There is a few inescapable truths that apply only to me. These truths won’t work for everyone. They probably won’t work for you. But they are truths that I know as true because it is what my own soul has taught me. Some of the lessons to find these truths have been devastating, while others are simply small whispers that contain a world of truth and have been with me for so long they cannot be denied.
It was my husband who actually pointed out to me the other day how much I love to move, dance, twirl, and feel when a great song or a great anthem is put through the speakers around me. He brought it up while we were watching television the other night and one of those classic songs that remain with you throughout your conscious life came on and I began to move. He brought it up, I imagine, to remind me of the joy and happiness I get from doing something so simple as dancing. The truth about my dancing and the joy it gives me is real but rarely seen.
After he said this to me I tried to remember the last time I let loose enough to actually feel the music combing through my veins. And I realized that I don’t dance, I don’t move to the classics, I don’t let myself go in that way very often. I don’t allow my children to see me let go and feel the joy of that release. I keep all of the steps my heart so easily could perform deep inside my soul.
This, of course, led to the question that always succeeds these type of questions – why? Why is it that I can’t put on a little 80s music and dance until I am breathless? Why can’t I find a country station and simply perform the steps I know as easily as I know my children’s names? Why can’t I simply let go? Despite the fact there is an actual song about letting go, it isn’t something that comes easily to me.
And if we are going to look at the fact that I don’t dance for anyone, not even myself, what else am I holding in? And ultimately, the question has to be why am I holding it in. What is it that prevents me from swinging my arms above my head, my hips in round circles and my head thrown back? Am I worried about something? Is there something there that I don’t want others to see? Or is it a simple matter that I don’t want people to see me that free in any capacity?
Dancing isn’t the only thing that I hold inside. I hold inside my laughter, my tears, often my fears and the things that keep me up late in the night. I can’t began to explain the number of times I have let things be buried deep inside of me rather than simply letting the world see me as I am. I even sneeze in a way that sounds like I am not only holding everything in, but sounds as if my head is going to actually explode. I never get people saying, “bless you,” because no one knows that what I just did was a sneeze.
If I look at my childhood I can see a mother that didn’t express emotions…at all. She didn’t often say the words, “I love you,” despite the sure knowledge her daughters had that she did love us very much. She wasn’t a hugger and didn’t tuck us into bed at night. It simply never occurred to her that those things she didn’t need might be the things that her children needed.
My father was the exact opposite in many ways. He was never comfortable really having young daughters; he was not a man that could understand and commiserate with small children. He was loud and craved the attention of all that surrounded him and he desperately needed the attention he never gave his children. As an adult I have changed much of the behavior of my parents to suit my needs simply by making those emotions known to my parents, but I didn’t have that power when I was a child. It is a worry, my own emotional giving to my children, that keeps me heading to therapy once a week.
I suppose that I could get up right now and do a little shimmy; I am currently listening to my favorite music. There is nothing like Aretha Franklin’s “Son of A Preacher Man” to get my hips and abs moving in directions that make me feel fun and give me the happiness of just letting it all go. But I won’t. I won’t move beyond my fingers on this keyboard. My children will not get a chance to watch me come undone by a beat or bear witness to the feeling of rock and roll flowing through my veins. But something tells me they should.
I know, beyond any doubt, that one of the reasons I feel that I have to keep so much in is because the perception of those with mental illness is so negative and so worrisome to those around me that my simple dancing for them could spell a breakdown that they are not ready for. I know that I am just dancing, but I also know that others only see an unpredictable behavior that I don’t show regularly. Maybe if I had always danced that would have been one thing, but I have suppressed the urge for so long that dancing has become what in my life is the equivalent of a red flag. The simple moving to a beat that is on a media system that everyone can hear is somehow a dangerous thing. Never mind that it isn’t something simply in my head, nor that everyone dances at times, it is a red flag.
I wish I could tell you that I dance when no one is looking. I wish I could let you know that there are times in my day, when I am alone, that I turn that music on until the neighbors know what I am listening to and I let go. I wish I could tell you that I had the courage to even dance alone.
Not dancing, leaving that so deep inside of me that the urge isn’t even available to call upon, is a metaphor for so many things in my life. It is simply one example of the millions of things that I hide simply because I can’t stand when the red flags are raised. Not dancing, the hiding of something I love, isn’t limited to one activity but rather simply an easy way to explain a greater problem.
And it is a problem. It is a problem that I feel like I can’t move simply to music that I love. It is a problem that I am so concerned about what those around me see and feel that I keep it all bottled up. I can assure you my father has never seen me cry. I can assure that my children do not know of my fears. I can assure you that mother has no idea what a hug truly feels like. I keep it quiet. I kill it as softly as Roberta Flack once sang so eloquently about.
The knowledge of what I don’t do, and even why I don’t do something, is essential for the growth of a human being and is vitally important to the continual ability for someone in my health situation to grow. Without the knowledge I can’t change the very perception that I am fighting against. Because it isn’t enough to bang your head against a wall over and over; eventually you have to figure out how to go around that wall. Even if it means putting on your Thriller album and bringing down the house.