Even before I actually read this chapter, the title brought to mind a moment in my life where I learned first hand the absolute joy of surrender.
At this point in my life, I was one of those single mothers working full-time, trying to do great work, be a great mother, and run a household; a lot of balls in the air. It seemed to me, if I stopped and surrendered any control, it would all fall apart. All the balls would fall to the ground and my life would be total chaos.
I was working for a company that had an annual conference and tradeshow. So I had the opportunity to meet and build relationships with people in our industry from all across the country. Before I started working for this company, I sat on the board of advisers for a couple of years, so some of the relationships I had were already in place.
I had a friend named Anthony. He lived in the Chicago area, and so I really only saw him twice a year at most. The first year I met him, we had dinner at the same table and had a nice conversation. The next year when I met him again, I knew he seemed familiar, but couldn’t place him. He reminded me about the dinner. I was embarrassed because I prided myself on remembering people; connecting names and faces was something I took very seriously. After that, he was absolutely imprinted in my mind.
Over the years we developed what I considered to be a real friendship. I came to absolutely adore him. He was smart, insightful, funny, strong. We loved art and shared an obsession with Italian farmhouses. We would stay up into the wee hours of the morning, on the internet looking for our dream property. I think that although we never crossed any seriously romantic lines (he got married in year two of our friendship), there was a palpable connection between us. I think we shared a bit of “what if” in our relationship, but never crossed the borders of friendship.
It was Anthony that gave me my most beautiful experience of surrender; a gift I don’t even think he knows he gave me.
It was the last night of our conference. We had wrapped up in the late afternoon and most of the staff and board that wasn’t local had either red-eyes or flights home early the next morning. Even though I was local, I stayed an extra night to wrap things up the next morning. A group of us decided to go out and get dinner at a local Tapas bar. It was great fun, great food, and probably way too much Sangria.
All week Anthony, an avid salsa dancer, had been cajoling me to go out dancing with him. He kept saying that he wanted to teach me how to Salsa. And although I really did want to go, I kept refusing, mostly because I knew I was a klutz and would make a fool out of myself, and also, I really did have to start work super-early every morning. So, on this final night, with all my excuses now without any merit. I agreed. It may have actually been the Sangria talking and the fact that the dance floor was just upstairs and the music was calling.
At first, I was stiff and overly-controlling. Anthony, knowing me all too well, said to me. “I know this is going to be really hard for you, but you’re going to have to let me lead.” I laughed at him and said, “You know I can’t do that!”, and his response was, “I know, but you’re going to anyway.” I tried, I really did, but I kept trying to control what he did, and then the miraculous Sangria did her magic. I got really dizzy, the room started to spin, I thought I was going to fall and so I gave over the control to Anthony.
He was masterful. He held me tight. He put his hand on the small of my back, lifted me upright, locked eyes with me, and something shifted. I felt safe and confident and I trusted him to take the lead. I don’t remember a time before or since, that I felt so taken care of and yet, so free. By the end of the night, I no longer felt like a klutz, I felt like a beautiful, sexy, completely alive woman. Free and safe and trusting.
It’s an important lesson that I need to remind myself of more often. I still err on the side of trying to stay in control, not letting any balls drop. I still tend to beat myself up when I do. I’ve never found a partner in dance or life that could make me feel the way I did that night. I haven’t even let myself think about it much. I’m so glad it came to mind today. I’m going to add it to my things to meditate on when I feel like I’m holding on to control too tightly.
I haven’t talked to Anthony in a while. I think I might send him this posting just so he knows.