I Got Nailed at a Shingles Dance

And why we can’t – and shouldn’t – know what’s coming.

My agenda was gaining momentum. I was exploring where I wanted to go in the next year. My energy was flowing into action. Wasn’t this just the sort of thing that creates change and growth?
Then, WHAM!
Apparently, there’s more to it. (More about that later.)
I persisted with my vision. And to be fair, it was a worthwhile exercise.
I imagined first how I wanted to help my clients. I asked myself: what would it look like to take them from where they are today to where they want to be in two years? So I began charting out a program to help them get there. (More about that later, too.) But then I thought, start with yourself, Betty Mae. After all, I should practice what I preach.
So I envisioned and incorporated the practices toward who I wanted to be in two years' time. I wrote things like:
- I am finding awe everywhere; life is filled with unexpected wonder
- I am becoming more aware
- Gratitude is my day-to-day state
- Everyone I work with is becoming well-er and freer
…and a number of other aspirations.
As I wrote, I became more and more eager. I was curious. What might unfold?
I just didn’t see it coming is all. The gift. The actual way forward that would surprise, flummox and then inspire me in ways I couldn’t have known.
This gift - you might even call it a paradox - came to me through a Shingles dance.
Along with my agenda for my client program and my own growth, I was in the final months of rehearsal for a doozy of a dance recital. I’m a dancer as well as a health and life therapist, and I had a big show on the way. Choreography, dips, twirls, musical transitions, stretching, ice. So while I practiced and practiced and practiced some more, I considered where my therapy practice and my life were headed.
And then, yes, WHAMO.
After two nights where sleep was replaced by nothing but intense pain – I mean PAIN – it was clear I had Shingles. THE Shingles.
There’s nothing quite like physical pain to offer clarity. We pare down to our most essential yes’s and no’s. We simply manage. And we become so very aware without choosing to be.
I was acutely, painfully aware of every little bump in the road stabbing at me through the car seat, and my bed sheets scraping across my skin. It was as if the belt around my waist was hissing intensely at me. I was on watch through every moment of every day and night, and my body was like a thousand eyes and ears, responding with hair triggers, saying ouch and whimper.
As I sunk more deeply into this unrelenting state of pain, a shift happened in my perspective. There was a sense of newness. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? Yet it makes so much sense. In my altered and unforeseen state, I was becoming unrecognizable to myself. I was on unfamiliar territory. Whatever I was going through, it was NEW.
If we are looking backward, this can be very uncomfortable. But if we are living in the present, and looking forward with curiosity, we can become a very welcome and unexpected visitor to ourselves.
This candle of awareness urged me toward a state of curiosity and wonder within the pain.
So I started with something easy. I wondered what I could be grateful for. I’m usually quick to respond. I could imagine some things. I could say some things. But I simply could not feel the gratitude in my body and heart. This was also new to me, and it moved me still further from my usual self.
Then someone asked, “How has your sweetie Andrew been through all of this?” The question gave me new eyes. It disrupted me yet again. I immediately was launched into gratitude.
Then I remembered I still had a dance recital to perform! Would I dance? Would I politely send my regrets?
Something inside me asked the strangest, most curious question:
“Why wouldn’t you dance?!”
I began to state the obvious back to said voice inside me, but I paused. Indeed, why shouldn’t I dance?
Just because it’s different, just because this pain is not what I’m used to, just because it has messed with my best laid plans…why shouldn’t I dance?! What new thing might come of it?
So I began mentally rehearsing. And then I carefully made my way to an actual rehearsal. At one point, my dance teacher asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears right there on the stage in front of everyone. But I made it through that rehearsal. It wasn’t either-or. It was both-and. Shingles and dancing. So I decided, if I could make it through this full rehearsal, I could make it through the full recital. It was as if my pain-laden body was egging me on, urging me to discover something new, saying to me: what’s the big deal?
My curiosity lead me toward a challenging but wonderful truth. If we are living in the “known” we are living in the past. But if we are living in the “unknown” then we are living in the present and able to receive a future that’s new and unexpected. We must embrace wonder and find ourselves ok with it.
I kept dancing. I practiced in whatever way my body would allow me to. I rehearsed as much as my tired mind had capacity for. I did what I could. And week before the recital, the severity of the pain released just a little bit.
Then it was recital night.
I can’t even remember it really. Meaning, I can’t remember one bit of pain that I experienced during the entire evening. All I know is that I fully participated. I did my Shingles dance like nobody and everybody was watching! Nothing like a little adrenaline. But what was most fascinating was what happened in the days following.
Physically, I was spent. But as I lay on my bed, I fell into the deepest gratitude.
I didn’t have to search it out or exert any effort. I could feel it in my heart
I was gushingly thankful! I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished, what my body was able to do.
I thought, “I will never judge my body again. I will never be mean to it or criticize it. I will be kinder and more respectful of my body. And I am so deeply grateful for such an amazing experience.”
It was a place I’d never been to before. It was a “me” that I’d never met before. It was miraculous how my body functioned so adeptly and shone so brightly. Who knew?
If we desire change, we have to accept that we can never know what to expect. It’s simply not possible. I’d go so far as to say it’s not even advisable. Because if we knew, then we’d be stuck in the past.
So, what about that wish list I began the year with?
It seems I’m making great progress! I am indeed becoming well-er and freer, and therefore much more able to invite my clients along this path with me. But it didn’t happen in any way I expected. I would never have written “Shingles dance” on my wish list.
What’s on your wish list? Are you willing to receive it? And are you willing to be open to all the unexpected ways it might come to you? And what kind of greater beauty and peace and awesomeness might you be living in then!

Betty Mae GlenComment