Afterlife Series - Will You Dance at the Party?

By Susan Keats, Contributor &  Seize-the-Day Propagandist

I am running down the hall. In the living room there is a party going on and women are dancing to the music. I’m nervous. Very very nervous. One of the women calls to me. Suuuusaaaaan. Its yooooouuurr turrrrnnn! She has a feather boa in her hands and she wants me to shimmy my way into the center of the circle and hoochie koo around with the birthday gal. So instead, I am running down the hall and hiding in the kitchen. Nightmare? No. Totally true. The idea of dancing, letting myself go, being uninhibited in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know was so uncomfortable, there was no way I was going to dance at that party. No way. Which is odd, because I love to dance.

On my way home I thought about my behavior. Why had I done that? Why did the idea of dancing in front of all those people seem to be more awful than fun? I mean… I’ve been known to do the funky chicken… around the house….in front of my mirror…alone. Don’t you do that? I wondered about myself. Is this really you? You can’t just be silly and have fun in front of other people? What’s THAT about? I cranked up my radio and sang loudly, cabaret style, all the way home. I wasn’t much in the mood for self-reflection.

I didn’t think about it again until one day my cousin put a very silly hat on my head and suggested that I wear it out. I was instantly mortified. There they were, all those feelings again. I didn’t want to feel foolish, ridiculous, embarrassed and self-conscious. I wanted that hat OFF! I didn’t want to be the center of attention…what would people think of me?

And there it was. What will people think?

This is why I call cancer the great clarifier and creator of strange silver linings. With days and weeks and months to contemplate my existence, a few things became breathtakingly clear. Why the heck was I even remotely concerned about what people thought? Why is it that what I’m guessing is in your head is more important to me than what is in my own? Why oh why did I ever stop myself from feeling joy because I was more concerned about what someone else was possibly thinking? Why am I doing the funky chicken in the closet?

I don’t have to look far to find “be yourself” inspiration from my own family. Today my daughter has pinned her hair up like a movie star from the 1940s. She loves dressing up in vintage clothing. She has put on deep red lipstick and walks glamorously to the door with her backpack on her shoulders. She goes to school this way. I admire her bravery but I wonder how the other kids react to her style. We all know teens can be particularly cruel. I asked her about it and this is what she told me:

I get lots of positive comments from people and lots of other kids stare at me and give me strange looks. Those kids are basically telling me that they want me to conform. I make them uncomfortable by not trying to be like everyone else. I take it as a compliment because I don’t want to be like everyone else.

Wow. I hope she holds onto that forever. I hope she doesn’t need some awful illness to teach her to never give up those things that bring her happiness. Fabulous.

There will never be another day that I don’t adorn myself with something that makes me feel good or that expresses who I am. I will never again stop myself from doing something that I love because I’m too concerned about what might be going on in someone else’s head. How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something that brings you joy because you were overly concerned about what other people might think? I know you have because I tried to get you to dance at my party and I think you said you had a broken foot.

OK so maybe shaking your groove thing isn’t your idea of joy, but for me, the saying is true: life is too short to not dance at the party.

What is stopping you from doing things that bring you happiness?

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Tags: cancer, friendship, health, illness, keats, recovery, support, susan

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