Have you ever heard “Dance like no one is watching,” a song lyric by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh from “Come from the Heart”? Does dancing with abandon resonate with you?
Dancing all over the house are some of my fondest childhood memories when I was a little girl growing up in rural Kansas. Looking back, I realize I must have been listening to the radio. I never knew what I would do until I heard the song come on. Then I would make up a dance routine on the fly. I would demonstrate for my parents my new dance routines. My parents never chastised me. I thought I wanted to grow up to be dancer.
‘Christians don’t dance’
Why was wanting to be a dancer so unrealistic for me? I was raised in a tiny town in Kansas with the closest dance teacher 100 miles away. When a beloved relative told me, “Christians don’t dance,” I was crushed.
When we moved to Ohio in sixth grade, I realized how unrealistic my dream was. My father was working for the Evangelical branch of the Quaker denomination at the time. Girls in Ohio had been taking dance lessons their entire lives while I had been growing up in Kansas. I gave up my dream. I did attend school dances and go to prom, etc.
When I got engaged, however, I told my entire family that we were having dancing at our wedding. My soon-to-be husband, Dan, and I signed up for dance lessons. Like all brides, my wedding was a cascade of positive memories that flew by in a blur. I will always remember, however, how confidently my father stepped onto the dance floor for the father/daughter dance. Our wedding photographer captured the moment. Now that my father has passed on, dancing with my father at my wedding is one of my most cherished memories.
Dancing as a coping skill
Lately, I have also begun to dance again as a means of managing my mood swings during COVID-19. Being bipolar, I feel like a captain on a sea of emotions when everyone else walks on dry ground. I have found that dancing helps me manage my emotional highs and lows. Like my parents, my husband lets me dance around our living room with abandon. As a drummer, my husband shares my passion for music. He usually DJs my dance selections. Sometimes, he even dances with me.
Recently, stepping out of the shower after one such dance session, it hit me: “Did my father take dance lessons to dance at my wedding?” I thought as I started to choke up.
“Yes, your father and I took dance lessons,” my mother confirmed. Despite the objections of his denomination’s position, my father gave me the gift of dancing at my wedding.
“At the time of your psychotic break, I felt like God gave me a verse for you as a promise,” my mother explained recently. “Growing up on a farm, I remember seeing the exuberant calves coming out of the stall. This verse reminded me of seeing you dance as a child. I have been praying you would get back to dancing.” The verse is Malachi 4:2 (Good News Translation): “But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall.”
Now when I dance, I envision both my heavenly and earthly father smiling down on me.
What about you? What were your childhood dreams? What gives you joy? As COVID-19 stretches on longer than any of us imagined, I hope you can find positive, constructive activities that bring you joy.
Danei Edelen is president for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Brown County Ohio affiliate, which provides support groups for individuals and their families living with mental illness. Find it on Facebook at @NAMIBrownCountyOhio. For more information call 937-378-3504 ext 102 or email [email protected]