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.