Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dancing in the night

It was the last time I would drive my daughter to her hip hop dance class, but on that dark winter evening I had no way of knowing that.  Maybe if I had known, things would have been different.

It was the kind of evening where shadows were long and the temperatures low: in the minus twenties. On most dance nights  I normally  liked to go for walks around the studio's historic, artsy neighbourhood while I waited for Sam's class to finish,  but on that January night it was just so cold and dark and slippery with black ice that I decided to wait in the lobby of the studio.

Tapping my toes impatiently for the class to end, I found myself drawn to a picture window tucked neatly into the far end of the studio.  Through the window I could see an ongoing ballet class of young dancers: it was so gorgeous to watch my breath caught.  Several very skilled teen girls (the kind who'd probably been dancing since age three) twirled and spun together in time to the music, the litheness of their movements telling its own story of hope and promise.

As I watched, mesmerized by the music and the  movements, emotion hit me as forcefully as it was sudden. It was all I could  do to duck my head so the other dance moms (the kind whose kids had been in dance since age three)  at the other end of the studio couldn't see my face before silent tears began their own dance down my cheeks.  I wish I could tell you I was crying because I was so moved by music or the dance or even the beauty of young girls as they danced  on the precipice of adulthood. But these were tears of grief and self pity.   Maybe even a little envy.

 I cried because even then I couldn't dance. At least I thought I couldn't.

At that point in my life,  although I could still walk easily, my many years battle against chronic health issues had made more advanced movements (ie running, jumping and dancing)  impossible. And so I stood watching a class of young ballerinas leap and twirl and dance with joy- in a way I could not.  And I grieved.

What I didn't realise was just two days later I would hurt my knee, and (when combined with my chronic health issues) lose the ability to walk. At that moment  I had no insight into the months and months of mobility issues and pain ahead, months when I would have done anything to be able to stand in a dance studio watching ballerinas.

It was a hard, very humbling lesson to learn, later, as I looked back, wishing so badly to return to the previous state I had felt so hard done by in.

It brought me to a realization I didn't really understand on that sad, cold night of shadows and tears.  A realization that has become a precious gift.

I realized that dancing is so much more than the ability to leap and twirl and pirouette to music. Every breath we take in our bodies, every  movement we make, every friend we meet,  every action we take: that's dancing.  Dancing through life.  Even the hardships, they are the part of our lives that resemble the dramatic parts of a ballet dance.

That January  night when I cried because I couldn't dance like the ballerinas,  I disregarded completely that I'd had the abilities to  drive my teen to her class,  easily navigate the many stairs to the basement dance studio, and stand watching the ballerinas. Most of  all, I didn't realize that in doing these things- driving, stair descending, walking, and standing, as well as loving my child- I WAS dancing.  Not dancing to music, but  dancing through life.  Dancing on the earth God made.  Dancing through the life God created. Dancing.

Its a lesson I hope I never lose sight of, that life is what we make of it.   There will always be things we long for that are out of our grasp.   That's part of life. The choice offered us is to mourn what we don't have...or to be grateful for what we do.  To focus with joy on the beauty and goodness and love and life we have been given.   We get to choose our focus and perspective, and that in itself is a gift.

I used to take the ability to be easily mobile completely for granted.  Not any more. As I relearn to walk, every step is precious now.

These past months I've longed for another chance and today I was granted a big one. I saw my physiotherapist  this afternoon and he was thrilled with how my walking looked as I pushed a walker several feet across my back deck.

 The best part of all is that he sees a good prognosis for my walking abilities ...his hope is that over the coming months I will continue to regain strength, balance and mobility until I am able to walk independent of support and even regain driving abilities.

He estimates that   8 months from now I will be able to: walk down my front steps without help,  walk down the sidewalk to my vehicle, get in, drive somewhere,  get out,  and walk a medium distance (ie into a store or into church).   I still might need the wheelchair for longer trips (ie walking through a big mall) but to be able to walk at all is just the most wonderful idea..

 This time I  had to reign in my (happy) tears at the idea of regaining such freedom.  I'm going in the right direction. ... dancing all the way.

(Note, photos taken at Sam's dance recital a few weeks ago).


  1. I am moved by this post!!! utterly moved!!!!!!!!!! :)

  2. Jenna, such beautiful, thought -provoking sentiments. Your words about all of life being a dance were heart-filling and so true. Thank you for sharing your insights learned in the fire.

    1. Thanks Becky, your encouragement means a great deal!Your beautiful writing on your blog has really blessed my life over the years.

    2. Thanks Becky, your encouragement means a great deal!Your beautiful writing on your blog has really blessed my life over the years.