The studio has been on a break since recital. We’ll reopen next week when I’ll be teaching 8 classes a week ranging in age from 3-8 years old. To say I am excited is a major understatement. I love these kids, and I’m looking forward to being around them all again.
In these weeks, I have been doing quite a bit of reevaluation. Summer means earlier class times, which means if I try to stay for adult ballet I can get home way earlier than 10 pm. A few of the mom’s of my students from this last year are going to be taking the Monday class and asked if I would be there. I want to at least try. Plus, there’s a class I’ll be taking in June that I want to be prepared for as much as I can. (I know I can’t control what my body does and how my energy levels are more than I’m already doing, but I can at least know where I am currently and know what I’m getting myself into.)
I miss being in ballet. I miss that rejuvenating exhaustion that comes from a long and exhausting class. I miss seeing little bits of progress. I miss making goals and reaching them. I miss being with my friends and seeing them improve. I miss challenging myself. I miss having goals to strive to achieve. I miss working to progress towards this silly little dream of mine, and feeling that sense of pride in myself that came in facing the fear of something new to make it happen.
I used to tell my mom when she would ask me how long I was going to do this ballet thing that I would dance until my legs fell off, and then find a way to keep dancing. To me, the worst thing I could think of was losing my legs. You can’t dance without legs, right? But I’ve heard of people making it happen with a prosthesis. I’ve seen people attend artEmotion’s adult ballet intensive in a wheelchair. Surely I could find a way to do this forever. But what happens when you don’t have the energy? What happens when your body works against you and makes it difficult to get out of bed? What happens when you get out of bed, but standing hurts? Or when you get tired so fast that by the time barre is over you can hardly form a sentence together and have to sit for 45 minutes before you can even think of driving home?
I’ve done my best to take time to really rest and reevaluate since quitting my job. To do a sort of trial and error to see how much I can tolerate and how much rest I need to function.
Obviously, I haven’t gotten to fully test this out with ballet yet, but I feel I can get a pretty good gauge of what it would cost me to stay for a class. But can I really? Will I ever get back to who I was before? Will I ever be able to stay for a full class again? Is this just the beginning of this illness as I know it? Is this the best I’ll ever be again?
The overwhelming fears began to creep in, as they’re so good at doing, accompanied by all the questions I nor anyone else have any answers to. How in the heck am I supposed to know what to do or how to do it? And what’s the point in trying if trying could potentially just make me worse off faster? Why try if success might not even be possible?
Since I don’t have work to report to, it’s made me more available for dog sitting. Memorial Day Weekend is notably a popular one for this and this year I have found myself in an absolutely wonderful home with the sweetest dogs. It’s been a good, safe place for me to really practice the things I need to do for myself to try and take care of myself the best I can. While being here, it’s safe to say I’ve watched a good amount of movies, one of them being Soul Surfer, a movie about the life of Bethany Hamilton, a girl my age who lost her arm in a shark attack. This seemed like an all but certain end to her budding surfing career, but she found a way to make a comeback as a pro surfer. I’ve seen this movie, I own it, I appreciate Bethany’s story and have even heard her speak before when she came to town, an experience I learned much from and greatly appreciate. I almost didn’t watch the movie, feeling like it would be such a stereotypical thing to do. I tried watching something else, but ended up back on it shortly.
And I’m so glad I did.
Seeing the movie takes me back to 2003, when surfer brands were a trend in our house, especially after I had just come back from a missions trip to Hawaii that summer. This was also the last “normal year,” the official end of my childhood as I knew it. Nostalgia was almost overwhelming, perhaps one more reason I was hesitant to watching it, especially given that I’m dog sitting for a family from Hawaii who are currently in Hawaii. As I revisited Bethany’s story, I watched as the familiar points were made: She has her normal life, she gets bit by a shark, she figures out how to come to terms with it, she learns how to handle her new normal. As I watched, I began to see everything in a new light, I realized that having ME/CFS and whatever else I don’t have a diagnosis for is my “shark bite”, that I’m in the phase of having to learn how to handle my new normal. I am at the point where I decide if I will let this diagnosis hold me back. I get to decide where I go from here.
I found myself thinking,
“Yeah, but, she lost an arm and mine has to do with energy. It’s kind of hard to dance when it’s hard to get out of bed.”
“Yeah, but, she had the immense support of her family.”
“Yeah, but, she was younger, she still believed anything was possible then.”
“Yeah, but, my life is hard, I’m up against so much. I do most of life on my own.”
“Yeah, but, if I try and fail then it costs me dearly. It can cause me to not be able to do the things I’m relying on for income now. This could sink me.”
“Yeah, but.” “Yeah, but.” “Yeah, but.”
When I realized all the excuses I was making in my head, it was all I could do to keep from shaking myself until I snapped out of it. Do I seriously think that losing a freaking arm in a shark attack is “easy”? Am I really that thick? She was thirteen when she lost her arm and was back in the water within a month, having to completely relearn absolutely everything she knew about surfing. Nothing about losing an arm is “easy” by any standards. She had to decide for herself if she was going to let this keep her from what she loved, if she was going to let this dictate her life, or if she was going to do everything in her power to fight through it. She made the decision to fight, and not only that, but to realize the unique position she was now in. That losing an arm didn’t mean her story was over, it meant it took a different turn, and it was up to her to decide if she wanted to make the most of that turn or let the story subsequently end there.
My life has taken an unexpected and undefined turn. I’m at the point where I have to decide if I’m going to let it end here or if I’m going to do what I can to make the most of this. I’m not the only one rowing this boat, and even if I were I know that there are people out there also rowing similar boats that could see my story and apply it to their own lives, just like I did with Bethany.
I had brunch with a dance friend from my old studio today, and she made a really good point. She told me, “I used to read your blog and empathize, and I’d like to think I knew what you were writing about, but now that I’ve experienced it, I understand.”
I feel this way towards the movie. I’ve seen it, and I knew the story, I know that the details of the movie aren’t “Hollywood-ified” but stay rather true to the actual events, I’ve even heard it from her own mouth. But I’m in a different place now. The story means more to me now. I understand on a level deeper than before.
If it wasn’t obvious by my recent blog posts, and how much I’ve been writing about coming to terms with illness and all that, I’ve been trying to figure out where my place is in the ballet world now. And I find it fitting that it all seems to have come full circle. I now find myself having to begin again. Obviously, not from the very beginning, but from enough of it to have to rebuild strength and find where I can realistically go from here.
This summer marks the start of beginning again. Of fighting to find my balance and where ballet truly fits into that. Hopefully I’ll be able to attend more classes and have more here to report, but we’ll see how it goes.
I’m nervous, but excited. I really don’t have any idea what to expect, but I’m sure I’ll have lots to say about whatever ends up happening. I hope y’all will still be around to read about it. Thank you for being here. ❤