Category Archives: Resilience

I Hope You Dance! I Will!

Dance has permeated my life. Even before I went to my first ballet class when I was 5, I loved to dance. I still do. My favorite emoji is the dancing woman.💃💃💃 I use it regularly to express joy. I guess that sums it up. For me, dance is joy.

My children inherited their passion for dance from me, and while they far exceeded my abilities as a dancer, they grew up dancing with me. From standing on my feet while I waltzed them around the room to a fusion of swing, jitterbug, and disco that we did to anything with a beat, joy with my children has always included dance.

When we came home from my second Fulbright trip to Russia in the summer of 2001, Alyssa and I were so wound up we couldn’t sleep, so we danced around the family room to Safri Duo’s – The Bongo Song

and Culture Beat’s – Crying in the Rain – which we fell in love with during my first Fulbright in Russia.

We spent over an hour laughing and spinning until we were finally tired enough to go to sleep at about 4 am. Alyssa was 8.

Our last song that night was from our first train trip from Moscow to Kazan, Robert Miles – Children https://youtu.be/z9b09Ljnh0k

While dancing gives me joy, watching my children dance feeds my soul. Dance metaphors have filled my children’s lives and my own. Both were competitive dancers for years and nothing gave me greater joy than watching them dance.

I wanted to sing Lee Ann Womack’s – I Hope You Dance to them in honor of their high school graduations, but I knew I’d never get through it. In addition to being a dancer, I’m a crier. I cry when I’m happy; I cry when I’m sad; I cry when I’m frustrated; I cry when I find something touching. I particularly get choked up by the lines “Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens… When you get a choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!” I want my children to live their lives dancing.

Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance

As most of you know if you’ve read earlier posts, I’m going through a rough moment. I had surgery for a partially detached retina and my right leg is in a brace and I’m using crutches until I can get my knee checked out once the gas bubble in my eye dissipates. I heard this song the other day, and as she often does, Pink nailed it! “One thing I’m never going to do is throw away my dancing shoes… We’ve already wasted enough time… I’m never gonna not dance again. So let the music play till the end.

Pink – Never Gonna Not Dance Again

Shattering the cartilage under my knee didn’t stop me from dancing. Breaking both my wrists in a freak dancing accident didn’t stop me from dancing. A partially detached retina and sore knee will not stop me from dancing. I will dance again. Dance, for me, is joy!

Adventures in Aging – Part 2: Knee pain, a brace and a walker

I’ve always believed that aging is a mindset, and that attitude keeps us healthy regardless of biological age. This is obviously not the case with serious or chronic illnesses, accidents, etc. but absent those, how we choose to live determines our strength, our vitality, our tenacity, and perseverance. That’s what I believe. I’ve been extremely lucky. Aside from two broken wrists and shattered cartilage under my right knee that have each taken me down for 3 months plus healing time, I view myself as healthy. That view has been challenged a bit this past week.

Not only did I partially detach my left retina, but my knee has gotten progressively worse over the last week. Last month, I held my first in-person workshop at a girl scout camp in southern Illinois. It went incredibly well. But the day before, my logistics partner, who arranged the marketing and location, broke her foot. That meant I tried to keep her from schlepping things throughout the weekend. She didn’t ask me to do this. I just didn’t want her to hurt her foot worse. We had great help from participants, but at first, it was just the two of us in the camp. So, I carried stuff I probably shouldn’t have carried. I didn’t notice much during the workshop, but after I got off the plane back home, I felt a twinge in my right knee. I dealt with it as I always do, a hot bath, Advil, and a slathering of full-specturm CBD roll-on. I was stiff the next morning but decided to walk it out. It seemed to work. The pain was minimal, and I was fully flexible. The next morning it took a little longer to loosen up and there was more pain. This went on… and on… and on until the day I went to the ER for my vision issue. What I had been doing was powering through the pain. As the day went on, that got harder and harder. By the end of my time at the ER for my eye, the doctor (He’d noticed how my gait had changed throughout the day, from smooth to my having a pronounced limp) called for an ultrasound to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot. I didn’t.

That night, walking from the car to the elevator at our condo was excruciating. I told Andrew there was no way I could walk like this the next day to see the surgeon. He assured me I could lean on him. “No. Seriously. I can’t put any weight on it.” He agreed to run out (at 11 pm) and grab me crutches and a knee brace. When he got to Walgreen’s he facetimed me to tell me that they didn’t have crutches after all (He’d called to check in advance.), to let me pick out the brace I wanted, and to show me a walker he had found that he thought would work.

I have to be honest. I burst into tears. A WALKER! Not for the first time, I played with the idea of losing capacity. And I didn’t like it. “I’m sorry. I can’t make that decision”, I said. “I need to get off here before I really start bawling. You do what you think is best.” And I hung up. I am lucky that Andrew is such a patient person. He came home, brought me the knee brace, and helped me put it on. My knee felt immediately better, but I still couldn’t walk on it. “Hey”, he said. “You have hiking poles. Do you know where they are?” “The front closet”, I replied. When he brought those to me, we immediately knew they wouldn’t work as they had sharp metal points on the tips. Bless his heart, he let me say it out loud. “These aren’t going to work either.”, I said. He nodded. “So, just try this”, he said as he brought out the walker. It was cool, collapsible, lightweight with wheels on the front ends. Then he made a joke about me practicing for when I’m 90. “Too soon”, I said and I burst into tears again.

I’ve now been using the walker around the condo for 4 days and on limited trips outside. My knee is feeling better. I’ll have to wait until I’m approved by my PCP to see a doctor about my knee and I’ll definitely wait until after my eye surgery, but in the meantime, I’m using my brace and my walker, and I’m grateful. I’ve become a poster child for the Walgreen’s Space Saver walker. At doctor’s appointment and on the street, people using more traditional walkers stop me and ask me about it. I let them try it out, see how lightweight it is and how easy to collapse.

I know my using a walker is temporary, at least this time. My attitude has again shifted and I view my walker as a tool and my knee pain as slowing me down to protect my eye prior to surgery. I’m also viewing my knee pain as a reminder that I should not be schlepping too much, just as my wrist pain reminded me of that during our recent move. My body is strong and resilient, but she has limits, limits I need to respect.

Forgiveness and Anticipatory Hope

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” – Oprah Winfrey https://chopracentermeditation.com/ *

I don’t hold grudges. I don’t harbor resentments. For much of my life I simply forgave and forgot any transgressions against me – to the point that one night, over dinner, my best friend and my ex-husband recounted all the negative things that had happened to me since they’d known me. When they recounted the events, I knew they had happened, of course. I just didn’t value them enough to remember them. I might not even have been able to recount them without their prompting.

What I do hold onto is what I call anticipatory hope. Anticipatory hope is my belief that the bad, the negative, the hurtful, the lack in my past could have been different, if people had made different choices. Because I believe these alternative choices were possible then, I believe they remain possible in the present and in the future.  

In a recent conversation with my daughter about an upcoming event we were both dreading, she was lamenting all the negative things she expected. I was trying to lift her spirits talking about how this time things might be different. Alyssa paused, looked me full in the eyes and said, “That’s your problem, Mom. You always look on the bright side. You always believe people can be better, that they will be better. When they don’t, when they act like they always act, you feel let down and hurt. That’s the downside to you always having this anticipatory hope thing. It’s exhausting. You’re not realistic.”

Alyssa in her blunt, no-nonsense way had really hit on something. I’ve always viewed my anticipatory hope as a strength. It helps me be optimistic, remain positive in difficult moments, see possibilities.

Because I believe that anything is possible, that anyone is capable of making a different choice at any moment, it is hard for me to release those in my life who repeatedly choose to be other than who they have the capacity to be – to be honest, those who are damaging to me. More importantly, I hope they will treat me differently than they chose to treat me in the past.

When I first heard the meditation at the opening of this post, it was as if I had been punched in the stomach. Sometimes truths are so profound that when confronted with them, they change something immediately and fundamentally. Sometimes they are the catalyst for a more gradual transformation. For me, this truth was both.

I listen to these meditations to help me sleep. After hearing this statement, I knew there would be no sleep that night.

I turned to my journals for insight and realized I had been writing about the same issues for 1, 5, 10, even 20 years! My anticipatory hope made it impossible for me to let go, to move on.

I believed I had forgiven. But in the same way that holding grudges, harboring resentments, not forgiving, keeps us from releasing the past and moving forward, anticipatory hope does the same. Because I held onto anticipatory hope, I had not released those I needed to release.

I am still a work in progress. Releasing the “what could be” is hard. It’s a desired future we hope for. It holds us bound to the past, hauling the weight of the past into the present and the future. Releasing that burden. Releasing those who are not who we wish they were (which, to be honest, is not their job in the first place) is true forgiveness. And, in the long term, a gift to them and to me.

* 21 Days of Meditation – Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

Musings on time, this week in my family’s history, and growth

Three years ago this week, my daughter Alyssa shredded her knee, severing her ACL, MCL, tearing her meniscus, and bruising everything above and below her kneecap. Through hard months of waiting, finishing the semester on crutches and a motorized scooter, surgery, PT, recovery, learning how to bear weight, learning how to dance, she persevered. Today she is again an amazing dancer. She is lovely and graceful, strong and passionate. Today she is a college graduate off on her own. So much has changed in 3 years.

Two years ago this week, I fell on the steps of Elliott Hall the building where I work at Wichita State University. I tripped and sprawled on the steps on my newly healed wrists. I sacrificed my right ankle, which I badly bruised, to keep from landing fully on my hands and arms, but it hurt. It really hurt. I sat on the steps and cried, injured and afraid. I was too shaken to move as one colleague walked around me on the narrow steps, the contents of my purse and computer case strewn all over the landing. Her disregard hurt worse than the fall, her ignoring me as I cried on the steps. The Elliott School’s administrative assistant Bill, the lifeblood of the ESC, came to my rescue. I was finally able to recover my cell phone, and I called him, crying, to come help me. He did. He picked up all my stuff, helped me stand, using my elbows, so he wouldn’t hurt my wrists, and helped me to my office. Today I am at the two-thirds point of an amazing yearlong sabbatical, three months of which I spent on a writing retreat in Florence, Italy. Today my wrists are healed and I can again do hot yoga. Today I am contemplating what I want to do with the next phase of my life. So much has changed in 2 years.

Six weeks ago this week, my son and I were robbed at gunpoint by a young man who kicked open our locked front door.  That day I had pink highlights put in my long blonde hair. For me hair is a toy. I’d worked on my website: http://DrDeborah.co with my friend Davis.  It’s still a work in progress, but that was a watershed day. I was happy and content. Then I was scared and threatened. Today, I have magenta and purple highlights in my long blonde hair thanks to the talented Jessica, and my son Stefan and I have moved into a new apartment, a lovely apartment. We are moving on with our lives. So much has changed in six weeks.

Time is an interesting thing. In the middle of rough moments it seems to stop, then drags so slowly when it finally begins to move again. In the beautiful, life affirming moments, time often moves so quickly. Time, as the cliché says, also heals.

This week has led me to reflect on the past, something I don’t do often, to examine the path that got me, that got my son and daughter, to where we are today. These events are simply a small part of our journeys.

I believe we have a choice about how we view the happenings in our lives. We can choose to view things as crises or adventures. As I reflect back on those three events and the emotions they raised, the ups and downs of negotiating them, I recognize our choices. None of us would describe ourselves as victims. We simply do not view things as crises. We are optimists. We do what needs to be done. We deal with what needs to be dealt with and we move forward. We learn and grow from our experiences.

We are stronger, as are my wrists, because of these events. We see the world differently than we did before, because of the events of this week over the last three years. I am inspired by the words of Anne Lamott on Facebook. Yesterday she wrote , “Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things”. I am inspired by Japanese Kintsugi pottery, the art of reassembling, of repairing, broken pottery with gold. We are each like a precious piece of pottery. The world tosses us about, breaks, chips, and often shatters us. We reassemble ourselves , often with the help of those who love us. We are remade, more unique, more different, more precious than we were before.

wood-fired-bowl-kintsugi-repair

Image of Kintsugi Pottery taken from: http://lakesidepottery.com/Pages/kintsugi-repairing-ceramic-with-gold-and-lacquer-better-than-new.htm