I have a friend who says one of the hardest parts of living back in the U.S. is that nothing interesting happens here.

She needs to come to my Zumba class.

Though I’ve forgotten the name of the lady who sometimes stands to my right, I remember I’m annoyed more than I’d like because she doesn’t respect “Zumba Dance Space Etiquette.” Yesterday was no different.

About 15 minutes into class Johnny, the only man, showed up. It took me a few classes to figure out if he’s skivey or just a clueless older man. I’ve landed on clueless and in need to glasses. He used to stand too close to the teacher and intensely watch her feet, trying to keep up. But since he’s started showing up late, he usually stands to my left, watching my feet. Also, not a respecter of Zumba Dance Space Etiquette.

Why do Chinese personal space norms follow me to America? Why? Why I ask?

Ditto John

During one of the breaks the lady to my right asks if we can talk after class. Sure.

I assume she wants to ask me about Johnny. Do I think he’s harmless or creepy? I’m word smithing as we dance.

Oh, I’ve wondered that too, but as I’ve watched him, he seems to focusing on the dance moves and keeps his eyes mostly on our feet.  I know he’s often in other people’s space, but you know, I lived in China for a while and the personal space is different there. When I pretend I’m in China, it doesn’t bother me so much. 

At least that last part IS true.

Class ends, I’m ready to impress her with my, dare I admit to myself, magnanimous answer.

“I don’t know what to do, my daughter took the bar in June, she wants to be a lawyer.”

Tears start to come. The curtain between holy and common ground is lifted and I’m reminded I may be an ass. She continues.

“She got the results yesterday and she didn’t pass. I haven’t told anyone. I feel so helpless as a mother and I don’t know what to do.”

{Why are you telling me this? I can’t even remember your name.}

Oh wow. I’m sorry. It’s hard to watch loved ones deal with hard things. Reassure her of your love. Of how her value to you has nothing to do with whether or not she passes the bar. Where does your daughter live? {I’m trying to get on board with the ACTUAL moment and not the fantasy one I created.}

New York. She doesn’t know how to tell her friends. She dreads the calls asking if she passed. Her step-father is a lawyer and I don’t know how to tell him.

I’m thankful she lives in a country where she can take the test again. You know, if she lived in China some of the tests are only offered once. This is embarrassing and awkward, but this is not the end of your daughter. Tell her she has one week to eat all the ice cream she wants and be so dang mad and sad, but this is not the end of the story. You love her and she will get through this.

Oh I’m so glad I talked to you. She just wants to get on with her life.

{She’s listened to me so far, so why not get my beef with this crappy line of thinking off my chest.}

You know, I think we misunderstand “getting on with our lives.” We erroneously think it means “getting what we want out of life.” She is getting on with her life. THIS, this is what it means to get on with her life. Getting on means rolling with the punches and some of those punches, like this one, are not the ones we want.

I’m a Christian and will pray for your daughter. What’s her name? {I have since forgotten it, but God doesn’t need it to hear my prayers!}

She just wants to be in the court room and she’s not.

I think you’re missing a key prepositional phrase {pulling out my grammar geek now}. “For now.” She’s not in the court room for now. This doesn’t mean she’ll never be in the court room.

{We’re at the parking lot.}

I just didn’t know what to do.

Of course you feel bad for your daughter! You love her. It’s a horrible feeling not to be able to take away suffering. For ten minutes a day you can wallow in feeling bad. But the rest of the time, be grateful your daughter is not homeless, she doesn’t have cancer, she’s educated, and you have each other. Big picture, she’s going to be fine. This corner of the picture STINKS, but it is not the big picture.

You were the right person to talk toThank you.


{We parted. Once again, God amazes me, working in spite of my self-righteousness. Here I thought we were going to talk about Johnny, all the while, God had bigger plans. John — known for baptizing and eating bugs — said, “You must increase and I must decrease.” Ditto John. Ditto.}



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  1. linda October 31, 2014 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Funny how these “chance” encounters are never really chance are they? And how you sharing encourages me as we anticipate the return of our son who has one more punch to roll through, needs to figure out exactly what he wants and seems lost in his spiritual walk. Believe me, I need it and he needs love and lots of prayers. After many words and conversations, there is not much more we can say to him except keep on keeping on and we love you.

  2. Mark Allman October 31, 2014 at 10:42 am - Reply


    I had to look up skivey… you know me hoping I was not one. :) Cause I know I can be clueless.

    A very touching story Amy and the advice you gave priceless. I am glad she talked to you too. Some would appreciate us telling them how unfair life was and us wallowing in the pit of despair with them. The reality is you gave much more than understanding… you pull her from the pit so she could look around and imagine life without the pit. Great Amy. I hope she did those things for her daughter. We all need to know failure (if we think it is that) is sometimes an invitation :) to learn more than that test was finding out about.

  3. Susan Gaines October 31, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I smiled through this one ear to ear. Needed that exercise today! Thank you, Amy.

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