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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

S & F Series--When One Door Closes

Happy April! Tomorrow, April 2, is the anniversary of something that continues to affect my life today. I call it The Day of the Knee. In 2002, only a month and a half after I was married, I was in a serious car accident. I had gone home for a long lunch break from work, excited to have some time to play around in my new house. On my return to work, as I entered an intersection, the traffic light turned yellow. A driver coming from the opposite direction did not yield the right of way and made a left hand turn. We collided. My truck was totaled, and my right knee cap was broken. I might have had time to stop instead of proceeding on the yellow, but I'll never know. I was worried about being late. The other driver was cited for the accident; I had done nothing wrong. I could have chosen differently, but there is no retrieving the past. We can "what if" ourselves to death, and it changes nothing. The consequences remain.

Just the day before, 13 years ago, I took my first belly dance lesson. It was with the sister of the best man at our wedding, Deniz in Dayton. I lived in Columbus at the time. In June I went on my crutches to the Arts Festival downtown and watched a performance of the Habeeba's Dance of the Arts troupe. I took one of their fliers home and registered for classes beginning July 22. Belly dance was a big part of my recovery from the accident. I got strong again. Eventually I danced with the Habeeba's troupe. When I moved to northwest Ohio, I became a belly dance instructor.

Unbeknownst to me, a result of the knee injury was that my right leg is shorter than my left. Evidently the pressure put on the L5 area of my lower back due to the imbalance caused disc damage. One day in February two years ago, while dusting my coffee table, I was suddenly experiencing searing pain. I couldn't even sit up straight. I've had difficulties ever since.

If I didn't have the posterior annular tearing of the L5/S1 disc, my chiropractor said he would encourage me to keep dancing. But as it is...game over.

Loss. A loss of the joy of dancing, the exercise it provides, the opportunities to teach and to perform, the loss of a community. Of course, the dancer friends I have made will still be friends. Many of them I saw only once a year, at the Island of Isis Dance Retreat held every May in Loveland, OH at the amazing Grailville center. Wholesome food, idyllic country surroundings, always a phenomenal teacher, and the camaraderie of women sharing a common passion. Belly dance is a cultural experience unlike any other; you might even say it's a way of life.

The lower back injury can certainly be improved. There could even be a reversal and complete healing, but the chances of that are not very high. Still, there is hope. I was afraid to have the MRI, because I'm claustrophobic. I prayed a Rosary in my mind and on my fingers and survived the experience. I faced a fear, and that is BIG. And now I know what I am dealing with and therefore can move forward. Ironically, the directors of Island of Isis decided to retire the retreat after 20 years. Last year was the grand finale. I am witnessing the end of an era.

My grandmother gave me wise advice. She told me to give myself time to get used to not belly dancing anymore. She said not to put pressure on myself to figure out what I'm going to do next right away. This is pure genius. Because that's exactly what I was doing--rushing the process. I wanted to figure out, in a couple of days, what I was going to do next. I was panicking, because I am an artist, a creative soul, and I might die if I don't have a passionate artistic expression to pursue.

The thing is, I always had a plan. When I knew it was time to move on from a job, for example, before I left I devised a scheme for escape. My dad told me never to quit one job before I had another lined up, so I always had a grand idea and took the necessary steps to make it happen. Yet occasionally, I got unexpectedly fired. One time when this happened, I came home to find my Mary Kay starter kit waiting on my doorstep. Being a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant was my Big Dream at the time, and I was filled with hope. When one door closes, so the saying goes, another one opens.

I suspected that dancing was aggravating my back condition, and I felt that God was preparing me for something else that he was calling me to do. I was willing to accept this if it turned out that I had to give up belling dancing. When I look back on it, I am so grateful. What an exhilarating ride! What stupendous people I have met, what challenges I have risen to, what extraordinarily talented teachers I've had the pleasure to learn from, and what an enormous privilege to be able to serve God with the gifts he has given me. I even made some money for my family along the way.

Knowing that it was all probably going to come to an end doesn't make it any less devastating. My husband has also been experiencing the closing of one door after another. There must be something dazzling beyond our dreams just around the bend!

Please pray for my healing and for my family. I may not know what my next big thing will be, but I do have my tidying up project to keep me busy, thanks to Marie Kondo, who may very well turn out to be a lifesaver. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, as I wrote about yesterday, she says that this process of discarding and reorganizing one's home will set you on the course toward what you were genuinely created to do.

I'm not going to lie to you. This process is painful. Letting go of our possessions is hard, even when we know that we must set free those things that don't spark joy. Our fear of letting go, Marie said, comes down to either anxiety about the past or anxiety about the future. We accumulate more and more possessions to remedy these fears. As we all know deep down, the next purchase is only a quick, very temporary fix. The restlessness always returns. Marie Kondo's method is the equivalent of ripping the bandaid off very hairy skin. You just gotta squeeze your eyes shut, take a deep breath, and pull it quick.

Facing your stuff, once and for all, is liberating. Making these decisions of what to keep and what to let go brings with it a growing confidence. When you practice deciding what you really love and what you don't, you get to know yourself better. You learn to know your own mind and heart. You build trust in yourself, because ultimately, you are putting yourself more completely in the hands of God.

Will you die if you don't tidy your home? Is it absolutely necessary? The answer is No. You can choose to keep on picking away at your stuff, a little at a time, and never get anywhere. Or you can keep shoving your stuff into closets, basements, and attics. But out of sight does not equal out of mind. In fact, slowly but surely we go out of our minds, because all of our stuff is wrapped up in the very corners of our being, making us sick. There is no separation of mind, body, and spirit. The clutter is there because something is wrong. Too much has been swept under the carpet, and we're afraid to look.

But you know what? Today I'm going to celebrate my 13th anniversary as a belly dancer! And we will pray for one another. We will begin with our own things, and specifically with our clothing. When that is done, we move onto our books. Category after category, one item at a time, we will sweep through our homes like domestic genies and make all of our own wishes come true.




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