One trait to know about Greeks is they love a good party with great music.
Last Saturday, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral feted my brother- and sister-in-law, Chris and Eleni Yokas, honoring their four decades of service to the church and its community. Tom, Olivia and I were pleased to attend.
The reception hall was festooned with images of Chris and Eleni in some of their various roles. He as organist, assistant director of music and chair of the archives and she on Parish Council, Philoptochos and as director of the Sunday School program. What a kick, to see pictures of them in choir robes dating back to their high school days. The lights dimmed and a couple hundred of us filed into the banquet room and settled in to savor a delicious meal and their touching remarks. Standing ovations escorted them to the stage. Whoops and hollers rang out. Love and respect were palpable.
Sitting there, I thought again about the power of community, how grateful I am to have learned the importance of having others around who support us, lift us up, bear witness to our authentic selves. Sharing our gifts connects us deeply to each other and our spirituality, religious or otherwise. I was thrilled to watch people I care about receiving and expressing accolades amongst family and friends. Chris and Eleni glowed with joy. That alone could have been the end to an awesome evening, but wait. There was more.
After the final prayer, the DJ pumped up the jam and invited us onto the dance floor. Yay!
One trait to know about Irish/Poles is that we love a good party with great music, too. Olivia has the best of both worlds. She jetted over to me and we leapt to the dance floor. We shimmied and jived. We jerked and hopped. We contorted. Olivia flung off her high heels. I swiped sweat from my forehead. We were getting serious.
I waved my arms in the air like I didn’t care. She put her left foot in and then out. I flipped my long hair front to back. She showed how low she could go. I went a little lower, and was able luckily to get back up. Later, Tom would say, “You were really moving,” which I took as a compliment. And while I didn’t look as carefree as my skeletal friend above, I didn’t care. I was exhilarated. I hadn’t danced that long or that hard in forever. My girl was with me. Life was good.
That’s all great (and it really is), but is there more to my point?
I’ve been writing about the ways my healing journey has changed me, comparing old thoughts, feelings and behaviors to new ones. Because what is the outcome of emotional and spiritual healing more than improvements to habituated negative patterns? Old me was riddled with self-doubt, crippled by shame and obsessed with perfectionism. I cared more about what others thought of me than what I thought of myself. Old me would have knit-picked the fun right out of an evening of dancing with abandon.
Who do you think you were, putting on a display like that?
You should have parked your fat ass in a chair and left it there.
You are an embarrassment.
Sad and true. But not anymore.
I woke up the next morning and thought, That was awesome. I’ve still got it! Years of therapy, 12 months of self-care planning and dedication to loving who I am is halting those negative thought patterns. Oh, they still bubble up from time to time and that’s okay. The triumph is in having a choice about which thoughts to believe.
I tossed aside the covers and stood up. “Oh man,” I said out loud. I took one tender step and another and bee-lined for the Aleve. I might still have it, but my head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes: not so much. Still, I can't wait for my next opportunity to get out there and shake my grove thang.