How many weddings have you attended and been forced to take part in that ridiculous group dance known as the Hokey Pokey? I can’t even remember how many times I’ve done it. Having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s, it was also commonly played at roller rinks. Lord help you if your balance wasn’t that of a yoga master, as you were going down when you had to put your left foot in.
The Hokey Pokey came up near the end of a conversation over breakfast with an old friend today. We were jokingly saying we both really need to come out of our shells, be more assertive, and get better at addressing large groups of people (this is sarcasm, as we’ve both made a living doing all of these things, and with darn good success). At one point, Mary Ann said, “I have the Hokey Pokey approach to life: you put your whole self in and you shake everything about!”
That one comment has been on my mind, this being the last day of 2014, and I thought it a pertinent way to ring in the new year. Let’s dissect the steps of this song, shall we?
Though there are varying versions of the succession of body parts being put in or taken out, the jist goes thusly:
You put your right hand in, you take your right hand out, you put your right hand in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about. You put your left hand in…
Right arm, left arm.
Right foot, left foot.
Right leg, left leg.
Butt, then head. (that’s my favorite portion; I can’t help giggling).
You’re singing it, aren’t you? Sorry. Song worms are the worst.
I look for metaphors and imagery everywhere. Perhaps it’s the teacher in me, or the over-thinker in me, but Mary Ann’s comment about how she attacks life really struck a chord. We all tend to approach life in this manner, don’t we? As children, we’re more apt to do things without thinking about it first, but as we age, and we see the reactions of those around us, or feel judged or second-guess our abilities, we tend to tread into things more lightly.
We’ve commonly heard this referred to as “putting the toe in the water.” That’s quite like the beginning of the Hokey Pokey: we start out with just a hand in that we can immediately take out, then, when we’re told to put it back in we shake it about, perhaps to say, “See? It’s ok in here. You can move around and everything is alright.” We’ve assessed the situation––the risk if you will––find it to be safe, and are willing to continue with the other hand.
As the song continues, we build confidence to do more: I’ve stuck all these appendages in, out, have shaken them about, spun around and hey, this is actually kind of fun. Why, exactly, was I so freaked out to do this?
Risk + success = confidence to risk more + success = confidence to risk even more – success = confidence that the failure isn’t worth stopping the task, etc.
See where I’m going with this?
Eventually, we get the nerve to put our whole selves in and shake what our Momma’s gave us. It takes time to build the confidence to do the things we are unsure of doing. It may take a group of trusted friends to lean on, or team of colleagues doing similar things to make us feel better about taking the risks we need to take to grow as human beings, become productive members of society, or have the courage to making a huge life change.
So, at three hours till the beginning of 2015 Central Standard Time, I pledge to put my whole self in and shake everything all about.
What risk are you afraid to take? Will you put your whole self in?