Reflections In The Desert

I said in my last post that the trip to Las Vegas provided an opportunity for me to shed my default perceptions about myself and explore some new possibilities. Or, at least, I said something like that. The world around me in Las Vegas was so dramatically different from where I routinely live, my pre-programmed brain pathways went all wackadoodle. Because I was unable to rely on those pre-programmed thought processes, my brain had to figure out whole new ways of thinking about the world and about myself. The trip was another dramatic and somewhat disconcerting episode in the “I have turned into a completely different person” saga I have been living the last couple of years. I have become so extra. I was weird before, but now I’m even weirder- but I am largely unabashed about it now.

It all started on the plane ride. I was sitting between Max and a strange guy. When I say “strange,” I mean “unknown to me” as opposed to “odd” or “sketchy.” Even though he wasn’t odd or sketchy, I was still anxiety-ridden. My biggest fear is being trapped in the middle seat of an airplane with a chatty stranger sitting practically in my lap for four and a half hours. Usually, I employ whatever strategies I can concoct to ward off people like this, especially men. That was my initial reaction this time, too. I soon realized I was using way more energy to resist the attempts to engage that I would use if I just allowed the conversation to unfold and trust myself to cope with it. I changed tactics. I answered his questions and asked some questions of him… just like a normal human being. I realized that this man was purposely engaging with me to chat rather than avoiding contact with me because I am so repulsive and off-putting. Recognizing that truth made it much easier to go with the flow.

Later that evening, we went to a Neil Diamond tribute show. We had excellent seats, and it was a small venue. The performer seemed to be singing right to me. Normally, I would have felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. I would have tried to shrink into my seat. This time, though, I leaned into the moment. I smiled and let my body move in time to the music. I enjoyed the attention… or, at least, my perception of attention. Either way, I had a great time.

The next evening, we went to a Bee Gees tribute show. We had great seats, but this was a larger venue and I doubt the singers were identifying too many individual audience members. At one point early in the show, the performer playing Robin Gibb interacted with the crowd to learn how far people had traveled to see the show. The winners were a table of 6 or 7 Brazilians at the back of the theater. That point was going to become more important later in the show. Towards the end of the concert, the performer playing Maurice Gibb began exhorting people in the audience to come up to an area at the foot of the stage to dance. He ran over to that space, which he dubbed “Club Mo.” The band began playing “You Should Be Dancing.”

I initially experienced a brief rush of desire to go join Club Mo. It was a faint stabbing somewhere below and to the right of my stomach. It might have hit me on one side of my large intestine. My reaction to that impulse was fear and horror at my own audacity. At any rate, I immediately squelched the idea because it “isn’t something I do.”  The table of Brazilians immediately sauntered over to Club Mo. Really, they danced their way over, moving gracefully and rhythmically from the far corner of the room all the way to the front. Their movements resembled a combination of a conga line and a carefully choreographed ballet sequence. A few other people hesitantly got up to dance under the neon “Club Mo” sign at the front of the showroom.

My squelched desire to join the dance brigade unsquelched itself. I had an absolute compulsion to get up and enter the Bee Gees mosh pit. I wanted to join the dancer brigade but was worried that it would look weird. That scary stuff ran through my mind in about a nanosecond. On instinct and self-acceptance, I rose from my seat to join the Club Mo dancing. I’d say there were about thirty of us dancing at the front of the showroom. The Brazilians made me feel super welcome. Every time I turned away from their little group, one of them would tap me on the shoulder to rejoin their circle. Max was grinning and pumping his fist at me. There was no alcohol involved in this little episode, but the whole thing was such a rush. And so unlike me.

The next day, I noticed some pretty bracelets in a store. They had various versions of the same bracelet, with different words engraved on them. They highlighted different words- “thankful,” “courageous,” “faithful,” “strong,” etc. I was trying to pick between them. I felt drawn to “happiness,” but kept redirecting myself to one of the more virtuous ones. I had it narrowed down to “faithful” or “thankful,” but part of me still nagged to opt for “happiness.” I finally realized I genuinely wanted the “happiness” one, so I bought it.

On the plane ride home, I realized what a metaphor that bracelet dilemma was for my life. I’ve never felt I was simply entitled to happiness. The only way I thought I might be deserving of some glimpse of happiness was if I earned it by being good. Of course, being virtuous does not mean I am going to be happy. And I do not have to be virtuous to merit happiness. I do get a lot of satisfaction from trying to manifest the virtuous attributes engraved on those bracelets, but those virtuous attributes are not, on their own, some sort of happiness-attracting talisman. When I started thinking through all this, I started to cry… mostly because it felt so good to realize this is a “depths of my soul” kind of way , but also because I was sad for the me of the past who didn’t understand it.

So, you see… travel, even to one of the most artificial cities in the world, does expand the open mind and authentic spirit. The reflective life in Las Vegas may not look like what most people think of as a spiritual retreat in the desert… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be one!

What weird place have you discovered some profound truths about yourself? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a happiness day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

We all deserve happiness!

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