Circles Around The Sun

I attended a business retreat in Virginia Beach a couple of weeks ago.

It was a small gathering and, as sometimes happens in my profession, I found myself the only man in attendance.

After doing this work for over two decades and being the one man in the room on more occasions than I can count, I really don’t think about it anymore. I’m not sure how much I ever thought about it.

When I was 20-something and one of very few men in the dance classes I took in undergraduate school, I imagined there might have been some collateral benefit beyond learning to move. At that stage of young adulthood, though, most of my energy went into making art and fostering my image as the angst-ridden, forever misunderstood, suffering creative.

The art making was conscious. That image, not so much.

For some reason, all that angst and suffering disappeared when I clicked into a pair of skis, but my levels of discernment were kind of limited in those early years. It never occurred to me that I might have imported some of that presence and confidence into the dry-land season.

Looking back now, I see the young man I was as a two-season dude: Ski Season and Artistic Angst Season.

Funny thing is, I do not recall longing for Artistic Angst during the winters.

But I clearly remember longing for the next snow to fly from the time I hung up my gear every spring. (That hasn’t changed much, though I have fallen hard for spring and summer flowers. And time at the beach is very, very good…)

Regardless of the season and the ratios of men to women, I was also a hopeless romantic. Casual hook-ups, which were decades away from having such an easy, useful name – to say nothing of becoming a culture unto themselves – didn’t have much appeal.

For me it was gonna be true love or nothing at all.

I can’t help but laugh about all of this as I write!

Part of the laughter is seeing so clearly how much energy that younger man poured into his (honestly) clueless desire to find his Hallmark-worthy princess on a sparkling unicorn…

Another part of the laughter is this: She would be my savior, tasked with endlessly rescuing my ever-suffering rump!

Alrighty, then…

Of course, that’s a level of wacky an order of magnitude beyond reason. Can you begin to imagine the kind of pressure and weird responsibility that would put on both the relationship and my partner?

(And if you know my wife, you’d know that the rescue routine would… Well, it just wouldn’t. Thank goodness!)

So why am I sharing all this?

First, it’s a reminder that, when one looks back with an open mind, there’s likely to be no shortage of change to be found.

Second, a nod to Bruce Springsteen’s words from “Rosalita,” “Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny.”

Thanks Boss. Right on!

There are bits of wisdom, their seeds nurtured in experience that comes with circling the sun a few dozen times since those days of young adulthood.

For one thing, the seasonal gap between levels of presence and confidence seems to have ironed itself out rather nicely. Angst and suffering? Thanks, but the allure went away years ago.

And though I can see the younger version of me was lacking in the self-awareness department, he never felt the need to prove his manhood. He wondered what it might mean to be a man, but he didn’t question or doubt that he was one.

He didn’t care much about being the only man in the room. It simply wasn’t a thing worthy of worry or concern.

He danced for the same reasons he skied and made art. Those things spoke to him and, odd as the angsty bits might seem, they were part of his chosen identity at that stage. In his own way, he enjoyed himself, commitment to suffering and all.

Were I to pass him on the street, I’d tip my hat and give him a cheeky wink. If he asked, I’d tell him to stay the course.

I’d let him know that this never-ending business of becoming takes time, experimentation, and a willingness to endure the inevitable crash and burn episodes, and a few heartbreaks.

I might also let him know that the man he’s become loves him like crazy, and that he’s a source of joy beyond his wildest imaginings…

But I’m not sure he’d get it.

I suspect, with all that angst and suffering to get past, he’d need a few more circles around the sun for that message to land.