By Lauren Williamson
July 7th, 2012
It all seemed so unreal. How did I get here? I am now utterly exhausted and thoroughly mentally and emotionally spent…but at the same time so exhilarated beyond my wildest imagination. What just happened to our little group of women? A tremendous blessing coming out of the blue and landing on us like some great butterfly!
I am trying to put it all together. Am i dreaming…pinch me please. We all stood back stage congratulating each other still with tears in our eyes of such profound gratefulness for each other and for the moment.
Now when the theater is quieting down and people are slowly exiting the auditorium … I am finally catching my breath. As I wipe the sweat off my brow…and try to comb my overly sprayed hair I stare back at the empty stage and finally realize the truth of it all… “You wanted to dance all your life. You did it tonight. You wanted to feel like you had flown like a bird and you did. You wanted to be fearless …and you were. Look at these costumes…over a dozen costume changes… How did you do this Lord? Was that me out there? Did it really happen?
A scripture suddenly came to mind…when I am weak…then I am strong. Now I finally know what St. Paul meant when he wrote it. Knowing that I am poor in spirit… and knowing that I have no strength of my own except when I lean on Him… kept me going.
Yet, what an unlikely group of women we are! We came to a divorce workshop months ago and wound up dancing in the concert…weeks and weeks of rehearsals! And what grand emotions must have raced through our minds! What an incongruous setting. Nothing made sense. And everything made sense…the audience cheering like we had just won an Olympic competition. No…more like elation you feel when one would win the lottery! Not even that…cause it was spiritual…all grace…all love…all beauty and all courage! This certainly wasn’t a moment wasn’t about fame, or even power, even though I felt empowered and an object of God’s affection. During the play, I felt so one with my fellow dancers and audience. There was a great vicarious gift present amongst us.
The most tragic and yet most humorous of irony was that we were the most weakest of women at that moment in our lives…coming together at this university seeking only one thing-restoration and only a miracle of God could pull it off . For we dear ladies were.women broken, extremely vulnerable and on top of it parading our emotional wounds totally exposed for everyone to see. We danced our pain that night. We danced through it and with it…were consumed by it… and we… consumed it. We finally triumphed over it for they, those nagging dark memories, then became our stepping stones to freedom. Each and every moment in our lives of rejection, shame, heartache, loneliness and abandonment suddenly was transformed into something lovely to behold. And behold they did. The onlookers were as amazed as we were. Their graciousness exceeded all we had ever would hope for. I hear the audience voices dying down now and coming closer are familiar family sounds. I am suddenly interrupted from my reverie and collided with loved one’s embraces.
So when I say that I was relieved when the play was over…I really mean it. It seemed when the play was over- the pain in my fellow dancer’s hearts dissipated too.
I worked with a nun who was the program facilitator and the most unlikely dance partner I ever had. Why because she was a nun and woman like no other, who was so free that it freed me to be me. There was also another hurting single mother and her daughter who were both incredibly emoting dancers. But the biggest blessing was to be taught by not only a professional choreographer, but by a deeply spiritual and compassionate dance therapist.
You see, this was an outflow and subsequently an outreach performance of all the work I had been doing this particular semester at a Catholic University Divorce Recovery Workshop. I attended many talks but my favorite part was the therapeutic dance class.
I regretfully looked back over the years for not following my childhood dream of being a dance choreographer. It didn’t make it any easier to come to the movement class when the teacher would make comments like…Didn’t I see you at UCLA once for a dance audition? Yes I said…but I wasn’t auditioning for the class I was just supporting a friend who was there. I sang while she danced. She remembered me! And I remembered the song too…“Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child.” How uncannily appropriate it was. At that moment, I did feel like one again…suddenly lost and not really seeing completely why.
She went on to say, “Lauren from watching you in this class I can see you are a great dancer and choreographer.” I instantly ached…No…no …not again…don’t open up that wound again…It seemed that when she said that, it was like a huge knife floating gently out of her mouth slicing my heart in two, creating the person I am today lost and bewildered latch key child of 5 years old. Then add to that… this awful limbo feeling of separation from a husband of 15 years.
Here I was again…standing in the rain all wet. ..wading through a flooded driveway, sick and with a fever…cause I was being dropped off to an empty house by a school nurse who happened to be crying. At the time I didn’t know why but but now in this moment -I remembered clearly why. My little girl was exposed. The instructor saw me get emotional and seemed to instinctively protect me by some the distraction of announcing our warm up exercises. Even though the teacher’s lips kept moving, and I was stretching , I didn’t even seem to hear her anymore for I was in my broken past world.
The rift had been open and the memories flooded in. Back to the loneliness of my childhood, this unuique experience to so many a child, of never having anyone around to help me choose and to help me follow my dreams. When I did have a little dream of taking dance school classes they were quickly dashed away for whatever reason. It was the usual reason…no money and time for my parents to do it. But that didn’t stop me from dancing and dancing continually in that empty house… I would turn on the ballet music and jump from couch to floor and leaping up gracefully and spinning around and around in my mother’s tulle under slip…which when quite new from the store proved to make a good makeshift tutu. Through those lovely precious moments of dancing by myself at 8, 9 and10 years of age to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake or Nutcracker suite.I was in a parallel universe and nothing evil could touch me. No disappointments, no broke promises, no neglect and no loneliness. Truly, at this moment, I was dancing with the angels.
But that was then. This was my “now” class and just like then…I started dancing it was happening again. And just like then -I didn’t need a stage nor an audience..i only needed the music and the free place to do it.
This night, as I sat in the parking lot after one last dance class, I felt both a melancholy and euphoria that I can’t explain. I would even go as far to say -quite a mystical experience too. I didn’t want to leave…I kept lingering with my head laid back against the carseat. I felt both in a state of deep grief, profound gratefulness and finally a fond release of that poor little girl in her mothers slip. I let the tears fall gently from my eyes. I cuddled myself there, as if I was embracing that little girl. Saying, Its ok honey, it will all be ok.
Passages, transitions, stepping stones…whatever you name it -was happening to me big time. Grief will either take you to the darker side of life or to the brighter side. I know it was the grace of God that carried me to the latter. God sees everything and he remembered with me. A new huge horizon was opening to me through this divorce recovery workshop an especially through the emotional release of movement.
My dance teacher was a clinically trained dancer therapist and the best. She was an artist in the most spiritual sense and she asked me to take advantage of an opportunity that was offered us. Betty our teacher, Sister Dottie our workshop coordinator at the college, Maura another single mother and her adolescent daughter Leah were invited to dance in a concert that was adapted from a book “Hinds Feet High Places.”It was much like a shorter version of “Pilgrims Progress.” And like this book it is told metaphorically. The premise was that we are like God’s little children who He guides through life just as a Shepherd guides his flock. The main character was a little female dear named “Much Afraid” who would listen to the voice of her Shepherd who would be calling her up this mountain called life through all her ups and downs.
This book turned out perfect for the pain and release I was feeling at the time. When prayerful dress rehearsal came I was expecting a regular theatrical runthrough. It wasn’t anything like that at all. Betty our teacher said we are done. All the classes were precious therapy, joy and tears every single time we met in that lovely hall. But now, before we actually perform we won’t rehearse but free ourselves for the next step. To live what we dance. T be ourselves. To allow ourselves, to give that little wounded girl inside of us the freedom to abandon ourselves to the moment. A moment of pure trust in God…our Abba our Daddy to dance with us…on the hills of life. To conquer our fears and to climb that mountain, with “Much Afraid” When we stepped on the stage for the final time to pray and stretch that afternoon before the performance, I knew that I wasn’t just performing. This is my life I am dancing. And they are dancing theirs. It was so surreal the preparation time, where we warming up with all kinds of music…trying to pray through, releasing our fears as well as blessing the audience that is on their way. We gave it our purest of intentions as we “owned the stage” as some actor once put it.
The play was a huge success with us bowing over and over throwing rose petals and daisies to grateful crying and laughing audience. With all the miracles that we simultaneously going on around me and to me…God finalized and punctuated the night by giving me an oh so special memento of it. I found out that we shouldn’t focus on only one thing in our life that we regret…or just one thing we could have done or become. We are, as humans, a many faceted creation. Like God, made In His Image…we are capable of doing many things and evolving into many different facets and directions in life.
I know God gave me dance as a child to heal and comfort me in my loneliness. But now as an adult I had re-invented myself, rewrote the script and was born again into not only a dancer at that moment…but an actress and singer but most of all a woman freed from darker self. I don’t have to regret that so-called failed dream anymore. It wasn’t a dream. I danced as a child with joyful gratefulness. And now I danced as an adult with joyful gratefulness but with a song. It was my favorite part of the play…where she, the little dear, became like a solitary rose that grows out of a dry craggy rock.. I, in that moment became that rose. I became transformed by the faith that God graced me with. For in real time was struggling with something that actually happened the night before when my husband after a year or so of separation finally erupted and packed his bags and moved out. I was holding onto his leg when he moved out…But the show must go on…I said to myself both spiritually and for the commitment that I had with the other dancers , musicians and audience.
Can you even guess the song I sang? The original words were copied off of a WW2 concentration camp wall: “I believe in the sun, even when it isn’t shining, I believe in love even when there’s no one there, and I believe in God, I believe in God even when He is silent.”
When we all said our goodbyes and I arrived at home I collapsed on the bed. I laid there for a minute relishing memory of the night when a tiny little thought came to my mind. Gosh that woman…that gift….where is it..did I forget it…I dumped all the costume paraphanaila on the floor and found it…a tiny little cardboard giftbox that someone had hurriedly gave to me. I was so busy shaking hands and hugging family and attendees that I totally forgot. But I didn’t forget what she exclaimed while gripping my hand…
“This is for you… You have to open it now… I just came from the Crystal Cathedral and they gave me this free visitor’s gift. I was meant to come here, meant to see this play . I was so blessed..and her eyes were wet with tears. I want you to have it…What…no its yours…No she said..i already got blessed by it..now you must have it..i know you have to have it. But I was suddenly pulled away from her so I couldn’t open it then.
Now the rush of her exciting words visited me again…here sitting in the quiet of my room, all quiet in the house…no music , no more dancing…audience gone home.
I felt a holy anticipation as I opened the cardboard box. What! Could this be really happening Lord? I was moved beyond belief and was so humbled to find, a stained glass window of a rose and words printed on it:
“I believe in the Sun even when it isn’t shining, I believe in love even when there’s no one there, and I believe in God even when he is silent! Just then this little girl in me didn’t feel lonely or regretful or lost anymore. I was a richly blessed and eternally grateful woman dancing with the angels once again!