Cantique–A Novel

Ballet has a unique was of bringing people together–across generations and oceans and any other divide you can think of. It’s one of my favorite things about the art form, and I’m grateful to have such a great group of people I have met via Instagram that also share this love, specifically coming into it as adults.

One of these friends, Joanna Marsh, actually wrote a great novel called Cantique, inspired in part by coming into ballet as an adult beginner and the subtle ways it draws one in to itself.

Joanna has a blog she also runs that features the stories of different ballet dancers that began as adults.

While the blog is such a wonderful look into the lives of different people joined together by this common love, I take an extra, personal interest in it now. Not too long ago, Joanna asked me if I would be willing to be a part of her blog series and if she could interview me.

Oh-my-gosh-yes-are-you-serious-holy-crap-this-is-the-coolest
That’s about how it went in my head, no punctuation at all, and I’m sure actually more long-winded than I’m letting on. I was honored to be thought of, to say the least, especially in this time in my life where I can find myself feeling like I don’t really have much to offer since my life is so starkly different now with being sick and trying to navigate that. Yet, smack dab in the middle of that, comes this message asking if she could tell part of my story.

It’s something God has been teaching me recently, that being sick isn’t the end of my story but rather a part of it. And that can be the same for you, whether it’s moving or switching jobs, or family problems, or extreme loss, or whatever it is you might be facing. That doesn’t mean your story is over, it doesn’t mean that your finer days are done, it doesn’t mean you’ve done all the good you were born to do. It just means that you story is starting another chapter, for lack of less-cheesy words, and that with this you’ll see the point of all the complications. You’ll meet people you never would have otherwise and find fulfillment in life you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I also saw a video this week of a woman diagnosed with a condition that gives her a very short life expectancy, and how she keeps proving them wrong. And how she realized her diagnosis isn’t an end all, be all. It doesn’t mean you can’t do all the things you dream or hope, but rather it’s just another way to do it all, another mode of transportation to get to your destination.

I’m grateful. Truly  grateful.

Days will come that will suck and I’ll be frustrated and feel like crap, but these days in between make it worth it.

(Reminds me of super old blog posts from the beginning of this blog that have similar sentiments about beginning ballet. Oh, life. How you come full circle.)

 

You can buy Joanna’s book here

You can check the post here

 

Thanks again, Joanna. I truly appreciate your friendship!

My last summer class.

I actually made it to a class yesterday.

First time in, like, a month.

There were days I felt well enough to go before, but I was a bit nervous not knowing who the teacher is. Not that any of them could necessarily not be good teachers, but I realize that I am currently in a very fragile state and having something familiar in a place that I associate with safety is dire. It could easily sap me of any bit of optimism I have, or it could remind me that I’m going to be okay.

Summer classes start earlier since we don’t have to worry about a school schedule, so I knew if I left straight from work, I’d only be there about 15 minutes early. (Y’all may scoff at the “only,” but being that I live pretty far out it typically puts me about 30 minutes early. Which is too early in this sense. Fifteen minutes was going to be perfect.) I left the office at 5:04, class starts at 6.

I had driven the same route yesterday for my chiropractor appointment with no problem, but not even 15 minutes into the 45 minute drive, the traffic was already insane. I’m not sure if it’s due to the city’s potential and imminent growth coming early or if it’s something with summer or what, but I was tense and concerned that I wouldn’t get there on time. (The drive is a 35 minute drive that takes 47 during 5 o’clock traffic.) I looked at the clock when I was supposed to be 10 minutes away and noticed I wasn’t even half way there. I was stressed. My hair was still down, I’m not sure where in the depths of the car my shoes are, and I haven’t seen anyone in at least a month. I need those 15 minutes to center myself.

I walked in the door right as class was starting. Full of younger ones whom I love so dearly, I wanted to just hug them all and ask how their summer is going, but I had to get my hair up and they were already walking into the studio. One of the mom’s hugged me as I was half-ready, walking into the studio anyway, and said, “I love seeing you when you get to come to class.” And I knew she meant that genuinely from the depths of her heart. It made my stress melt away and air to fill my lungs again.

Thankfully I walked in to see one of my favorite teachers. She’s also one I don’t have often, but the classes of hers I have taken are ones that always left me feeling great. She challenges enough to push us past what we think we’re capable enough, while also not making it so hard we give up. I was excited.

I said hi to some of the dancers I was able to, and hugged the closest few before we got started. Barre was the challenge I expected and hoped for, and left me feeling so good. I was aware of my limitations, but also still able to do most of what I could before. I did do something to my left hip, but that used to be the norm so I wasn’t all too concerned. (And it doesn’t hurt me today.) The class is an hour and a half long, and barre was about 45 minutes. When we finished, I pulled my hand away and noticed it shaking. More than just a subtle movement, but full-on shaking. I did some quick calculating of how I felt versus the time we had left and knowing center would probably have some challenges and decided I–unfortunately–probably shouldn’t push myself. I went and told my teacher, as I didn’t want her to think I was just leaving because it was her. Turns out I hadn’t seen her or gotten to talk to her since I had gotten diagnosed (I used to see her every Wednesday between when my class ended and hers began and also at rehearsals) so I filled her in, but she has seen and known of many of my struggles, especially during Snow White rehearsals.

I didn’t think I could drive home the whole way without the threat of spacing out, so I waited in the foyer. Thankfully, two of the mom’s were still there, including the one who had hugged me before. We talked about the upcoming year and classes, my trip to Florida next month, and they gave me tips on things to make sure I see and do. As I was about to leave, another mom came in and my diagnosis came up. Turns out one of the mom’s there also has CFS and was telling me about things she tried that worked for her and ways it affects her. It was so great to have another someone there who understood it and even mentioned, “everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you, but it might be worth a shot.” It was simple and she didn’t have to say anything, but her doing so made me feel so much better.

Reality is my reality is changing. Substantially. By the looks of it, I may not be able to stay for classes, even on “good days.” I’m exhausted today and having to push through the work day anyway, which thankfully is full of things I understand, but unfortunately something I’m having to take more slowly to factor in my brain’s lag time and how heavy my chest feels. I do have Friday’s off right now, which is everything. Navigating the Fall will be something to adjust to, as well. I just have to leave myself room to be human and understand that my life isn’t what it was. I also have to give myself the time it will take to accept that in all of it’s layers.

My next doctor’s appointment is at the end of August. I’m hopeful that maybe we can figure out further depths to this thing, or even just note that it’s declining rather rapidly, and see where to go from here.

Thankfully, I write, which means most things are pretty heavily documented.

I hope to still be as active here as I can, though regrettably it will be quite a bit less from normal being that I can’t do as much. I’ll have my baby classes to keep me in the loop of the dance world, still, which means more than I have words for.

Thank you, friends, for staying along for this ride. You guys mean everything to me.

Still learning. 

I haven’t been to a class in a while. I honestly don’t remember when, but I’m sure I could look back on blogs and find out. 😂 

In my online silence, I feel I have learned much:

I’ve learned that even when I’m unable to get to class, ballet is still very much a part of my life. I may be in bed most moments I’m not at work, but what ballet has taught me finds it’s ways of helping me in most areas of my life. Most recently, it’s been in the area of communication. I remembered something a teacher had told me with a correction, “reach your arm out longer. Longer than you think it needs to go. If it’s too much, I’ll tell you.” But she never had to tell me, because what I thought was too much ended up being the perfect amount. I applied this concept to communication, and found that what I thought was a dramatic overkill was actually what was needed and helped immensely. 

I’ve learned the importance of learning my limits, and that also pushing them is equally important at times. While talking with a dear friend of mine, she mentioned making sure that I didn’t use my diagnosis as an excuse to give up. That it’s important to listen to my body and what it needs, but whenever able to make sure I push those limits. Without that, I’ll lose the very thing that makes me who I am. She’s right. So while I have to throw in the towel way more than I ever wanted or thought I would have to, I will not be defeated. There’s much that is unknown, but all hope is not lost. 

I’ve learned that even when I’m feeling my worst, even when I’m unable to to do what’s required of me, let alone anything extra, even when I feel like my life has lost its luster and everything I worked for is slipping from my fingers, like I’ve lost every bit of influence I had or any point that made me enjoy living and helped me get through the hard days, even when trying to explain the depths of what it is im trying to relay to you ends in the most run-on of run-on sentences, still people find this blog, people read my stories, people connect and find something in it that speaks to them. It shows me that even when I’m feeling my worst, I am not pointless. I am not too far gone. I am not lost for all hope. 

I’ve learned that I have some of the greatest friends one could ever hope for. Ones that help me, ones that keep up with and check in on me. Ones that still follow my Instagram account, even when I’m silent for weeks with no explanation. I’ve found friends in similar predicaments, lending their own silent waves of understanding, showing me that I’m not alone. 

I haven’t written as much because I don’t want to just be all about the illness, but I have also come to realize that the illness is part of it. Classes start again next month, where I will be teaching and at least in the studio weekly if for nothing more than that. I hope to get into some interim classes, but so far haven’t been able to yet, sadly. But still, ballet has not left me. Everything it is and brings to the dancer still lives inside of me, still encourages me to keep believing, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing myself. 

It’s funny to think of how different life is now from last year, or even six months ago. The things I could do with minimal effort that now I can’t even consider because it’s too much. But even in thinking back on what I used to be able to do, I smile. Because I did it. I didn’t wait and wish and hope that one day I might dance, I got out there and fumbled around like a baby giraffe until it started to make sense. I chased my crazy dream until it came true. And it did. Just in time, it did. And no matter what happens, no matter if I ever get well or stay sick the rest of my life, no matter if sickness comes in and takes more from me, I will always have that. I will always know I dared to dream and my dreams came true. 

And that, my friends, is more than I could ever ask for. 

What makes me any different from you? Nothing. You just have to decide in yourself that you want whatever it is more than you’re afraid of it, and remind yourself of that feeling of euphoria whenever things get difficult. Because they will. Show up anyway. Try anyway. Push your limits anyway. 

Your future self will thank you. 

Summer Baby Recap. 

As I walked into the studio this morning, I found myself comforted by the familiar smell. I tried to describe it to myself, but it’s a hard one to explain. A mix of many things, including the age of the pier and beam building, the floors, the ac unit, and everything else that goes into it all. It’s only been a week since I was last there, but it felt like a bit of peace and security in my life at a time where nothing really seems certain, even the things that should. 

As I went through the classes, I found myself noticing things I wish I could capture; little moments I wish I could remember forever. This blog post is going to be a list of those little things. You may not care, but these are the things I love to look back on. 

  • M’s immesnse ability to pick up on the finer details of moves and being able to do complex things with the different arm positions almost flawlessly. 
  • S’s brother joining in for the warm up of class and actually loving it. 
  • K asking where my assistants are, showing how much they impact the girls lives in a positive way. 
  • E being so excited about ballet that it makes you excited. 
  • The way they all insist on giving me hugs and high fives after class. 
  • A being super cuddly in the beginning circle, always leaning her little arm on my knee. And the way she says her name is stinking adorable. 
  • I always holding up three fingers and closing one eye and looking through them to show me how old she is. 
  • The twins. Oh, the twins. 
  • K not being able to say her s’s, being slightly pigeon toed, but really getting the concept of her heels being together in first position. 
  • R being brand new last week, too afraid to do anything except for freeze dance with Maddie at the end last week, but this week doing everything and focusing really well. The way she’d go on releve to the very tips of her toes, completely extending through every inch of her body. 
  • V noticing the little things like arm placement and straight knees and working on implementing them without even being corrected. 
  • K giving me a glass figure of a dragonfly and flower and naming it rainbow. Also, her brother is super man and always gives me high fives. 

This brings me the greatest joy. Even on the days that are long and I’m exhausted and struggling, they remind me why this is worth fighting for. They remind me that my life is more than just fighting to get through every day. That I have a purpose and am doing something good in the world. They teach me as much, if not more, than I teach them. I don’t think they’ll even know what they mean to me. 

I’m hoping to have a bunch of them in class next year. They were all really dedicated and focused.  It’s a good group. I’m excited for their futures. 

The studio is closed for the month of July, except for a few interim classes for the older levels and adults. Hopefully I can make a few. 

I’m excited for fall.