My exhaustion and pain is real.
I sleep only to wake with a slight headache and realize I’ve been tossing and turning all night. I’m sweaty, wet and clearly dream deprived.
When I was a kid I felt the first pangs of pain in my hip while rehearsing. Being a dancer, the pain didn’t mean anything other than maybe I had hurt myself once again. No biggy. Ice it, heat it, take some aspirin, get up again tomorrow and do the work.
I participated in so many activities as a kid: Colorguard, Drum Corp, and of course Dance. I participated in competition in the neighborhood, with community groups and dance teams, I travelled the country… all of it always in some sort of pain, physically and emotionally.
But performing was the thing. Magically, I’d jump up on stage, and perform my heart out and be somewhere else. No danger, no heart-ache, no worries. There’d be no pain, no remembrance of any ache in my heart or my body. I’d be in “pretend land” and forget about the realities of the horrible life going on around me. I loved rehearsal so much. I loved working something over and over again till I got it right. I loved the repetitiveness of it all – trying to figure out how to land correctly. Not getting it right over and over again – and then, in a moment of clarity, twisting this one way instinctively and it working out brilliantly! A metaphor, I do suppose…
As a kid, I’d get up before the sun came out, and I’d put on my taped up dance shoes, or just go out with a large flattened cardboard, place it under my bare taped up feet and dance under the flickering dimming street light. The music would be in my head, clearly remembered from a “real” rehearsal the day before. My instructor’s words perfectly still echoing in my ear… 1 and 2 and 3 and…
When I think back on my childhood, that’s what I remember fondly. The moments where the world was quiet and belonged completely to me – and I danced in the middle of a dead end street, quietly trying to figure it all out…learning how to land correctly.
As life would have it, my pain was not a simple thing after-all. By the time I was 16 I was limping regularly, in severe pain and although I fought it dearly for years after, I knew I’d never be a dancer on Broadway. Some strange dream anyways for a kid like me. But I dreamt it anyways. And so when it was determined that I needed surgery after collapsing at a performance, I asked the question any kid would ask: “Will I still be able to dance though?” Without saying a word, the doctors and adults in the room looked at each other with that clear resounding “NO” on their face, and I knew the answer.
I never got the surgery.
I quit all of it. Colorguard, Dancing, Drum Corp, the dream of being on Broadway – all of it. I went to college instead and quietly suffered through yet, another one of life’s disappointments. I knew in the big scheme of things, it was a silly dream anyways, so it made sense, that it would be taken away from me too.
Since then, I’ve run & completed three marathons, some 10K’s and several 5K’s. Always slower than most, always being aware of my hip. I’ve worked out with triathletes regularly, kayaking, trail running, mountain biking, all before 12pm on a Sunday before a large brunch & drinks… I’ve stayed active all my life because it’s just a part of who I am. I’ve been “working out” since I was four years old, it’s like brushing my teeth after-all. Surely, I can go a day without doing it, but it will bother me all day long till I get it done.
Of course, since that day of diagnosis in the doctor’s office at that tender sweet age of dreaming, I was never again fast or as good as anyone else – I always catered to my hip, always knowing it was easily agitated and I’d rarely mentioned the pain to anyone. I’d rather be seen as slow than broken, if truth be told…
But this past year, during Covid, the pain grew severe. My limp clearly noticeable, the discomfort so bad that I finally had to go and see a doctor or two…
I’m scheduled to have a total hip replacement surgery in the next months. My surgeon and his team seem fine enough, he’s “World Renowned and something something…” and I’m sure he does these daily as an after-thought so I’m not worried about that at all. Everyone I’ve spoken too, who knows someone who’s had it done – acts as if it’s no big deal. It’s such a regular kind of surgery nowadays, that it seems silly to be so troubled by it that I can’t sleep.
I’ve even spoken to several triathletes and people who were active and young when they got their hip surgery and all of them have told me the same thing – that it was the best thing they did. They wished they’d done it sooner. Blah, blah, blah.
And yet, I woke up again this morning, sweaty, shaken, and un-rested. It’s not about the surgery. I know this in my gut. It’s about the dream ripped away. It’s about another thing from my childhood, that I have locked away in a box and stored deep in a part of my soul where all bad things have gone to keep me safe. It’s called survival.
I see that now. I see it clearly.
If I’m ever gonna get better completely, that’s what I have to deal with. The emotional part, the mental health part of all of this…that won’t heal all by itself.
I know that now.