Today was a special day in South Minneapolis– the May Day Parade, an annual tradition for 39 years. The parade is a favorite— put on by the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre, it’s created by talented artists there working with members of the community who want to be a part of the parade. For months ahead of time, people come together to build puppets and costumes out of cardboard, paper mache, cloth and other “junk,” working together on a theme—telling a story of despair, hope and renewal and weaving in social, economic and environmental issues. The result is a festival of color and imagination, playful and joyful. I always feel good about myself and my community when I watch the May Day Parade.
Even when I go alone. Which I did this year.
It’s really no big deal, but it wasn’t always easy for me, the idea of going certain places ALONE. I remember growing up that going to the movies alone seemed to be taboo. I loved going to movies, and when I moved away to Colorado for a year and lived alone, I found a discount theatre nearby and decided to break that taboo. At first I looked around cautiously, but nobody in the crowd noticed or cared. An older relative had told me she’d never go to a movie alone, that it was too lonely and awkward. That wasn’t my experience at all… I loved being part of the crowd, and getting lost in the story.
Still, some events or activities DO seem harder to attend alone. In fact, this parade was one of them for me, once upon a time. When our kids were growing up, we always attended the May Day Parade as a family… and it was fun to see the delight and amazement on their little faces. Then the kids turned into teenagers, no longer thrilled by a parade. My husband was working full-time and trying to finish his college degree, so he was busy all the time. One year I managed to cajole a kid or two to come to the parade with me (I still wanted to go!), but they weren’t thrilled. It wasn’t their thing anymore.
Then came the year NOBODY wanted to go. I’m not proud to say I remember throwing a little tantrum– why couldn’t my family want the same thing I did? I didn’t want the bother of trying to call around and find a friend. I felt frustrated and angry. I hated being in this position: I had to decide to stay home, or go alone.
You know, I found myself thinking like my relative—worried that I’d feel lonely and awkward and conspicuous, going to this parade by myself. But going always lifted my spirits, so I decided to do it. And it turned out fine. The parade was still fun to watch, and I found that I’m pretty good company on my own.
So I’m challenging myself on thinking outside the comfortable zone, an imaginary box I’ve drawn around events and my expectations about them. Another challenge I’d like to work on is taking the time (and getting past the fear) of inviting others along—that’s a whole ‘nother topic! But for now I can bask in the enjoyment and memories of a fine, sunny and warm May day.