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  • Writer's pictureZach Michaud

Dancing Away In Tears

I love disco music! There, I said it. I like sad disco music because it's a sad you can boogie to. It's hopeful that the sadness will wash over us and that the pulse of life will carry us onward. That pulse of life is too delicious not to engage in, even through the sadness. But I didn't sit down to blog my coming out as a disco lover in a five hundred word defense.

What I really want to talk about is my divorce. I got divorced this past year. And I haven't been sure how to bring that up on my website or social media. The most I could bring myself to do was to take down a few paragraphs and a picture from this website that described our marriage. It seems private enough that I don't have to talk about it. It is also pertinent to what I do. A divorce seems as significant as a wedding; as important to acknowledge as the death of a loved one. Why don't we write out divorce announcements like we do with wedding announcements? Come to think of it, I sort of did create divorce announcements this winter, but they were disguised as holiday cards.

Maybe the reason we don't announce our divorces is because as a culture we have normalized "congratulations" in response to news of a wedding and "I'm sorry" as the polite follow up to the aside that we got a divorce. When I tell my friends, coworkers, and family members that I am now divorced and they say "I'm sorry," I say, "I'm not." My now-friend (I stole this alternative to "ex" from a very wise - and divorced - friend of mine) and I consciously de-coupled. We went to a couple months of therapy with a counselor - on Zoom, of course, this was just last fall. We did not leave anything unsaid. Nothing. We acknowledged that while we supported each others' growth, we had grown apart. I'm not sorry that each of us gets to imagine into our futures more fully, futures that conflicted when we tried to imagine them together.

While I have not felt sorry that this marriage ended, I have certainly felt sadness throughout the process. I'll miss this man as a lover. We always had great sex. I wonder if I will ever find another person who is as easy and fun to travel with. I'm not much of a traveler by myself and through my partnership with him, I experienced the world in a very gentle and curious way. We made a beautiful home that we lived in for thirteen years and we became an anchor point in the neighborhood, sharing resources and enriching the lives of neighbors and ourselves. We took in and cared for a stray dog who we buried in the yard of that house after he died. We rescued another sweet dog that I am not allowed to have in my new place (the one major downside of an otherwise lovely living situation). I have moved through, and am still moving through, grief around these big changes.

I tried to create a de-coupling ceremony with my now-friend to help with this grief and help us to transition, but he didn't want to take part in that. He has experience participating in different types of ceremony, but I'm the student of ceremony creation. I nerd out over it. I know that as scary or silly or vulnerable or corny a ceremony can feel in the moment, it can honestly and unexpectedly change you. We had planned to throw a party to take down a Maypole from the parking strip in front of our house after we sold it. The Maypole dance had been a five or six year tradition that involved friends and neighbors. We would leave the pole up all year, a beacon of human connection to anyone passing by. Taking the last one down felt important and I thought we could incorporate our de-coupling into that ritual. When he refused, I figured I would simply make the separation ritual a personal intention of mine that day. My personal intention setting didn't have the intended effect I was looking for.

Here is where sad disco, and specifically a song called "Dancing Away in Tears" by the artist Yola comes in. I continued to be open to the grief as it came during the months that followed the Beltane celebration. It came up when watching the series Station Eleven, based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel. Not having the chance to say goodbye is a theme that runs throughout the show. Soon after binging that series, I ran into a friend at coffee who was wearing a Yola shirt. He was the person who turned me onto this soulful singer. The shirt prompted me to tap into her music again and that's when I found this newer song. The opening lines are "We're dancing away in tears / the music we made disappears." These themes from the show and this song pulled at those divorce strings in me. We humans want to make meaning of the world around us and when we don't give ourselves time in ritual and ceremony to make meaning, we'll start to see it in unexpected places, which happened with me.

Where Station Eleven helped pull at the strings of my grief, Yola's song helped to transform it. "Dancing Away in Tears" is a spell. An incantation. A healing chant. Because I could listen to this song anywhere on a portable device, because it is upbeat with an insanely catchy hook, because it synched perfectly with my emotional state, this song became my ritual for closing the door on my relationship. I thank my training and experience in ceremony for recognizing the process as it was happening. I was able to have gratitude and appreciation for what was happening as it happened. Had I not been conscious that this transformation was taking place, it would have felt just as good.

Knowing what creates that good feeling in me, helps me to create ceremonies for others. When someone talks to me about emotions related to the ceremony we are creating together, I can think about what creates those emotions in me. Not everyone has my taste in music, poetry, or movies, but as I'm looking through readings or rituals, I can look for something that gives me that feeling. If it creates that in me, chances are that it will have a similar affect in the ceremony participants and attendants. It at least lends to the process.

I know Old Ways Ceremonies is a little heavy on the wedding themed content over here right now, but if you are experiencing a break up or a loss, I hope you check out this song and reach out if I can help create some kind of ceremony to help you through a transition. I'll leave you with the ear worm from the song we've been talking about:

Goodbye, Baby

Goodbye, Love

I wish you well

Well enough

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