It’s Valentines Day today – a day that, I’m quite sure, can generate bittersweet memories for many. If I choose to think about this festival only in association with the traditional interpretations of cupid, love, relationships, romance and all that entails then yes, I could indeed become sad and morbid myself. I might be tempted to dwell on the past and mourn the ‘what if’ scars that are the war wounds I usually wear with pride. It’s even possible that I might even fall in to the trap of once again berating myself for allowing myself to be duped…
Associations. Thoughts. Patterns. Behaviours. These are all fascinating tools that I honestly believe are here with an intention to serve us well – but that somehow often threaten to lead us a merry dance, unless we keep a check on what’s happening. Unless we stay aware of the results we’re getting. Unless we stay honest with ourselves about what is acceptable and supportive, and what is not.
This morning I received a lovely email from a friend who has been a massive positive influence in my life over the past couple of years. She wrote to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day, saying that she thought the occasion should be “all about telling everybody that you love, that you do!” And it made me smile. Because, once again, here was proof that love exists in so many ways – and that for me in any case, the love I have found outside of the romantic love I had valued so highly, has proven to be stronger, deeper, mightier and more fulfilling than I could possibly have imagined while I was still trapped in the façade I so desperately wanted to believe was ‘true love’.
And I believe that my friend is right. I think that Valentines is about so much more than just the traditional celebration of couples. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate romantic love – I’m just saying that there is so much more to love that everyone can celebrate, regardless of who they are or what their relationship status.
Last night I was chatting with a French friend of mine who introduced me to a saying I had never heard before. We were talking about the perfectly normal difficulties associated with families, friends and work colleagues. We shared past experiences of letting people know when we had been upset, and what steps we took to protect the feelings of the other person in the process. The conversation continued, both of us describing more embarrassing moments, until we both ended up laughing and he said “On ne pas savoir sur quel pied danser!” which literally means “you don’t know which foot to dance on!” I thought it was a delightful expression that more or less says the same thing as our own saying “walking on eggshells” – which he found equally amusing.
And I began to think about dancing and dancers, and how delightful and varied they can be. The ballet dancer. The break dancer. Line dancing. Ballroom dancing. Latin. Spanish. Rhythm. Contemporary. Modern. Hiphop. Swing…. The possibilities are endless. As are the people who can choose to take part. Old and young, rich and poor, happy and sad, fast and slow…. It doesn’t matter. We all have our rhythm and we’re all part of this dance of life.
Yes, some of us may have two left feet – my ex always took great delight in telling me that I had no rhythm. For years, whenever we were at a party I would be the one glued to my seat while everyone was dancing and having fun. But you know what? I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. We’re not here to dance for anyone else, or to anyone else’s tune. I believe that we’re here to dance for ourselves – for the love of our own life. Then, and only then can we share and spread that love with others. Rhythm or no rhythm, I have slowly learned to let myself dance for myself. I’ve learned to listen to my song. To find my beat. To let myself just “be” – without any criticism or blame, either from myself or others. There have been many evenings over the past couple of years when, alone and at home, I have cranked up the music and danced like nobody was watching – because of course they weren’t.
Freedom… And Gratitude
Let me tell you, it certainly didn’t come naturally to me! I was acutely embarrassed at first, but I didn’t understand why. In the early days I couldn’t move at all. I remember just standing there, twitching my fingers, hanging my head, and keeping my feet firmly placed on the floor. And when at last I finally did start to sway with the music, I couldn’t open my eyes. Then slowly slowly I started loosening up and as I did, I would find myself singing along with the music. As I sang louder, my movements became bigger. And as I lost my inhibitions, I stopped judging myself – and just let myself go. It was an extraordinarily liberating experience for me!
On one such occasion, I suddenly caught my reflection in the window. At first, though, I didn’t recognise myself. Because there, in front of my eyes, was… a dancer. OK, maybe not a professional or even an amateur performer, but there was no mistaking that the reflection in the window was moving smoothly and in time to the music. And, more to the point, that person was smiling and happy. That moment, although it may seem a minor thing, was a major revelation for me. I stood there, blinking. Shocked at the recognition of the free-flowing joyful person weaving her dance and so clearly lost in the moment. And all of a sudden the scales fell from my eyes. All of a sudden I realised that I had been judging myself as worthless and clumsy. That even though my ex had vanished from my life a good while earlier, I had still been carrying the memories of his judgments. I remember shouting at my reflection as fury, tears, relief, gratitude and a whole heap of other emotions exploded out of me
“It’s not true!” I shouted, fists clenched as alternately I hugged myself and punched at the air “It’s NOT true! I’m NOT useless… I CAN dance… I CAN, I CAN, I CAN!” And yes, in case you’re wondering, there are many times when I’m deeply grateful that I live in such a rural location – I’m not sure that neighbours would have been quite so understanding of my enthusiastically noisy revelations!
Back to the French saying about not knowing which foot to dance on. I think it’s a crying shame that so many of us here have had to experience such sadness and pain. My heart continues to go out to everyone who has been or is still in any kind of unhealthy relationship – yes, including an unhealthy relationship with themselves. I know I was one of those people. But you know what? I also understand that at the time, I did the very best I could with the comprehension and information that was available to me.
I may not have known which foot to dance on, and I may have been afraid of making a mistake or seeming foolish. But when I pushed things away, kept quiet and carried on regardless, I was doing those things to keep safe – or so I thought at the time. Does that make me wrong? No, I don’t think so. We don’t know what we don’t know, so I cannot sit in judgement about the errors of my ways.
What I can do now, though, is to be grateful for what I now realise. I can be grateful for what I’ve learned and who I’ve become. I can be grateful that I now know the difference between supportive and destructive behaviour. I can be grateful, also, that I now have the courage to make healthy choices. To top it all, as I’ve said before, I can also be grateful for my time with my ex. It may have been a façade to him – but for me it was real, and I’ve grown beyond recognition as a result.
So, Happy Valentines Day to you, ex-mate…. My dance with you was poisoned and awkward. Now I’m dancing with myself and with love – and with so many more beautiful people than I could ever have possibly imagined before.
Love and blessings to all here on Lovefraud – let’s keep dancing together.