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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Dancing in the Kitchen ~ Gardening in the Living Room

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dancing in the Kitchen ~ Gardening in the Living Room

"Happiness is a form of courage" ~ Holbrooke Jackson

Somehow with the approach of spring, I feel hope coming on. For those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or who walk under the cloak of depression, frustration, or the simmering of anxiety and unrest, spring usually ushers in some relief. Of course its not here just yet, but almost. Sometimes just knowing that something good, something new, something different is on the way, can bring a lift.

So with the most serious respect to the emotional pain I often write about, I think that its well worth it to write also about joy, because even in the midst of deep pain, spontaneous, light hearted, easy going freedom, even if its fleeting, even if its only in a moment, can have great power and meaning. Even if you are wrapped up in a difficult relationship, confusing situation or heart bending problem. Even if you need the pain, or can't imagine it letting up. Because moments add up. Because we can have more than one feeling at once. Because anxiety does not protect us from harm. Keeping joy at a distance doesn't either. Sometimes, in the midst of emotional pain, we can find pockets of freedom.

Here's what I am talking about: A friend of mine who is going through a particularly difficult divorce told me that she was sitting in the kitchen of her neighbor's house recently when the neighbor's child and a friend came skipping in. "Mommy! the little girl says, "you have to hear this song! It rocks!" And with that, the kid puts on the radio, and she and the friend start swinging and dancing and gyrating all around the kitchen. My friend, who was in no mood to move, much less dance, sighs deeply to herself against a wave of self pity and annoyance. And then, to make matters worse, all the sudden the neighbor mom is up dancing too. And the final blow, they grab my friend and before she could get herself out of it, the four of them are holding hands and twirling and bopping around on the ivory ceramic tiles. My friend told me that there were dishes in the sink, papers on the counters and a pot of macaroni on the stove. And here they were, swirling around and bumping into each other, laughing and giggling and woo-hoo-ing in the kitchen.

For a whole and glorious five minutes, my friend forgot she was miserable. She forgot she was terrified. She forgot that she hated herself, that she hated her soon to be ex and she forgot that she had trouble getting up that morning. And she danced around the kitchen. And she told me that she knows that this neighbor mom dances around the kitchen a lot. That her kids expect it. That the dishes can wait and dinner can get interrupted and everyone can join in. That more often than not, there is joy in that kitchen. And for a moment, there was joy in her body. She was free. And it carried her the rest of the day and spilled over into the next.

It did not change her situation, but somehow, it was okay just for what it was, a little lift, a moment of hope and a taste of freedom. It gave her a new idea, one that had not quite taken hold yet, or clarified itself, but like Spring, it was coming. She could feel it.

People who are in pain tell me often that they need something to look forward to. That having pleasure, anticipating pleasure, and then remember pleasure all add up to less suffering. Like air in dry lungs. It helps. And it can be simple. Off the wall even.

One of my friends loves to garden. We start seeds indoors together every year. This year her basement flooded so she moved up the garden table and grow lights to the living room, dirt and all. All those little tomato and pepper seedlings sprouting spring green all over the table mean hope and joy and more to come.

I'm not talking about making lemonade out of lemons. I am talking about being open to letting some fresh air into heavy hearts, letting go just a little of old ideas that don't work and finding things to look forward to. I think we can do this. We can sort through the painful stuff, the puzzling stuff, in the recent and distant past, if we need to. We can be angry and frustrated and hurt and we can still dance in the kitchen and garden in the living room. These too have a place.


Lily said...

Such a wonderfully positive reminder. Keep your eyes out for the little things that make you happy, even if just for a little bit! For me, that is an unscheduled trip to Starbucks, a purring cat in my lap, or some quiet time on my patio with a warm breeze. The little things :)

Emma said...

This article comes at just the right time for me. I've been realising over the last week that it does take courage to feel joy or happiness, even for a few moments.

I've been trying a little exercise where I choose a color that represents happiness for me, and stop a few times a day to breathe that color in and out a few times. Sometimes it's really challenging!

thanks :)

Just Be Real/God Whispers In The Wind said...

Thank you for the reminder. Needed to read this. Blessings.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Thanks Lily....yes I agree, starbucks, purring cats and patio breezes....all very very good for the soul...glad you commented.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Hi Emma,

Glad the post was useful to you! I love the idea of using color together with mindful breathing! Thanks for posting!

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Thanks Just Be Real!