Not-So-Great Expectations [Part 1]

24 May

I Have Found the Secret to True Creative Success: Don’t Expect Anything Great.

That said, I haven’t actually learned to apply this profundity to most of my life, with one notable exception. It’s the one thing I was expected not to do well, and hence the one thing I have been truly free to work at without the slightest expectation of greatness.

You see, I have a congenital hip defect. I was born without a left hip socket, and my left femur was 180-degrees backwards. There were numerous surgeries to diagnose and eventually attempt to correct the problem, as well as several body casts. When my mom wasn’t pulling me around in a red wagon, however, I was pulling myself and my twenty odd pounds of extra weight around with my upper body. Meanwhile, not wanting to give false hope, the doctors told my parents there was a good chance I might never walk, at least not without a severe limp.

Fortunately, that prediction turned out to be wrong. Once out of my final body cast, I did learn to crawl and then walk. As a mother now, I can only imagine my parents’ relief and joy then, witnessing this already significant milestone with such a heightened appreciation.

Not long after, my mom enrolled my older sister and me in dance classes, per my doctor’s suggestion. My sister, it must be noted, had (and still has) a classical dancer’s physique–long, lean and strong. As a kid, I really admired her dancing. Okay, yes, I was jealous, especially watching her work on her splits and high kicks. I, on the other hand, endured each dance class as a humbling sort of physical therapy. Whenever it came time to do “butterflies” on the floor, I looked more like a wounded duck. I would flop over awkwardly, unable to touch my feet together and “flutter” gracefully. That’s because the rotation of my hip remained–and still remains–very limited. At my most recent orthopedic visit, it was estimated I have about 10 percent the full rotation of a normal person in my left hip and only about 30 percent even in my “good” right hip.

Almost thirty years later, I was reintroduced to dance–to classical ballet, no less. Having enrolled my own daughter in dance classes, I thereby met Stella Mawoussi, an amazing woman who would change my life in a way I never, well, expected. She first lured me to take her ballet-style Pilates class while I was waiting for my daughter anyway. Before long, Stella had me and a handful of other ballet novices hooked on a traditional ballet class, comprised of barre, combinations and work across the floor. When I tried to explain and apologize for my limitations, Stella only encouraged me. “Everybody has to start somewhere,” she’d assure me. “Just do what you can.”

Wow, what empowering words. This was a freeing concept for me. For once in my life, I was giving myself the liberty to be just okay at something. To be a beginner. And to work, learn and grow for no one’s satisfaction but my own.

That was seven years ago. Since then, I’ve attended Stella’s biweekly classes as faithfully as possible. I’m addicted to Stella and to ballet, because they both encourage me simply to do my best. They challenge me to explore the boundaries of what I can and cannot do. Ballet is not just healthful exercise. It’s soulful art. So it provides physical and creative endorphins. But even more, for me, it’s providential irony. To quote the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Yes, my turn-out still frustrates me. And my grande bat mas aren’t at all grande. But I have improved, little by little–step by step, as it were.

Even so, I never could have imagined that little I would be part of breaking a Guinness World Record, the event that inspired this contemplative look back. Full details on that inspiring day to follow in Part 2.

One Response to “Not-So-Great Expectations [Part 1]”

  1. pursuingthemuse May 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Another example of how art is therapeutic 🙂
    I love these pics.

    You succeed because you are freed from fear and are living in the moment when you are dancing!

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