My last semester of college, I needed to find 2 extra classes so I could keep my course load at 12 hours. Otherwise, I couldn’t retain my scholarships. I tried lifeguard training offered by my college–a colossal mistake and a rash decision. During the middle of the first class, I thought–What am I DOING?! I enjoy swimming as much as the next girl, but I hate–HATE–to hold my breath. We started the FIRST class by swimming 500 meters and then were instructed to dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve some thing (in my memory, it’s a brick, but I’m not sure). I hadn’t even changed out of my bathing suit that day when I decided this was NOT FOR ME. I dropped the class and signed up for more hours in the science lab, a process in and of itself.
But one of the classes I chose to flesh out my 12-hour-course-load requirement worked out much better: beginning modern dance. I took dance classes for years as a child, quitting around 8th grade to spend more time on band. But I’d never taken modern dance. People of all disciplines populated that class–theater majors required to take a dance class, fine arts majors, random people like me (a biology major) who just wanted to dance. I loved it: learning about differences between classical ballet and modern dance, the movement, the change of pace it gave me. Turns out this kind of activity offers more than just physical exercise, too.
After I read a book earlier this year called Playful Parenting, I wrote down this quote from the author: “Artistic expression is one of the best ways to release anxiety or fear, whether it is by singing, drawing, dancing, sculpting, or writing.”
So that modern dancing I was learning at age 22? It was artistic expression. And it felt good; it reminded me of how much joy I got from my dance classes as a young girl. And…it didn’t matter if I were any good.
I still do this, and maybe you do, too, without even realizing it: release anxiety and stress through artistic expression. Perhaps we don’t think of it as “artistic.” But singing in the shower or dancing in the bedroom by ourselves or writing a poem in the back of a journal that nobody will ever see? It all qualifies, and it all brings a measure of healing.
I myself love to sing while driving, especially if I’m alone in the van (which is rare). If I’m feeling especially uninhibited, I’ll even groove while in the driver’s seat, happy that other drivers can see me and maybe feel a little inspired, too.
A few months ago, my family and I took a walk around Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. Now that we live closer to downtown, we spend a good amount of time at this lake. One of my favorite (although infrequent) downtown delights is to pick up subs at Publix–a grocery store, in case you don’t know about Publix–and go sit by Lake Eola and have a picnic. Then we walk around the lake with all the other folks walking dogs and jogging and holding hands. During this particular walk, I saw a message penned in black marker on a handrail there: “They say you write your pain, and then you leave it there.” So whether you dance, sing, write, draw–or sculpt a sand castle at the beach–may you release your pain and leave it there. And may God’s grace and mercy fill up the space that’s left.