The week that Steve got his diagnosis of cancer was the week I went to my first Zumba class. I needed a distraction from the diagnosis and its impact on our lives. I saw the hour-long class advertised at a local community centre. The first thing that struck me was how friendly people were, all ages, all body shapes even a grandfather who came along with his granddaughter. The music was wonderful, rich Latin salsa rhythm as well as Bollywood and Caribbean music.
I remember one particular song from that first class, Ike and Tina Turner singing Proud Mary. We moved across that hall floor waving our arms like paddle steamer wheels to the chorus.
Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
And we're rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river
After just one class, I was hooked even though I couldn’t really do the moves, my hands and feet refused to work together. The teacher, Gabriella Reeve suggested I concentrate on just the footwork, the arms will follow later. Sure enough, 18 months later, I’m doing OK.
As Steve’s health declined I kept going to Zumba class, nobody knew me or knew my story so I didn’t have to talk or give updates, all I had to do was dance.
A few weeks after Steve died I went back to Zumba, I explained to a few people including the teacher what had happened and everyone wrapped me in love. It was in the best place in the world for healing my grief.
Now I aim to go twice a week, the music continues to delight me and new moves are always fun to learn. Sometimes I feel sexy, shaking my hips, other times I feel like a wooden pole especially when I try to shimmy. But I’m moving, it’s a great cardio workout and it’s a good counterbalance to the sadness that sometimes wells up.
My teacher played Ed Sheeran’s song Perfect and explained he wrote this for his girlfriend when they were both teenagers, I had tears rolling down my face but I carried on dancing. I thought about my love for Steve which started when we were both teenagers, we had our whole lives ahead of us. And what a good life it turned out to be. Beautiful memories fill my heart and as I write this now I’m feeling my emotions rising to the surface. My strategy when this happens if I can, and sometimes it’s not possible, is to focus on what an incredible love I had and how much gratitude I have for that love.
Give it a Try
Find an exercise class to try. It’s not just the physical exercise, often there’s a mental aspect, especially if you have to remember complex footwork patterns. You’ll make connections with people and be part of a group and have a routine in your life.
Choose a class where you can find release, where your grief is held at bay for at least the duration of the class.
You might like an interview I did with Gabriella, my Zumba teacher for my radio show. You can hear what she has to say about the benefits of Zumba and why she loves teaching here .
The interview with Gabriella is 40 minutes into the replay