Once upon a time, I was a drama queen but slowly but surely, I’ve become a dancing queen or at the very least, the mother of one.
This afternoon, we attended our daughter’s annual dance concert and I am still buzzing. Of course, it was amazing to see our daughter up on stage but the show itself was incredible. Such a kaleidoscope of colour, movement and sound that I was swept off my feet on some kind of magical carpet soaring somewhere up towards the heavens. The flashy costumes were sensational and had their own performance under the coloured lights as the dancers wiggled, jiggled and swirled around the stage. It was also quite funny seeing my friends’ kids dancing around with their gorgeous blond hair glowing purple. I’m sure they’ll have a good laugh when they see themselves on the DVD.
Dance is the hidden language of the soul. – Martha Graham
It’s not that these performances were perfection personified. It was the ambiance. After all, they were mostly kids and there were rows of pre-schoolers looking gorgeously cute and really just getting a taste for being on stage with fairly simple routines.However, these small beginnings lead to much better things. Our daughter, who can be quite shy, says that she doesn’t feel nervous dancing on stage because she’s been doing it since she was four. The dance school aims to engender a love of dance and the benefits of dance to all its students regardless of their abilities. This kind of patient encouragement is a very special kind of love that changes lives and creates a better world…step by step. Nobody is beyond hope and as we all know, a lot of kids have a rough time away from the magic of the dance floor. I find this approach so refreshing especially as the Russell family who run our dance school are so talented. Not just Mum and Dad but all their kids and they are so incredibly down to earth. Just because you’ve got it, it doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it. (Take note “Bragbook”!!).
I could almost get caught up in those steps, the turns, the passion and could feel myself up there on stage getting into it. Golly. I’d make quite an interesting spectacle up there moving out of beat waving my walking stick around until I tripped. It was so hypnotic that our son was bouncing up and down in his seat which was flipping up and down during one number. Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t become airborne and crash on to the stage. Mister might not have an afro but there’s a lot of musician Red Foo in our son.
My love of dance has been a very recent development. Being a very awkward teenager who frequently tripped over my own feet or banged into things and sent them flying, dancing was a hellishly embarrassing torment. Eventually, I worked out that I could sort of do three steps on each foot and wriggle my arms a bit when I was out clubbing and I’d be right. Talk about deeply inhibited… a bird trapped in a very small, constricting cage unable to move my wings. Somehow, I went from there to just shaking everything around without caring about what anyone else thought and set myself free. Now, I really love dancing but don’t get the opportunity very often and my body doesn’t always cooperate either.
Dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt.
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
William W. Purkey
What I have also found is that being a writer, I’ve spent my life trying to encapsulate my emotions, the things I see around me into words. The language of dance and also music was a very foreign tongue. However, my daughter opened my heart when she started learning ballet violin and far from just being Mum’s taxi, I was converted. I found a way to express whole ranges and nuances of emotion which could never be shut into words into words…imprisoned. You see, once you name and thus define an emotion, you put it behind bars…limit it. You’re saying that this is what it is in no uncertain terms and there’s no room for nuance. Yet, emotions aren’t usually so clear cut and dance, like music, conveys the sense not the just concreteness of the emotion. They are also more subtle and open to interpretation.
To dance is to reach for a word that doesn’t exist,
To sing the heartsong of a thousand generations,
To feel the meaning of a moment in time.
– Beth Jones
Over the years, these dance concerts have at times been extremely and painfully emotional. You see, I usually have all my medical appointments quarterly and I always seem to be squeezing appointments in just before Christmas and before Australia goes to sleep (I mean on holidays) all of January. You don’t expect to get anything other than a tan, sunburn and more freckles around here in January. The place grinds to an absolute stop. Away from the beach, it’s like a graveyard.
Having these medical appointments just before Christmas might be practical and my doctors and I have agreed that its a good idea to get everything checked out before the “Great Australian Annual January Slumber Party”. However, it’s meant that when I’ve had bad news, that it has, despite all my upbeat protestations, dumped a huge black cloud right on top of Christmas and I’ve felt absolutely rotten.
There has been more than one of our daughter’s dance concerts where my life felt like it was hanging by a very fragile thread…a thin thread of spider’s silk…and I have sobbed through her concert wondering who was going to do her hair and makeup if, and seemingly more likely, when I was no longer around. As I watched Miss dance across the stage in an enchanting tutu or one of her funky jazz outfits, everything was moving in very slow motion and was actually freeze-framed, frozen in time like a stained-glass window. I was heartbroken.
You often hear about a parent’s anguish of losing a child but even the possibility of dying and leaving your children behind is absolutely devastatingly heartbreaking. I am supposed to be there walking my children through the school gate. Twirling my daughter’s hair into a bun and applying bright red lipstick to her tender lips so she can dance across the stage and through my heart. I need to be there waving as our son sails past. When I think of that dreadful possibility, it chills me right to the core. I am so incredibly thankful and know that without my medical treatments and my team of excellent doctors and the researchers who support them, that would have been a done deal.
While this might sound melodramatic and I know I have fantastic catastrophising abilities but last Christmas I started chemo to treat the autoimmune disease which had then started to attack my lungs and I was on a grueling emotional and physical roller coaster. I’d never had chemo before so I didn’t know how it would affect me. I just remembered a few scenes from various TV shows and they were anything but pretty. At the same time, I was actually looking forward to having chemo. It was treatment and it could save my life. Chemo was hope. I was really singing “All I want for Christmas is chemo.” I wanted to live. I wanted to be at my daughter’s ballet concerts fiddling around with alligator clips, hairspray and gel and trying to construct a passable ballet bun. I also wanted to be there with my husband and son, my parents and brother. I also have friends…good friends. I had so much to live for but I could also feel all of that slipping away, drifting out of reach and slowly but surely sinking deep into the water.
But, unlike the Titanic that great unsinkable ship, I’ve resurfaced. While my progress has been much slower than I’d like, there has definitely been progress. Given where I was, I am thankful I’m alive…most of the time!
We don’t always have the luxury of surviving or by-passing the bad stuff of nightmares and sometimes the very worst actually does come to pass and all anyone of us can do is just keep putting one foot after the other and take comfort in God’s peace which surpasses human understanding and share a cup of tea with a friend.
As I approach the anniversary of starting chemo and all it entails, I am trying to leave those dark thoughts behind and celebrate what has truly been a fabulous victory and simply lose myself in life’ s dance.
If you are having misgivings as we head into the festive season, I send you my love and the hand of friendship. This time of celebration is also such a time for reflection and also remembering absent friends and a year which might not have been your best.