Join along on the journey of obstetrician/gynecologist Dympna Weil, MD, FACOG, as she left behind a life of dancing, but then discovered she still needed something to feel complete.
Irish dance has always been a part of me. I began Irish dancing shortly after I learned to walk and formally began training at age three. As I immersed myself into the history and intricacy of Irish dance, I connected to my body, was forced to think differently, and allowed creativity to manifest. It became cathartic, a way for me to let go of my adolescent and childhood troubles. I enjoyed dancing, but I also loved sharing my talent with others, both at performances and as a teacher.
I competed until I was about 16 years old and then redirected all my attention to my academics as I aspired to become a physician. I continued teaching classes with my aunt throughout college at NYU and achieved my Irish dance teacher certification before starting medical school. However, as I went further into my study of medicine, I needed to shift my time and attention to my new craft: Obstetrics.
Fully immersed in my medical pursuits and profession, I slowly let go of my first passion: Irish dance. And as I let it go, I felt a bit of me wither away as well. I always missed it. I never felt like I found another form of exercise which I enjoyed and which helped condition me in the same way. I had lost my form of therapy, my stress reduction, my release. My identity. I became nostalgic at St. Patrick’s Day each year and longed for those days of dancing jigs at local parades, school, and community events. I had come to accept, albeit unhappily, that my dancing days were behind me, yet another sacrifice to become a physician.
And Then I Became a Mother.
My daughter, Cadhla, remains my single greatest accomplishment in life. No academic degree nor accolade could compare to being affectionately called “Momma”. Imagine how my heart swelled when my daughter wanted to learn Irish dance! But, we had relocated, and our family’s Irish dance school was then over 200 miles away. I taught her all I could in our basement until I recognized that she needed to dance with her peers; this is how children learn best. There were no TCRGs (Irish dance teachers certified by the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin) in our community. I had two choices: drive over an hour per week in upstate NY winters for classes or begin to teach again.
The idea of it was grand and seemingly unattainable: my time was not my own. I was an extremely busy OBGYN in a small town with a lot of clinical responsibilities. I had this increasing sense of urgency to regain more control over my life. As I pondered this, a wonderful, novel professional opportunity came across my emails. I had an amazing chance to become an OB Hospitalist in a hospital not too far from home. This would enable me to continue my cherished calling- my career as an OBGYN- while also facilitating more flexible, quality time with my family and to reconnect with myself.
I slowly let go of my first passion: Irish dance. And as I let it go, I felt a bit of me wither away as well.
I do not believe that things happen by chance. As the OB Hospitalist position solidified, so did my efforts to return to Irish dance more consistently. In September of 2016, I began teaching Irish dance classes in our new home town and for the first time in many years, I felt the circle completed.
I was whole once more. I feel I am a better person – mother, doctor, wife, daughter, friend, and dance teacher- than ever before. I have found the different steps of my life and embraced them all simultaneously and my new choreography is most magnificent. I have found harmony within and let go of the unattainable concept of balance. In dance we must maintain our balance quite literally on our feet. I have come to appreciate that in life, however, we must strive to attain HARMONY. My feet and legs are balanced, my life is harmonious, and my heart is full.
I began teaching Irish dance classes in our new home town and for the first time in many years, I felt the circle completed.
Life is not at all about BALANCE. Balance implies something goes up and then something else consequently goes down to find that center point. Balance is so fragile – any slight perturbation and balance is disrupted. The truth is one cannot really achieve balance at all. But, we can achieve HARMONY.
How I View Life.
I see life as a beautiful choreography. Irish dancers relay the history of the Irish people through their dance. Our arms are perfectly still, while our legs are moving, jumping, leaping so quickly. Irish dance is both graceful and powerful, strong and vulnerable. This, too, is an incongruous dichotomy. The precision is so well practiced that it seems overtly effortless. The beauty of the artform belies the devotion and time invested to achieve the relative ease of performance. In this light, I also see Medicine. Obstetrics is a beautiful dance between a mother-to-be and her child; each one gives and takes until a beautiful new physical being is born. There is power and strength; there is grace and vulnerability. During the privilege of attending to this duet, I, her physician and the medical team, too, dance a well-rehearsed performance.
I had to release myself from the strict definition of doctor and find a willingness to allow for peace within; I needed a space in which to let the universe help restore HARMONY in my worlds. I do not have to sacrifice being “Momma” in order to be “Doctor Weil”. The juxtaposition of two superficially divergent entities – Doctor and Dancer- is one that so harmoniously made me whole within. Both dancing and doctoring require practice and precision; in both cases one has honed her craft for many years.
And this dancing Doctor Momma can proclaim that finally, I do know harmony.