Embracing What You Love

woman dancing

The beginning of the 21st century was rough for me. Within a decade, I had a hysterectomy and several bouts of cancer (four different types, thankfully all early stage and cured), all while navigating a toxic work culture, raising teenagers (one with special needs), and mending my marriage after a separation. And if that wasn’t enough, I ended up losing both my mother and a dear friend to cancer. Let’s just say this was a challenging time in my life.

I typically handle stress well, but all these personal tragedies began to weigh on me. I was depressed and more detached than normal.

After a time, I stopped caring about many things, including myself. I used to enjoy exercise, but I stopped doing much of anything and began indulging in more junk food. I had no regular fitness plan and little motivation. Years went by in a fog. Sometimes I’d think, “I should just enjoy life now, because if the cancer comes back, who knows how long I’ll have.” This defeatist attitude led to weight gain, as well as a loss of strength and flexibility. Since exercise has a mood-lifting effect, my inactivity also robbed me of the healthy rush of dopamine people tend to experience after a workout.

To climb out of this deep, dark hole, I decided I needed to make some drastic changes. I needed to start paying more attention to myself and doing the things that brought me joy. I needed to start dancing again.

Everyone has something that delivers profound happiness—hiking in the woods, curling up with a good book, meeting a treasured friend for coffee, snapping photographs of local scenery. My joy—the thing that dislodged me from my funk—was dancing.

I have always enjoyed dancing. In fact, I met my husband of over 25 years on the dance floor. But over the years, we gradually stopped dancing together, and I grieved this loss.

The revitalization of my hobby gave me a new lease on life. I found Jazzercise and started going to classes. In the beginning, I went two or three times per week, steadily increasing to five or six weekly lessons. My body delights in moving to music again. Every time I go to class, I feel energized and alive. I can feel myself gaining flexibility and strength. With every step I take, every twist and turn of my body, I am steadily repairing my many years of self-neglect.

By dealing with the trials I faced over the last decade and a half, I have learned (and continue to learn!) the value of embracing what I love. It’s easy to disregard yourself and your needs. It’s easy to curl inward and tell yourself that you don’t have the time or space to “indulge” in your hobbies or passions. This kind of thinking is flawed. These are the times when you need to do what you love. These are the moments when it is necessary to find a small spark of joy to rekindle your spirit.

For me, dancing helped lift me from a dark time. What do you love that could help revitalize your spirit? What personal challenges could you overcome by embracing the things that bring you joy?

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