• Maggie Wheeler

Dance It Out

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Me waiting for The Boys at Ottawa BluesFest

I first heard the phrase “Dance it out” on Grey’s Anatomy years ago, when Meredith and Christina were still interns (Yes, the good old days…). When life and love at Seattle Grace became too much and they felt landlocked, they put on loud music and danced it out. Loved it!

Do you ever feel landlocked by life? Of course, you do. We all do and more often than we would like to admit. Life keeps moving around us but sometimes not within us, despite the smile.

What makes it harder to address at this time of life is the sneaking suspicion that somehow we haven’t kept up with the crowd. That everyone else is moving along well with the flow but we got stuck somewhere in an eddy that circles us around and around.

And we are now the young elders. We should have the basics all nailed down and be graduating into sharing our hard-earned wisdom. So why do we still get landlocked sometimes and feel that we are—our first grey hairs to the contrary—just a few steps out of adolescence? I remember years ago a comment by Yoko Ono in an interview when she turned 50, three years after John Lennon had been murdered. To paraphrase from my sketchy memory cells, she said about reaching the 50 milestone: “I thought by now I would have it all together. When I was younger, I would look at people this age and think how nice it must be to be so mature and centered. To have it all figured out. But here I am. And I don’t.”

No, we don’t. And we get landlocked from the flow and shut down by this, time and again.

So what is the short term solution? When you are still and need motion, add movement. Dance it out. And I am not talking about waltzing or dance exercise here. I’m talking about really letting go and dancing it out to loud, demanding dance tunes (alone, I think is best) like we used to in high school.

This works in two ways: First, it gets your body moving and happy in response to the movement and the music. Your body has no choice but to let the music take you away into another place for a few minutes. Second, the above physical reaction then has a psychological one in terms of overriding the mental landlock. Like your body, your mental state cannot stay frozen but must respond to the music and the dance and the joy. All this blasts movement over still life and the mistaken acceptance of what we think is our “now”, what we have accepted as our reality when in fact it is only our perception.

Dancing it out momentarily breaks the hold and changes our perception. And we have a break. If we work hard enough and dance long enough, we get a breakthrough. It’s all about engaging the incredible power of our minds, a power we often let wander where it does not serve us instead of directing it full force forward to where we want to go.

I recently wrestled with a new session of being landlocked. As familiar as I am with it, this was a real struggle. I was in a loop of ineffectiveness and malaise, one that was courting depression if I didn’t fight back with both fists. I had no spiritual or emotional energy and had to break the spell. For me, it was classic Tom Cochrane. I dug out my old CDs and played them over and over at high volume. In the house. In the car on the way to work. Specific hits like “Big League” and “White Hot” are particularly good for Personal Automotive Primal Scream Therapy. Every day for a week, back and forth to work (car windows closed, but still…). It’s a wonder I didn’t get arrested for disturbing the peace.

But it worked. Every time the negative loop started, I blew it away with Tom. Literally shut it up. Shut it up and ultimately shut it down. Yes, I know. For now. But “for now” is all I need.

This past Sunday, I went to the RBC Ottawa BluesFest with my daughters to see The Backstreet Boys (a Mother’s Day gift). It was packed, a two-hour love-in with everyone (all ages but mostly younger people) singing all the words to the songs while The Boys danced up a storm for us. I danced up a storm, too. In a sea of people having a great time, I just did. I let loose with all my best Backstreet moves and, to give them credit, my daughters did not abandon me.

So remember to dance it out. Dance out frustration. Dance out loss. Dance out grief. Dance out disappointment. Dance out panic. Dance out loneliness. Dance out pain. Most of all, dance out defeat.

Dancing is a powerful tool. And remember, we can dance only while on the earth. We cannot dance once we are in the earth.

Here’s my current favourite of the Backstreet Boys: Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart. Enjoy.

Oh, and if you go to a two-hour concert to dance it out, remember the Advil when you go to bed!

Talk next week,


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