Cat’s Dance Story – Part Four
Well, you’ve made it this far. You’re in deep. So you might as well read the rest of my dance story. Let’s get on with it…
The last part of this story is hard. It was a difficult time for a lot of reasons. No one likes to talk about themselves at their worst, but in order to understand the significance of the victory, you have to know about the struggle. So, onward.
In late 2018, I officially withdrew from all my parts as a dancer. I had danced with the same theater company, in the same shows, in many of the same parts, for nearly 20 years. And I never did it on autopilot. Every time I danced, it was with everything in me, and that made not doing it so much harder.
One way I could’ve made it easier would’ve been to quit the shows altogether. It’s hard enough to leave something you love, but it’s even harder to watch others do it in your place.
But I didn’t quit. I’m not wired that way.
I stayed in most of the shows in which I had danced, and I made the transition to being a general cast member.
I have no problem with that role. I’ve done it many times. But knowing it wasn’t temporary or just for the current show was simply heartbreaking. Still, I would not give up the stage. I have a streak of stubborn determination that runs deep and rears its head anytime anyone suggests there is something I cannot do. My refusal to go down completely without a fight caused me to muster up the courage and walk out on the stage for show after show and not dance.
I tried to remain positive about my decision. After all, it was my decision. And I thought it was the best thing for my health. However, the loss of something so significant to me took its toll on my mental health. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was becoming more and more depressed. I was working full-time, and that itself wore down my body. I was traveling far for work, which added to my exhaustion. And even though I was glad to have a good job, I had no time for any of the things that brought me joy. I thought busyness would make the loss of dance matter less, but it didn’t.
Then, in March 2020, Covid-19 entered the world.
I’d like to say everything that happened in my life over the next year and a half was all Covid‘s fault. But it wasn’t. The pandemic played a part, but I was spiraling in a bad way before it happened. The Covid pandemic just made it worse. Because of Covid I was, like so many of us, stuck in my house for months.
This is a good time to explain that one of the more complicated parts of having osteoarthritis is that the things you want to do are the opposite of what you should do to feel better. You cannot rest it away like an injury. You cannot sleep it away. You must remain active in order to keep the muscles around all of your joints strong enough to compensate for the degeneration in the joints themselves. I didn’t realize, or didn’t want to realize that in 2020.
Because of Covid quarantine, I spent most of 2020 sitting in my house. I was able to work from home for quite a while, so I wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything other than typing on my computer. It’s hard to remain physically fit when the extent of your exercise is walking next-door and then back again. Or from the bedroom to the living room.
By the time the Christmas performance season for 2020 rolled around, NarroWay was lucky to be able to be open to perform The Real Christmas Story to socially distanced crowds. I was lucky to perform at all, but I struggled badly. By the end of 2020, I had lost my job due to Covid, and I was on unemployment. I don’t feel bad about that at all, because I worked hard and I earned it. And I had very little other option at that time with four children who were all at home doing “virtual school.”
By January 2021, I was in a rough place. I lost my job because of Covid. I was stuck inside–also because of Covid. And I didn’t feel like I had any physical outlet now that dance was gone. I also didn’t see the point in trying to stay fit or healthy. Part of me thought, “If I don’t look like a dancer, I won’t miss it as much.” I was tired, sad, and generally depressed. I essentially tried to replace dance with a crap-ton of sugar–ice cream, candy, anything that was sugar. Then, it got to where anything BUT sugar made me feel sick when I tried to eat. The least amount of exertion would make me sweat as if I’d been doing manual labor outside, in the sun, in July, for an hour. I was so tired I could barely get out of bed during the day. I was dizzy, I got constant headaches, and I generally felt horrible. And I gained about 50 pounds.
That’s not a very pretty fact, but it’s the truth. My symptoms had progressed way beyond “joint pain,” and I reached one of the lowest points in my life.
Now, I have always been very thin. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I realized exactly how thin I was for a long time. 50 pounds is a lot on my frame, but it wasn’t just because of vanity that it bothered me. Contrary to what I thought, being out of shape did NOT help me feel better about not dancing. It was part of a vicious cycle that only made me feel worse. At my lowest point, I wasn’t interested in doing anything. Not exercising. Not finding a job. Not building my exotic animal business. Not even getting dressed. I just wanted to sleep, eat, and watch TV. And, for a while, that’s what I did.
However, in late 2021, dance came back around to change my life again.
Whoo. That was heavy. But that’s just how some stories go. After all, there is no story without conflict. Without struggle. But this isn’t the end! Look for the final installment of this series soon.
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And, as always, remember to love one another. Love blindly, boldly, and without bounds.