Find A Way To Deflect Your Grief
By Michele Rosenthal
Last Sunday afternoon John and I gave up the beach and drove down to our favorite ballroom in Coconut Creek. From the very first time I ever walked into this space (over 2,000sq ft.) I was in love with it for two reasons:
1 – It’s decorated as if every night is New Years Eve, so it always feels very festive.
2 – The positive energy of the hundreds of people dancing is an instant rush.
Back when I was struggling to release the past just walking into the ballroom made me feel as if anything was possible. I was so far removed from creating my own positive energy that I got a contact high just from being around people who so effortlessly did.
The music, the smiling faces, the whirling bodies and the constant feeling of movement and motion caught me up like a wave and took me right out of my post-trauma fog and into the most delicious, life-affirming experience.
Since John and I love to dance both Latin and ballroom, we always hit the dance floor around 5pm on Sundays and danced through the Latin DJ all the way to 11pm at the end of the ballroom set. Whew, that’s invigorating!
Since we’ve been going for years, we’ve become very friendly with many of the other dancers. This past weekend, however, I had a deeper conversation with one of the regulars we always see, Pedro, than ever before. He’s Latino from Brooklyn, NY, and his wife is from Puerto Rico. They are in their early sixties, dress impeccably (Pedro in a suit, his wife in a colorful couture outfit), dance constantly and smile endlessly. They are the epitome of love together and shine a warm and infectious light.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when Pedro told me that one son is in prison for ten years in Philadelphia (“Because he just won’t listen!”), and the other son died seven years ago from a kidney malfunction. Pedro’s eyes got very somber, his expression grave as he spoke with a hand on his heart.
I could feel myself doing an internal double-take. This couple was the life of the party every Sunday afternoon. How could they be dealing with such heartache and still carry on with such a connection to the joy of the present moment?
When I expressed this to Pedro, he replied, “We dance so that we don’t cry.”
And to that I thought, Yes…
So often after trauma we have the impulse to give in, to allow the light to be extinguished, to accept that joy or happiness or fun no longer exist in our domain. Yet, they do. Joy, happiness and fun are innate human gifts. More than that, they offer us moments of support and loving kindness in our most desperate times of need.
When I first began dancing I, too, used it as a way to stave off the tears. The surprise came for me when dancing actually dried the tears and wiped them away, allowing me to reconnect with the present moment and relearn what it meant to affirm my desire to live fully, meaningfully and purposefully.
Dance, in this instance, is only one option for finding a way to give yourself a break and deflect pain. The real meaning behind Pedro’s story to me is how we can all – even after the most dark experience – seek to find something to connect us to the light, and to use that something to help us cope with the memories that linger…. and process through them.