A poem describing my feelings about the loneliness and isolation inflicted on people with dementia and how dance eases that suffering
In the middle of the night, before presenting at a workshop with Dr. Richard Coaten in London, I awoke with the following poem:
To Dance in an Imaginal World
I see you, imaginary person with dementia
I can be with you in your suffering if you are in pain.
I don’t have to look away. I cannot be with all people in their pain.
I am not afraid of the suffering of dementia.
I am not afraid of not-words, not thinking, not-memory, non-rational.
I’m afraid of a world without love.
I can only touch down for a moment or two to be with you in your despair.
If I stay longer, I won’t be able to help.
I, too, will be stuck in the mire.
But perhaps I can lift you up
and you can lift me up and
then we can touch down again when need be.
You need me to get you started.
And I need you to play so together we can dance in an imaginal world.
This past summer, I shared the poem with Michael Verde at the annual Memory Bridge Retreat. Michael asked if I might dance the poem. I did, with the help of Emily Cousins, Researcher, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Mental Health at The University of Nottingham, who read the poem (while videotaping) and Emma Jack, Wu Tao Dance instructor and dementia care advocate, who co-choreographed the poem and danced with me.
I also shared the poem, verbally, at the EADMT conference in Milan two weeks ago in the workshop I co-led with Richard Coaten. My hope was that participants would dance the poem, but unfortunately, there was only time enough for them to do a moving reflection. I believe that the life of the poem will continue.
To learn how you can bring dance to people with dementia so we can diminish their loneliness and isolation, please join us November 5-6 in Westwood, Massachusetts for a 15-hour training. Find out more and register here.