Okay, so I don’t have his millions—of dollars, of fans, of accolades. But the other day, when the great quarterback Peyton Manning made it official and tearfully announced his retirement after eighteen seasons, all I could think was, “I feel your pain.”
The number eighteen is familiar to me. It’s the number of seasons I danced with my husband before a hip replacement catapulted me into retirement. The thing about bodies is that they have a way of wearing out long before our thirst to pursue a passion that depends on our physicality is quenched.
There’s an inevitable grieving process, and everyone grieves differently. At first, I could barely stand to watch a rehearsal, a dance class, or a performance. I ached to move as I once had. It was only a hip replacement, yet I felt some essential part of me had been amputated.
What I would say to Peyton, if I could, is that it does get better. Recently, my husband and I attended the ten-year anniversary concert of Moving Collective, founded and co-directed by our dear friend and colleague, Theresa Bautista. It wasn’t painful to watch. It was quite wonderful. I’m proud to say I was Theresa’s first modern dance teacher. Both my husband and I were among her mentors. She has gone on to have an amazing career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. Her performance that night was mesmerizing. All I felt was enormous pleasure and joy as I watched her dance.
So, even though nothing may ever give him the same rush and sheer joy he experienced as a player, I predict Peyton will one day be able to get a kick out of watching a brilliant quarterback execute in a big game. He won’t have that pang in his gut anymore from longing to be out there himself.
When push comes to shove, we move on. Just a little more slowly.