Soaked with nature’s perfume, our day was coming to a close. After a day spent lake-diving, boating to a patio-restaurant for lunch and doing yoga by the water at dusk, we finally settled in for the evening. Our cottage playlist set the mood nicely. It was mostly background music playing off the stunning views of water, rock, lake and trees. Once the sun was put to rest, the dark sky drew us inside where the background music became our evening soundtrack. A joke earlier about the perfect fishing song was cued up. It was a fierce song with build and vibe and attitude. A song that could not be passively listened to – it demanded we move! With a relaxed courage, I stood up and started dancing. In no way ‘cool’ but fully committed, I summoned the courage of two more. Together we danced. One song turned into two, and two turned into more. We laughed and moved, and were as free as could be. In the comfort of a cottage on a private island where no one could peek in and say “Look at those weirdos!” we were free of judgement. My dance was silly and full of laughter with a bit of attitude. It was the culmination of a happy heart and soul. It was freedom!

The freedom I experienced came from a level of trust I had developed with my friends and myself. Uninhibited by the fear of judgment, I was able to be my ‘silly-self.’ Late night cottage dancing was the peak high after experiencing some very difficult lows a year earlier. 

Last summer I hid myself in the cottage bedroom (which also functioned as a tool shed) counting the number of hives on my arms, stomach and thighs. Knowing we were sharing the cottage with long-time friends, I tried to be brave like it didn’t matter but I carried concern with me the whole weekend. At the time I thought my body was rebelling against me by covering itself in hives. Looking back I realize my body wasn’t rebelling – it was aligning itself with feelings of unrest, concern and embarrassment. I hadn’t learned how to be okay with not being okay.

This insight has taken months of uncovering the ‘self’ I had learned to bury. It was admitting to imperfection, learning to feel the ‘ugly’ emotions, trusting my gut and doing what was best for me (not what I thought others needed from me). It was journalling, reading, exercise, re-living the not-so-nice stuff and replacing it with new perspective. It was talking to trusted friends, like my cottage friends. Self-care (if that’s what you want to call it) was essential to my health. It was what gave me the courage a year later to -uninhibited by fear or judgement – dance like it was nobody’s business. And boy, did I dance! Self-recovery is much like late night summer dancing – it’s freedom.  

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. – Psalm 30:11a


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  1. Melissa, I love reading your words. So poetic and often remarkably relatable. I’m always wanting more! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with loss, pain, and the other “dark” feelings that make us human. Those hard personal experiences that lead to isolation and insecurities are awful. Thanks for helping me feel less ashamed and more empowered about the parts of me that are harder to talk about.

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