“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
– William W. Purkey
This is one of my most favorite quotes. I love it so much because it encourages everyone to live life to the fullest and with your whole heart. Practically speaking, it seems almost impossible to live in this way every moment. Life is complicated and stressful, and sometimes our journey requires us to protect our heart and just “get through” the day, instead of celebrating every second of it.
After having surgery for endometriosis in July, I had been feeling stressed and overwhelmed with life. During my recovery, I was taking life one minute at a time and trying to make it through the day. I hadn’t been out of the house much since my surgery. I really wasn’t even talking much to friends and family. The little energy I had to spare was devoted to taking care of my daughter. Slowly, I started to feel better.
My mom, a devoted Bruce Springsteen fan, called to tell me there was a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street cover band, Tramps Like Us, playing at a local bar. She told me to get out of the house and come along. I hesitated. Was I really feeling up for it? Was I ready to be out in public? I was worried because when you are in pain or have low energy, pretending as if you are feeling good takes an incredible amount of energy. My mom persisted, and soon enough I had two of my oldest and dearest friends on board to go out too. My aunt, who recently battled a serious form of uterine cancer, was also coming. I had no excuse. I brushed my hair, put contacts in, put makeup on, and even put on a tube top. I don’t think I have worn a tube top since 1999. I don’t think I have worn makeup since March.
My dear friend came and picked me up and we were on our way. I started feeling anxious as I walked into the bar. I hadn’t been out in a long, long time. We entered the crowded outdoor patio where the band was playing and I spotted my parents and my aunt, who were seated around a picnic table. Within seconds I was presented a beer by my aunt and could hear my mom shouting over the band, “If you close your eyes, it’s like you are at an actual Bruce concert!”
I couldn’t have predicted the fun we had that night. Due to the volume of the music, I was able to “sing like nobody’s listening” to my favorite Bruce songs. After a few beers, the pain from my surgery faded and I was able to “dance like there’s nobody watching” (although I did pay for my excessive dancing the next morning as my inactive muscles protested the festivities). By having fun, we had all escaped our difficult weeks for just a little while.
I forgot how important having fun was. When I am stressed to the max at a difficult point in my journey, having fun can seem trite and meaningless. When I was a little girl and even straight on through college, it seemed life was centered around having fun and hanging out with friends. Now if I see my friends once a month it is a big deal. Life gets hard and complicated. Going out and having fun sometimes seems like it would take a lot of energy to accomplish. Why go out when I can collapse on my couch in my sweat pants?
I came home from that night of fun feeling so good. I felt energized emotionally and spiritually. It felt good to dance and sing and laugh. I was so grateful and proud to be there with my aunt who has gone through hell to fight her cancer. She looked happy and healthy after being so sick for so long. The truth is that all of us out that night had been through our own personal hells, but having fun made life a little brighter. I made a promise to myself to make having fun a new priority in my life. I was incredibly grateful for that night out. I always took having fun for granted but now I know that it’s a special thing that I have to make time for.
Tramps Like Us played Bruce Springsteen’s song “Tunnel of Love” that night. My mom had that album on tape and would play it constantly in her 1980 red Toyota Corolla when it first got released in 1987. I was just 8 years old when it was being blasted in our car. Although I knew all the words, they had little meaning to me then. As I sat out on the patio that night, listening to the cover band sing the lyrics, “You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above,” the song suddenly had meaning to me. There are certain things we cannot overcome. Life brings us some sadness that will be with us forever. There will always be stress and overwhelming parts of our journey. But as William W. Purkey states, we still need to manage to have moments where we “live like it’s heaven on earth,” because even through the hardships, it is only one life we get to live.