Bernice wanted to be the one who would get up and dance with crazy abandon when the music moved her. No matter who was watching or disapproving.
She didn’t know when she’d become so afraid to live. She’d done everything the others told her she should do to be happy.
Yet it all fell painfully short of making her happy. She could stand on one leg for hours, but so could everyone else. She lived in what the others called the “Safe Zone.” A place where nothing new happened, every day.
She always did exactly as she should, for fear she’d lose the love of the others if she didn’t. She didn’t want to be ostracized. Those were the conditions for maintaining her position. She worried she’d say the wrong thing and offend someone, so she stayed quiet. She stuck to safe conversations about the weather and food.
One day, while members of the colony were all pecking for invertebrates, Bernice thought she could hear music. Kettle drums to be exact. She wandered off to see where the music was coming from. Once away from the others, her solitude—combined with the beautiful music—inspired her to strut her stuff.
She did a head flag move stretching her head as high as she could. She turned it from side to side, in rhythm to the distant music. Then she performed a majestic wing salute, spreading her wings and enjoying the feeling of empowerment in the pose. As she made a savvy move into a twist preen, she closed her eyes, lost in the music. Then she heard the roar.
She stood paralyzed with fear, eyes closed, head buried. The music drummed on cheerfully in the distance. She opened her eyes and watched the lion lick his lips. This was bad. Very, very bad.
They locked eyes. She could smell his breath. Her thoughts raced, and she felt she would burst from the trembling and her beating heart. As she felt the fear, acknowledging it and that it was not going to help her, something came over her. The music played on, and she thought about how she had felt a few minutes ago, dancing to a power that moved her. Her power.
With all the calm she could muster, she said to the lion,
“Would you like to dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” he said excitedly.
“You are quite a beautiful and graceful dancer. Maybe you could teach me to do that thing you do with your neck?” he suggested.
They danced under the Banyan trees late into the evening when the music stopped. They thanked one another and parted ways, promising to do it again soon. The lion was a very charismatic partner, Bernice thought to herself. Not what she expected at all.
As she headed back to the lagoon and the colony, it struck her that all of her fears were an illusion. They were based on the preconceived idea that anyone outside the colony was bad news—no exceptions. The others had put that idea in her head because it’s how they were raised too. The lion—Russell was his name—was lovely. The others would definitely not approve, so she definitely planned to tell them all about it!
Bernice decided from then on she was going to live her life fearlessly, no matter what. That’s where she was going to find happiness, in loving her life and approving of her own way to live it.