I am writing this post with my feet up and an ice pack around my left ankle. No, I haven’t suffered a dramatic injury. It’s more a matter of running into a wall I’ve seen ahead of me but haven’t had to acknowledge before now: age.
Not old age, yet. Just age. My ankle is on ice because I had my weekly ballet class last night. For several weeks, we’ve been working on a complicated section of petits battements, small jumps and footwork. These movements require speed, strength and elasticity. Until recently, I was pretty decent at them. Now, repeated practice has resulted in swelling and tenderness along both Achilles tendons, to the point that I am in pain not only when I dance, but when I do other things. Like walk down steps.
I’ve danced most of my life and know what to do to minimize injuries. I’ve also tried to dance through the pain, but it has worsened progressively. Despite my attempts to avoid a doctor’s appointment until June, I’ll go in sometime in the next two weeks. Online research about my symptoms keep bringing up articles about tendonitis, and they all have variations of the phrase “often afflicts people over 40”. Well, I am over 40 all right. Way over 40. Over ten years over 40, in fact.
As walls go, this one is more an annoyance than a serious, stop-you-cold-in-your tracks issue like catastrophic illness or losing your retirement savings. But it IS an annoyance. I may have to cut back on an activity I love because my body can’t do it any more.
That weekly dance class is a huge stress reliever. No matter how rotten my mood is when I go in, I am calmer and happier when I leave. I don’t pretend to understand how movement and exertion affect human brain chemistry. What I do understand is that the stylized posture and movements of ballet require my complete attention. I can’t pirouette and let my mind wander to the car repair bill or the chapter that is not working. If my attention wanders from the steps I’m doing, I lose balance or fall behind.
There’s also the pleasure of mastering a new skill, or at least improving it. And I’m not going to lie — it’s an ego boost to know I can keep up with girls my daughter’s age. At least I could before now. Grumble.
If I can put my poor baby self-image aside, there are solutions to my aching ankles. First, I need to get to the doctor and get her diagnosis. Second, I will discuss my dilemma with the dance studio director and ask for her recommendation. I once joked in class that I’d continue ballet until I had to hobble to the barre with a walker. While it seems less amusing today, I do know that adjustments are possible.
But nobody says I have to like them.