Truth Byte # 34

Truth Byte # 34

It’s okay to have a bad day.

I am sitting in the lobby of my 7-year-old daughter’s ballet class.  I am new to this whole classical-dance world, and I think I am just excited as she is (okay, maybe a little more!) for the little pink tights and tiny leotard.  

It’s our first day, and we started a month after everyone else.  

The class is 45 minutes, which is long enough to awkwardly check social media from my handheld device on the semi-uncomfortable IKEA couches, but too short to go anywhere useful and come back in time.  Lucky for you, my brand new MacBook was in the car, and it’s just long enough to capture some weekly thoughts for my blog.

And here’s what I noticed about myself, sitting here in this lobby.

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have even tried to sign my kids up for something if I was a month late.  I would’ve let it go until next year, watching wistfully as all the other ballerina-moms posted recital pics on Instagram.

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have whipped out my computer and done some work here. Instead, I would’ve headed to my car, acting like I had some important errand, and then hidden there to have a nap or feel annoyed that my precious time was just slipping away while I waited around for my kids to have cultural experiences.

Three years ago I would have felt overwhelmed by the requirements of the dress-code of the studio rather than amused and humbled at the uniformity of these tiny little people taking a dance form so seriously at such a young age.

A lot has happened since my daughter was born seven years ago.  I have changed, and so has my perspective.

Today, I allow myself to be late sometimes.  Today, I don’t beat myself up if I am unorganized, or the last parent to “be in the know” about something.  Today, I don’t make excuses about having too much or too little free time.  Today, I notice how I feel in any given moment and squeeze in a creative oasis where I can.  Today, I don’t think of being a parent as a burdensome infringement on my freedom (as I did when I had only one little guy to worry about) but rather a lovely, chaotic package of hugs and tears and laughs and misunderstandings and overall bumbling through. 

A lot changed for me when I gave myself permission to have a bad day every once in a while.  

The seeds of this permission started years ago with a hip-hop dance teacher.  She was my closest and dearest friend in the real world, and in the dance studio, she shined like no other place.  She encouraged us to use the intense, raw, street-roots dance form to express our emotion, express our desires, express the parts of us that we couldn’t actually communicate anywhere else in our lives.  

In the studio, I got to express the sides of me that were passionate, overlooked, angry, ignored, misunderstood and just plain done with the god-damn status quo. In my university classrooms, I was a different person: someone who was poised and articulate and always kept my cool.  In the studio, I could let go. I could have a bad day.  I could just dance the hell out of the song, and when the time was up, the sweat and the racing heartbeat and the dance we had just all created together was the only proof I needed that I was letting go, that I was transforming.

It was through dance that I learned to harness the energy of a bad day.

As a fully cooked adult, I have fewer outlets to identify, express, and move the energy of my bad day.  

Or at least I thought I did.  

I thought I needed the dark lighting and interested eyes of a nightclub or the polished floors and banging drums of a studio to really feel that catharsis.  I have learned in the last six months that all you need to dance is music.  Who knew? Just music.  

So now, while I know it’s okay to have a bad day, I also know it’s not okay to have a bad year.  It’s exhausting.  When I feel like my bad day is turning into a bad week, I remember to dance.  Whether it’s Zumba at the gym with the 60-something group that shows up on a Wednesday morning, or the hardwood of my own kitchen, I turn on music and dance.

I know there is a bunch of science that proves the positive impact on music and movement on mood.  My job is not to convince you of all that using the science.  You can Google that yourself. What I can do, is give you an open window into my own life, and very generally, into the lives of the hundreds of people I have worked with, and remind you of how transformative music and dance can be.

So next time you find yourself in a funk, for more than a day (because, like I said, it’s okay to have a bad day every so often!) I would challenge you to put on a song you love, and just dance.  And if you can’t dance, no worries, just move awkwardly from side to side.  But get moving and listen to what makes your heart soar.

Dance: good for the body, better for the soul.

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira (she/her) provides mental health support through individual counselling, groups, immersive workshops/courses, and free educational content. Over the last 14 years, we have helped men and women of many backgrounds find answers to their questions about work, life, love, and meaning. Much mainstream psychology overlooks spirituality, family values, and community context, so we have decided to specialize in serving clients who are ready for change and also want to include their cultural values and spiritual beliefs into therapy.

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