I sat on my couch Tuesday staring at my phone. This loud dial tone-like sound had just emerged from it. Choppy words telling me to stay home and no gatherings glared back at me. What does that even mean? I wondered. Can I leave to get food? Can I at least go for a walk? I used my breath to get as grounded as I could, while planting my feet on the floor. Counting to ten, I slowly reached for my lap top and googled ‘shelter in place’. While reading what my new reality will be for the next three weeks,I felt the edges of the anxiety beginning to return. My need to go to the grocery store at that very moment seemed to be pulling me like some uncontrollable magnetic force. In seconds, I’d already begun lacing up my sneakers and numbly putting my arms inside my olive-green jacket.
“I have to get chicken, water, and gluten-free bread. They must have gluten-free bread. No one eats that right? Wait, should I try to stock up on veggies? Nahh. I’ll be able to get those over the next few weeks. I mean they aren’t telling us we can’t leave. It’ll be fine. Right? I wonder which store will carry all of these things? Maybe Sprouts is better than Whole Foods.”
I thought all of these things, while now walking briskly to my car and opening the garage door. “I’m not panicked. I’m not panicked. It’s fine”, I reassured myself backing out and checking both sides of the car for passersby's. But, it was empty. Not a single soul outside. The pulse in my neck started to throb. “So does it just seem emptier than usual because the ‘order’ has just gone into effect or is it actually emptier?” The silence that came did nothing to quell the fear that was threatening to return.
I managed to make it to the store and home. I managed to continue to check-in with myself. I remembered to breathe, to feel my feet on the floor, and to notice where in my body I was feeling tension and where I felt calm. And then the strangest thing happened— I began to dance. Yes. Dance. I found my nervous arms and nervous legs needed to move. I needed more than an anxious trip to the grocery store—I needed to release. So, I put on one of my all-time favorite songs—‘Shake Senora’ (an oldie but goodie) and started moving from one foot to the other putting all my weight on one side of my body as I shifted. “How had I waited so long to do this?” I thought, as the smile inside of me spread across my face.
The funny thing is, dance is not a new outlet for me. I’ve been dancing since I could stand. It’s always been such a source of joy and freedom for me. And now, exactly when I needed it, my body reminded me to do what always came so naturally. And since Tuesday, whenever that “must-go-to- the- grocery-store-anxiety” feeling shows up I open my Spotify, pick a song and allow my body to move. Sometimes, these impromptu dance sessions last as long as the song and sometimes they last an hour. But, in this time of isolation I’m grateful I’ve found an old ‘friend’ in dance. I know others are fighting the need to go to the grocery store just as I am. I’ve read their tweets. It’s real. Thank you Helen Rosner for making me feel more sane.
So, my lovelies, all I can say in the words of Lady Gaga is-'Just Dance'. That, or find your version of dancing and do it until you don’t want to compulsively buy veggies or toilet paper. Do it until you don’t want to compulsively check the news about the latest COVID-19 . Do it until you can feel the smile creeping back on your face. Finding moments of complete joy are such a gift right now and you owe it to yourself to find them.
And, I also want to add that I am not tone-deaf to how much suffering there is right now in the world or how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, clothes on my body, a warm bed to sleep in and my physical safety. I know what’s it’s like not to have these things quite literally. And every day I have them is a miracle. And I'm mindful of how none of us is immune to losing these basic things at any given moment. And even still, during such tremendous loss, we can access the simple things that make us glad to be here in this unpredictable human experience.
Sending so much love to you. Stay home if you can, rest, eat, dance, love and help others whenever possible. Grateful for all of you.
P.S. If you have a favorite song you want to share be sure to comment below. I’ll be happy to add it to my “dance-in-my-living-room” play list.