I never thought I would become a country western dancer.
The music was never my favorite, yet it has become a passion of mine. If I had to explain why, I would say it is because in couples dancing we can make contact that is harmonious with the music, with the space and especially with each other. Sure, I have my moments of individuality, which I get to express in a line dance flourish or in the number of times I spin my partner, but its all a part of a community coming together to celebrate our lives, our individuality and our connection to one another.
When I started learning how to 2-step, back when I was also first learning about Gestalt, I found the structure of the dance to be so frustrating and limiting to my prized individual expression. How was I ever going to learn this? How does everybody seem to be able to do this dance except for me? I was so busy counting my steps, that it took me a month of lessons before I could actually dance and talk to my partner at the same time! I saw how much fun others were having and I wanted that for myself, so I persevered.
This process actually opened the world to me, especially given my growing awareness of Gestalt.
I became a living Gestalt process, moving through the various polarities of dance: lead-follow, left-right, forward-back and quick-quick-slow-slow, the way a 2-step dance is counted (at least, on the West Coast). I was also learning the art of the boundary; contact and withdrawal, how we held each other and used the space between and around us, and the quality of the contact. I got to practice my skill of awareness of my inner feelings, my surroundings, my dance partner and especially the music! I soon found that the joy I experienced in the moment of dancing, could be rekindled later in the week simply by humming a song that was one part of all the parts that came together in that magical moment.
One such deeply moving and magical song is ‘Humble and Kind,’ by Tim McGraw. It is a waltz, so the count is 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. It has a simple message: the virtue of being humble and kind. Tim McGraw says he had the song for a long time, but could not sing it without crying until his daughter went off to college.
The lyrics encapsulate words of wisdom to live by, from father to daughter; He has done what he could to prepare her for life and now it’s up to her. The song is steeped in love. He’s not telling her how she should live her life, but instead, saying how much he cares for her and wants happiness for her.
The song starts with a welcoming phrase: “You know there’s a light that glows by the front door, don’t forget the keys under the mat.” He is telling his daughter that she is always welcome home, while he is welcoming us and inviting us to come closer. He then explains how being humble and kind is the key to happiness. I’m reminded of how often I have heard parents trying to teach kindness with familiar phrases like: “hold the door, say ‘please,’ say ‘thank you.’” It is as if all cultures share this universal wisdom, with the common belief that kindness to strangers is the foundation for healthy relationships and getting along with others.
The message of humility as a virtue comes through with this line: “When the dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you’ve put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride but always be humble and kind.”
I have often struggled with this question of what is the right amount of ego for healthy living and happiness. I find solace in these words that say it’s okay to feel pride, or even to be selfish at times, but being big in the world can be challenging and unsustainable, so being right sized is key. Isn’t it better just to be ourselves, that we are enough, and that I am me and you are you?
Tim McGraw is most vulnerable and intimate when he shares: “know the difference between sleeping with someone, and sleeping with someone you love. ‘I love you’ aint no pickup line.” Whether he is speaking to his daughter or to any of us, he is pointing out the difference between sex and love. Both are profound human experiences and can make life choices very complicated. I certainly wish my Dad had been able to share such a message with me when I was setting out in the world!
While the lyrics for this song are inspirational, the images of the music video are deeply spiritual and transcend the human experience. A big ‘thank you’ to Oprah for sharing scenes from OWN’s series “BELIEF.” In these scenes we see people of many cultures who are worshipping, celebrating, dancing, surviving, feeling, living and just being present to themselves. When the song peaks, there is a spaceship flying and then a Native American dancer moving in slow motion in space: a breathtaking and poignant American contrast between our future and our past – inclusive and all welcoming, with a country western flair.
The song ends with this message to pass on: “don’t take for granted the love this life gives you, when you get where you’re going, don’t forget, turn back around, help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind.”
These truly are words to live by, and possibly why I became a psychotherapist. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be of service to others, to help reveal more of the love that is in our lives, and to explore the mystery of our human experience. It truly can be as easy as 1, 2, 3!