For the past 6 months I have been taking dance lessons. Dance Class for most men in the US is often viewed as anywhere from ridiculous, to subtly acceptable as wedding preparation. Here in Hamburg however, it is not only widely accepted, but seen as a right of passage for both boys and girls.
As such, I have class once a week with my host sister, our friend/her dance partner, and my dance partner where we learn (starting with the basics) a multitude of dance types from discofox to Viennese Waltz and even some Salsa moves. This weekend, we missed dance class so my friend and I tried to go to the Monday class. Our dance partners were both busy, so we went hoping there would be a few more girls than guys, as often occurs.
To our bad luck, we got there a few minutes late and everyone was already dancing with a partner. Usually, we would just wait and switch in, but there were already two other boys waiting and we decided to spend our time elsewhere.
At first, I was a bit sad, as I was very much looking forward to one of my last dance lessons, but then my friend suggested we play tennis instead. Not going to lie, my tennis skills (if you can even call them that) leave much to be desired, but I hadn't played in a year and was really excited to get back on a court.
We met up with two more friends, one of whom brought me a spare racket, and we were able to play a few double matches. I ended up being on the winning team for all of them, despite clearly being the worst player there, and even after switching teams at the end. I guess sometimes luck and a bit of teamwork can go a long way.
Running home, it dawned on me that what could have simply ended up as a missed opportunity to learn a few new dance moves turned out to be a great time bonding with some friends, and even being able to, in a private club nonetheless, play for the first time on a clay court.
While travelling, it is easy to become upset due to a missed flight, an overbooked restaurant, or whatever else doesn't go exactly as planned, but one missed opportunity can often lead to new and unexpected adventures.
Photo is of the both of us right before our Graduation Ball, after completing our first 3-month class
After my meditation I snuggled-up under my duvet, still in meditative mode, still watching my breath - in and out. As I allowed my mind to wander again, a little bit, I noticed a reflection of the window pane on the ceiling, eerily looking like a face, with two squares for eyes and a big rectangular shape for a mouth. Strange, I thought, and tried to close my eyes to sleep. Thoughts came in and out. I had met a good old friend of mine, actually, exactly a week back. It was really wonderful to catch up with him after 11 long years. We were high school buddies who lost track of each other as soon as we moved away in our own directions. We met again, in London, and caught up with 11 years worth of stuff and also on some memories. He showed me an old class photograph of ours and we tried to name all our classmates (which we did). Oddly, though, we couldn't remember the name of a stodgy character in the middle of the front row, our class teacher!
Anyway, it was nice. That was a week back but I felt something lingering inside me, some thought, some odd feeling. I couldn't understand it. Was it a person? A memory? An incident? Or something we talked about? I couldn't get to grips with it. But as I was trying to drift away into sleep tonight, it came to me! It was indeed a person. A fellow student in our class photograph who is sadly not among us anymore. He passed away before we left school. I don't want to name him. He suffered from some kind of disease (I can't remember what it was exactly but something like a motor neuron disease) and he had to be on a wheel-chair all the time. We had become good friends. In fact I often helped him take his books out of his bag which hung around behind his wheel-chair. I always thought the wheel-chair was pretty cool! How awful a thought!!! It was gadgetry that caught my attention! Coming to think of him now, after all these years, what was really cool was his spirit. That is what this post is about.
This wheel-chaired friend of mine never complained. He was happy. He was content. He was competitive and he did his best. But we lost him way too early. I wondered what he would've been doing now if he was still around. But that class photo brought back something else for me, a feeling. I felt I am ungrateful, often. Here I was looking at the picture of an old friend who had a tough time compared to all his other friends. He couldn't do many of things we did. He couldn't go out play like us. Kick a ball around. Run. Walk. Dance. Jump. He couldn't even bunk lessons without being caught! He couldn't, but we could. We could do so much more but we never looked at it that way; at least I didn't. I'm sure he must have also felt a sense of loss, a sense of incapability, but he always looked fine and cheerful. In fact, most of us, the more capable ones, were the miserable ones. When I saw his picture again, he reminded me that I have so much to be really really happy about. So much to be grateful for. But I take all of it for granted, in search of the next fix.
My friend, I'm sure, struggled a lot. Life wouldn't have been easy for him but he kept at it. He went ahead and did the things he wanted to and could. Nothing else mattered. He just did it! And here I am, and most of us, not reflecting on what we have and not having the courage to just go ahead and be what we can be. We get stuck with what we have, good or bad. Who wants to change? Who really wants to improve? Who is really, really, the life-long learner among us? Most things are hum-drum. Routine stuff. This and that. Here and there. And life goes by. We have so much foundation on which to really build on, but we don't. We remain ungrateful and cowardly. I think making use of every thing we already have is also a way of showing gratitude, don't you think so? We should rightfully build on everything we have. We owe it to all the people and things in our lives. To squander away all those things we should be grateful for, is, ultimately, squandering away a life that could have been. My friend reminded me that tonight, almost as if by saying "dude! What exactly are YOU complaining about? You have so much. Build and grow and be happy for heaven's sake". He is right. I don't think of what I already have, at least not often enough. That is certainly one of the things I need to work on in the coming year. My friend also reminded me that there shouldn't be anything, really, holding me back either. He didn't worry about how he will be perceived in school. He didn't worry about norms and standards - someone else's standards! He had a benchmark of his own and he worked towards that. I too need that kind of courage. I think we all need to go that extra mile, set higher and higher standards for ourselves. Do you know why? BECAUSE WE CAN! That is what my friend has reminded me. He is certainly still around and I'm grateful for that.
Well, let's do this.
I missed two days in a row. Inexcuseable, I know. Oddly enough, I totally made it when I had a girl in my bed waiting for me...but not when there was nothing but my exhaustion in my way. Go figure, eh?
Which means that I've got three hours of writing today.
This little catchup does offer an interesting opportunity though. Long and deep flow.