Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
Irish Catholic Maria Finn loved her husband, though did not feel he was her soul mate. But she knew, in time, they would grow closer, especially as her dreams of a home and family took shape.
Instead he left her for another woman.
She didn’t see it coming, finding a letter between them by accident. Devastated, she didn’t leave the house for a long time. Tears streamed down her face frequently, and it embarrassed her in public.
“My eyes were red and puffy all the time, and anything – a couple holding hands, a woman playing with her baby, a rat running by with a hamburger bun – would trigger the waterworks.”
“I stopped going to church. I couldn’t control my sobbing when I was sitting at Mass, and when I tried to pray, my thoughts streamed out as foul-mouthed invectives aimed at God.”
Professionals have a specific term when dreams, relationships, plans and hopes are dashed. “When someone dies and no body is recovered, or when a person has gone missing, it’s known as ambiguous loss. The effects, including lingering grief and disorientation, can go on longer than a death you witness, a body you bury.”
During one of her rare outings, Maria happened to pass a group of people in the park learning and dancing Tango. Salsa dancing had been a big part of her relationship with her soon-to-be-ex-husband. She declined an invitation to join the group that time, but felt herself drawn back. Eventually she accepted an introductory dance.
“I realized that for one hour I had not felt bad, and it wasn’t just the absence of pain. Since finding out about my husband’s affair, I had felt like I had been poisoned and was slowly dying. But during [the dance] I had experienced a simple happiness, a reprieve from the weight of grief.
“Cultures around the world danced to communicate with their god or gods - - - - music as a form of prayer. It was dancing that fulfilled my spiritual need. The dance floor became the place where I looked for connection and transcendence.”
Finn showcases her gift of the Irish Storyteller as she continues lessons, attends dances, learns more difficult steps, deals with many dance partners, gets into the appropriate clothing and shoes. It’s a delightful 218 pages, while the weight of her grief is patently clear throughout.
She and a friend discuss whether or not the young men at the dances know that women “of a certain age” are there because they are desperate. They both confess fear of the moment when “My thighs are seen in the full light of day” and there is “texting with one finger on my cell phone” that exposes their life experience levels.
Interspersed through the book are paragraphs about the history of Tango, and how the dance relates to world events. One’s first inclination might be to scan quickly over the factual, to get to the ‘good stuff’. The reader is encouraged not to miss the history, as there are surprises and aha moments in the telling.
As her competency at Tango increases, we see the author wading through her grief, slowly overcoming it. “Strangely, grief is how we connect with each other and how we learn compassion; sorrow is what takes us deeply into the human experience. Innocence is lost, but something better, more complex, can come from the experience. I wanted to be better than before my breakup. I had a hunch Tango could lead me to that place as well.”
Grief, like learning to dance, is not an overnight, instant message process, and we are made to appreciate that. “My body remembered the blunt trauma of going from love to hate so quickly. Tango is a way to learn through the body, to take one’s pain into muscle memory and translate it into something else, something nobler. The contradictions – that comfort can be found among strangers, intimacy felt in a crowd, songs about heartbreak help a person find a way out of it – are embedded in the Tango.”
TANGO ME HOME is a gifted mingling of joy and sorrow, light and dark, despair and hope, history and living in the moment. A good read, regardless of your current emotional state. As the country song says:
“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance “