Learning to Listen: My First Injury
In this journey to reconnect my body and my mind through dance, I’ve become increasingly aware of the ways they’re still unaligned. Take life’s little warning signs as an example. Your body has a lot to tell you. There are so many choices we make on a day-to-day basis that our body desperately tries to talk us out of or into, while we just go along and do the opposite.
Studio A is a few miles from where I live, which is actually pretty convenient in the grand scheme of Los Angeles. Being the thrifty lady that I am, I fairly regularly choose to walk or bike to get there. It’s a great excuse to have some ‘me’ time — my headphones are in, my thoughts are all my own, and I can just relax while I move those legs. I even arrive to class all warmed up. Usually, it’s lovely. Usually, I don’t make terrible life choices along the way.
Well, a couple weeks ago one such terrible life choice presented itself and I rose to the opportunity. My walking shoes were giving me some problems. I had my jazz sneakers in my backpack, so I figured, why not? It’s only a few miles. It’d be better than getting blisters, right?
This is the mentality that can cause problems. These tiny shortcuts, motivated by laziness and supported with layers of justification, are how we ignore the red flags. We tell ourselves we’ll be fine. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter. Rather than try and adjust my walking shoes, re-tie them, or slap on some band-aids, I thought — I’ll just wear my jazz sneakers.
These tiny shortcuts, motivated by laziness and supported with layers of justification, are how we ignore the red flags.
Some might say it’s a young person’s ‘feeling invincible’ issue, but I know plenty of people in every age bracket who do the same thing. I’m not just talking about diet and exercise — those are big habits that can be tough to manage. No, it’s all those small decisions in between the big ones that can really add up. I’ll be fine with only six hours of sleep … I don’t need to drink that much water … I only need to stretch a little …
Or this one: It’s only a few miles. What’s the worst that could happen?
Thanks to those couple of miles, I was limping for almost a week. Jazz sneakers, it turns out, are great for dancing because they’re bendy — they have no sole in the middle. Like, none at all. Zero sole is equal to approximately zero arch support, which effectively decommissioned my foot. Yep, I strained my arch (which is just as lame as it sounds).
In the midst of my mistake I remember feeling some tension in my foot, but no pain. It was easy for me to ignore, and I did. Each step only added to the injury slightly; I never felt a sharp jab until I tried to stand up the next morning. Once I got over the irony that after starting a year’s commitment to dance my first injury came from walking, it got me thinking: How many red flags do I ignore that build up slowly, like each step of that walk? How many consequences do I deal with as ‘normal’ because I don’t try and think about what could have caused it?
When my foot healed — and thankfully it did heal — I returned to class determined to pay closer attention. There’s no room for ignoring your body in dance. There’s no room for the pride that tells me to keep going if my knee twinges — I have to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Yes, I know professional dancers often keep dancing through pain and injure themselves, but they do have a little more pressure to keep chassé-ing. Me, I’m just courting dance to see what I can learn, and listening to my body is lesson number one.
… dance is gradually building a degree of respect between my body and my mind that I haven’t felt in years.
While I might be making mistakes along the way, dance is gradually building a degree of respect between my body and my mind that I haven’t felt in years. Without it, I might not have even cared about those mistakes. I certainly wouldn’t have learned from them. This respect borders strangely on affection, and let me tell you — it’s much easier to listen to something you love rather than to something you merely tolerate.
Catch up on previous chapters of Two Left Feet, here.
Image via Jordan Hammond