Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tonight i talked to Terri

Terri is a brave woman. She's my dance instructor. I've been getting to know her in bits and pieces over the last 3 dance sessions. She's one of those warm-spirited ones, has hugs for everyone. Everyone loves her because she's the kind of person you instantly take to and I did instantly take to her. I helped her pack up her sound equipment tonight after class. We did some great dancing tonight and for once each of us had lots of room to move - as she says when the class is small: "Tonight we are small but mighty, women!"

I listened to her share what was in her heart and i discovered how raw her grief still is just 1 year after her husband suddenly died. When I first signed up with the troupe, I couldn't believe that she was such a recent widow and was running this company, and working another job -- always on the go. I wondered if i had been in her shoes. . . would i keep going at full tilt after such a cataclysmic event? I suspect that I would be in a fetal position in bed with the blinds shut. I remember our very first conversation, the night i joined. She said to me "This group of women has literally kept me alive since Rod died." I was a newcomer and I could see what she meant -- what a network of all different ages of women, different walks of life -- they were such a closeknit community - Terri was the 'mother' and we were all 'her girls'. I've been gradually able to integrate with them and feel at home there.

"I feel bad for the girls." said Terri tonight as she packed away her headset mic and put away the power bar in her purple tote. "Some of them don't know why I had to step down." *Terri and her best friend, Darlene - our fabulous choreographer - are calling it a day as leaders. They've been at it forever and they need a change.* "I've felt bad" she said, as she stopped what she was doing and looked at me. "I love teaching, and its this great thing where i give, and everyone takes it and gives it back to me and its fabulous." I nodded in agreement. "But, you know, Kath - I'm not feeling like i have anything in me to give any more. Some days I can barely put one f***ing foot in front of another, never mind teaching a class and working a job and trying to stay away from that empty house as long as possible every day." Her words were heavy with grief. I think she really needed to vent, so I just listened . "You know how everyone tells you if you can make it through the first year then you'll be all right?!" I said "Yeah." "That's bullsh**" she said as she pulled her polar fleece over her head. "Sure, its slightly easier to function day to day, and you're kinda used to it. . . but there's this giant, gaping hole where your heart used to be. . . and after a year there's still a giant gaping hole where your heart used to be."

Terri has been running from her grief. . filling it all up with work and teaching and socializing. . . now its catching up with her. She talked about her grief counselor and how he's been helping her to see that she can't avoid or side step this process. . . she must go through it. As she pulled on her boots, she said "I've never been without a man in my life, since I was a teenager. Now its just me." I told her that I too have almost never been without a man in my life and I can't imagine it. I got brave and asked her "What's it like, Terri?" She actually said "You know, its kinda cool! I'm thinking, there are all these possibilities and I can go any direction I want, but you know, its also horribly terrifying at the same time."

You'd never know that all this was inside if you took her class. She's jokey and funny. She teaches a great class. Its easy to just dance and then leave. Usually there are women buzzing around her and its hard to talk, but tonight I'm glad I stuck around and waited for my turn. It was just her and I left in the gym and in just 10 minutes I was able to know exactly how she's dealing with things, what she feels, how she's doing. I'm sad that she and Darlene are done. . . but I really am so awed by her bravery, her strength and her honesty. I'm glad she entrusted me with even some of what's in her heart.

We walked out to the parking lot together and I helped her load her car, after which she gave me the biggest Terri-style bear hug and said "Hon, you've been such a joy, I'm so glad that you joined." I thanked her and told her that she was awesome and I meant it. She really is.


Tracy said...

Terri sounds like she's got a great outlook and is likely well on the way to recovery, whether she realizes that or not.

She may be leaving the group now, but there's nothing saying that she won't be back once she's feeling better again! Maybe she'll just come back to dance with you guys!

Kathryn said...

She does have a really good outlook, you're right. I agree with you that she's on her way to recovery. I think she may just come back! She's been hinting that she might. I HOPE SO!

Sherri Lavender said...

Are you going to be able to keep in touch with her somehow over the next few months? Any chance you'll be able to encourage her to come back? I can't even imagine what she has gone through.

Kathryn said...

well, she's gonna throw a party for us all in June, she says! She has all our phone numbers and I have hers. She told me that she would like to dance with us again and that she will have a bit of a break, but that she will probably come back after a bit.

I know where she works too. . and its the kind of job where I could pop in and say 'hi' without it being a big deal. . . so i just may do that!

I can't imagine either. . oh dear. .

Kevin said...

I think losing a spouse would be second only to losing a child in terms of terrible things that could happen in life. I'm glad she was able to open up to you, even just expressing her feelings should bring some ever-so-slight degree of healing or progress.

Stopping in to see her at her work sounds like a good idea. Your commitment to reading my blog demonstrates your loyalty; it could also be just what she needs.


Kathryn said...

so true, Kev. I can't imagine, like Sherri was saying. . just can't even go there. Its so painful and such a part of life.

I keep thinking of surprising Terri at work with maybe a rose or some nice, little thing. So, you know when you keep thinking you should do something, that means you should!

I enjoy your blog, Kev! I'm so glad that Faith 'introduced' me to you!!

take care!

Tee said...

You told that story so beautifully. I was really moved.

Kathryn said...

thanx, hon. Terri's story is quite remarkable. I wish she wasn't retiring - i'm gonna miss her!! we all will!!!!