Dancing the dark and the light


Dancing with wild abandon and joy and emotion and freedom and complete connection to the music, this has been one of my great passions since high school.  As I came out of the dozens of awkward stages I had as a child and into my early teen years I discovered that not only did I love to dance I was also pretty good at it.  My awkward body that knew only how to play sports and hide away under boyish clothes began to blossom into a body that could glide, shake, bend, and move deeply in rhythm with the pulse of the music, especially if there were lots of drums involved. I fell in love with dancing and all through my teen, college and twenties years danced every chance I got.   Some of my best memories from the first 3 decades of my life involve dancing into the wee hours of the morning, often having part of my dancing time on top of whatever table or bar I could find.  In the dance I could lose myself so completely that the world would just fall away.  Bliss!

Dancing to reggae and salsa music was a passion that Russell and I shared.  Early in our friendship we spent many nights out with groups of folks from Aquinas Institute, the theology school where we met, dancing at Casa Loma or Blueberry Hill.  Russell seemed to love the music and the dance as much as I did.  Not only could we talk theology during the day, we could go dancing at night.  Those nights out opened up doors of possibility for both of us to consider entering into a friendship that led to a much deeper relationship.  I have many, many stories I could tell but perhaps another time.

As we entered into parenthood, our nights out dancing decreased.  Late nights with the added ability to sleep as late as we wanted the next day fell by the wayside.  And I found that my body began to return to a feeling of awkwardness in the dance.  My beat was off much of the time.  My ability to abandon myself completely to the dance faded and the times of dancing grew less and less.  Oh the occasional weddings we attended always were great times for dancing, but just going out and losing myself in the dance became a thing from the past that I remembered with great longing.

This awkwardness and inability to lose myself in the music, allowing my body to move with freedom and ease, speaks greatly to my journey grieving the death of Russell.  I write and speak often of the image of learning to dance in the center space between and the light and the dark.  This comes from a deep desire to be aligned with myself no matter if it is a dark day or a light day for me.  I long to feel balanced and able to function with ease again.

However, my body, my mind, my heart, my spirit don’t feel quite my own.  There are many days I find myself completely baffled by what I am thinking and feeling.  These are the darker days for me, the days that I feel the water I swim in rise up to draw me deeper into its depths.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in this space over the last 2 months.  When we went to Florida on our wonderful beach vacation, I felt my inner self slide into the darker water where the Kraken resides.  I slid not kicking and screaming but almost with a relief to go deeper into the darker, sadder spaces of my journey.

My first trip to Asheville for my year long mentorship found me diving head first deep into the depths of the grief.  In that space and in that time, I willingly embraced the opportunity to feel all the sadness, anger, confusion, and loss. My companions in that space 100% allowed me to come just as I was.  Broken, in tears many times everyday, silent, turned into myself.  And I embraced that gift.

In the time since I have returned I have found myself stopped almost completely in my tracks at times by the heaviness and awkwardness that holds me.  The thought of dancing has seemed almost impossible.  How does one dance in the dark if you can’t see where your feet are?  What if the dark is so heavy that the music is almost impossible to hear?  I’ve known I want to learn how to dance with both the light and the dark but in the dark spaces I have worried that I may never find my rhythm again and so I have avoided the dance.    Awkward, heavy, exhausted body is a hard thing to move.

And then, sometime in the past week and a half, I heard the voice inside of me say “The dark is the place you need to dance right now.  Until you learn to dance the dark, embracing all of the gifts the dark has for you, seeking only the light, you will never be able to fully dance the center space with joy and free wildness.  The dark has the gifts that you must open in this time, this moment.  The light is within you all of the time, the dark too can bring great joy if you only allow it to.  Moving in whatever way you can, for however long is okay.  It is the movement and the tuning into the music that matters right now.”

Ah yes!  Such freedom has flowed through me since I heard this so clearly spoken to me.  I am learning to turn all of my movement – walking Walter each morning, cleaning stalls, doing the dishes, folding laundry, drinking my morning tea, tucking kids into bed – all of it is part of the Dance. It doesn’t matter if I look or feel awkward.  It is MY DANCE, MY MUSIC,  MY JOURNEY!  I must love it all.

I am loving the slow awakening to feeling the strength I am rebuilding in my body.  I am loving the feel of music within me that leaves me swaying to something only I can hear.  I love the grace I feel when the music and dance come together just how I want it to.  I am loving the great joy I have going to NIA each week, a form of exercise and mediation that leaves me feeling more connected, more graceful, more whole, and more healed each time I go.  I weep with joy most night I go as I feel myself fall in love with dancing and the movement of my body again.

As much as I love the sunlight and all that symbolizes for I find this an easy place to dance and feel free, I am allowing myself to remain in the darker abyss of the waters I swim in right now.  I am finding that even in these darker waters of my journey I can laugh, I can smile, I can feel hope in the fact that I am dancing with both the light, the dark, and the center space between them even if I am the only one who can see that right now.  All of me – my joy, my hope, my sadness, my anger, my longing, my worry, my trust – all is part of my dance and for that I am deeply, profoundly grateful!