We are asked to call in our sadness, invite in our sorrow, ease into the grips of our grief. Where does it reside in me? What does it feel like? Look like? What could I sense? What is my sadness? And why did I even need to be asking these questions? Doesn’t everyone know their sadness?
It took me a while. “Maybe I am just not sad about anything”, I thought to myself. Maybe I have dealt with everything. Or maybe, just maybe, it is buried so deep I am really going to need to crawl down into the guts of this one.
90 of us, humans, on day 3 of what I can only describe as having all of my senses, cells, and emotions brought to the surface, rinsed down with wisdom washed back in with ecstasy on a dancefloor with a shaman slash DJ on the mic. Sounds pretty rad right? Oh, words cannot describe.
We have come face to face with our fears, our anger and now we are dancing with our sadness. I am feeling sullen, not fake, reserved but not catatonic. Where is it? My sadness? What is it?
We are asked to dance our sadness across the room, 4 of us at a time, up and down we go, slow, deep, in pain. As I make my way back across the length of the wooden floor I stand against the wall, the rest of the group start to crowd in front of me, I see the backs of their heads, I will be one of the last to make this final journey back across the room. I feel vulnerable, I won’t be hiding out in the middle of the group this time, I will have everyone witness my sadness.
A woman, a stranger makes her way through the crowd and to the back wall to stand beside me, I briefly glance at her, there are no words ever on a 5 R floor. I see that she, unlike me, has fully embraced her deep pain and sorrow. She is shaking, face screwed up by misery, body crumbled under the pressure of her mourning, tears streaming. I gently press the side of my arm against hers as a gesture, I expect her to move away but instead she leans in, just a little, as if to say “I feel you there and right now I need you” Without words I tell her I am right here, I won’t leave her.
We are asked to take a partner and dance our sorrow together back down to the end of the room, the long room, the engulfing room. Silently we know we have already chosen, she is still gently leaning on me, shaking, sobbing. The rest of the group lead the way, each with their partner dragging their suffering across the floor. My eyes are open and I am looking ahead but I cannot see anything, I have become acutely aware of my partner’s depth of sadness and it has consumed me. This is presence. This is empathy. I am there for her and only her. In this moment nothing else matters. We still have not made eye contact.
I don’t want to force her to come with me, to start to dance but I take my attention for a moment to the fact that most of the other 90 have left on the journey to the other side. It is just us, and she is resistant. I inch forward and send all of my energy to magnetize her to me, I am not leaving her but we must go together. I turn to face her, fingertips together I signal to her that we can do this, she is supported and we are in this together. My sadness turns to strength and purpose, focus. We lock eyes as we start to move towards the other side of the room together. I know most of the dancers are at the other end watching but I can’t see them and all the vulnerability that I had is replaced by the deep connection I have made with this stranger. Through red, tear-soaked eyes she stays connected to me, we do not take our gaze off each other for a moment, two women, two strangers.
Gently touching, eyes locked, hearts connected we dance. She stumbles and staggered, heart heaving with hurt, I crawl backward beckoning her, showing her the way, I can’t take her pain away, it is not my work but I can dance towards the light with her. I bow down, physically and symbolically, to her strength, her openness, her torment. We make it to the halfway point of the room I vaguely hear a voice tell us to keep going, keep moving, Her pain is heavy, slow, she wants to stop, without letting go I guide her further, she follows. as we falter and sway towards the group of 90 dancers I let go, arms outstretched towards her, I fall to the floor and slide backward along the polished wood into the crowd who swallow me up with their touch, this last part of the journey is hers to dance alone, I keep my eyes on her and hers on mine but this is not my work to do, as she crawls to the end she reaches in to the crowd and grabs me, bundling her up in my arms I feel my sadness. There it is. It is not always easy to locate in my body but it shows itself in other places. In the eyes of another woman, in the anguish of another broken heart.