So, this is how it feels like to be 45 years old.
Never in a million years would I predict that I’d perform on stage again. In college, I danced with our campus Modern Dance Company; even won a scholarship to dance with the fiercely talented Murray Louis in his intensive summer workshop in SoHo after sophomore year. After graduation, medical school, Howard Hughes research fellowship with a Science publication which propelled me to add on another six years of graduate school, residency, marriage, family, and career. At no point in time did I fancy myself to deviate from the “normal” path carved out by thousands of physician scientists before me, including their fitness routine. I ran 5k, 10k half marathons, marathons. I tried several gym, hoping to shed a few post partum pounds and stay fit. I tried to eat mostly healthy, though I did develop a taste for fine wine and cheese. I got into mixed martial arts and thought I’d grow to become an old female Yoda one day: a tiny Asian fighter who speak fragmented English (I still might!).
Life apparently has other plans for me. A thump! A thumb. And there I was, nearly broken. I took a look in horror, watching my thumb dangling outward held only by the skin at the martial art school. I took a deep breath and set my own thumb. There after, I entered into an unfamiliar realm. It was dark, insufferably sad, needing courage and perseverance in every turn, especially when the pain was severe. I became a child for my 9 year-old daughter to care for. My sweet child washed my hair, bathed me, tied my shoe laces. My saintly husband took up almost all of the house chores and child transportation. We subscribed to meal and grocery delivery service. I became Uber’s daily customer so that I could keep going to work.
Orthopedic hand surgery, occupational therapy, acupuncture, daily at-home therapy. It took six months, and I finally felt stronger. I sat there in silent tears the first time my thumb was able to wrap around the steering wheel (triumph! freedom from Uber!). This thumb rotation quickly advanced to being able to work the wine cork screw (another triumph!). The first time my hand could feel temperature, and touch, I cried out loud this time, and just kept the warm water running over my hand. All these milestones felt major to me, and are now forever etched in my mind.
But what to do about exercise? Going from working out five days a week to none was a dramatic blow to a physically active person. We talked about partially returning to martial art where I don’t punch, don’t fall, don’t do partner work. Yeah, what kind of martial art could that be I have no idea. MK said to me, “What makes you happy? You always seem happy when you get a chance to take a dance class.” I was euphoric, actually, whenever I got to dance. I started with Hip Hop and later added Dancehall. I joined a Dancehall team with the goal of stage performance, and met several incredible ladies. We rehearsed in excruciating detail-oriented repetitions (again! again!), committing our muscles to remember and respond to music.
When we walked onto the darkened stage, knelt down, with our heads bent, there was a collective intake of our breaths. It was quick, and we held it there. I felt suspended in time. All those years ago, dancing with Murray Louis, with his drumming and his cat, now coming to a full circle.
Stage light on. This is 45.