Last Saturday I invited myself to the dance recital of a beautiful high school sophomore named Caroline. She’s one of my friend Chuck’s daughters. It was the last night of my recent visit to Los Angeles – my second trip to LA in one month. I sat on the bleachers wedged between Chuck and one of his other daughters. Looking around I felt a knot of emotion form in my throat. This was my first time in a high school gymnasium since I was in my early 20s, so my first thought about the knot of emotion was that it was one triggered by nostalgia for the years when I was co-captain of my high school pom-pon squad, dancing a half time show during basketball and football games. But then one of the first group of dancers took the stage. They happened to be a group of 4 year olds who were about to perform a routine that was choreographed by the West Lake High School Dance Team. The little girls enthusiastically ran into place with their ribbon-tied pig tails bouncing. The knot of emotion spread and I felt my eyes begin to burn. The lights dimmed, the music started and the girls began to dance. Most were about 3 steps behind their coaches, who were dancing in front of them. They turned the wrong direction, ran into each other, stumbled, and proudly smiled while they clapped their hands, off-rhythm. By now the knot of emotion couldn’t contain itself and I realized tears were periodically escaping my eyes. Why was I crying? I didn’t feel either sad or happy, it was weird. Maybe it was because these little girls were so adorable? When the routine ended, I discreetly tried to wipe away my tears so Chuck and his family wouldn’t see them. It was dark, maybe he wouldn’t notice. However, the tears grew stronger with each performance. I looked down at my feet and tried to concentrate on my breathing, willing myself to pull it together. Maybe I was emotional because I was exhausted with travel and with the emotions surrounding the recent unexpected ending of my consulting contract? For the last few weeks I’ve felt heavy, weighted down by the very adult issues with which I’ve had to deal.
After several deep breaths I began to feel like I had collected myself just in time for Caroline’s routine with 46 other dancers. I glanced at the large projected screen to see the name of their dance medley: “Sassy Cowgirls.” They were all dressed as cowgirls, with boots, jeans, flannel shirts and cowgirl hats. Shit, this wasn’t going to be pretty. Anyone who has read my blog knows how important it is to me to channel the cowgirl spirit when times get rough. Well, times are now a bit rough. As they started dancing I knew I didn’t stand a chance…by now I couldn’t contain the tears at all.
We are truly blessed in life if we are lucky enough to find just one friendship as authentic and special as mine with my friend Chuck. Chuck is one of those rock solid, salt of the earth people who carries with him sage wisdom and a strength of character like none I’ve ever seen. He’s funny, loyal to those he loves, and a single father to 6 beautiful daughters. He’s helped me move twice, has helped me process numerous personal crises, believes in me, and has proved to be the mentor I have always looked for in business. He knows my darkest secrets, and still accepts me without judgment. So, in the midst of my flood of tears last Saturday, I looked at Chuck with wet cheeks and pathetically whispered “I can’t stop crying, I don’t know what is wrong with me.” He squeezed my shoulder and smiled. He understood.
He knew that my tears were a release of emotion, a result of this night serving as a reminder to me to live life with spirit of a cowgirl. That’s the spirit that those 4 year old girls have – living a carefree life where one’s biggest daily decisions involve which Barbie doll to play with. It’s also the spirit of the teenage girl whose boyfriend walked onto the stage on Saturday with a bouquet of roses, took the microphone and asked her to prom. She ran into his arms and kissed him, right there in front of the audience-packed bleachers. It’s also the spirit of Caroline and her Period 3 Dance PE Class, all lost in the moment of dancing their Sassy Cowgirl dance routine.
I was still choked with emotion the next morning as I stared out the airplane window while flying home to Austin. I believe the Universe is constantly blasting us with signs, signs to help us understand and signs to help us find our way. Looking past the wing of the plane to a little lake surrounded by the mountains below, I contemplated how lately I’ve become single-focused on all the grown-up issues in my life. Caroline’s dance routine was a reminder that my inner-child will always be there, waiting for permission to be set free to dance the Sassy Cowgirl.
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