The Hokey-Pokey. That’s what I’ve decided is the dance of my life.

I’ve never thought about my life as a dance before, and probably never would have if I hadn’t been asked that question during the Table Topics Speech Contest at the Toastmasters District Convention last weekend.

The exact question was this: “Life is a dance that you learn as you go along. What dance represents your life?”

When you’re asked a Table Topics question, especially in a contest, you don’t have time to think things through and plan out what you’re going to say. That’s the whole point. The purpose of Table Topics is to help you learn to think on your feet and organize your thoughts quickly.

“Conga line” was the first thought that popped into my mind, probably because we were in a banquet setting similar to that of a wedding reception. From there my brain hopped over to the chicken dance, and then landed on the hokey-pokey.

I first talked about the small town I grew up in, and about memories of doing the hokey-pokey at the weddings of friends and relatives. Then I talked about how different parts of the dance really do relate to life.

I didn’t win, place, or show in the contest, but I didn’t embarrass myself, either. I had fun, and as I reflected on it later, it occurred to me that even if I had all the time in the world to think about it and make a choice, the hokey-pokey would still offer a pretty good description of my life. Yours too, perhaps. Just think about some of the words:

“You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…and you shake it all about.”

Whenever there’s something new or challenging we want to try, we often start small and take slow, hesitant steps. Baby steps. We get a foot in the door, or we test the waters. But often, when we step out of our comfort zone too far or too quickly, we immediately pull back and shake off the experience so we can start fresh on something else. A left elbow, perhaps.

Sometimes in life you have to stick your neck out, although that’s not one of the body parts mentioned in the hokey-pokey. Still, “You put your whole self in” whenever you reach the point where baby steps won’t get you where you want to go. You need to commit, so you jump in with everything you’ve got. And if you hit a rough patch or feel yourself slipping, you make whatever changes you need to in order to turn yourself around. That’s part of the hokey-pokey, too.

The Table Topics Contest was just one portion of the Spring Convention. I spent the rest of the weekend meeting new people, reconnecting with some I hadn’t seen in a while, and taking part in the activities, events, and educational sessions that were offered. I laughed, I listened, I shared and I grew. I also learned that no matter what best describes the dance of your life, the most important thing is to keep dancing. Because THAT’S what it’s all about.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 26, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012