The end.

Much has happened since my last post.

I traveled to England and had the opportunity to meet and spend time with many dear friends I’ve gotten to know through this blog and corresponding instagram page.

I’ve taught many classes (though many have also had to be subbed unexpectedly to attend funerals)

Nutcracker has come and gone.

And also, I’ve had the beginnings of a conversation with our artistic director about realities I’ve been trying to pretend aren’t realities.

I don’t ignore the fact I’m sick, but I’ve been trying to act like the extremities of it don’t exist. If I don’t have a solid diagnosis, a solid reason for this, then surely it’s not actually happening, right? Surely it’ll go away at some point, won’t it?

The answer to that is, “No.”

I’ve been sick since high school, which is now more than half my life. I don’t know what it feels like to be well or “normal” and it’s infuriating, but for much of my experience with it, I’ve been able to handle life miraging as a functioning human being. Once I got it into my head that I can do things if I set my mind to do so I didn’t want to limit myself, so I began ballet at 23, was given permission to begin pointe at 25, and managed to end up part of a pre-professional company even dancing in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. These were things I never even dared to dream, and I did them.

I tried to soak up every moment of it all, from the swish of tulle to the pressure of pointe shoes to the pull of your hair in a bun for hours, tried to memorize the emotions that came with just getting to experience these things simply because that’s how my life was going–it’s where I ended up. I tried to relish the fact I got paid to teach tiny humans this incredibly exciting thing that is ballet and watch them learn to love it as much as I did. I watched their progress and marveled at their triumphs, I teared up hugging them at the end of the year and hoped I’d see them either in classes the next year or at rehearsals the next season. It helped the goodbyes not hurt so much.

I’ve tried to deny most of my life that I’m a “feeler” but turns out its a very deep and innate part of who I am. I’m learning to love it, but it can make goodbyes complicated to process.

This year as the weeks rolled on, I realized it will be my last year teaching–the last main tether holding me to the ballet world. One of the first rehearsals for party scene of The Nutcracker I let our artistic director know that my body officially can’t hold up anymore. She replied with, “I was afraid you’d say that.”

They don’t want to see me go, either, which I appreciate so much, but they also are aware that there are things out of our control. They have been so kind and considerate of the fact that I have limitations, and have done everything possible to accommodate me with them. Ultimately, it’s up to me to decide when it’s too much to push through anymore, and this year has proven I am at my limit.

I’ve developed a pain in my right shoulder that caused me to have to teach 2.5 out of 4 classes with an ice pack on it for two weeks. Along with the herniated disks in my lower back that are hitting a nerve, arthritis in my knee and neck, and the chronic fatigue I believe I have reached my limit. It simultaneously breaks my heart to know I have to leave this thing I love and also makes it swell to see how much has happened and how many people fill it due to ballet.

As of how it stands currently, I’ll still be on call to sub classes, and still do Nutcracker if they’ll have me, but even so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to manage that. Still, I’m going to hold on to it as long as I can.

I’m getting ready to choreograph my last ballet recitals for the spring recital. I probably won’t write a blog post about it, so as it stands this will serve as the stagnant post to greet people who wonder where I’ve been or want some sort of closure to my story. (that’s a bold statement but I’m leaving it.)

I’m going to keep the blog up and keep my instagram page live for posterity and for whoever can benefit from the posts that have come out of these past 8 years. Hopefully some of you can find comfort or solace or encouragement in their words even if they’re not new.

I appreciate you guys for your support and love and kindness to me. Your friendships have been a lifeline to me and I value them more than words could ever express. While this all is incredibly difficult to let go of, I’m grateful beyond words that it was ever possible at all.

Enjoy every moment you’re given, soak it up while you have it, hold the people you love close, take the dang picture, and remember how valuable you truly are.

 

Start of the new school year.

This week marked the first week back at classes at our studio.

I’m only teaching Saturdays this year, so today was my first day.

I was a bit nervous because we added a 5-6 year old class, giving me 4 classes in a row, and a fairly consistent private after that, putting me at the studio teaching from 10-2. Now, if you’ve been following along, you’ll remember I’m chronically ill and don’t have, ya know, energy.

This is a huge risk for me, but my hope is since I’m pretty consistent during the week that I’ll be able to have enough energy for saturdays to make it through.

I was excited to find that so many of the names on my roster were ones I recognized, whether I taught the kids or had subbed their classes.

Classes are supposed to cap at 18, but my first class I believe ended up with 20. Already. First day. I’m not really worried because a good amount of them won’t show up, or at least not consistently, and the class seems to be full of kids that actually want to be there. It makes the classes function so much better, especially giant classes, if the kids actually care enough to be there. I have no clue how I’ll do recital, but if they keep up how they did today, I’ll be able to do fun stuff with them.

I think we’re gonna move a few of the 4-5 year olds to the 5-6, since the last class is rather empty and a few of them are on the older side of things anyway. I’m hopeful the 5-6 class will do better with more kids in it, but they’re good kids as it is. The 3-4 class doesn’t have many in it either, but I’m hoping once I learn all their names it’ll be a pretty decent class.

I had a truly mind blowing experience in my 4-5 year old class. If you’ve followed my story, you’ll know I danced briefly when I was a kid (six and seven, then ten and eleven) before my mom pulled me out. I came back to ballet when I was 23 because the pull of the dream of dancing was too big to ignore. This summer, I had one of my friends from high school enroll her daughter. She did so well and seemed to love it so much, I was pumped to see her back in class today. Then, my mind blew when behind her was the daughter of one of the girls I used to dance with, and probably haven’t seen since. We ended up at the same high school, but I didn’t have any classes with her.

Her daughter was a bit nervous, so she sat in with her this first class to see if we could get her warmed up, and it was so wild that a girl who was with me at my very beginnings when we were kids was now watching me teach. Me. Teaching. Teaching her kid. I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. I wasn’t ever good at ballet, I never looked like a dancer, it’s still a new thing if someone can ever recognize my dancing background off of me. (And part of why Paul harris’ comment last blog post meant so much to me)

Time is weird.

I made it through the classes well enough. I’m exhausted, as expected, and my heart feels kind of weird and my head just started hurting, but that’s alright. I’m taking things slowly.

I’m hopeful for these classes. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to be surrounded by a bunch of tiny humans I know and love. These past couple weeks have been pretty intense and jarring, but being with all these kids made me feel so good and truly helped my heart.

Ballet is magical.

Dueling ballet.

I didn’t expect to have something worth blogging here after a Harry Potter convention, but here I am, writing a blog about something that happened at a Harry Potter convention.

This past week was a whirlwind. I drove to Dallas to fly to Seattle for 13 hours so i could go to an Alison Sudol show, then back to Dallas for a convention called LeakyCon. (Think Leaky Cauldron.)

LeakyCon has easily become my favorite thing every year, coming together with hundreds of people who’s weirdest thing about them is the weirdest thing about you, knowing any references I throw into normal conversation will be completely understood. I come with friends and then make a bunch more, meet some of the actors, go to panels about literally everything, attend a wizard wrock concert and the Esther Earl ball and have all the fun.

This year, they brought in Paul Harris, who choreographed (for lack of better words) the dueling sequences for the movies. He’s a dancer originally, and director David Yeats tasked him with essentially creating the language of dueling.

We got to hear him talk of the background he pulled from, his favorite scenes, how he ended up staying longer and working more in depth than planned, and many fun behind the scenes stories.

He mentioned how since he is a dancer, he came at the task with the thought that if all of ballet is foundationally based from 5 position, why not dueling? He showed us the 5 defensive and 5 offensive positions it all originated from, which are the positions all new actors are taught when they learn how to duel.

As we were doing it, I found myself feeling like I was back in a dance class. Paying attention to the details of the movement, trying to make sure I’m facing the right direction, and true to form doing things opposite. (He corrected me, I laughed.) When Paul Harris made the comment, “okay, now, you do a plie in second” the girl behind me and I made a sound of understanding and realized we were both dancers. It was super fun.

He used me as an example at one point unexpectedly, which was super fun, then we split off into groups to create our own battle scene. He picked three groups to show theirs, including my new dancer friend who’s was my favorite.

At the end, my friend I came with and I went to get a picture with Paul Harris. As we thanked him and went to leave, he turns to me and says, “dance classes” before moving on to the next group for a photo, saying it in a tone that suggested he could tell I had a dance background.

I walked out of that room on cloud freaking nine.

The man who choreographed the Cheetah Girls could tell I was a dancer just from dueling. He had told me “good!” And “right!” A few times, like it were a dance class, and that alone made me feel super good, but that comment on the end meant more than he could ever know.

I haven’t taken a class in a year. I teach, but hardly do anything anymore and honestly, my days are numbered. But this man could tell that I danced. And he said something to let me know he could.

Being sick is hard. You go through various phases of grief and acceptance, then think you’ve got it down, then realize there’s about 30 more layers just to scratch the surface. Obviously one of the biggest parts of me that’s affected is my relationship to dance. This thing I fought for all these years essentially ripped from me in a slow fade over a matter of mere months. Realizing I don’t need to save up for my favorite dance skirt anymore because I can’t wear it, or having use for the custom leotards I had just received, not feeling that blissful exhaustion after a class that really challenged you, not being able to set goals in dance and work to achieve them.

It’s a process.

And oftentimes, it feels like something a part of my past.

But his comment made me realize that, even though I can’t take the classes anymore, I can’t physically do it, this is still a part of me. It’s a huge chunk of my story and it’s something that I’ll carry with me forever. I don’t have to prove that I am (or was) an adult dancer to anyone. It’s in me.

Thank you, Paul Harris.

End of summer 2019.

As quickly as summer classes began, they have ended.

I ended up with such a great group of classes this summer, I’m sad that it’s already over!

The last class this past Saturday had some brand new kids. They did really well, and honestly I’m hopeful they’ll come back in the fall. It also has some of my kids from the last year that struggled, but seeing them thrive in a different class environment was very exciting. Give kids a chance, they’re growing and learning and maturing more every day. If you keep pouring into them, they may just surprise you. (I mean, obviously some just need to wait and come back later but you get the sentiment.)

My assistants this summer were such rockstars. Even if they had other plans, they made sure they were in class to help, which really was huge for me. May was pretty intense and honestly I over did things, so June was a lot of catch up and careful planning to hope I didn’t make things worse than they were. These girls were so vital to me. I hope I have them again in the fall!

I accidentally ate chick peas the other day, which put me out for about 5 days. Thankfully it was four of the five days where I’m not at the office, but teaching was rather difficult that weekend. (The girls helped LOADS) I wasn’t sure what caused it at first, uncertain if it was the chick peas or if I didn’t sleep enough or did too much the day before or if I was getting “normal people sick” or something else. When it finally lifted Monday evening, I traced it back to the chick peas I accidentally ate Wednesday night. Literally three peas before i realized what they were. So obnoxious.

I’m coming up on the start of a lot of traveling. Mostly short trips, but some will be testing my boundaries. I’m cautiously excited, and trying to define my lines in hopes of not crossing them any chance I get, and if I happen to then I’ll know what I need to do to recuperate faster. It’ll be a learning experience, but hopefully I’m not gonna screw myself over with it all.

I don’t have any classes to teach until mid August when the studio opens for the fall. The older dancers/adults have continuing classes, which I used to attend. Sometimes it’s still weird remembering everything I used to be able to do without even giving it a second thought and now would seem like climbing Everest. Life is weird.

I did have a friend of mine suggest trying a different way of eating that she had seen to be beneficial for patients she used to treat that had ME/CFS when she used to work at that practice, and so far it’s been mind blowing. I haven’t seen a difference in the fatigue yet, but I’ve been able to eat without pain which literally left me speechless. Is this what you guys experience every day? Because holy moly it seems fake. Like, there’s no way this is reality. So much of my stomach pain was a continuous dull roar that having nothing hurt at all…I literally can’t explain it. I’m hopeful that this can be a continuous thing and that I can get more familiar with it and learn how to incorporate it into my daily life with better ease. (Especially since, ya know, cooking takes energy, which is exhausting.) so far, so good though.

(For those wondering, it’s the FODMAP thing.)

I hope y’all are doing well. I hope you’re dancing this summer however and wherever you can and that it leaves you feeling so fulfilled and alive.

Love you all ❤️

Summer classes have begun

Some days you wake up feeling rough, but excited about teaching summer classes.

Some days you lay in bed crying your eyes out because “I f*cking hate being sick.”

Some days those days are the same day.

Today started the summer classes at the studio. I have officially dialed it down to only teaching saturdays, which makes my heart super sad but is also something I know I need to do. Still, I’m grateful. Saturdays were quite enjoyable this last year and tend to be a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere at the studio.

My classes were only registered with 6 in each class, but I ended up with a few more than that who registered this morning, so that was exciting. My 6-8 year old class only has 2 kids I’ve had before–everyone else is new, which is super exciting. My 3-5 had all kids I had taught before except one, who was my friends daughter. She was the youngest of the ones there but, holy moly, she’s a natural. A few of the kids on my roll that didn’t show were ones I don’t know, hopefully they show up next week!

In my 6-8, I got to teach my first boys! I was so excited. They’re brothers and they seemed to have a blast with it. Since only two of the kids had danced before, I kept it pretty simple. We only have four weeks (so, four classes) with them but I’m hopeful we can still learn and do a lot in this short amount of time. It’s easier, too, in such a smaller class to get to teach them what they need to know, compared to having 16 in the fall classes this past year.

In my 3-5 year old class, it was a mix of all my classes. I don’t think any of my previous students had been in class together, so it was like having a representative from each class I taught, which was fun. They all did really well and focused well and we got to do a lot with them. The one new student, my friends daughter, kept up really well with the rest of the kids and has already stolen my heart. So there’s that.

I’m excited to be excited about teaching this summer. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to only have one day. I’m still getting used to the things I have to do for the betterment of my health or whatever, and I must admit it’s frustrating.

I’m still used to having a mindset of being able to be all in on this. I’m still kicking myself for being sick. I’m still angry at all the things I’m missing out on because of something completely out of my control and working on not blaming myself. I’m also working on finding where my limits are and sticking to them. There isn’t much known about ME/CFS and there isn’t much research being done on it since funding is limited since doctors struggle to believe it (which is half the issue, but I’ll put my soapbox away) so it’s not a definite “I’ll never get better” but it’s not likely I will. It’s been hard to tell so far if I’m getting worse or just learning more, but I do think there’s a decline now that I’ve been able to strip away responsibilities and try and define some of the lines.

Guys. It sucks.

It’s like having to sit out from being injured, but the injury never heals. So you keep hoping you’ll somehow get better and be able to go back, but you honestly don’t know if you will. There’s the pain of having to compromise so much on something you love so deeply, but being too stubborn to completely give it up.

I don’t know if I should still be teaching at all, but I figure one very strategic day a week should be manageable as long as I keep up on everything else as well and don’t overdo it. May threw me off with having to work more at the office (where I am super part time doing really simple work) and the length of it really took its toll. I’m hoping I can come back from it and that I didn’t make myself worse pushing through the whole month, or maybe it’s this ridiculous Texas heat making me feel worse, I don’t know. But it’s hard. I’ve made so many wonderful memories and met so many incredible people through this art form. I’ve learned so much about myself. And I’m so afraid if I have to give it up completely that I’ll be forgotten. That the busyness of what it takes to be involved will push me from the minds of these people I love and regard as family simply because I’m not there, so it’s not easy to keep up with. And not that some wouldn’t try, but being that I am indeed sick, and I live in the country, away from people, it makes it harder. And then I blame myself since keeping up with my ballet Instagram is more difficult while trying to sort through all these emotions, so I’m missing out on my friends achievements and accomplishments. So maybe I’m just bringing it all on myself. Maybe this is all on me.

I’m really struggling lately with all this. They say being sick with a chronic illness is like continuously having to start the grieving process over again. I’ve tried to fill the hole of ballet with other interests, and I’m grateful for what that has brought me, but I just don’t want this part of my life to end, ya know?

Stay tuned for further summer stories. This seems like a really good group and I’m super grateful for them already.

Love you guys.

Recital 2019

Classes wrapped up for the year the week before last, and recital was this past weekend. I was hoping to get this blog post written sooner then I am, but less than a week isn’t too bad, honestly.

This was the first year I was actually pretty nervous going into it. I had hoped to get the classes a little further along than I did over the course of the year, but that just wasn’t the case for most of them. I didn’t get to rehearse many of the little details that go into recital, like walking on the stage to our spots and the bow at the end and walking off, I had to change things up on them a few weeks before recital (keep in mind they’re all ages 3-8) with a one kid not showing up to rehearsal but coming to show day (after missing the last week of classes and having spotty attendance before that), one not showing up at all, and one getting sick the day of the show. Of course all of these are in the front line, so I ended up with a back line of 11 and a front line of 8. This was the class that I already had to combine last minute since the classes that were supposed to be separated into separate dances on separate days weren’t, so they were already rather thrown off. My young ones were full of talkers (though they’re stinking cute) and I wasn’t sure how they would all do on stage. My class of littles that were my rockstars had one that panicked on stage and two that kept arguing during rehearsal, and none of my Friday show kids got to practice with the black light.

Nervous is saying the least.

Friday just felt like a tense day overall. It seemed that all the little things that could go wrong did, and staying on top of everything and positive about it all was quite a challenge. Thankfully I had assistants that are TOTAL rock stars and the volunteers we had that day were so on top of it. There’s no way it would have gone as well as it did without them.

We have what we call “runner sheets”, which are papers that have all the dancers names and where they enter, any music cues, lighting cues, costume specifics, etc that are used by the teachers, volunteers, green room quick changes, Lights, sound, curtain–literally everyone. I was working the dancer check in when I noticed my first class that evening, the second dance, was missing. This was my biggest class with the talkers, and I was just super grateful I had my notebook that has where everyone stands with me. When sign in calmed down, I asked Ms. Munro about it. They were aware it was missing and she said my assistants were up there with them and asked if I could check in on them. (This was a good 15 minutes before we start bringing the kids down, so we had plenty of time.)

I go up there, and two of my assistants have them all in a row, in their order, waiting up against the wall. I had forgotten I had sent them the recital order in case a few forgot to switch lines they could know who is supposed to go to the back line and run on stage in costume and fix them really quickly. I literally let out a sigh of relief when I walked upstairs to see it was all in order. These girls are seriously the best.

A few of my kids got a little scared and started crying. As I bent down to hug them and help calm them down, I remembered bending down isn’t such a good idea. When we got them calm (You’re wearing momma’s magic mascara! We don’t want to cry and make it all go away!) (it worked, y’all) I stood up and within about three second had to hold on to the nearest person so I wouldn’t fall over. Thankfully it was a friend and fellow teacher walking by and I was able to grab her shoulder and steady myself for about 30 seconds until it passed.

Hair pieces were lost and borrowed from other classes with similar looking ones, bathroom breaks were done in time to not hold up the show, lines weren’t switched on the one dance but that’s okay because everyone danced the best they’ve done all year and I was so proud. I even laughed because backstage we have them “put a bubble in your mouth!” to help keep them from being tempted to talk. A few of them kept it even on stage, so instead of smiling, they’re dancing around with puffed up cheeks the entire time. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw it; there’s nothing I could do and also I was proud of them for being so determined to follow the rules when it truly mattered.

One of my older girls got scared of the dark while waiting back stage and as I held her there until the lights came up I was a bit nervous I wouldn’t be able to function when I needed upon standing. Thankfully, the lights came up a little early so I was able to gather myself in time.

Overall, Friday went over really well. It was the best the kids had done, my Monday class didn’t panic like had happened at rehearsal, and everyone danced great and had a good reaction from the audience.

Saturday felt calmer for me from the start. Maybe it was the peace that comes with familiarity of having successfully completed the day before, maybe it was that these classes had my kids all from one day, I don’t know but I wasn’t complaining.

I had all three of my Saturday dances within the first five numbers. I was a bit nervous about this, but once again my assistants for these classes are rock stars. (One even was just a fill in and she offered to help which ended up making a huge difference for me.)

My brain did space out at a couple points where the kids ended up on stage in an inverted order to what they were supposed to. One of them even tried to tell me, but I didn’t understand what she meant until she literally walked on stage. *Face Palm* Thankfully, these kids are all so on top of it that no one would know if you didn’t know. They danced so well and I was so very proud of them. My favorite is seeing them comes off stage after with giant smiles on their faces, clearly proud of themselves and living their best lives. They worked so hard and faced their nerves to really knock it out of the park.

Saturday feels more like a blur since they were all literally back to back. I do vividly remember my 4-5 Saturday class doing it so well that it messed me up (but they had it right.) I was so incredibly proud of them that I was bursting. Everyone remembered where they were supposed to go and did everything correctly even when my brain spaced. My 3-4 year olds on Saturday were on top of everything so much my jaw literally dropped. They nailed the entire thing and seemed to be having the time of their lives.

During check in on Saturday, a grandparent of a dancer came up and asked if I was Emilee and that she had a question. I met her on the other side of the table so we were out of the way and she told me, “I saw your dances last night and was really impressed with your choreography. You can tell that your kids know what they’re doing and know the steps and that you truly care about them!” At this point, I’m thinking, are you sure it’s me and not the other Emily? Then she pulls out her program and says “I marked your dances because I wanted to make sure I found you. I want my granddaughter in your class next year.” This blew my mind. She was seeing the dances I was so nervous about and beating myself up over. (Not because of the dancers, but because of myself. ps.) I am so bad about comparing myself to other people or to other versions of myself whenever I have to realize that reality may not be comparable to that. The circumstances I’m faced with can be completely different from what I had before or what others may have. Everything is constantly changing and evolving and we have to be open to that. This woman’s comments made me feel like I’m doing something right.

I also had many of my former students ask me what I’ll be teaching so they can get their kids in my class, and others asking about private lessons with me. It was reaffirming in ways I am beyond grateful for. My relationship with dance has changed so much since it began. So much of it feels and is a loss, but I am increasingly grateful for and amazed by what I still do have. I still have these kids. I can still teach. And from what I’m seeing, these kids still love ballet.

I’m also very proud of my “kids” I used to dance with that are all growing up and blowing my mind. The advanced dances were so beautiful and honestly if I looked at any one dancer I would cry. I had to watch them as a whole to keep from losing it. They are all just growing and doing so well and it makes me so proud to see them sticking with this and working so hard at something they love. They are the proof of the passage of time and I know they’ll be graduating and going off soon, but until then I’m going to savor every moment with them.

I wanted to have this posted on Sunday, and in reality having it posted Wednesday isn’t that bad, but recital took more out of me than I expected. I’m grateful I didn’t pass out, but often I wouldn’t realize how weak my body was until those moments or until I got home and the weight of it all came crashing down on me. Sunday and Monday I was effectively worthless, I’m still not sure how I got through Monday’s work day. I’m doing my best to take care of myself these coming days, while also trying not to fall behind on things I can’t avoid. My body has been having new pains and things happening which is a bit alarming, but it’s hard to say if it’s just a flair up or a new normal.

Summer classes start up for me June 8th, and from here on I’ll only be teaching Saturday’s. It’s too difficult to try and do more than one thing in a day consistently now that I’m working part time, and I really need to try and make this my main focus, but I am so grateful to still have my hand in teaching and hopeful that it will be fulfilling and something that endures.

In September, Allie and I will make our way over to London, so if you’re in the area and haven’t reached out yet, please do! We’ll post more details as plans get more concrete, but I’m very excited to be able to do this, even if I’m not sure how my body will react, haha!

 

Please enjoy some behind the scenes pictures from this weekend 🙂

 

 

 

Last week of classes 2019

When we start class, especially at the beginning of the year, we go around and say our name, age, and favorite whatever I decide for that week. This typically becomes “color” or “princess” for my little ones since they have ready answers for those. (Plus It’s easier to remember when I’m unprepared, as per usual.)

This week I’ve asked what their favorite thing about ballet is.

Their answers vary from “making pizza” referring to a stretching exercise we do, to actual ballet terms they remember (specifically passé and plié), to one naming a specific assistant of mine 😂

When It gets to my turn, I tell them my favorite is teaching all of them–and it truly is.

There’s this quote that’s constantly in the back of my mind since I’ve had to stop dancing, “those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” Since first hearing this quote, I’ve resented it, but at this point in my life I am so grateful to be able to teach.

It’s slowing down, it’s becoming more and more minimal, but it’s still possible. And for that I am immensely grateful.

This year I’ve experienced my first true problematic parents. There’s really nothing else we could do to help the situation, so I’m trying not to beat myself up about it and instead try and learn from it. Still, every time I get to that class I find myself tensing up, knowing that the parents will be watching through the window (which at this point most don’t.) I feel pressure. It’s not my favorite. It’s the first time I’ve had a few months where I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, actually looking forward to the years end. Obviously, I’m not looking forward to everything ending, but the bits that make me feel like this.

I wrote out cards to each of my kids, like I do every year, and planned to get lollipops for them. A simple way to end the year. When I was their ages, teachers meant a lot to me. I still keep in touch with my second grade teacher, as well as many from high school. Their opinion of me was something I held in high regard, and how they made me feel is a sort of guide point I use in hopes to teach these kids the way I was privileged to be treated and hopefully they can feel the way I did. I want them to like coming to ballet, to feel safe in my class, to know someone cares about them. I want this to be a positive experience for them, whether they stick with it or not.

This week, as I handed out candy and cards to each of my kids, making sure I bring extra lollipops for siblings, a couple of the moms thanked me and the kids came running up hugging me and telling me they love me (which, honestly, melt.) one of the moms of one of my 4 year olds was asking me about recital details between classes and a lady next to her asked me if I would be teaching in the summer and next fall. I told her I would only be teaching saturdays (this was during the week) since I have ME and have to slow it down a bit and asked how old her dancer was. She said one daughter already dances but she has a 4 year old she wants to put in. I told her I have a 4-5 year old class that if she can make I’d love to have her. She responded, “these kids all love you so much, I want my daughter to have you as a teacher. What’s your name?”

She was the second person that day who didn’t know me, encountered me around other dancers, and asked who I was so their child could be in my class.

And honestly, I feel pretty crappy quite a bit. Especially as I’m still learning to accept the changes being sick has brought on. I’m having to give up more than I ever wanted and missing out on stuff I had hoped to be a part of. So to have these two simple reminders at the end of such a long year full of so many challenges and changes really meant a lot to me. It felt like I’m still doing something right. That even though a few classes didn’t rise to where I had hoped they would by the end, that it wasn’t a waste to try anyway. That the time we spent together was still valuable, even if most of it was spent correcting the things I had already corrected 7 times in the last 10 minutes. (And all the moms and mom figures say “amen.”)

Dracula

Many things have happened lately, yet I find it hard to write about them.

I’m apparently still trying to sort out how to feel with all these changes and how it relates to my relationship with ballet–I assume that will be a balance I will struggle to find for a while as it is continuously morphing.

Still, some notable things are happening or have happened, realizations are being made, and a struggle is being had.

First, and most exciting, my friend Allie and I are planning a trip to London in September! I’m ridiculously excited to get to spend a couple weeks in England with a friend who likes all the same things I do, and also who is considerate of all my health junk. I’ve been to London before, but never for this long. I’ve been there since I’ve been sick with all the stomach stuff, but not yet since the fatigue stuff has come on. I’m still trying to learn my limits, as those are also ever changing, but having made some changes to my lifestyle to hopefully help it not digress any further I’m hopeful that I can still keep living a mostly “normal” lifestyle, even if it isn’t my normal before getting sick. I don’t want to let my illness be my excuse, but also I have to respect my body when it tells me I’ve done too much, even if “too much” seems like hardly anything.

We’re hoping to meet up with ballet friends we have across the pond while there, and also do London ballet things. The downside is, I know I won’t be able to make it through a class. Last year I took barre at Kansas City Ballet, which was an incredible experience I am so grateful for, but I’d be a fool to believe that I could do something like that now, and knowing I can’t take a class in London really sucks. But, I have to listen to my body, and I can still do other ballet things, but it is a reality of how much my life has changed since getting sick. It’s a process.

Still, Allie is hopefully going to take a class, and we hope to get a load of pictures while we’re there. It’s going to be such a great time.

Another sort of reality check was seeing my company’s spring show this weekend. It is the first show I haven’t been in to some degree since I began dancing here, which was a milestone I never wanted to hit. They did Dracula, which I had never seen, but man do I wish I could have been a bride. Their costumes are gorgeous and it was full of my favorite kind of movement, though I know bits of it would have been a struggle for me, even well. At the same time, it was so fulfilling to watch the kids dance. One of them was 11 when I first started there, we were in the same level and danced the same roles in my first spring show, Wizard of Oz. This ballet was choreographed by one of our teachers in house. There was a moment during Dracula when I found myself get tense and focused, you know that feeling right before your cue. I was trying to figure out why I felt such intense emotion of anger and determination until I realized it was music we used in Wizard of Oz as Winkie Guards. I laughed so hard when I realized.

Seeing how much the “kids” have grown as dancers was an absolute joy, as well as seeing some of the kids I’ve taught old enough to be in the shows. I swear, I teared up like they were my own. Then seeing my friends (my age) dance in their roles absolutely blew my mind. I swear, I could watch them forever and I’m so proud of all their hard work in these roles.

I debated going to the show. Not because I didn’t want to see it, but Saturday did me in so much I was feeling pretty rough. I had taught three classes and a private before a yoga private to help my back, then got sick from the time I got home til I left for the show. When i woke up the next morning, I felt like I got hit by a truck. Overall, I’m so glad I went. I don’t think I expected to feel as loved as I did seeing everyone; the dancers, the moms, the crew. Some I hadn’t seen since Nutcracker. It really did my heart good. I sat back, just observing warm up, and thought how grateful I was to still be connected to such an incredible place, even if I can’t dance like my heart craves.

I’m still here. I’m still connected. I’m still wanted.

Our artistic director gave me a hug and told me how well I would have done as a Bride and would have loved the role. It really made me feel good to hear that, like i still belong even if my body doesn’t let me participate. I appreciated it, and honestly it moved me.

We’re coming up on recital next month. The classes feel long as I have gotten into the swing of my new job and my energy is so limited. These kids have sure given me some moments i hope to remember. Like the day we got our costumes, tried them on, and did the dance for the parents in class. One of my dancers, Isobel who’s 4, literally laid down the entire dance. Right there in her spot. It was such a relatable mood. What a hoot.

Another one of my students, in my 6-8 year old class this weekend came up to me, hugged me tight, and told me I was her favoritest teacher she’s ever had.

Then there’s all the spontaneous hugs in general. And all the drawings–I’ve gotten so many colored pictures this year. From Riley and Isobel and Scarlett and Gabriella. Seeing that look on their face right before they just can’t hold back and wrap their arms around me and hug me tight–that’s why I do this. What it makes them feel, the light in their eyes. If I can have some small part in that, everything is worth it, and I hope to do it to whatever degree I can as long as I can.

I’m currently writing out notes to all my kids. I do it every year and try to hand them out the last two weeks of class. I know not all of them will keep dancing, but I hope their experience while they do is a good one.

I hope I counted right. There’s a bunch of kids in these 8 classes, haha!

Recital is mid-May, I hope to have another update around them. And if you live in England and would like to meet up please reach out!

My sweet Haeleigh took pictures for me from their second show I wasn’t able to make. These girls make me so happy

Children are magic.

I know I often say how grateful I am for the kids I teach, but weeks like this one really drive home how grateful I truly am.

Last Thursday, a really good friend of mine I’ve known since I was 10 died. She was about a week shy of her 29th birthday, and left behind a husband and two kids, 4 and 2, and of course her family and friends.

She hadn’t been feeling well for about a year, but tests came back inconclusive so she ignored it. It got too bad to ignore last year and she went to the Er, where her stats dropped as they were running tests. They sent her to a hospital at the next big city 2.5 hours away where they finally found out she had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, but she died before they could even start to treat it.

If you know me, you know I’ve known a lot of people to die. I almost see it as a sort of cost for loving so many people, but it doesn’t make each loss suck any less. The depth of how much I feel it and how much time it takes to grieve varies person to person, and I’ve been trying to teach myself how to actually feel all the emotions with it–let me tell ya, it’s been a time. This friend was the 8th person I’ve known to die since I started yoga in December and really took this intent of not ignoring emotion, but this one did me in so much that I actually allowed myself to avoid emotion. I gave myself a deadline, until the funeral, which was Tuesday.

We were on spring break when I found out last Thursday, so my Monday class was the first one I had. I was supposed to finish cutting music, choreographing my last dance, and getting the music onto CD to use in class, but my life essentially just stopped after she died. I didn’t bother with any of it.

I felt bad. I felt like I was going back on my word with these kids. I’m sure the Saturday kids will be a little sad I don’t have the right music (theirs is the one I need to cut) but I’m sure they’ll be alright in the end.

I did end up having a bit of time on my hands today, so I did get the last dance choreographed before I had to teach tonight, which felt like a mini victory. I was hoping to cut the song today, too, but it seems all the exhaustion I suppose adrenaline was putting off subsided and hit me all at once before class. But, of course, I must keep going.

But my kids, oh, my kids.

On Monday, they were all so sweet and so excited to be back in class. It truly warmed my heart to be around them (and everyone was there!) which was a balm I didn’t know my heart needed. I’ve made friends with a good amount of the dance moms this year that have been watching out for me and checking in, which means more to me than I could ever begin to explain. One of them even sent me a card in the mail with a bunch of herbal tea that is proven to help heal broken hearts (😭) and her daughter wrote me a note with a picture. I picked it up from the post office after I left the funeral and promptly sat in my car and cried.

It was, indeed, healing. (And the tea, also)

I had that sweet student in class today, and she came up to me and hugged me so tight and said, “I’m sorry your friend died.” And let me tell you I about lost it again right there.

Children have a magic all their own. They’ll share it with you if you let them.

One of my dear teacher friends wrote me a card as well, which really meant a lot. Especially given the gravity that, unfortunately, this has been such a reoccurring thing lately. It meant a lot to know that I wasn’t the only one who saw that, though.

I’m still learning to allow myself to grieve. To let myself feel and process and give space for the natural order of things. To understand that death is a part of life, and that not all my friends are dying even if it seems like they are. I’m currently trying to not let myself give into the fear of the fact that I still have so much and so many to lose, but instead to enjoy who and what I have now while I have it. To appreciate the value of breath in my lungs.

See, my friend died from one of my biggest fears. “Doctors don’t know” what’s wrong with me, which is what happened to her. We had actually just talked about it. My unspoken fear is that I have something extreme, like cancer, that’s underlying and will just take me out like that. And my fear happened to her.

Chances are it’s a conglomeration if genetics and also being a highly sensitive empath that’s had 30 years of avoided emotion Im just now learning not to suppress, but how am I to know if doctors won’t help me here? Anyway, that’s another blog post for another day.

For today, I’m grateful to be alive, grateful for the wonderful people dance has brought into my life, grateful Im still able to teach, and grateful for the students I have that share a bit of their magic with me every week.

Kids say the darndest things

Last week I began my new job at our local courthouse. It’s part time and I’m doing really simple paperwork type stuff, which is perfect for me since I can’t do too much at once, need to pace myself, and haven’t worked full time in almost a year due to all this health junk.

This was a very exciting opportunity as it is very low key and in a very chill environment. My co workers are hilarious and kind, and my desk is decorated with Harry Potter stuff. It’s the perfect place, really.

I’ve been having to figure out how to make Wednesday’s first class work as it starts at 5:30, and I get off work at 5. I still work in town, but trying to get from downtown to the studio during rush hour traffic is a good time.

Still, my kids are freaking adorable and hilarious. On Friday, one of my absolute favorite kids, McKenna, came in with a giant smile on her face. She brought me a sheet of stickers from her very own collection and was so excited to give it to me. Her mom said, “she said in the car, “Mommy, Ms. Emilee looks like a princess.”

Cue. Heart. Melt.

When we got into class, McKenna told me that she put on her ballet shoes all by herself. (She’s 4.) The student next to her then said, “My daddy put on my shoes all by himself!” And I couldn’t help but laugh because she sounded so proud of him for doing this.

There’s never a dull moment with these kids, and I am soaking up every moment.

My Monday morning kids always have hilarious and clever things to say, as well. It’s definitely a great way to start my week and my assistant and I always look forward to it. One of the kids in this class, Dayna, has never said her name without giggling. I look forward to it every time. It’s the little things, y’all.

There’s still one recital dance I haven’t choreographed yet. It’s my Wednesday/Friday 3-4 year old class. So many of the Wednesday kids struggle to focus (they’re just so excited) so I’ve really had to put my foot down hard so they don’t fall behind, especially since it’s combined with Friday, which is a smaller class and way more focused. I want to have a feel of what they can handle before I make up the dance, and think I finally got that yesterday, so hopefully I can make up the dance while the studio is closed for spring break.

Tiny little kid hugs are the best things.