When I was dancing, one of my favorite compliments from a teacher or another dancer was "you were really taking up space!" or "you tore that space up!". It meant that I seemed larger than myself, my limbs extending past their earthly bounds. I ached to move across the floor as if I had an extra inch or three of thigh bone.
Being somewhat shy and passive, and also quite short-limbed, I coveted this compliment above all others. I printed out the word "ROBUST" and taped it on my mirror. I tried attacking every movement as if desperately drowning.
I wanted to be robust, to dance BIG, to matter on a stage or a class, in life. I wanted to matter and I thought mattering meant big tricks and big moments.
Then I began to study the dancers who captured my eye. I noticed that not only could they "dance big" but they had perfect control over the small, subtle moments too. Even standing still, they could tell a whole story, evoking sadness or exhaustion or exhilaration with every muscle fiber. Calibrating effort as carefully as a surgeon, they could send shockwaves through an audience with the tilt of their head, the flick of their wrist. The older I got, the more I realized the importance of the smallest moments, the transitions, the moments of stillness or seeming inconsequence that could convey volumes when delivered with purpose and intention. During the last years of my dancing, it seemed I finally started to find that nuance myself. The power of the small moments became my obsession and I found the big moments, the big tricks, rather boring.
I think about this a lot these days, these seemingly small, inconsequential days. As a stay-at-home mother at the moment, my world, my life can feel so small, so inconsequential. The days spent wiping and tidying and stacking and hand-holding can go by in a blur as if I'm just biding time and wishing I could rush toward the BIG TRICK.
This last week, we've all been sick and my world feels like it has contracted inward even further. I've got bronchitis after the flu, E has an ear infection after having a cold, Z has a low grade fever and a cold and .... a bad case of the threes. I try not to yearn for some BIG moment in the future. I am searching for meaningful impact in the small moments. How much it means that I am here with Z, stroking her forehead while she watches Kipper. How each moment holding E as she whimpers at night, groggy and uncomfortable, is a gift of love.
So when I find myself wishing these days away, I try to stop myself and imagine what power each small moment in our lives can have. I may not be on a stage anymore but I can imbue this moment, with this audience, with extraordinary, big, ROBUST love.