Monthly Archives: July 2014

It Almost Felt Like Old Times

Day 10 post-fall. I have been tempted to update for a few days now, but ultimately felt like “what’s the point? I hardly have any changes to report.” But I figure it can’t hurt – and may possibly help – to have a record of my progress, should this kind of thing happen to me again.

The past two days, in the morning, I have felt almost normal. By that I mean that I could walk without a limp. During the whole first week, which I mostly spent on the couch, everytime I would attempt to walk I had a noticeable limp, which would become more noticeable the faster I tried to walk. So I took the hint and stayed off my feet.

But yesterday morning, from the first moment my feet hit the floor and I made my way to the bathroom, I noticed that I actually wasn’t limping. Not only that, that weak feeling that I’d had in my ankle – sort of like it wasn’t stable from side to side – was gone. For some reason my injuries always feel worse in the morning – it was like this after my car accident as well – so the fact that my ankle was feeling better in the morning was a good sign.

I know better than to get overconfident though. I remember back when I was recovering from my car accident reading that a previously injured ankle is likely to be reinjured because the person thinks they are back to 100% and doesn’t take it easy. So it’ll probably be a while before I attempt any jumping, especially the kind that only land on one foot.

I wrote last Saturday that  i miss ballet. I still do, but now add to that that I miss doing anything that involves being on my feet. I miss going on long walks and going on hikes. I miss walking (as opposed to driving) to the store. I miss going to the dog park and playing with the dogs. I don’t miss driving though – apparently that’s the only routine thing that I’m still able to do.

Overall, my recovery is going well. I’ve started doing floor barre exercises. I’d never tried floor barre before – I’d seen the videos but I’d always thought that the real thing looked more like fun. Well, let me tell you – floor barre is hard! The floor goes “ouch!” against my hipbones, even with a makeshift yoga mat consisting of two folded up old bath towels. At the same time, it was great! I love the feeling of using my muscles and making them work hard. Before my fall, when I was doing ballet almost daily, nearly every day my thighs would have this nice soreness – almost like a fullness, an increase in vascularity – and I grew to love that soreness. After my first time trying floor barre, the soreness was there, and it almost felt like old times again. For the first time in over a week I felt relaxed.
I’m planning on continuing with floor barre exercises, as well as very gradually increase the distances that I walk. For now all my walking will be on level ground, so no hiking for a while, which is disappointing. But at least I have my mobility back somewhat and that makes me feel a little bit better.

I Miss Ballet So Much!

It’s been 5 days since I slipped  slipped on the bottom step and sprained my ankle. 5 days may not be a long time, but it’s felt like so much longer. Since my first ballet lesson a year and a half ago, this is the longest I’ve gone without doing ballet in one way or another. There have been times when for months at a time I have been without a ballet class, like when my college was out for summer, but I have had my practice sessions at home. I have taken days off, of course, especially in the beginning when my body was first getting used to it. But I don’t think I’ve been ballet-free for this many days in a row before. I am having major ballet withdrawals!

I had not given it much thought how much I would miss it. Neither had I given it much though to how much ballet had become a part of my life. I keep getting the urge to get up and do some plies and tendus or at least work on my port de bras. These urges aren’t new, but I keep forgetting that I physically can’t act on them. It’s strange, because all sorts of everyday tasks seem to have something ballet-y that I had added on to them, and I had never really noticed. I hadn’t noticed that part of me walking across the living room on the way to the kitchen involved stopping in front of my practice mirror and seeing how my posture was looking or if everything was in the alignment. I would then do a few plies, still checking my alignment. Or how I would rise up on demi point while holding on to the kitchen counter – and as I improved in my balance increasingly without holding on- waiting for water to boil or for dinner to be cooked. Or just in general how I would always see how long I could balance or practise rising up at random just anywhere when bored.

I guess I had taken these things for granted, and probably lots more that I can’t recall off the top of my head. This is also a wake-up call for me: I need to slow down and watch where I’m going! This is not the first time this year that I’ve had a preventable accident. This past spring, possibly the last wednesday of March, I was heading to ballet class and one second I was stepping down with my right foot and the next I was flying through the air. I landed on both knees but must have taken most of the impact on the left knee – it tore a hole right through my jeans. After dusting myself off I had gone to class anyway. That was the only day I wore my black tights instead of pink.

I should have taken that fall- seriously, I tripped over nothing – as a sign that I need to slow down and be careful, but since it didn’t get in the way of my mobility I just hurried on along. But now this new fall- again caused by nothing but my carelessness- has kept me off my feet and many of my favorite activities. I’m sure this time I will remember. I had never realized how accident-prone I am!

In the meantime, I’ve been trying my hardest to make the most of my time on the couch, doing non-ballet-related things like practicing guitar, writing and a lot of reading. But I’ll be honest: at times I’ve been unable to resist practicing my port de bras from the couch, making sure to keep my back straight and my core tight. I can’t wait to be back to normal!

Ankle Update and Do-it-yourself Arnica Massage Oil

My ankle is doing better everyday, which is a good thing. I can’t wait to get back to normal activities, but I know it’s important to take it easy. Don’t want to reinjure it or make it worse, after all. For now, I’m pleased that the swelling has gone down, it’s not sore or tender to the touch, and I’m getting extra help and attention from Boyfriend now that he’s back in town. Always nice to have an excuse to not help with the chores, lol. At the same time, I miss practicing my plies and releves while waiting for water to boil for cooking!
After PoetsandPirouettes   mentioned arnica, I remembered that I had picked up a bag of dried arnica leaves awhile back. I’d heard that arnica was good for inflammation. Since I love do-it-yourself projects – and I have all this extra time since I’m not practicing ballet – I made an arnica-infused massage oil for my ankle. It worked! I will probably also continue using it for sore muscles as well.
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Anyway, instructions are below in case anyone is interested:
1)   Double boil some water. I used a medium (small?) pot of water and put a heat-safe glass bowl inside of it. I brought the water to a boil, then lowered the heat to medium.

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2)    Place the dried arnica leaves inside a small glass jar. Cover the leaves completely with oil. I used coconut oil, but grapeseed, olive, sesame, etc. would probably work as well. Mostly I used coconut because it hardens in low temperatures, in case I decided to later add in beeswax and make it into ointment.
3)    Place the jar (with contents) into the glass bowl in the pot. Stir the contents periodically, making sure the leaves remain covered in oil. Replenish the water periodically as well, since quite a bit will evaporate eventually. I let the leaves infuse into the oil for about 4 hours.
4)    Carefully (pot holders!) remove the jar from the hot water.
5)      Strain through cheesecloth. I put the cheesecloth on the mouth of the jar and secured it with rubber bands. Then I flipped the jar upside down and let the oil drip through into a different jar. Once most of the oil had gone through, I took the remaining oil-drenched leaves, wrapped them in cheesecloth, and squeezed more oil out from them.
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6)   Finish, store, and use. Optionally, add a couple drops of lavender essential oil. Store in a glass container since oil can possible dissolve plastic.

I’ve been massaging this oil into my ankle as often as I remember, and I think it’s been helping out quite a bit. Aren’t little do-it-yourself projects fun?!

I fell down the stairs

That sounds really dramatic. It makes me imagine tumbling down a whole flight of stairs. What did happen was I slipped on the last step in the flight of stairs.

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I was going downstairs to take out the garbage. The steps nearest the bottom were hidden in shadows and I would think “I’ve lived in these apartments for over two years. I should have going downstairs down in my muscle memory.” And I usually do, except I happened to be distracted. I can’t remember if it was a bird singing or a beetle flying dangerously low (and close to my head), but the point is I was distracted.

My muscle memory autopilot body thought that was it for the steps when there was still another one left to go. My left foot prepared to reach solid ground and instead all my poor foot got was the edge of the last step. It slid, and then I don’t know exactly what happened because all I felt that instant was pain. The pain was overwhelming, as I’ve never had a high tolerance for pain.

I had landed on my bottom on the other steps and just lay sprawled there for a few seconds or minutes just trying to catch my breath. Slowly the pain began to recede enough for me to sit up and check out my foot. I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but it looked fine to me.

I tentatively placed it on the floor and attempted to put weight on it, since I couldn’t just lay on the stairs all day, though at some point that did seem like a good idea. It was able to bear weight! Ok, that was a good sign, at least I knew I didn’t break it or anything.

I slowly made my way to the dumpster, glad that there weren’t any sudden intense flashes of pain or anything. I was even more glad that this had happened while I was taking out the garbage and not while walking the dogs. Which reminded me, I still had to walk the dogs.

Luckily, the pain quickly receeded and turned into a dull soreness. I am able to walk normally, so I’m sure it’s not as serious as when I sprained my right ankle. That’s another thing to be grateful for: at least it wasn’t my previously sprained ankle. That one had taken weeks to walk without crutches and months before the pain finally went away completely. Of course, the trauma that it had suffered, as I had sprained it while in a car accident, was greater than the trauma of landing on it from a height of 8 inches.

I’m sure the immediate pain for that sprain would have felt worse, had I not been distracted by the airbag smashing my lips against my teeth and cutting my lip open.

So now I’ve been putting ice on it and resting up. Even though I can put weight on it and walk normally, I decided to not go on my long walk this morning. Boyfriend’s not in town and it would really suck if I wandered far away and had no one to come pick me up in case it started to act up.

I’m mostly trying to convince myself that it’s a very minor sprain. Unfortunately, when I compare both feet side by side it does look to be a little swollen, around the ankle bone area.

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Looks like nothing compared to how bad my accident sprained ankle had looked though.

I think (as a non-expert, or course) that all the strength that ballet has given me in my feet helps out situations such as these. I know that if I didn’t have a lot of muscle I could possibly have hurt myself more seriously. So in a way, it’s as though I’m always training for when life throws situations like this out at me!

Finding my “thing”, finding myself

“That’s crazy how ballet is your thing,” my boyfriend remarked the other night as we spent a quiet evening at home.
“Hmmmmm?” I responded, my eyes transfixed on my tablet screen.
“You like ballet, that’s your thing,” he gestured to the screen. “I mean, it’s cool what they’re doing, but I don’t think I can appreciate it as much as you do.”
There was a pause before I answered, a self-reflective pause. “You’re right, it is crazy,” I acknowledged.
The crazy part is not the actual liking (more like loving) of ballet, obviously. I mean, what is there not to like? The beautiful music, at times slow and inspirational, at times dramatic and lively; the dancer’s strength, agility, grace, the way they fly through the air, just talent; the wide variety of colorful and at times very elaborate costumes. I believe there is definitely something for everyone in ballet, provided they actually give it a chance.
The reason for my boyfriend’s comment was that when we met, 12 years ago, he (and I) would have never imagined that I would develop this ballet obsession. It would have been completely out of character. Allow me to explain.
As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t take any ballet lessons at all as a little girl. What I haven’t mentioned before is that I was a bit of a tomboy. I mostly hung around with boys and for fun we played outdoors like boys. Once I hit puberty and instead of playing wanted to date some boys, things got complicated. Since I had no female friends, I never learned how to do things like pick out clothes or flirt. But from somewhere I got the idea that boys liked it if girls had stuff in common with them. I could do that!
So from that point I decided to mostly be into “guy stuff”, or whatever I presumed “guy stuff” to be: cars, loud music, action movies, wrestling, etc.
I did this for so long that I actually convinced myself that I was actually into those things. That was the girl my boyfriend met.
Once in my late 20’s I realized that I didn’t actually enjoy most of those things. Not only that, I realized that I had been repressing my true self for so long that I had forgotten what I was really like. I began my journey of self-discovery and found that for the first time since I was a child I could actually find joy in the simple things. I discovered I liked gardening, cooking, playing slow songs on the guitar.
But then I found ballet and it was the most incredible feeling ever! Because, even though I had never tried it before, it felt like returning to myself. It felt as though this was what I had been looking for for so long, but I hadn’t even realized that I had been in the middle of a search. When I do ballet, I feel like I’m being real, like it’s the closest to being myself that I can ever be.
I feel that ballet has given me the strength to express myself as I am, instead of wanting to be anyone else. Because it doesn’t stop at ballet, I discovered. I find that I have more confidence to try out things that I would have previously not given a chance to, just because they did not fit into the mold that I was trying to force myself to fit into.
So I can totally understand what he means by “it’s crazy you like ballet”. But the most awesome part is that I realize I don’t care because, crazy or not, I’m being myself.

The day I didn’t lose my nerve

As I have previously mentioned, so far  my ballet experience consists of classes that I have taken at my local community college (and, of course, lots of practicing at home). That’s where I took my first ballet class and I hadn’t ventured elsewhere due to several reasons, a big part of it being money. At the communtity college you get 14 weeks worth of ballet, 2 times a week for about $50. Can’t beat that (well, actually you could if you audit the class at the community college).
But I found out recently that there is a dance studio nearby that offers ballet. It met my requirements: it was affordable-ish ($10 per class), less than 20 minute drive from home, and they offer a beginner’s class. Still though, I’ve put it off and just continued my practice at home.

I don’t suffer from procrastination. What I do suffer from is anxiety, a crippling anxiety that keeps me from veering too far from my routine, from what is known to me. Yet it unpredictably and unexpectedly lets up, and those are the times when I have actually do something for the better:when I decided to go back to school, when I first ever signed up for ballet, whenever I have stood up to my friends and relatives on any issues that I believe in. In other words, many good decisions have been made by me at times when my anxiety was not in control.
Today was one of those times. I had pondered trying out that new dance studio last week, but ultimately I had let my inner critic disuade me. I told myself that I could just wait the next month or so and just continue taking classes at the college.
But today I told myself that I was going to go in and take this class. If it went horrible then at least I know that I tried.
With my anxiety, it’s the little “what-if”s that get me. I was discouraged from going to class because of doubts about what to wear, for example. At my regular classes we have a uniform or dress code, so that part is easy. At this new place, not so much. There was no dress code mentioned on their website and I had been unable to reach them on the phone. And then, to make matters worse, my pink tights have a hole in them, thanks to my adorable cat Smudgey, and my black tights that I bought when I first started a year and a half ago fit a tiny bit too snug (due to putting on leg muscle, I hope). At $14 apiece I was not planning on getting new tights until these were literally falling apart. At school I know we are allowed to do this, but at a new place? How awkward!
Also, I’m used to taking ballet class in the morning, so I usually just have a super light breakfast but this new class in in the evening so it would for sure be after dinner. And I don’t know how I feel about wearing a leotard on a full stomach.
And, since in the college classes we had all started class at the same time (though some people had years of experience), and in this class it wouldn’t be that way, I guess I had the general fear that was if the class was way too advanced for me. What if I got lost in every combination and looked like a clumsy oaf?
But today was the day I faced all of that.
After trying on both, I ultimately decided to wear the pink tights, despite the tear. I arrived at the studio nice and early. By this point, since I had already made the decision (I really think the deciding part is the worst), I felt like I was on autopilot. I didn’t know if they had a changing area, so I wore my leotard and tights under my clothes. So glad this week isn’t as hot as last week!
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Me trying out the black tights.
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My poor torn pink tights 😦
So as for the class…
I had so much fun! I am so glad that I faced my fears and didn’t let them hold me back.
The teacher was super friendly and nice and not intimidating at all. So that was really cool. The class had a very chill, laid back feel to it. There was five of us students, all adults. I was the only one wearing a leotard! Yet strangely I did not feel weird, I felt like a ballerina.
The combinations at the barre were not hard, but since they were new to me it was a bit of a challenge. It was awesome though, nothing that I can’t handle. Plies and grand plies in first, second and fifth. Tendus, degages, rond de jambe, frappes, some balancing in releve. Some developes but no fondues.
Now center, my favorite, lol. (sarcasm) Well, it wasn’t horrible. The port de bras and releve combination was do-able, but unfortunately I’m one of those people that needs to do a lot of repetition before they can do something right. So it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. We did some balancing in passe releve, and I’m so glad that I had been able to do that recently, or else I would have probably been intimidated. We did sautes and changements, which at least I was able to do in timing. I need to stop forgetting my arms though.
And I even got some compliments from the teacher!
So will I be back? HECK, YEAH!
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Hoping that the tear isn’t obvious from a distance, lol.

Passe Releve!

Ok, I realize that this isn’t really a big deal. But due to me being so center of gravity-challenged, it’s a big deal to me. My learning curve has been so slow that any progress, however small, is encouraging because it allows me to see that I actually am making progress.

So anyway, I was messing around in front of my huge practice mirror (as in, I was not having an official practice session), just seeing how my port de bras and plies were looking, and then some releves. I’ve been practicing rising up in passe releve for almost a year now, but always holding on to a barre or the wall, whichever happens to be available. But I’d never been able to find my balance.

I didn’t expect to be able to balance today, either. But as I said, I was just messing around in front of the mirror. So I rose up, and actually was able to hold the pose for about a second or so! Not only that, I was able to come back down in a controlled manner.

I was giddy with excitement! So I grabbed my boyfriend and forced, um I mean persuaded, him to capture it on camera. Of course, attempting to do it a second time was not the same as the unexpected first time. But still, here is some photographic evidence, hopefully so I can look back on this moment in the future at a time when balancing in passe releve is no longer a big deal to me.

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Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten my arms!

So then I tried to do it on the other foot (right leg as supporting leg), but predictably my left side is stronger.

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Please excuse the slightly messy living room, my nontraditional ballet attire, and my mismatched socks, LOL!