The dance floor is open, empty, inviting. The music swells; a beautiful uplifting crescendo that feels lighter than air. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, longingly anticipating. Suddenly, in waltzes Joy, a beauty to behold as she spins and sails around the room with elegance and grace. Joy dances into our lives in many different forms – a marriage, a new job, a miraculous cure, the birth of a baby. When she invites us to dance with her, we happily accept.
In an instant, the music turns. A heavy crashing of keys, low foreboding notes. Your heart drops as you see the pain of what’s to come. This is the moment you’ve been fearing, desperately trying to escape. You try to look away, but tearing across the floor with heavy, clumsy steps is Sorrow. His form, too, varies – an illness, divorce, layoff, or death – but his intent remains steady. He’s heading straight for you, imploring you to take his hand for this tango. You deny him. Sorrow is not who you want to dance with, not what you want to feel. Your arms urgently cling to Joy, urging her to sweep you away in her beautiful whirl. Sorrow pays you no mind as he steals Joy out from your grasp.
We all want to choose. We wish to accept only the joyful invitations to dance. We wish for our lives to be filled with happy times and our hearts to swell with beautiful moments. Even if we know Sorrow is inevitable, we keep it at an arms length. We refuse to let Sorrow seep in and ruin our precious moments; it must be kept separate, ignored. We want our moment to dance with Joy, uninterrupted. We want to embrace our new husband without acknowledging the heartbreaking miscarriage of our lost baby. We want to jubilantly celebrate the promise of new life, without accepting that a loved one’s life has come to a close. We want to feel the soft breath of our newborn baby without feeling the pain of a mother’s diagnosis, without facing the reality of death.
Unfortunately, life is not choreographed this way. The dance of life is a rich and complex tapestry, inter-woven with Joy and Sorrow and a million other intricate emotions. It’s a delicate weave. Attempting to pick out one emotion, to exclude the hard feelings, risks unraveling the whole thing. The music stops, the dancing ceases. We are left empty-handed and empty-hearted.
So we do have a choice. Not of dancing only with Joy and rejecting Sorrow, but of dancing with all our multitude of emotions or not dancing at all. When we refuse Sorrow, we can no longer fully experience Joy. We cannot turn down one emotion without simultaneously dimming all others. So we must accept the risk of getting our feet stepped on by Sorrow, alongside the delight of twirling with Joy. It may not always be a happy dance, but it will be a whole-hearted one.
You glance up again as Joy and Sorrow step and shimmy their way across the dance floor. With fascination and relief, you realize it is not the horrendous scene you expected. While the heaviness of Sorrow certainly overshadows Joy at times, you notice, too, that Joy uplifts Sorrow, making the dance more bearable, even beautiful. Though not the perfectly choreographed piece that might grace a stage, there is a delicate balance, a rawness and realness, to their march. As they make their way back around the room, inviting you to join, you stretch out two hands, grasping tightly to both Joy and Sorrow, and you dance.