Every Monday night, I curl up on the couch and turn on Dancing with the Stars. And every week, I look forward to seeing Bindi Irwin, daughter of “The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin—not just because she’s a stellar dancer but also because she radiates joy.
She gushes a gracious “thank-you” to every compliment she gets—and there are a lot of them. She takes criticism (usually about working on her shoulders) with grace. She chose Grace Kelly as her icon.
Irwin is adorable, charming, classy, lovely, sweet, and every other kind word I can think of. It’s easy to look at her and think, “She’s perfect.” After all, we’re talking about the girl who compared her brain to a mist-covered meadow of daisies.
But Monday night, her partner, Derek Hough, reminded us that beneath that bubbly exterior, she struggles—just like everyone else. “Seeing her happy and positive all the time, I guess it could be misinterpreted for making things look easy, when that is not the case,” Hough said.
The feet taking those perfect steps were raw with blisters, and she was missing several toenails. Irwin’s shimmering black dress hid her black-and-blue knees. And behind that beaming smile, there is a woman who has experienced the excruciating pain of losing her dad as a child.
It’s easy to look at positive people and presume that they have a charmed life—that they “have it all together” and that they’ve had an easy time of it. But sometimes, the people who exude the most light are the ones who have been through the deepest darkness.
I’ve known a lot of people like this—people who are joyful not because their lives are perfect but because they have chosen to live that way. Because they know that even though it might be easier to wallow in woe, and even though it might take more strength to look for the positives, it’s worth it.
One of my friends was diagnosed with cancer this spring, but she refused to let it keep her from living. She made up her mind to treat it like a project to be completed. She mastered the art of hats, scarves, and wigs. On non-chemo weeks, she went roller skating. She still went line dancing and took long drives in her convertible. She just had her last chemo treatment, and she’s one of the most vibrant people I know.
Another friend of mine is so positive that people sometimes give her a hard time for it. I wish they wouldn’t. If they only knew the burdens she carries, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to judge.
There’s a couple that my husband and I are close to, and before they moved away, we had dinner together often. We saw each other through some bleak times. But every time we got together, they set the tone for a positive evening. In the midst of the greetings, they asked, “What’s one good thing that happened today?” We would always share our struggles, but not until we’d talked about that one good thing—and a host of other good things along the way.
It’s people like that who remind me of who I want to be.
While watching Dancing with the Stars this week, I was reminded by Irwin and her fox-trot that we have a choice. We can let our struggles define us. We can let frustration get the better of us. We can let sorrow turn us bitter.
Or, we can muster our strength, gather our courage, and reclaim our joy. Like Bindi Irwin, we can keep on dancing.