What to do when life pushes you around? Resist? Give in? Something else?
Great questions. Because unless you're in a coma, or have attained Buddha nature, every day there's going to be times when you feel like life is a naughty toddler who screams No! at your oh-so-reasonable request.
She had us practice "Naughty Toddler" Tango. Usually in dance the follower does her best to comply with her partner's lead. But in this exercise the follower was supposed to do anything but what was being led.
At first Laurel was resistant to playing this dance game. "This is silly," she said. "Come on, give it a try," I urged. And oh boy, did she!
After the music started it took Laurel about two seconds to fully embrace her inner naughty toddler. She was resisting me beautifully. If I tried to take a forward step she'd move backward. If I stopped, she kept going. If I attempted to lead her to the left, she'd go right.
Most of the other women were naughty toddler'ing with equal abandon. I saw a sweet young thing throw her guy right through a doorway with the force of her No!
It took me a while to figure out how to handle Laurel.
Elizabeth had laid down a few rules. The leaders weren't supposed to use raw strength to wrestle the follower back in line – just as you wouldn't manhandle a recalcitrant three year old (especially in a public place).
Early on I realized that the exercise felt marvelously Tai Chi'ish. In Tai Chi force isn't met with resistance. Rather, it's redirected.
This was the only way I could manage Naughty Toddler Tango: relent to whatever Laurel wanted to do, then change the energy of that doing so she was headed in my intended direction.
Which didn't last long, because once I'd gotten her briefly on course she'd start resisting again and the naughty toddler game would start over. I found the exercise fascinating.
Not to mention energizing.
Elizabeth had told us that Tango, like life, is founded on energy. Without sparks flying between the leader and follower, usually a man and woman, Tango dance steps produce a largely mechanical façade of the real deal.
After the Naughty Toddler Tango song had ended, Elizabeth asked the class what we thought. I blurted out, "This anti-Tango exercise felt more Tango'ish than what we'd been doing before."
Laurel's resistance, her No!, brought out my Yes, you are!
The interplay between the two resulted in a lot more energy being exchanged between us. I could use the force of her naughtiness to guide her back on my desired track, almost always in a circular fashion.
If I wanted to step forward, and Laurel pushed back, I'd let her have her way. But with a turn thrown in, so we'd end up having spun completely around with a forward impetus.
Just as I wanted – until the next fuss-up had to be dealt with.
Life lesson: almost always the best thing to do is roll with a problem initially. Don't fight back with ferocious resistance right off the bat.
Tell the clerk who won't give you a refund, "OK, so you're saying the store rules won't let me return this." Bend a bit. Embrace what you want to change.
Then alter the direction things are moving without undue force. "I'm just wondering, though, if there's a way to make an exception for a regular customer like me. I don't want to start shopping somewhere else."
And remember that life is a dance. Everybody is trying to lead or follow in their own fashion, hearing the beat of desire-music that may be very different from what you're attempting to move to.
That's fine. Entirely normal. I might see you as the naughty toddler, while you view me as the person who is out of step.
There's no ultimate right or wrong here. Just people doing their best to dance with life the best they can.