My favorite movie has long been Uptown Girls, and when I tell people that most haven’t even heard it; but I stand by it. Even when it comes to a point I haven’t seen it in a while and I think to myself, “surely my love for this movie has waned a bit,” I’ll revisit in and sure enough in near tears and covered in goosebumps. Why? I don’t know if I could really tell you, but the fact remains.
Recently it has seemed to hold an additional meaning I never could have expected, on that is encompassed in the last line “Ray” says, which is where the title of this post comes from:
“Every ending is just a new beginning.”
When I wrote my last blog post, the world was a different place, let alone me being a different person. It was December 2019, most people hadn’t even heard of Covid-19, let alone had a clue what that would hold for our world as a whole–the loss, the fear, the confusion, the solitude, the suffering–and even in that, the positive things like the connections that were formed out of necessity and how many people started realizing the importance of caring for your fellow human. For me personally, it has meant a bit more research into the disease that has taken over my life from a post viral infection of the Epstein Barr Virus I got from the chicken pox I was intentionally exposed to as a child to “get it over with” which reactivated in me as an adult and is what has dictated much of my life since, including having to give up dancing ballet; something I had long fought for.
Of course in that, there are personal frustrations this pandemic has brought me, as well as continued fears for my safety as my health conditions aren’t fully understood. I’m not allowed to get a flu vaccine, does that mean I can’t get a covid vaccine? Do I have a weakened or heightened immune system? What will happen to me if I get covid, seeing as I live with the chicken pox equivalent of “long covid” as it is. I’ve made it this far, at times with near misses to direct exposure, without getting covid for which I am extremely grateful.
I didn’t get to have my last recital with my dancers as covid required many shut downs at the beginning, which included our ballet’s performances. I believe it was absolutely the right decision to keep people safe. It also was an inevitable one that left me feeling as though my close of this chapter of my life was one that ended more abruptly than I could have hoped–because it was. I still wrote notes to all my dancers and put them with their costumes to have when they picked up and hoped I’d have the opportunity to see them one day in the uncertain future. I had just told our artistic director the week before we shut down that I would for sure not be able to return to teaching, and was going to tell my students parents when we returned from spring break, but we never did.
I know it was the right decision for me, as teaching the next year, even with the safety precautions, would have been too big of a risk for me than I could afford to take. At least I was prepared mentally for that year to be my last, rather than having it forced upon me by a global pandemic. It helped ease the sting of ending this thing I love so dearly a smidge.
As it stood, I wasn’t sure if I would come back for Party Scene in The Nutcracker or not; so much of it would depend on things no one could predict until we got closer. Then, in August of 2020, our beloved Drosselmeyer passed away of a stroke.
My heart shattered. He was the heartbeat of our production, having done the role for the past 27 years, I believe, and still every performance was as magical as if it were the first time seeing it. I was devastated, his passing was such an unexpected thing in a world that was already so inundated with uncertainty. I swore I couldn’t do a Nutcracker without him–it would hurt too much; and, after all, I had already lost so much in the ballet world. I didn’t think I could face it.
I was dog sitting for one of my favorite ballet families. They returned home shortly before auditions, and I needed to drop something off to or pick something up from them, I can’t remember which. The easiest way to do this would be to meet them at the ballet building on audition day. I was nervous; I hadn’t seen so many of these people I loved since the world shut down. I didn’t know how my emotions could cope with it all. I walk in and two of my favorites, one of whom was the last of the original group of girls I danced with when I started at this studio and danced with the Corps, came up to me as soon as they saw me. They hugged me and asked, “are you doing Nutcracker this year?” and I looked at them, and I felt the love in that room, and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
In that moment, Catherine and Macey reminded me of what a beautiful place the ballet is, that being there is exactly where I would need to be and especially in a time of such a loss we all felt so deeply. I decided then that yes, I would do Party Scene again, and began to fill with hope at the predictability of it as I was surrounded by other people who had also survived this pandemic so far and also grieved the loss of our beloved Xavier and also were filled with such gratitude to just be there doing the thing we loved. I told Mrs. Alex, our artistic director, to count me in for this year. She was elated which made me feel even better.
So often I have struggled with feeling like I belong anywhere. I’ve felt that, even when I give everything I have to give and try my best to offer everything I’m able to an experience, there still isn’t a place for me. Somehow, I’m seen just for what I can do for the place/situation/group/et cetera, and not for who I am as a person. I feel replaceable from the start; which of course everyone is replaceable, we all have to be, if not the world would not endure and that would be the end of it. But there’s something magical about when you find a place that gives back to you as much as you put in, and for a bit I wondered if the ballet would finally be that for me. It’s been my most enduring “relationship” to date and left me feeling so fulfilled in ways I’d searched for in so many places that always came up short or left me with enough stories to make my therapist cry when I recount them. And as soon as I was sure I had finally found my place, it was taken from me by the cruelty of chronic illness, and once again I’m back at square one trying to find something in this world that doesn’t make me feel like I solely exist in the world to fill needs for other people, screw what I may need, right?
I gave it up.
I said my goodbyes.
I left it all, save for the one private lesson I taught by zoom during covid because I’m extremely stubborn and it helped me feel like I had a purpose; that all those years of fighting wasn’t wasted, and I’d hold on as long as I could. She was old enough to be instructed just by explaining so I wasn’t worn out from showing all the different things.
I made peace with the fact that life isn’t fair and no matter how hard we try, we really don’t have control over anything, even if we’re stubborn, even if we hold on with a vice grip–life doesn’t care. There’s no quota of loss you somehow reach and then have sunshine and roses forever. You can always lose more; this fact weighed heavily on me, and I sat with it and came to a point of acceptance.
During the shutdowns, my herniated disks in my lower back became unstable and hit my nerve, causing immense pain. I had to wait seven months to get in to see the doctor since I was new to insurance (bless my former boss who fought for me to be a permanent position and to have two extra hours so I could get benefits, including insurance–this kicked in February 2020.) and as soon as we got the MRI he referred me to an orthopedic specialist. Getting scheduled for surgery took another two months, and I was nervous because I’ve been told by doctors and friends and precious old ladies at water aerobics that doctors here make things worse rather than better for back hernias. I took a risk, seeing as I can’t afford, financially and physically, to travel and ended up with a wonderful competent Doctor who didn’t even have to take the whole disk and was determined not to put hardware into my back, which I appreciate. Of course, this would mean if I hadn’t already given up dance I would have had to, which I’m not surprised about. I also found out I have scoliosis, which makes things make a lot of sense. We’ve also done MRI’s on my shoulder and I’m told it’s sprained. All the issues I was having are still around, and it started from taking off my jacket incorrectly which dislocated my shoulder and put it back in, irritating all the ligaments or whatever it is in my shoulder. Of course, this is aggravated by port de bras and everything else vital to ballet. Between the two, even just doing a simple barre myself is risky and likely to make things worse.
While I haven’t been formally diagnosed by a doctor, a good friend of mine, Krista, showed me how you can take your raw data from Ancestry DNA and search for EDS markers in it to see if you have EDS. I figured it was worth a shot before paying for genetic testing, and I wrote down the markers I had. Dear reader, it would have been easier to write down the markers I didn’t have, and I have found I actually have three different types: Classical Type, Kyphoscoliotic Type, and Dermatosparaxis Type. I do still need to get formally tested, but that requires energy and money and time I do not currently have. I feel satisfied in this for now, though I do hope to one day further pursue formal diagnosis. My current Primary Care doctor has told me he is open to referring me to anywhere I want to go for it, so that is on the table, which I’m grateful for. All of this would also mean that my stomach issues this whole time have been due to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome–basically your body is sensitive to histamines and treats certain foods as allergens. I had found this at the suggestion of someone in a support group I’m in on Facebook and tried out the FODMAP way of eating to see if it would help and, wouldn’t you know it? I can go days, weeks, even months without getting sick. I wish I had known this before my gallbladder came out. I wish many things, but especially that as it seems to have been the source of many of my issues, possibly including the re-occurance of EBV, leading to my ME/CFS (the fatigue bit.) If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll know just how life changing all of this information is for me. I have been able to learn how to eat in ways that don’t cause me stress, though I’ll forever have disordered eating to a degree. I’ve also, during the shut down, seen a lovely local Psychologist and been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder, which made my life make a lot of sense and thus gave me the ability to extend myself grace in all these places I was told I was “wrong” or needed to “fix.”
To say it’s been a life altering few years would be an understatement.
Now that I’ve said all that, why the heck am I posting a blog post? We thought I was done with this, right?
I thought the same, however, back in August I was doing one of my private lessons. We moved it in person, as schedule and safety finally allowed it and my sweet nugget has gotten her pointe shoes. (cue tears because time is wild.) While there, Ms. Munro–our Artistic Director and studio owner–was in the office of the teaching studio we were using since it was registration time for classes. She pops her head out and asks if I’m sure I’m not able to teach any classes. I confirm that I’m just not physically able to commit to that as it’s too much for me to handle. She asks how my job is treating me and I tell her it’s going well and I have been able to find a good balance on maintaining my energy levels and everything. She’s pleased to hear it, which makes me feel good.
The next day I get a call from our ballet board president, offering me a part time gig at the company studio working in the office. I listened to her describe some of the responsibilities I would have, all things I could hear and understand immediately on what would need to be done. She told me to think about it over the weekend and get back to her Monday, but that she thought I would be a perfect fit if I wanted to join.
I was shocked. I sat on my friends couch, as I was dog sitting, and thought it through, evaluating my energy levels and if I could take on an extra 20 hours a week on top of my 30 at the court house. I thought through all the possible scenarios I could come up with, people I would be working with and for, potential stress triggers, et cetera, then I called a good friend of mine and asked her to tell me honestly if she thought I could handle it.
On Monday, I called and let them know I was interested, and I started the next week. It’s been two full months and so far the worst thing I’ve messed up is forgetting to attach a document on an email–in other words, it’s going great.
TL;DR, in a wild turn of events, I have found myself back in the ballet world in the most perfect way for me. I’m thrilled and loving it and will be back to the blog, writing about my adventures from this side of things. My hands have been shaking typing this, whether out of nerves or excitement I’m not entirely sure. So much has changed and yet so much remains.
If you’re a nosey-nancy and wondering if I will be dishing out deep dark secrets of behind the scenes things I’m privy to–that’s a hard no. Find that gossip elsewhere because it won’t be here. But if you’d like to read about my adventures and experiences and the good feelings I’ve had so far, please do stick around.
I’m excited to have a reason to be posting again, as I have missed you all so dearly. Thank you for coming back and coming along for this new ride. I look forward to sharing it with you ❤
In the words of Taylor Swift, lets watch it begin again.