The Company You Keep – By Haley B. Jones Chiarmonte

The lights dim, the guitar player starts strumming, hands clap in perfect rhythm and the voice of a Spanish singer guides the movement of a single flamenco dancer who has taken the stage. The dancer is dressed in a beautiful black gown covered in bright sequin embellishments. Her feet follow the singer’s voice, gracefully tracing the movement of the room. The music builds and the singer becomes more passionate. In exactly the perfect moment, the dancer raises her poised hands and takes her dress for a spin while the rest of the group cheers her on. They use words of admiration and encouragement;

“Vale!”

“Ole!”

Everyone on the stage forms a circle so they can watch her, listening, and praising her every move. The audience sits silent. This is her moment and they let her have it.

I saw this stunning flamenco show in Spain while I was there with my husband this past week. The show itself provoked a lot of thought and inspiration for me. I could tell the dancer, guitar players, and singers weren’t just stage performers, they were more than that. They were friends, complimenting each other’s talents. I noticed this once again when the singer took the stage to pour his heart through song and they all stood quiet, adding to the reflection that the he was pulling out of his lungs. The guitar players consistently looked towards the others to add their smiles and excitement to the equation. They never took center stage, although it was apparent that their talents were the unsung hero’s throughout.

The whole performance was magic. It was perfectly in sync.

Since that evening I’ve thought a lot about how the show not only represents beauty and culture, but also carries a deeper meaning; the stage we all dance on in life, and the circle of people who surround us. I’ve contemplated my circle of friends and even provoked some heartwarming conversations with some of my dearest. The symbolism of the flamenco show has surprised me, inspiring me to ask a few new questions.

Do I perfectly sync together with my friends, clapping for them when they achieve greatness?

Do I stand silent, listening patiently and allow them to pour their soul without interfering?

Do I shout encouragements to friends who are under pressure to do their best?

Do I exude my love and smile towards them even when they are outshining me, knowing that at one point or another, I can rely on them to do the same?

The answer is no. I am not in perfect sync with my circle, nor do I expect myself to be. In fact, I believe I am far from it. I’ve had a lot of moments lately that I’ve wondered why some of my friendships blossom, while others slowly dissolve, taking  years and several attempts of repair only to disappear.

I have to remind myself that being a human being means I am selfish, jealous, and competitive at times. But as I watched the beautiful woman in black perform with her circle of friends cheering her on, I realized that there are ways to improve my friendships and create optimal (notice I didn’t say “perfect”) rhythm within them. Here are three of the recent “light bulb” moments I’ve had:

First, you must know that there is enough room for everyone in your circle to succeed. Let your competitive side down and allow yourself to be happy for those who are having their moment. You will have your turn to spin in a beautiful dress or sing your heart felt song but until then, be patient and kind.

Second, quit comparing yourself. You have just as many gifts, talents, and beautiful parts of your soul than does anyone else on this planet. Use them, and be sure to cheer on those who have learned to use theirs.

Third, stop talking so much. Learn to listen to the rhythm of others and genuinely hear their voice. Let them guide you for once. Whether they are songs of sadness, frustration, or joy, learn to listen.

If we can all be encouraged to do this within our circles, it would create a very powerful message collectively. It has the potential to create a legacy that exudes acceptance, love, and gratitude in a world that is lacking in all of those departments. Creating an ending we can all stand for, bow, and be proud of when the lights come up and the show is over.

OLE!