On Calgary’s record-breaking hottest day, I went with friends to see Mamma Mia (the sequel) to beat the heat. My sister had given me a head’s up that I would see myself on screen in the character of Donna (Meryl Streep) in the flashback to her youth. What I did not anticipate was the gushing flood of emotions I would feel watching a depiction of a girl so much like me, in a country I traveled to twice and adored with every fibre of my being.
The music and epoch of the movie mirrored my life perfectly, so much so that when Abba’s Dancing Queen was a massive hit, I was a 17-year-old sneaking into cabarets in my flowing white dress and dancing the nights away, an embodiment of the song (… she is the dancing queen, young and free, only 17 …) and in 1979 (as they tagged the era) I turned 19. Donna’s free-spirited “naughtiness,” her joie de vivre, and even her hair was a freakish replication of me.
If you were to see a movie of yourself in your youth, what do you think your response would be? I felt an intense stab of loss for the overflowing abundance of carefree fun and wildness of that era; both in my own life and of the planet’s evolution. For half of the show, tears streamed—sans restraint—down my face.
The movie is, as was the first one, full of colour and vibrant nuttiness. Greece is a country that has been calling my name again for a long, long time and seeing the beauty and antiquity gave me pangs of longing for a place that matches the frequency of my soul.
What struck me was that girls just wanna have fun—forever. Life brings seriosity as the years slip by; society dictates age-appropriateness—to the detriment of joy. Fear reigns us in like slaves in chains to keep us from wandering out of line. Trials and tribulations wear our nerve and verve to a nubbin.
Must we deteriorate and decline into monotony as we age? We see cultural patterns around us that tell us so. We listen to people’s stories of their infirmities and lists of prescriptions told as though it is the absolute and unalterable blueprint of aging.
And then there are the outliers. We rarely see them in day-to-day life, but when we do, they shine brightly in the sea of mediocrity. They are uncommonly fit for their age and walk with youthful strides. They are octegenarian fashion icons who flout old lady clothing and wouldn’t be caught dead in Fitovers. They fearlessly engage in a variety of activities, or travel the world, or are learning a new language. They don’t have time for complaint or commiseration; they’re living life productively and passionately.
Personally, I’d like more of that young girl back. I may have a lot of years behind me and a slew of setbacks since then, but as I watched Mamma Mia, I wondered, how do I regain some of the spiritedness and enthusiasm I once had?
Some of my navel gazing may strike a chord with you …
When I snuck into those cabarets and nightclubs, I was a disco queen in a Saturday night fever. Next, I was a two-stepping urban cowgirl. I was one of the first in Edmonton to learn the ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’—and danced it on a bar top in Santorini when they played the out-of-context song one steamy night on a trip to the Greek Isles. Later, I traded my cowboy boots and hat for heels and sassy skirts salsa-ing the weekends away to spicy Latin music.
For four years I faithfully went 3-5 times a week (even with a sprained ankle I’d gotten in Oaxaca) to the Latin Corner Dance Studio with two picante Dominicano brothers who inspired me to dance my ass off in their Latin aerobics classes. It kept my mood balanced and I was in the best shape of my life. While I was away for cancer crap, the studio folded. I’ve staked out the city for a replacement, but I’ve yet to find that inner fire and motivation to keep my interest piqued.
If there’s one thing that keeps a person young, it’s dancing. And I know in my heart that my body needs to dance. Is there something you’ve abandoned that brings you alive?
When we’re young, we have a natural energy. As time progresses, energy drains can overwhelm us and the lure of the couch becomes a siren song. My biggest energy vampire: worry and fear. We often have expectations of our future based on our past. Our historical “evidence” leads us to assumptions about what will happen in our future. To the mind, it appears to be productive to rehash problems in an effort to fix them. But in fact, the rational mind seldom has the appropriate answer. It is the higher self—the heart—that has the solutions. Whenever I reserve judgment of a difficult situation and stay grounded in faith of a new outcome, my joie de vivre reappears.
In The Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz wisely tells us: take nothing personally. All too often we’re offended by, well, almost everything. Someone gives us their off-the-cuff opinion and we decide not to speak to them ever again. Our company changes a policy and we think it’s directed specifically at us. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we wish we could tell them where to go—or we do tell them where to go. Sometimes we think the whole Universe is conspiring against us.
You’ll notice that people in the 20s and 30s seldom focus on who’s out to get them; they’re too busy having fun! Complaining how bad life is or who done us wrong never, ever improves the quality of our lives and it turns us into crusty curmudgeons people are quick to avoid.
My last bit of ponderance is, just say yes. We can come up with a hundred reasons for not doing things. But how about saying yes, just for the hell of it? I’m not fond of finding costumes for events, but I’ve been invited to an upcoming Prohibition Party and I said yes. I just found the most amazing headpiece for my Flapper outfit that will look grand.
Rather than give in to ennui, pull yourself together and step away from the trail of tradition. Viva la vida loca!
Post © Wanda St.Hilaire
This fusion guidebook-memoir helps navigate prevention as much as it is for the those diagnosed with disease; it is a resource for living life to the fullest. St. Hilaire presents simple-to-digest material and wisdom woven with insightful anecdotes. She provides an invaluable amalgamation of research in a context not always accessible at your cancer centre.
“What a remarkable mixture of facts, data, research, warmth, humour, compassion, inspiration, vulnerability and courage!”
-Dianne Quinton, Coach