“Pole pole?” It’s about the“Life Dance.”

Susan G Holland
The Story Hall
Published in
4 min readMar 26


I have been taught that in Swahili, that means “I feel with you.” And implies “slow down.”

SGHolland © March 2023

Pronounced Po-lay,po-lay, it means Take Everything Slowly, according to
one source. Tied up in that word is the idea that “I hear what you mean, and think I understand and agree.”

My friend who has spent a lot of time in Africa has understood that it is
a sort of healing that can happen when a person is saying how they feel about a certain subject. If someone says it to you, you are expected to “slow down” and let the matter unfold itself. Certain things cannot be pushed fast. A bit like reconciliation.

Families have tense moments. Tired families may bicker when they are feeling annoyed at what may be grudges, or someone dredging up an old disagreement. The habit of bickering can become “normal” to those who cannot slow down and think why a certain disagreement keeps coming up, and getting someone angry and disagreeable. The family members can be so angry that it might be nearly impossible to address the issue that is infuriating to both parties. So they walk out, enraged.

“Why does it always end up like this?” the father, for instance, is wondering.
“Why does it always end up like this? the son who has heard many iterations of the subject over some 50 years of father/son “talks?”

And the two men have to take a break to cool off.

— — — — — — —

(…my mind insists on this metaphor…)

This is like the screeching of tires.

The rubber is weight-crushed against the road, not moving, and then a driver suddenly speeds off, spinning the tires! Angry sound, isn’t it? Satisfactory sound for someone who is having a “hissy fit.” It’s just what he feels like.

The people in the neighborhood wince and grit their teeth. The sound rudely interrupts their day!!!

….like the abrupt move in a Tango, everything suddenly changes for both dancers!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relative speed of the day by day “life dance” for people. How different it is, say, for a person who grew up to the age of 57 this year…different from that of a person who is pushing 89.

What was it like for that old 89 year old person when he was 57? Well, he was accomplished at dancing really fast and very expressively and very well. In fact one old fellow I know danced a girl’s feet off when they were in their 20’s. He was still dancing at 57. But now he is 89. And his knees hurt and he’s moving more slowly every day.

A particular son I know has been frustrated all along because he doesn’t see why his father is spending all this time and grief about this same worn- out, old nettlesome subject! Now, during a visit, the same old subject comes up, and his father is working on that old subject AGAIN. His father is old enough to let that go, thinks the son. The father is wondering why his son still doesn’t “get it.”

Pole pole! Slow down, guys. Eventually this son will “get it.” But not until he is in his 80’s.

The old man has maybe ten or so years left in his future. Can this old fellow just forget the familiar old history? Can he get energetically excited about the few years ahead? Dropping “old baggage" is very tough for a serious old person.

The waltz is easy for an old guy, but the newest dance craze is too much of a challenge for a fellow with arthritic legs.

And it’s not just the “dance.” It has everything to do with how the dance looks to each man. Some young men are inclined to add their own moves to the dance. Innovate! Their fathers may be more inclined to teach their sons how one does these dance steps because they “already know how it’s properly done.”. They remember their own fathers teaching them the “correct” moves. This is how you do this. No, no, not like that, son.

To me, it seems a bit cruel, this snag, like a joke played on two smart guys who are sure they know what is good, and what is folly. Both are zealous, of course. But they stand their ground.

There is an addendum to this process, and I personally am now opening the door to the next part. I hope I can keep a sense of humor to ease me over the hellish parts. Going slow seems wise. Pole pole. But why are all the sons and daughters in such a hurry?

Somewhat like a Mobius strip perhaps? Going on forever?

SGH 2023



Susan G Holland
The Story Hall

Ever curious, I wonder, I ask, I probe, I learn, I write , and I'm still doing it at "going on 87!' Now living in Seattle WA , and still making art.