Goddess of Health

I Walk In Pain And Beauty

by Lucy Lipschitz

I've been undergoing a serious life and dance crisis these past few months. My health has begun to decline, and while there are some improvements, I have setbacks. In the past few months, I've been hospitalized seven times. A great deal of pain has unfortunately centered around each hospital visit, and I am not used to pain. Oh sure, there were a couple of Cesarean sections, a live birth, and a tooth pulled a few years back. That's been about it. All my life, I was afraid of feeling pain. I certainly have had a lot of it, but I didn't feel it like other people do….. until these last few months.

I'm looking forward to having surgery, if it will make the pain attacks go away. There is no guarantee it will all work out, but I have hope.

I've become very attached to certain body parts, but some of them I'm willing to lose.

There are other parts of my body that I'm determined to fight for, even if they continue to give me a hassle. Maybe having diabetes has played a role in this complex problem, I don't know. I've been able to take dance lessons and perform a small bit with the diabetes, but these other challenges and the ongoing pain have slowed me down.

So, what is this article about? Do people want to read about Lucy Lipschitz's ailments? Well, not unless they want to take a long nap…zzzzz!. Instead, I want to talk about finding the other side of pain, a place I never knew about. Lying in the hospital has given me time to think and reflect. I've found a deep, quiet place to answer certain questions of myself: Where is my dancing going? What communication does a dancer want with her audience? How do other dancers deal with serious physical and emotional trauma?

I can't imagine giving up dancing; therefore, I live with a double-edged sword. I walk with the Pain of my illness and the Beauty of this dance.

I asked a couple of friends who dance, and also have severe chronic pain, how they continue to do carry on with the dance. I wondered if any of them think or worry about the same things that I do, concerning illness. My worries are that I may not be able to dance anymore, or that I won't be strong enough to walk through the pain and illness. So, I asked my friends the following questions:

  • How has belly dancing helped you to overcome pain and physical illness?
  • Has a physical infirmity or pain caused you to stop dancing?
  • If you have been able to continue to dance, what gets you past the pain?

My friend Roya, also known as Spirit Dancer, says that she overcomes pain by gently following her own body/limitations method of exercise when she could not do anything else, and by helping to live the depression associated with the reduction of her physical activities. She said that she had to stop dancing once, several years ago, because of three herniated discs in her upper back.

While she took up dancing again, she said that by focusing on the music and movement, she can reduce her pain greatly.

Kate Taylor's job is based on various types of physical therapy for persons with chronic pain, disabilities, including arthritis. She also has a replaced hip, and chronic back pain. She is not a dancer, but her life revolves around movement. She says, " You learn to appreciate Beauty more. You can see a lovely flower, and a shiver of joy will go up your spine." She also said, "You do what you can when you can, and you focus on the good parts of moving your body."

She tells me to never give up anything that I love, and if I love dance, then it is still worth the work.

A dancer friend of mine in San Antonio is Talikah, who was just diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. This has been a hard time for her. She has her own web site, is in a troupe, and also dances solo. Dancing has been very important to her over the years, but now her symptoms are so severe at times, that she has had to cut back to only two lessons per week, and dances only once a month at a local café. She swears she will never give up dancing, but if she overdoes it, then she can't get out of bed for a few days. Like many of us, she must take lots of medication just in order to lead a normal life.

Without belly dancing, Talikah would lose herself as a person, and she will to fight her physical illness.

It seems that many people with chronic pain and illness live a double life of being on many types of medication, along with doctor's appointments or feeling great and performing without a care in the world. I have learned to love my dance life much more than ever.

I see beauty far more often than I did before through my dances. I seem to hear the music better; it sounds so new to me. I appreciate other dancers so much more. I watch myself and others with such gratitude that we are even here, no matter our level. I'm not so afraid to dance in public anymore, since, in the past few months, I've had to face much more terrifying events.

I've learned more than ever to have INTENTION when I dance, as well as ATTENTION to each move. As Roya says, "It is important to focus on the music, the movement, and be mindful. I don't know how to just do a routine without deep emotion anymore. It's impossible now, I can't do it. Every time I dance or practice, those simmering deep feelings bubble out. I work at controlling them like I work at doing combinations and movements because they're part of the dance all the way".

It has been lonely for me these past few months, missing dance lessons, missing haflas (dance parties), and being unable to perform publicly, missing out on touching an audience with all the work we do in preparing a dance. Losing connection with other dancers and musicians feels like being locked into a dark, airless closet.

I walk in Pain and Beauty. I also walk with the Hope that other dancers will read this and know that they don't balance on this double-edged sword alone.

I feel less lonely as I see how everything has come together. As I get closer to the surgery date, my dancing gets better. One day I will be well, but I hope to never forget all the lessons I'm learning from being in this situation.

Update on "I Walk in Pain and Beauty"

On June 25, I had two abdominal surgeries. While I was allowed to leave the hospital right after surgery, it has taken me much longer to recover, but at least I was home. Luckily, I've been able to use what I learned in my belly dance classes to recover. I'm more aware now of my muscles than ever before. I can use other muscles, besides my stomach muscles to move, roll over, etc. I'm very aware of my posture, which has been crucial for me in keeping my shoulders down and back. My first instinct was to hunch over, and my shoulders would try to ride up. I've been able to catch myself, and re-posture myself properly. If I hadn't had these many years of focusing on my muscles, breathing, and understanding how my whole body moves, it would have been harder for me to protect my torso while I've healed. I haven't stressed any other muscles or skeletal groups.

I was told not to dance until the beginning of August of 2001, but at least now I can move a bit, do a few shimmies, and some beginning undulations. I can pull in my abdominal muscles now, and they are getting strong again. If anyone ever asks me what good belly dancing can do, recovery from surgery is one more fantastic reason for learning (aside from all the other wonderful things about it!).

Now I know how I ended up walking in Pain and Beauty. When a person is hurting, it's important focus on Life, and not let the pain rule us. Most people somehow look for what is beautiful and good in life. It is helpful to focus on what a person loves the most. For me, it was dancing.

By focusing on the things we love, we can keep happiness in our lives, and we can keep Hope alive by planning on all the things we can do, when we get better.

I want to end this article with a song that describes my life at this point, from the Navajo Nation:

With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk,
With beauty above me, may I walk,
With beauty all around me, may I walk…

Lucy lives happily in the Great Arizona Desert with her husband, Larry, and her children, Lentl and Linseed. She plans to add the aspect of Walking in Pain and Beauty on her web site as a healing tool for others who may benefit. Come see her site at www.geocities.com/metallicrone.

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