I was talking to a friend today, and remembered a silly story, that was a good reminder about life.
In her early and mid teens, one of my daughters was extremely serious about ballet. It’s a rigorous discipline, EXTREMELY so, for those who are serious about it. And my daughter was very diligent, took ballet classes every day after school and on the weekends, sometimes more than one class, and when she was included in performances of the San Francisco Ballet, she had rehearsals as well as class. For young people who are serious about dancing, it leaves little room for any other activities, and their lives center entirely around the ballet (with some amusing visuals and moments to go with it. I don’t think I ever spoke to her during those years, when she wasn’t stretching one leg or the other high in a doorway, or over her head, while I asked her if she had done her homework or walked the dog). She finally decided to give it up, when a deciding moment came, and she had to give up school and be tutored, or pursue ballet as an amateur and not a young professional and stay in school. She chose school instead, but it was a hard choice, and she was a talented dancer. I’m sure she misses it still, and it taught her a discipline that will serve her all her life.
During those intense years of dancing, I was visiting one of her classes once, taught by a beautiful young French ballet teacher. And the girls, and a few boys, in the class were rehearsing leaps diagonally across the room. Surely not easy, and as they leapt, the kids were frowning and looked intense as they concentrated on what they were doing. And suddenly in the midst of it, the teacher stopped them, put up a hand and walked into the middle of the room.
“No, No, No!” She said emphatically. “NON!” She then said in French. “People go to the ballet to see how beautiful it is, because we make it look effortless and easy. We float through the air, like this!” She demonstrated gracefully, with a look of total peace and happiness on her face. (No frown on her face as she leapt, however hard it was.) She made it look effortless as she sailed through the air. “People go to the ballet,” she explained further, “to say ‘Aaahhhh’ as they watch us,” her ‘ahhhh’ was a sound of pure bliss and admiration. “Not to say ‘Ohhh’ because we make it look so difficult and hard to do.” So after that, the kids wiped the frowns off their faces as they did it again, and she was satisfied with the results. But it was a lesson for me too.
So often when I do difficult things, or my life becomes a juggling act of things to accomplish—how easy or difficult do I make it look? I tell everyone how hard something was, how much went into it, or what an agony it was. Definitely an ‘Ohhh’, as I impress them with my courage and the difficulty of the task at hand. And how much more appealing and magical when I make something look easy, and don’t explain the agony that went into it. It is indeed much more charming when we make our lives look easy ( and don’t complain all the time) and make those who watch us say ‘Aaaahhh’ in admiration, and not ‘Ohhh’ in sympathy as they watch us struggle through our own leaps. I kind of like the idea of making it look effortless, as much as possible, and having those who watch me say ‘Aaahh’ as they watch me appear to land gracefully ( no matter how much work it took), rather than showing them what a struggle as we all do, and try to land gracefully on my feet. There’s a real feeling of accomplishment to making life look easy. I like the idea of having people say ‘Aaah’ as they watch me, rather than ‘Ohhh’ when I show how difficult it is. The grace of that young dance teacher as she demonstrated the difference has always stayed with me, as a valuable lesson in life.