Psychologists divide people into two categories of personality types – Type A and Type B.
Type A’s are typically ambitious, competitive, impatient, organized (to a fault), take on more than they can handle, can be anxious, are proactive, often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines and hate delays and ambivalence.
On the other hand, Type B’s tend to live with lower stress levels, work steadily, are often reflective, enjoy achievement but don’t fall apart when they do not achieve, enjoy exploring ideas, concepts and creativity.
People often describe me as a Type Triple A personality (for some reason). Perhaps it’s the relentless drive, insatiable quest for achievement or competition within myself to accept nothing less than the best from me … whatever it is, this defining characteristic causes me to find the notion of slowing down and pausing simply unfathomable. And yes, sometimes my confidence that comes from achievement crosses the line at times to cockiness and, regrettably, arrogance. (Thankfully, it’s not often as I try to keep this under control.)
I think that’s why the universe opened the doors this October and hit me smack in the soul with a lesson I needed to learn.
I traveled to Berlin for a workshop/show weekend featuring my friend and mentor, Randa Kamel, and looked very forward to training, meeting up with friends and colleagues and enjoying Germany, one of my favorite countries.
I blended a corporate trip with a dance weekend, packed my bag with office suits for the ‘day job’, glittery costumes and comfortable workshop clothes and boarded the plane with excitement.
Before I share the next part of the story, it’s important to note I’ve been a dancer for 20 years and fitness professional even longer. Flexibility, core strength and balance are an essential part of my physical routine and areas in which I strive for constant improvement. (Hello, cockiness!)
I landed in Dusseldorf and, in a rush to catch the transferring flight to Berlin, found myself on my hands and knees, falling down a complete flight of concrete stairs.
Thankfully, I was able to finish with an arabesque and an attempt at humor for those who stopped to help with, “Don’t worry; I’m a dancer; I’ve got this,” forcing a laugh while I was keeping the tears of pain back.
This sounds crazy, but I have never fallen before – outside of the time when I was five or six, playing ‘kiss, chase’ with the boys (where you chase the boys, then kiss them) and I fell on my face, splitting my chin open (which required stitches). After that experience, I quickly gave up ‘kiss, chase’ and settled for ‘kiss.’ *grin*
But I digress. I fell at the airport on concrete stairs.
I was stunned, shocked and in disbelief.
And hurt. I was fortunate I did not crack my kneecap, but I did have deep bruising and swelling in both knees, two herniated discs in my neck, and a min-tear in my left shoulder.
In a weird way, I felt betrayed by my body. How could I have lost my balance and control? It seemed impossible, but my blood soaked pants, swollen knees and frozen neck paid testament to the reality of the situation.
After falling, I had to run to catch my flight. It was sheer adrenaline that got me to the plane on time. I flew to Berlin, bleeding from the wounds and swelling from the injuries. I could hardly walk when I got to the office. Although I have photos, I was in such pain I barely remember the four-hour, five-story facility tour.
After finishing my corporate work, I found a pharmacy, bought some pain killers, made my way to the hotel and went to bed.
I started getting pretty depressed as I realized I was not going to be able to dance – either in the workshop or the show, given the state of my body. It was a double whammy; the pain from the fall was debilitating and my emotional pain was even greater as I’d been under tremendous stress and needed the euphoria and release of belly dance.
The next morning, I went to the workshops. Normally, you’ll find me just to the right of the instructor in the front row, dancing, moving and concentrating every single minute of the workshop – soaking up as much knowledge and practice as humanly possible. I live and love to dance. It is a part of my being and an essential part of my soul.
This weekend, though, I sat on the sidelines, watching from the back.
I was angry, depressed and frustrated.
I certainly did not want to just stand (or sit, as the case may be) there; I wanted to do something!
As I watched a beautiful choreography unfold in the workshop, that still, small voice from within started communicating with me.
I thought of all the times I’d encouraged my students to sit and watch when they were physically incapable of dancing – telling them they can learn a lot by watching.
I thought of how my therapist encouraged me to “Be Here Now,” breathing into the moment and allowing the universe to unfold as it should, without fighting it.
I thought of all the times I had ignored my body when it needed me to listen – like when I had a staph infection in my foot and almost lost my leg, but I still taught classes and performed on stage with an IV in my arm, strategically hidden in a costume.
And I thought about what lesson I needed to learn and grow from.
Then, it hit me.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is simply stand there.
‘Standing there’ does not imply progress is not being made.
I stepped back, inhaled and exhaled, and listened to the wisdom of my body – which begged me to rest – and my soul, which demanded my humility to slow down, be mindful of the present moment, and look at the big picture. I had to give the universe a chance to happen and to stop reacting out of my own anxiety and desperation.
As soon as I recognized the inner message, I was able to relax into the moment and give appreciation for what was actually happening. I was in Berlin, surrounded by friends and colleagues who love me and whom I love, enjoying a weekend of art and culture, and had the opportunity to learn through observation.
Since Berlin, I’ve tried to continue applying this life lesson. I’m still recovering from the injuries of the fall – and trust me, I only take elevators now. I’ve slowed down a fraction of a bit to honor my body, mind and spirit, and I’m learning to Be Here Now.
I’m discovering new inspiration, taking a few moments to relax and live life outside of dance and corporate work and appreciate the small things in life. When I get frustrated because I’m not healing as quickly as I’d like, I pause and give thanks for the chance this experience has given me to slow down.
It’s a process, but I’m finding out that it might be okay to be ‘just’ a Type A personality.