In 2015, in September, I heard the song, “I hope you dance.” I’d heard it before. But I’d never heard it through those ears. The ears of a 33-year-old-mother who might have breast cancer. The ears of a woman who three days before, had found a lump. And three hourse before, had her first mammogram. The ears of a woman who feared she’d be leaving her children. And so the words, “I hope you dance” were more poignant and profound than they’d ever been able to be before that day. That moment.
I wish, sometimes, that it weren’t so cliche. That maybe I’d heard Judah and the Lion singing “Back’s against the wall” or “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan. But it wasn’t. It was, “I hope you dance” that sent me from the room, tears streaming down my face, running as fast as I could from the lyrics that were weighing down my heart with each beat. I cried and I thought of holding my babies over the next year, as I battled a life-threatening illness. And I saw life, and that song, so hard in that moment.
Through my intensive treatment — 2015 and 2016 — I listened over and over to other lyrics. Lyrics that brought me to my knees, brought me to tears, and ones that had me in a state of happy. I listened to words that eased my pain. And that stirred my hurt.
And ones that pushed me. Fueled me. As I ran a 5k in the bitter cold of February in the Midwest. I ran. My feet pounding beneath caped-socks bearing the Wonder Woman logo. I ran… focusing just on getting one foot in front of the other. That’s where I was in life. I couldn’t look ahead. Not too far. I could only just focus on one foot taking the next step. And I listened over and over to, “I lived” by OneRepublic.
I thought of it, “With every broken bone, I swear, I lived.” I wanted to live. I wanted to live even in the moments where I feared parts of the self I’d known, was dying. I wanted to live not just to breathe. I wanted to be alive. And so I did. I lived.
And in 2017, that became my mantra. Those lyrics. “I did it all.”
And I hoped my boys, too… by husband, too… my people, too… would do. it. all.
I went skydivin.
I spoke. And spoke. And spoke.
I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
I went on my first mission trip. I rested in the peace and the place of God.
I traveled to a few more states with my children and my husband in pursuit of our 50 state goal.
I took steps to “grow-up” my blog.
I ran a half marathon aside one of my best friends. My husband. My dad. My brother.
I spoke in front of 1500 people. And cried. And laughed. I got paid to speak. I got paid to share.
I took time to be with the ones I love most. I got to help people I love and people I barely know.
And I did a ton of other stuff, too.
In 2017. I felt ALIVE.
Still doing some treatment and surgeries, I continued a life as a survivor. But I also thrived.
It was really almost everything I needed 2017 to be for my very little self. Although I know it wasn’t so much everything for the world we are surrounded by. It was everything for my healing heart and body.
And then. We have arrived again. At a New Year.
And I have musts. Because I have lived. And now, I must dance. I must just absolutely kick my heels up and wave my hands in the air and be carried by the rhythm that life provides. And yet… hear the music when there is none to be had.
I have musts for this coming 365.
I must keep my body healthy. And realize that there is no silver bullet for that. There is no constant answer to that for me. Or for anyone. That will continually change with the day, the age, and the life.
I must make memories and live experiences with my boys and my husband. We must see new places, spend time with familiar faces. We must grow. And though growing is hard and work, we will persist. And though we are each of us different, we will respect that and understand that there is good reason God made us all different. We will become and unbecome together.
I must speak. I must continue to book speaking opportunities. I must start my Podcast in the second-half of 2018. I must share because that’s what I know how to do.
I must continue to be me in all my me-ness. In all of my adventures. I must realize that I am me for a reason and therefore, I must try to do it up, in all its glory.
I must continue to write. I must send my book to eyes of those who want a look. I must decide how my words will be given wings. If they will.
I must scale back on the volume of social media and instead focus on what type of impact I want to use it for. I must continue to grow my blog. But figure out what that looks and feels like to me.
I must prioritize the relationships that mean the most. And yet, learn as many people’s stories as I can. For those are both things that fuel me.
I must continue to love. And respect. And understand. And pray.
I must give more goodness. I must give more to my friendships. I must give more time to the people who are life-giving. And give less to things that are life-sucking.
I must continue to breathe in the moments. And breathe out the bullshit.
I must remain cancer-free.
I must listen to music. Sing. And dance. And I must play my guitar at least once a week. And learn how to play my song of the year: I hope you dance.
What are your musts for the year? What do you believe you MUST do? Survive? Breathe? Be? Dream bigger? Rock the boat? Just stay on the boat? Not sink? Or something TRULY extraordinary?!
The song in my heart for 2018 will be the one that I heard two years ago. Because maybe, after all, that song wasn’t playing to make me sad… to make me think I was leaving my babies… my husband… my family… my friends… maybe it was instead a reminder in advance to tell me that as I was about to go into battle, to dance. Maybe it was my reminder that even when life gets hard and mangled, and different than we envisioned it, we are meant still, to dance. And indeed, it serves as my reminder every day now that come what may — to dance.
They aren’t my words. They aren’t new. But they have new meaning. And I hope that if I can give you all anything, it can be to remind you to dance. To do it all. To live. And that whatever shit or wonder comes upon you:
“…when you get the choice to sit it out, or dance…”