I haven’t been much for finding the bright side in the last few weeks. I have tried to hope it up for others’ sake, but I haven’t been able to find my usual joy stream. The election was bad enough, but to top it off people keep dying on me–and yes, that’s the selfish way I phrase it, dying on me. The latest was my master teacher. This woman started my lessons in what it looked like to thrive thirteen years ago, and helped me figure out my first year teaching when exhaustion was as thick and indigestible as old oatmeal. For many reasons, the news is still a shock if I sit and think of it for more than a few minutes.
That’s why I couldn’t help but oogle my silver-lining thinking when it snuck back in during dance last night. I realized there is a benefit to grief that I was formerly unaware of. This may not be news to any of you, but I am still absorbing this new information with gratitude.
Most of last night it was extraordinarily hard to move. Even when I danced in time with the quickened tempo, there was something of an object-fighting-being-washed-downstream quality to it. I started the night thinking maybe it was my breath. I am always clumsier and less connected when I am holding my breath. Nope, that wasn’t it. Maybe I was thinking things, not truly yet in my body? Nope, not that either. Maybe I was in sensory overload with the fullness of the room? No, I was still able to look around and see everything without any panic flares. It was then that it hit me: my body just felt so damn heavy.
I knew grief would be part of last night’s dance, but the sheer physical presence of the heaviness intrigued me. Gravity wasn’t just a law, but an overexcited lover, pulling me down in handfuls, vying for the attention of my porous bones. I decided to investigate. Was everything heavy? I gave in to the ridiculously slow pace I was craving and let my attention wander. Feet? Yes. But also the bumps on the bottom of my ankles for which I am sure there is an actual name. They felt like jello molds made of wet cement. As I kept scanning and moving and crying, I could feel the fluid in my knees. My hips were like huge wooden oars; graceful when in the water, awkward and splinter prone when you try to store them in a closet. My shoulders were mountainous, my eyebrows woolen, and I could feel my fingernails trying to drip from me like a Dali painting. It seemed every part was participating in this implosion, seeking each other in the middle to express what my brain could not.
The further I went into this immense weightedness, the more something dawned on me. I am here. I exist, for better or worse, without a shadow of a doubt. Nothing this tactile, this contoured, this heavy, could be a projection or reflection. I know logically that I don’t cease to exist because others do, but in these hours I felt it. There is a whole other existence apart from my history. I am here, and although I can’t quite articulate it, there is something surprising in that knowledge. It’s not just the childlike part of grief and, “I don’t wanna live if they can’t,” or even the desire to now “really make it count.” I am here, and it’s really quiet in that moment, even with bodies swirling around you and strings swelling. Even if I question my own belonging on the daily, I am here, made of the same stuff as everyone else, confronting that fear of matter I can’t manipulate.
To speak more plainly, this weight shook me.
In the midst of that shaking, I fell out of some usual grooves and let people look new. When I let them be here as much as I was here, the weight grew but the heaviness did not. I sheltered in the strength of men, broad shouldered and rooted, so different from what women offer each other. I leaned against the resiliency of women, flexible and receptive, like birches in our forest of heartedness. I danced with pairs and groups and watched us weave bright blankets to wrap around each to his or her need. I had no judgements, just arrival at this ending and crumpled Kleenexes collecting by the windowsill.
A few times last night I would see Sharon’s face out of the corner of my eye. She was smiling to beat the band as her once upon a time serious newbie went toe-to-toe with a gravity that made her lighter.