Dancing the Tango with Your Despair.
Despair. Not your favorite emotion. Not how you want to spend your day. Not helpful in your quest to go sugar-free. Not useful when your cranky teenager wants the car keys.
Not what your mother said would unfold if you just got your hair cut and wore those practical shoes.
But here it is. Doing the tango. Dragging you around the dance floor. It’s got you in its arms, holding you close. Singing its mournful melodies. You’re vulnerable, barely breathing. Dressed in black. Mesmerized by despair’s mystique. Intimidated by its intensity.
You want to escape the embrace. But there’s something about this tango, and this dance partner, that’s impossible to resist.
And yet, like every good tango dancer knows, the connection is everything. You must tune into your partner’s beating heart. Become one body with four legs. Unity is the goal.
But reaching unity is difficult. It takes lots and lots of practice. Sensitivity. Insight. Failure. Determination. Surrender.
When it happens though, it’s just a little joyful. Maybe a lot joyful.
But dancing with despair? Joyful?
Stay with me on this.
You might imagine that I’d suggest that you reject despair. That you choose to tango with happiness or productivity. That engaging despair will lead to heartache and ruin.
But that hasn’t been my experience.
Instead. Embrace despair. Listen to its song. Hear what it has to say. Cry. Rant. Write. Sing. Shriek. Make art. Feel despair’s power in your body as you stride around the dance floor. As your feet connect with the earth beneath the floor. Notice how the earth supports you. Ask your body what it needs. Ask despair what it wants. Dance.
Tango with your despair.
And what will result?
Imagine that, over time, in the heart of despair, you’ll find your Self.
As you become one with despair, you expand. You deepen. You open to possibilities.
If you soften into it, rather than resist it, your dancing will improve.
And you will find a way through.
Granted, if you’re like me, you’ll need to tango into your psychotherapist’s office at some point. If your despair began in childhood, you’ll want some instruction. The dance will be more complicated. The despair more stubborn.
If you’re like me, you’ll have layers of complexity. Layers that don’t resolve with quick fixes or easy answers. Layers that require tender, relentless introspection. Layers that require compassionate examination. Layers that demand the intimate, sensual power of the tango.
Over time, you will feel a shift.
Perhaps an important creative inspiration will appear. Maybe your intuition will guide you to an answer you’ve been seeking. You might notice a burden lifting. A spiritual energy awakening.
Maybe you’ll even feel a little joyful.
And now would be a good time for some joy.
In the words of Rebecca Solnit:
“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.”
Tango with your despair. Get yourself some insurrection.
Paula Prober is a psychotherapist, blogger, author, consultant and tango dancer living in Eugene, Oregon. She blogs at Your Rainforest Mind, a blog that provides support for the excessively curious, creative, smart and sensitive. Her book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is about how highly sensitive, intense, rebellious, smart people can live meaningful, compassionate and even occasionally joyful lives.