Doing self work just gets harder. As we move forward we just accumulate more history - adding story upon story - and in order to carry the weight of that growing collection we need double the amount of strength.
In dance, when you experience your first injury there’s a season of rehabilitation. First there is time dedicated to immediate healing where rest without stressing the injury is essential. Depending on its severity this could mean several weeks avoiding movement and without bearing weight or utilizing the limb, joint etc. Next comes physical therapy - reintegrating movement, strengthening and reprogramming the body to function in a new way if old habits are what contributed to the cause of the injury. If you asked me if this process was easy back when I had knee surgery in 2014 I would’ve said…”absolutely not” - it wasn’t, at least not for me.
After this initial stage of recovery comes a lifetime of maintenance or maybe ‘self-supported work’ is a better way of saying it. After this stage of recovery comes constant consideration of what your body went through and what it needs in order to avoid the past from repeating itself. If you want to sustain your the level of activity then the body requires routine attention. If you want to feel your most able. If you want to grow. If you want to thrive - you need to return to yourself regularly and dedicate consistent time and effort transforming the habits that don’t serve you into new habits that will give you freedom.
Now, if you asked me again whether that initial stage of recovery was challenging or not, I would re-phrase and say it was hard and emotionally intense in the moment, but the latter process - the process of maintaining and protecting my body - is a much heavier responsibility. It requires discipline, commitment, thoughtful/mindful work and sometimes sacrifice. It requires taking accountability.
The funny thing about all of this is that in dance there lives an inevitable amount of risk. No matter how hard you work to protect yourself, keep yourself strong and healthy, the minute you start tossing yourself in space you are vulnerable. You are subject to so many possible accidents. You bonk heads with other dancers. You’re dropped. You roll things and twist things and accidentally smash into things that hurt to smash into. (We’ve all been there). So even after adopting all of the healthy practices that help preserve our instrument…shit still happens.
So then life presents the reality of a second injury. After so much time spent rebuilding from the first one and learning how to function again, your gifted with another. The healing process repeats itself, granted it’s new and different, but this time you have to attend to the current injury while still remaining mindful of the old one and what its needs are. Our capacity to take care of ourselves expands. We adapt and acquire new tools that help us to manage the accumulation of the events in our lives.
I may have digressed to the point of no return, but if we go to back to my original point about the strength required to carry the weight of our experience I feel like my dance metaphor explains things quite accurately. There is almost no way of avoiding injury or trauma or heartbreak - unless of course you live in a cabinet that you never leave and no one ever enters. And with time we continuously accumulate history. It's happening right now. Every second is a collected moment of our journey. Like with broken bones that cripple us or tidal waves that get stronger as they amass, every hardship and joy we experience requires a stronger body to survive there force. Looking yourself in the mirror and deciding to move forward requires that same discipline, commitment, thoughtful/mindful work and sacrifice that is needed to support the body for dance. In essence, its what gives us that freedom and allows us to take risks - the same risks that expose us to more wounds and more possibility. It’s this interesting balance of strength gained through experience, and being strong enough to withstand what happens to you.
And that’s where choice lies. Neatly tucked inside the moment between the first injury and next-million that we’re bound to encounter. The nature of living life and choosing to live it boldly, honestly, and unapologetically means your going to get hurt, but how we move forward and what we decide to practice all determine how we face the next moment. That’s hard work. It’s vulnerable work. It’s exercising and strength building whether that’s physical, emotional or mental. It’s daily practice, ritual, presence and resilience.