Pray, dance, heal…
Despite everything, during my short life I was fortunate enough to witness many miracles and I had learned that when you pray for those miracles, no matter how big or small, they will knock on your door. One of the things I continued to pray to God for was to help me find new ways to continue my healing journey. My heart was, and still is, hurting. There are still so many different issues that need to be addressed as I move along this path.
On that fatal night, when I found out that my late husband took his life, I not only felt pain, shock and sadness but also relief as well. Relief that, along with his passing, his physical and emotional abuse had also vanished. Relief that I could close my eyes at night without having to worry that I might not be waking up in the morning. Relief that I was finally safe and I did not have to be afraid anymore. However, even though he was gone, that fear, pain, and the abuse I experienced left deep, lasting wounds in my heart.
The relationship I had with my late husband towards the end of his life left me petrified by a thought of any closer relationship with men. Of course I was able to handle being in the presence of men, such as family members, co-workers, or friends, but it became very difficult for me to look men straight in the eye. When I was hugged, or even touched, by a male, I became stiff. Even when walking outside, I looked the other way to avoid any eye contact when any man passed by me. Even when I tried to make a conscious effort to, I was still incapable of looking in a male’s direction and smiling was absolutely impossible. Most of these guys probably assumed that I was just being an arrogant girl but, in reality, it was my lack of confidence and fear that made my head turn the other way when I saw them looking at me or smiling. I do believe that what made matters worse was the ever-thicker shell I managed to build around me.
As always, the Heavens already had plan to help me out.
I always enjoyed dancing but it has been so long since I danced that I would never think of going out and dancing myself. This changed when, one day, one of my dear friends all of a sudden felt an urge to go out and dance, suggesting that maybe we should take up some lessons at a nearby dance studio. Since we both enjoyed Latin music, the choice of classes was easy, but it has been a very long time for both of us since the last time we danced. I was completely filled with terror. Despite a lot of hesitation, I somehow agreed to join her. I was very fearful of my own reaction if a man were to approach me let alone if he attempted to hold my hand. I was afraid that I would run, scream or, worse, hurt the poor and unsuspecting guy who may have decided to approach me. However, I also knew this could be my opportunity to face my fears. Finally, we ended up going to the first lesson, followed by the next. This environment was perfect for trying to conquer my terrors: there were men in this class but a large majority was probably at least 70-years-old and they were very sweet and, what was even more important, harmless. I felt so relived. It seemed like I was sane enough to be around men. When it was time to practice our moves with the guys in the class, I did not hit anyone nor did I scream. It was nice to know that I could handle being so close to a man without doing something bizarre.
After we took a couple of classes, my friend suggested we should go and try out our newly acquired skills at a Latin Club located nearby. That took my anxiety to a whole new level. I was petrified. It was one thing to dance with a seventy-something-year old, but it was something totally different to dance with guys at a salsa club.
On the inside, I was kicking and screaming, hoping she would change her mind—nonetheless we finally ended up going. I had to do quite a bit of praying before I was able to step my foot in the club. To my surprise, it was not as bad as I had imagined. I still had difficulties looking guys straight in the eye, and I always made sure to maintain a huge distance between us when I danced but it was actually a lot of fun. It was then that I remembered how much I had loved dancing…
A few weeks later we went out again. Shortly after we entered the club, I was approached by a guy, who even though seemed somewhat arrogant at first, turned out to be a true gentleman on the dance floor and a great lead dancer. We danced through one song, followed by another… We soon realized that we had spent almost the entire night dancing together. I never really understood what people meant when referring to “chemistry on the dance floor.” Now I did: when I danced with him, it felt as though we had been dancing together for years. My girlfriend suggested that we should take his number and maybe take classes with him, together. As so we did.
I called him the following day and we began taking classes with him once a week at the gym in our apartment complex, while our little girls played watching us learn salsa moves. We laughed and joked. During that time, we also exchanged quite a few text messages and we also talked on the phone. At the beginning of this relationship, after sharing my story with him, I told him that I could only offer him my friendship. He seemed to understand and we became friends. Our friendship did not last too long. He left the country a couple of months after we met and I lost his phone number. However, during the short time we knew each other and danced together, it was enjoyable to remember how nice it felt to bring a smile to someone’s face. I was able to recall the time when I had a great sense of humor and I could make a man laugh. I remembered when I felt beautiful and confident. I remembered how good it was to be there for someone. Most importantly, even though I always loved to dance, he reminded me how beautiful, magical and healing dancing could be.
I still have a long way before I can truly open up and be completely comfortable around another man. However, I will always be grateful for the gifts this friendship brought to my journey and how it helped me feel the beauty of being me again.
I continue to heal one day at a time, one step at the time…