My Life, Rheumatoid Arthritis

My First Death

Martha Graham, a legendary dancer, once said, “A dancer dies twice—once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.”

BTS band member Min Yoongi (Suga) sang about this in the popular song “Black Swan,”

Ayy, the heart no longer races

When the music starts to play

Tryna to pull up

Seems like time has stopped

Oh, that would be my first death

I been always afraid of.

I worried that I had died the first death when rheumatoid arthritis greatly curtailed my range of motion and activity. You see, I used to be a dancer. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, music gave me “happy feet.” I danced all around my house, in my yard, in my workplace, in clubs and bars. I danced endlessly. It didn’t matter to me when or where. I just danced.

I was never a professional dancer, although I studied ballet dancing when I was a child and a teenager. I was a disco queen when I was a young adult and could match the best dancers on the disco dance floor. I could dance for hours, non-stop, and loved every minute of it. I danced with my children and I danced alone. All I had to do was to hear the music start and I was moving to the beat.

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

I wanted to be a professional dancer, but I had a conservative mother who insisted that no one makes a living with just dancing and I needed to get my head out of the clouds and learn to type so I would have something to fall back on. And that is what I did. I fell back onto my second choice and spent a lot of time regretting it. But, on the other hand, I was able to feed, shelter, and clothe myself and my three kids without help from others. So, did I really fall back on my second choice? That is something to ponder another day.

One day, my feet started to hurt, and my ankles. It took the doctors a couple of years to finally figure out what was going on with me. With the words, rheumatoid arthritis still ringing in my ears, my happy feet became very unhappy feet. I stopped dancing. Music no longer made my heart race. Music no longer made me smile. Music played and I cried because of my loss.

Maybe my mother knew something I didn’t. Had I tried to pursue a career as a dancer, it would have been cut very short because my body betrayed me.

On a bright shining day a few weeks ago, I realized that I had not actually died that first death when I was sitting in my favorite chair and wiggling to a favorite song. I didn’t couldn’t stand up and dance, but I went through the arm motions of Michael Jackson’s Beat It. It struck me at that moment that I was still a dancer.

I laughed aloud as if I was just resurrected.

I dance in my head and always have. In my mind, I dance like no one is watching–leaping, hopping, twirling, spinning, stepping, dancing. Now, when I dance, I am not limited to a confined area like a stage or a dining room with the table shoved aside. I can dance on the rings of Saturn, through a boreal forest, on top of waves in the ocean, leading a flash mob in a shopping mall. The possibilities are endless and only limited by my imagination.

Instead of just dancing, I can now fly!

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash