Illuminating the Shadows and Dancing in the Light

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow?

I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.”

Carl Jung

At the end of December last year, I claimed my motto for 2019 would be “live life completely on the dance floor.” Maybe it was because I felt my 50th birthday looming or maybe it was because I had felt the rumbling of my heart calling me deeper. Either way, life heard my intention and gave me the opportunity to grow into it.

It first started with heart palpitations and panic attacks. I woke up one night with my heart racing and an intense feeling of anxiety. I was convinced that I was having a heart attack. I had never felt this way before in my life and I was so afraid. I took a long walk the next day, mostly to convince myself that I was okay. I would feel fine for an hour and then the panicked feelings in my body and my mind would return with a vengeance. I remember sitting in a restaurant on New Year’s Day feeling as if I needed to get out of my body in order to find any comfort. I couldn’t eat, got sick in the bathroom and had to leave early, It felt uncontrollable and so very overwhelming.

I needed to know what was going on and I needed to know right then so I headed to Patient First. After several worrisome hours, I found out that my EKG was normal and the male physician diagnosed me with anxiety caused by peri-menopausal hormones. He prescribed me a ton of Prozac (I know, a whole other story there) and sent me on my way. I was grateful that the tests came back normal, but I was scared of the thought of medicating myself, especially when I wasn’t sure of what was going on. After a panicked phone call to my friend who is a general practitioner, text messages with my friend who is a nurse and has dealt with anxiety herself, a few connections with my spiritual/life coach, and a visit with my regular doctor a few days later, I started to believe that there wasn’t anything physically “wrong” with me. So what was it?

I believe that our bodies are incredibly wise. When emotions are not fully expressed, they become buried in our bodies. When they become too hard to keep suppressed or when we are ready to fully feel them, they can emerge as physical symptoms. This is what was happening to me. Earlier that month, I had attended a very powerful event that had uncovered some old wounds I had been holding onto for decades. This emotional excavation coupled with some major life changes and my newly set intention of “living life fully on the dance floor”, set the stage for the emergence of some of my shadows ready to come to light.

I created a support system (so important!) and began working through some buried pain. I gathered with other women and shared stories. I worked with my spiritual coach. I moved my body and I journaled a lot. As I dug deeper, I discovered some old myths and patterns I was still working from and allowed myself to fully feel my emotions. I started to feel better and my anxiety began to lessened. With this new lightness, I was inspired to connect to my heart’s deepest dreams.

Little by little I am making adjustments to my life that are bringing me more joy and enabling me to live more fully on the dance floor. I am reaching out to others in a more authentic way. I am taking care of my body by committing to regular exercise and acupuncture. I am getting support when my emotions overwhelm me. I am taking time to let my emotions flow through me instead of stuffing them deep into my body. Although I am still in the middle of this time of unknowing, putting my heart’s desire as priority has saved me.

This time of year is the perfect time to look within. The natural world is slowing down and resting. The days are darker and yet there is still a light that is always there to illuminate the way. We are a part of the natural world too and we can honor its wisdom. 

Shining the light onto our dark places is an act of freedom, despite the birthing pains. It is the way to dance fully and bravely through life. As Brene Brown so beautifully said, “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid, at the exact same time.”

Published by Gina Andreone Strauss

We are powerful beyond belief and infinitely creative. While we don’t have the ability to control everything that happens in our lives, we can recognize the simple lessons and the profound miracles that occur everyday. I look forward to sharing my choreography as I dance the roles of woman, mother, wife, teacher, counselor, daughter, co-worker, sister and friend. You have some moves to teach me as well. Let’s get our groove on!

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