Today I woke up with an old ship docked in a new place in my mind.  A new and happier slip.  In an extremely grateful harbor.

That ship initially sailed in the winter of 1965 when I came home from school complaining that my legs hurt.  I went to bed with a slight fever that burned hotter through the night.

After talking with the doctor the next morning, my parents took me to the hospital where a series of tests were run and it was determined that I had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

When I was released a few days later, I couldn’t walk anymore.

This was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Because when all the other kids all left for school, I stayed behind.

But I wasn’t left behind.

The first victory in my physical therapy was to bend at the ankles.  Then the knees.  Eventually I was walking.  Which was awesome — but I wanted more.

I longed to dance.

It took years — 10 to be exact — until I was dancing competitively.   And over those 10 years I was told again and again that I would probably never catch up, never overcome my limitations, never make it.

So I worked harder.  Practiced longer.  Kept believing.  Never gave up.

And I more than made it.

I got a lifetime lesson in the principles of behavior change — which brings me back to this morning and why I am so very grateful.

Living a quality life is linked to maintaining your physical and mental health — which is linked directly to your behavior.

If you want to change your “BMI” for example, you need to change your caloric intake and activity levels.  Easier said than done — as many many employers who foot the bill for health care are finding out.  And so —

If you’re lucky enough — like me — to have an experience that taught you very early that you can’t dance before you can walk and you can’t walk before you can bend the joints in your legs and it’s gonna take focus and sacrifice and guts to do it —

you’ll more easily change your behavior to reach other goals you have in life and — and what’s more, you’ll enjoy the hell out of every inch your legs carry you.

Author: Julie Ann Stevens

My art flows from the patterns & paths of my lived experience which ⏤ like yours ⏤ are at once deeply personal and entirely universal.

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