Once, during a family vacation, I snuck out of my families rental cottage to take pictures of a massive storm coming across Lake Erie. It was in the evening; the sunset falling down behind the horizon — orange collapsing into the oncoming gray clouds. I’d ridden my bike down to the dock after feeling the wind pick up and the watching the sky darken, knowing full well that my parents wouldn’t approve. With my camera bag around my neck, I climbed up into the bell tower that overlooked the darkening lake. The gray waves tumbled over each other, crashing against the dock below. I watched as the rain on the horizon line crawled across the water; the wind pushing it closer. When the wall of water finally reached the shore, I gently set the camera down on the window ledge and stepped out into the rain. With the thunder rumbling in the background and the lighting sprinting across the sky — it felt like a wonderful release. I remember removing my shoes and walking out into the rain; spinning around in my soaked summer dress. I was probably about thirteen. I was healthy; no idea what the next couple of years would bring. When I got home to the cottage an hour later, my parents were furious. My sister was crying. We were all so worried about you. How could you have done such a dangerous thing? And a couple of days later, when I did it again, my father marched out into the storm to drag me back home — soaking wet. It’s dangerous, Kathryn. Why do it again?
I’m pleased to say that at the age of twenty-one, I have not outgrown this habit, although the way in which I do it has changed. For the last five years, it has often felt like constant storms with small pockets of light in-between. Even when the storm has settled and there are no more puddles to splash in, there has still been another looming. I have found myself dancing in more storms than I can count and dancing in the rain is exhausting. My feet are sore. I’m often soaking wet. Even when I’m dry, I’m trying to figure out when the next storm is coming. Sometimes I get weird, uncalled for mini-storms; often one right after the other. There are days when the dance feels like a repetitive pointless action. Yet, still, I find myself dancing in the rain because it is the only way to get through. I could sit and moan and groan all about how dangerous it is or how awful it feels to be wet and cold, but then I would spend my whole life being miserable. There have been moments when I have begged the storms to stop; thinking that I could not possibly continue any longer. But each time I do; the moment passes like the wind. The dance continues until the sun comes out — as it always does.
We have the ability to decide how we approach every storm we find ourselves in throughout our lives. That doesn’t make them any less potent and our situation any less terrible, but it does determine the outcome. Dancing in storms is about resilience — making something terrible into something worth celebrating. While my experience with illness has often been exhausting, I also wouldn’t get rid of it for the world. I tend to think that the things that I’ve made out of the experience are priceless and that the people I’ve met along the way are worth it too. There have been very few things during this that I have been able to choose, but I have always been able to choose to dance.