Trying To Land Correctly

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.

7 thoughts on “Trying To Land Correctly

  1. My heart and aches from different parts of my body feel your pain.
    I used to dance as a young teenager, cutting up the dance floor with the “Mashed Potatoes and the Bristol Stomp. I could even do a split at the age of 13 and 14.
    Today I have pains in my neck ad my lower back as well as periodic hurts along my shoulder and arm.
    I hate to tell people but I have to get out of bed every morning around 4:30 am to relieve myself, I have an enlarged prostate and I refuse to undergo the operation that scares the hell out of me.
    But I get by with my 10,000 steps a day and my several minutes on one of the gym’s treadmills.
    I wish you luck with the hip surgery. Who knows, maybe I’ll need to get help. It doesn’t run in the family though so I don’t know.
    Hang in there and keep us posted!

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    • Hmmm… I don’t know what, if anything at all, runs in the family regarding my hip. I don’t have that kind of history to work off of — but for me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve done all I can to work around the injury and I know by the sheer continuous pain, it’s time. My quality of life is diminished by my pain. I say this respectfully, I read your blog, you have battled far greater things than most anyone could ever imagine being a member of the military. My gut says that your courage is not in question. But handing your life over to a surgeon to perform something that can fix you – willingly, may be more about control? I don’t know. I’m clearly talking more about my experience. I have never been in the military, but being in control of the fight is different from letting someone take over completely. So I fully understand. I wish you weren’t in pain. I’m so sorry about that. I will say this — my surgeon and his team feel like people I can trust. I don’t know them all that well yet, but my surgeon was referred to me by someone I trust and he seems like a good guy. His team, especially his right hand person, is stellar. I don’t think I could do this if I didn’t trust him and his team to take good care of me. And that, may be part of what you need to figure out? You’ve been through war and been through far greater more dangerous things… I wonder if it would make a difference for you, if you had more information about who was in the foxhole with you than just the job at hand of fixing your condition? I’m just so sorry you’re living with so much pain. I’ve just been living with severe pain in one place for the past year and… I just don’t know how you’re doing it.

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  2. This is literally a painful tale and a brave one too. To encourage you, let me tell you about my friend and leader of our dance group, Crows Feet Dance Collective. Breast cancer meant two mastectomies and an instantaneous decision to change career from dance education to dancing solo. She felt she must dance in order to heal. Later, two hip replacements somewhat restricted her range of movements and she choreographs to accommodate. She continues to dance and inspire us all, and to write and perform in plays and other shows. So, given your courage and vision (which are obvious from your writing) I’m pretty sure you’ll eventually find the operation is a blessing. You’ll find a way to be the best you, as always.

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