What Could Go Right?

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I wrote this post in June of 2015, but am republishing it a year later because I have an important update, which changes the story a little– and I added a video I think you’ll enjoy. If you have already read it, please scroll to the bottom of the post. And if this is the first time you are seeing this piece, I hope you find it encouraging!

About a year ago, I was devastated. After tearing my ACL (an important knee ligament) for the third time, it looked like my active days were over– and that I was just lucky to be able to walk around. I had already endured two surgeries that used harvested parts from that leg to construct a new ligament. Now, my orthopedist was scheduling me for a third surgery that would include taking parts from my “good” knee, as well as pulling tendons down from my hip to wrap around my knee joint. I mean, what could go wrong here… right?

HandstandGetting a knee injury about 12 years ago had already changed a lot for me. I have been active my whole life, and find moving my body to be one of the purest sources of joy. Although I never perfected any particular physical skill, I was interested in learning any and all of it. I took classes in different types of dance, in fencing, martial arts, and in various sports. I like to move, and couldn’t imagine anything worse than losing my freedom of movement. (This picture is from six years ago, several years after my first surgery.)

This knee surgery would help stabilize my knee again, but at what cost? I’d already ruptured my ACL three times. Why would this new one be any different, apart from being far more invasive? I knew that even after the surgery and the rehab period, I would still be afraid of injuring my knee again, and starting over, with even less options than before.

I was devastated. I felt like I was too young for this, and had too many opportunities for movement (and joy) ahead of me– that I would have to miss. The more I thought about it, the riskier the surgery felt to me– why open up my stronger leg, in hopes of fixing my weaker one, especially when the surgery could also fail like the first two? So I consulted with a physical therapist friend, and cancelled my surgery. My PT friend felt sure that another surgery would not be a permanent fix, and that I would be better off just working hard at stabilizing my knee and living without an ACL.

This was a relief and also scared me. (It still does.) What if I injure my knee again, and without the ACL there, the damage is really, really bad? Like, tearing all of the other ligaments? What then? This fear has kept me from doing a lot of things. In some cases, it’s a healthy fear– sometimes I feel like running. But it’s a bad choice for me, not just because of the ACL thing but because of all of the trauma that joint has been through– running is hard on even healthy knees. But there are a lot of other things that I should be able to do, that just make me nervous– hiking, dancing, jumping. I have really been wanting to take more martial arts classes, but I just don’t feel secure enough for the kicks and twisting. I ended up doing very little, beyond walking and some yoga. And this affected my overall sense of well-being– I am not a sedentary person.

Recently, the opportunity came up for Jeff and me to take ballroom dancing classes. We had taken salsa classes together before we got married, and had promised ourselves that we would take another class within the first year that Amelia was born. Well, that didn’t happen (she just turned nine, by the way!) and although both of us love dance and dream of dancing together with confidence, we never took action. All of the knee drama did make a very legitimate excuse.

But this time, we went ahead and signed up for the six week class. Although I’ve been working on strengthening my knee, I was nervous. Honestly, I’d be foolish not to be, given my history. But as I thought about it, I realized that things can go wrong… and they can go right. (And things can seem to go wrong and turn out to be right– here’s a great example!) I could hurt my knee falling down the stairs, slipping on our tile floors, tripping over the rug (I swear I’m not that clutzy, but it happens!) or any number of ways.

Wouldn’t it be better to just take the chance on doing something that would bring me joy?

One promise that I have made to myself is to live out of love and hope, rather than out of fear. There are so many things to be afraid of– lots of things could really go wrong. But if we are in that place, worrying about all of the things that could go wrong, do we ever give ourselves the chance to see things go right?

So, Jeff and I signed up for the dance classes. I loved them. Loved them. And I would lie in bed, going through the steps I was learning, and suddenly in my mind’s eye I would see myself twisting the wrong way, I’d see my knee contorting, I’d see myself lying on the dance floor, filled with pain and fear.

One morning a few weeks ago, as I was grappling with my fear, the question came to me:

What could go right?

Scars and HeelsWell, for starters, I was getting to use my muscles in a new and challenging way. This is good for my knee stability… What if dancing is my key to healing my knee? I know I’ll never get that ACL back, and I’m pretty sure I’ll always have knee pain. But what if this is the way in which I can strengthen myself again, to get the confidence and stability I need to feel like I can live in my body fully again?

This idea changed everything for me. I began to see dancing as my therapy, instead of an indulgence that would get me into trouble. That week, the option of getting private dance lessons came up. We said yes, and have been working with the (awesome) instructor each week as a couple, and now as individuals. We also signed up for the next group class.

So we are learning to dance. This has been a dream of mine forever, and I honestly thought a year ago that it wouldn’t be possible for me. Am I still scared? Yes. Hell, yes. But things go wrong, and things go right. Worrying about the things that could go badly only keeps us from living fully.


In the future, I’d like to use my What if… imagination for the things that would be amazing. Why visualize all the negative? Why focus on that?

What could go right?

There are so many situations that I can apply this to. It’s a mental battle, and it’s a matter of choice– to choose to be brave, to take some risks for the sake of living whole-heartedly.

What could go right in your life?

What Could Go Right

P.S. Yes, I am totally afraid that by publishing this post, I will somehow jinx myself into a knee injury. I’m doing it anyway. What could go right?



UPDATE! At a year after writing this post, Jeff and I have learned at least the fundamentals of 10 different dances, moved on to the 3rd level in our dance program (bronze 3) and we just performed our first dance spotlight for one of our group classes!

Here’s a video of our rumba dance!

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24 Responses to What Could Go Right?

  1. Joanna June 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    I know what you mean by fearing jinxing yourself by mentioning it, but good for you in not living by fear. I hope and pray you will indeed gain much strength from the dance classes. Thanks for your inspiring post, it is a good motto to live by

    • ariana June 25, 2015 at 8:16 am #

      Thank you, Joanna!

  2. Angelique June 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    I can’t even imagine tearing it for a third time. I’d probably give up on surgery too. I ruptured my ACL in martial arts. (Jumping double roundhouse-I totally love telling people that as I totally look like your average American suburban cookie-baking Mom). I opted for donor tendon to replace my ligament. Just a thought if you should ever consider surgery again. My surgeon suggested it because I am young (34) and active. He said the donor tendon allograft is stronger than an autograft from the hamstring or patellar tendon and won’t cause any instability that you can get from an autograft. As an added bonus, it’s easier to recover from. I only have six tiny puncture scars. I am extremely grateful to the donor and his/her family. Because of their difficult decisions, I can walk again.

    • ariana June 25, 2015 at 8:19 am #

      Love your badass Momma injury story! 🙂 And so glad your surgery went well. My ortho in England was really against allografts, and I honestly feel sorry that I didn’t opt for it instead of hamstring last time. At this point, it’s more the issue of all of the insertion points that have already been used. The first surgery was in the most optimal spot, second was less optimal and that’s why the third seems so likely to fail. I love your point about your donor’s family, and appreciate your gratitude to them!

  3. paulette June 24, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    First and foremost, thank you for sharing your story. It is hard to open up publicly about private matters yet sometimes when we do we find kindred spirits. Since the age of 10, I’ve had issues with both my right ankle and knee. Life was good until many years of being overweight and the natural ageing process began to increase pain and made mobility hard. While I’ve never had surgery, although it was recommended several times for the knee, I have found several fitness modalities that deal with pain and how we use our bodies in daily life. My journey first began with the MELT method, which address fascial tissue and how dehydration causes this tissue to bunch up causing pain. The technique is so easy and helped me tremendously. Currently, I am taking Restorative Exercise training which brings into focus how we move in our daily lives. We spend time sitting/standing which acts like a ‘cast’ for our bodies. Our shoes (talking to all us ladies!!) make walking harder as most shoes throw the bodies’ natural alignment out of synch. We have moved so far from Natural Movement that our bodies become ill. I highly recommend MELT & Katy Bowman (Restorative Exercise) for those looking to keep our magnificent bodies out of pain and in the best natural shape possible.

    • Allison June 24, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

      Paulette, good for you for recommending Katy Bowman’ s Restorative Exercise. She is an excellent resource as far as I can see.

    • ariana June 25, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      Paulette, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I will definitely look into MELT and Katy Bowman’s work. I am a bodyworker myself, so all of this stuff really interests me!

  4. Renee Kohley June 30, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    Ohhh this is good. I tend to be a “the glass is half empty” kind of a person – great reminder!

  5. Jessica June 30, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    I love your attitude. I admit I tend to be a worrier and I hate it. And so cool about doing this with your husband! Great, great post.

  6. Megan Stevens June 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    You will never regret this; that’s another beauty in it. 🙂 You are doing what you love and what you don’t want to miss. Thanks for sharing your process. (I love dancing with my husband too! We’ve taken enough lessons to be able to move together decently– and oh, how much we both love it. More lessons in our future as well!!)

  7. linda spiker June 30, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Good for you! After my kidney surgery I lived in fear for months. It was no way to live. In fact, it wasn’t really living. Glad you are dancing. What a treat!

  8. Emily @ Recipes to Nourish June 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    I love your positive spirit and outlook! So important and such a beautiful thing. Loved this post. Enjoy dancing xo

  9. HolisticHealthHerbalist June 30, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I love this! It’s so easy to live in fear isn’t it? Having a more positive outlook is so important for healing. Very inspiring!

  10. How We Flourish July 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. It is so easy to give into fear and hold yourself back; I am definitely guilty of this, so thank you for the reminder to get out there and experience life! Good for you for starting dancing again!

  11. Raine Saunders July 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    I love this post! I am definitely a worrier and I tend to drive my husband crazy sometimes (good thing he’s patient and persistent with me to get me out of my funk). We all have challenges to face that can bring us down, and it’s so helpful to read a personal challenge that is turned into something positive. It’s great that you are focusing on dancing again, not just for your marriage relationship, but for your own body and self. Thank you for sharing Ariana! 🙂 <3

  12. Susan Gaines August 9, 2015 at 1:34 am #

    Hi, Legs! This is the second time I’ve read this article and I like the question, “What could go right?” I always say make a pro/con sheet, which can still be important, but questioning yourself this way is for the purpose of overcoming fear to live in hope and love. I’m going to share this with some friends I talked with today who might be able to propose this to their adult children who are living in fear and without much hope or love in their lifestyles.

  13. Jeanette June 12, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    This is beautiful! You’re so right: “what could go right?” You made a big accomplishment with that dance. Hats off to you for making such a brave decision, it really paid off.

  14. Melanie September 15, 2016 at 6:47 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your story & beautiful dancing. I recently tore my ACL & have been having a tough time. I am going to use “what could go right” as my new mantra 🙂

    • ariana September 21, 2016 at 8:57 am #

      I am so sorry to hear that you tore your ACL! It is a rough injury for sure, but trust me, you can rehab it and do SO much, especially after your surgery. I think I had some bad luck with mine, but most people can keep their reconstructions and thrive. Wishing you all the best, stay positive, and know that you can get back to the things you love once you rehab it.

  15. michelle December 19, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    You’re so right!!!! Worrying is such a waste of the mind….I think I’m going to dance my life to the fullest.

  16. Julie Saldana December 7, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

    Your story really makes sense, it inspires me a lot, in life and in thought. Thank you

  17. Julie Saldana January 10, 2019 at 4:38 pm #

    I hope and pray you will really gain much strength from the dance classes. Thanks for your inspirational article, it’s a good motto


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