December 28, 2015 - 7:53 AM
My brother stood positioned on one side of the tree while my mother fiddled anxiously on the other.
“Watch her, please,” my dad cautioned them both.
Again, louder, “watch her, please, you two.” There was a sense of urgency, a sense of distress in his voice.
Those of us who weren’t the designated spotters sat back laughing as we watched my 98-year-old grandmother prance around the room trying to act out the phrase “don’t burn a bridge you may want to cross again.”
The condition of family gatherings at my parents' place has always been the inclusion of these sorts of games — the ones created to make one person uncomfortable while everyone else gets their jollies on — but this was the first time charades had been brought to the table.
My aunt — defiant as ever in her late seventies — said, “I do not act.” My brother’s girlfriend — the newest addition to the family — almost cried. My Dad sat with his arms crossed and eyes closed in his favorite chair while my husband and I got the stink eye from everyone else, being the ones who suggested it in the place of Pictionary.
Alas, we all knew how it worked — if mom approved, we went ahead with it.
And so it came to pass that we all gathered around in the living room and prepared our most awkward Oscar-winning performances.
We are born with a remarkable ability to present our most creative selves with little-to-no shame. We draw pictures of crooked rainbows that we expect to be hung in public places, forever. We dance, overly-enthusiastically, down the aisles of grocery stores while singing off-key versions of Disney classics. We write stories about pet lizards that we show to everyone and yet, the older we get and the greater honed our talents are, the more fearful we are of the showcase.
It’s not that I believe we all need to be shameless when it comes to presenting ourselves in public — I’ve organized enough youth talent shows to know this is not the case — but there is a level of bravery that needs to exist when it comes to sharing the vulnerable parts of ourselves. This is especially important when the audience is one we trust whole-heartedly to accept and support the outcome, no matter what.
When we hold ourselves back from experimenting with new expressions of self when it’s safe, we prevent growth. It is as if to say we are content with who we are and have no further desire to reach for more. We become hypocrites, wanting a future that doesn’t resemble the past but unwilling to do anything differently.
As New Years Eve approaches, I’ve been thinking about the leaps and bounds we are forced to take — sometimes blindly — in order to reach new heights. These changes are always uncomfortable and rarely ever expected in the capacity they reach us in, but we manage.
Not only do we manage, oftentimes we thrive because of them.
As a fresh calendar draws nearer — an excuse to begin again, even though we know we can make the choice to do that right now — I am trying my best to remember that expanding is good and expanding is how we become the people we hope to be. I am trying to remind myself that stretching isn’t always comfortable, nor does it feel like it’s what we’re made to do — but it is how we become flexible. It is how we become capable. It is how we grow.
As the new year approaches, I am trying to keep the picture of my grandmother — braving our laughter, braving her balance — vivid in my mind.
It is never too late to take the stage and there is always more growing to do.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015