By Heather Bonynge
Last weekend, I helped host and organize a two-day Highland dance workshop for 50 dancers of all ages. Our days were filled with dancing, bagpipe music, hula hooping, and injury prevention training, and we created our own vision boards about our goals, dreams, and values in Highland dancing. I had front row seats to all aspects of the workshop, and what I noticed more than anything—above all the activities and the learning that was taking place—were the friendships and connections that were made among the dancers. Mission complete! My work here is done!
I drove home Sunday afternoon feeling exhausted, but also feeling exhilarated and energized the way I always do after I am part of any type of connection—this is what I live for! Connection is my purpose. It’s funny, though, because often when I experience these extreme highs, I also end up feeling lost afterwards or like something is now missing. I haven’t quite figured out how to come down from these places of connection and ease myself back into real life again. Apparently, I am not the only one.
My daughter, Brynn, was in the back seat during the drive home. She participated as one of the dancers in the workshop, and was also there as my occasional helper all weekend. I am proud to say that Brynn is just like her mommy; she thrives on connection, love, and life! Sadly, she is also just like her mommy in the sense that when we come away from these things, she suddenly feels an extreme sense of disconnection and sadness. Unfortunately, she also has even more trouble knowing how to handle these types of emotions at her age, and so they end up often overwhelming her. Brynn had tears the entire way home!
At the beginning of the drive, Brynn was really good at expressing to me why she was feeling that way. As her emotional state escalated, the reason for her sadness became blurred and she could no longer identify the original reason she started crying. By this point, everything was making her cry.
I was not surprised by Brynn’s tearful reaction at the end of a fantastic weekend; this is not the first time I’ve watched her break down after fun-filled events or encounters. I am going to fully admit that in the past when Brynn has expressed herself this way after really great moments, my automatic reaction has been to immediately attempt to cheer her up and remind her of everything she has to be grateful for. This time, I did not try to correct her feelings. Instead, I let her tell me exactly how she was feeling, and I just let her know that I was there to listen. I reassured her that it was okay to feel sad, and that I was feeling the same way. I let her know that I was here for her, and that it will always be okay for her to share her feelings with me. In her own time, Brynn eventually calmed down and returned to the cheerful, strong-willed, kind little girl I know and love like crazy!
Sharing Brynn’s feelings with her helped me to reflect on my own emotions. As I said, I was also struggling with the feeling of disconnection, and just like Brynn, these feelings weren’t new or unfamiliar to me, either. I have often felt this way after giving school presentations or hosting large events. The feelings have also been present after smaller moments like having coffee with a close friend, and they are often something I deal with after attending YACC’s programs.
Newton’s third law states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I don’t normally quote brilliant physicists when trying to make sense of my feelings, but I really do think his logic can be applied here. This tells me that after experiencing such moments of joy, happiness, and connection, it is one hundred per cent normal to experience the feelings of sadness and disconnection afterward.
As I gear up to attend my fourth YACC Survivor Conference in June, I am keeping this logic in mind. For those of you attending the conference—whether you are coming as alumni, newbies, or for those of you who are still sitting on the fence about whether to come or not—I am not saying this to scare you off or put you into a state of panic about joining us. In fact, I am sharing this with for the opposite reason! I am hoping that being open and mindful about my own feelings will encourage you, empower you, and help you feel prepared for what promises to be a MIND BLOWING four days with people who “get it”!
Children unknowingly illustrate such wisdom and insight into how we experience life and its moments, and so today I am taking lessons from my own daughter. I am putting cancer on ice for four days (hey, isn’t that this year’s theme? *wink, wink*), and I am going into Survivor Conference with the open curiosity, wonderment, and joy of a child! I am also going to use some of my advanced knowledge as an adult, too, and go in prepared, knowing that when it is over, getting back to real life may be difficult and take some time. Recognizing this, I have purposely taken an extra day off upon my return from Newfoundland so that I can, just like Brynn, take the time I need to ease myself back into reality. When I am ready, I know I will return to an even better version of my vibrant self!
Like I said, this is not said to discourage or frighten anyone away, because also like Brynn, the outcome of my possible equal and opposite reaction is that through YACC I am now part of a family of support who listens, reassures me, lets me know that I am not alone, and has my back no matter what!
Live life on purpose.