They say there’s a country song for every situation.  Whoever that ephemeral group known as the royal “they” are, they have yet to be proved wrong in my life.  I take comfort in the fact that there’s still yet time.

However, today I am definitely far too young to feel this old.  I don’t even remember if I had hit my twenty-third birthday yet when I was diagnosed as pre-arthritic this summer.  I’ve always been a little rheumy–sensitive to weather and pressure changes and such (my hips and I just agree not to get along those first few days back at home/ at school)– but when I was actually honest-to-goodness diagnosed with arthritis (or at least the guarantee that I would one day get it) this summer, I about lost it.

I’m twenty-three, for goodness sake!  I take care of my body!  I’ve been slowly, but steadily, losing weight for a year!  I’ve been changing all sorts of bad habits and replacing them with good ones!  What is it all for if I can’t even keep my body from breaking down on itself?

Logically, I know it was just a matter of time.   It’s  not like I could prevent arthritis from setting in.  It is a disease that I could not help having, not if I’m getting it this young.  But it still rankles me that all these things I am doing to be healthier still couldn’t delay the onset, even a little bit.

And, of course, what really kills me is that–at heart–I am a dancer.  I love to dance.  I took dance classes all throughout childhood, spent too many years away, then re-found that side of myself during college.  The prospect of possibly losing that side of myself all over again almost broke me.  How could I bear to have dance taken away a second time?  The first time was bad enough.

Unfortunately, my feet – which is where the symptoms presented – are being slow at healing.  Though I am by no means certain that I’ll never dance again (which is exactly what I thought the first time I heard the diagnosis), I’m not certain I will, either.  The recent set-back with my wrist has been particularly disheartening, as no other joints have really been giving me trouble until now.  But, thankfully, before this happened, the perspective had already begun to shift.

You see, what I discovered when I started dancing again wasn’t necessarily dance.  What I discovered is that I never really forgot it.  Much of what I learned was re-learning.  The new things were fun and exciting, but it was the old that I most often ran across.  I learned I could challenge myself in ways I never thought possible.  I learned that–as a dancer–I am most certainly never going to be great, but I have the potential to do some good with what abilities I have.  I learned to dream bigger.

That won’t go away.  Neither will this looming potential for arthritis.  But, eventually, I’ll learn how to work the one around the other.  As for now, I’ll just wait it out.  Heal.  Keep up with my dance as best I can, realizing all the while that when I finally get back to whatever form of dancing my body allows me to, it’ll all still be there, waiting to be rediscovered once more.  With bigger dreams.  Newer dreams.  Maybe they’ll be something I haven’t even begun to consider yet.

Yeah, days like today, I feel old–incredibly so.  But, I’m learning those can be good days.  My “old” days give me a chance to look forward to those days when I get to feel young once more, because–unlike so many–I actually have those days left.

How lucky I am.

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