My brain is buzzing.
I’ve had a lot of experiences in the past 24 hours which means a lot to process which means it’s probably going to be a long blog post!
Weekends are wonderful because I can usually get in to dance with Ivan both days, as long as he is here in town, plus there is a ballet class on Sundays that I’m going to now. Anyways, I had a double lesson with Mr. Ivancho and we continued to work on our Mambo, Rumba, and Cha Cha. I don’t know why, but yesterday began to feel a little emotional. I didn’t really lose it or anything, but especially when we were working on the Rumba, I was feeling upset.
The deal is that Latin Rumba is probably my very favorite dance. I love the passion, sensuality, and beauty of it. I love the romantic story it tells. I also love how Ivan insists that there is no empty movement. In each moment of the dance he challenges me to strive to stay connected, to feel, to express. We pick apart details and “thicken” every second with layers of nuances. It is unacceptable to simply pass through a movement. Each movement is expensive and valuable – it’s my job to convey this, to inhabit the moment, to live it fully.
So we are working on this part and he is helping me with all this and I’m to grab his head and then place my foot out pointed and twist my upper body and make this beautiful line. And with his coaching, I’m able to make a nice line and all, but there’s a problem. Its my mental problem and it’s the incongruent reality of the mass and size of my body and for all the pretty lines I can see, it’s a ridiculous picture, inherently flawed. How can I play this part, really be this actress and live the femme fatale role when there is not an ounce of me that can see myself as physically desirable in any way. There is not a part of me that really knows how it feels to feel sexy.
So I feel sad and disappointed in myself about this, but I kind of ignore it and push it down and we continue the lesson and it’s fun and I laugh and I learn. And I just kind of know that this is an issue of mine and I have choices around it from changing it to accepting it in the moment and choosing to feel strong inside and all. But it simmers in the background of my psyche because I don’t have time right now to pick it apart, meditate on it. I’ve got a birthday party to get to in the evening and I’m really looking forward to it.
So I meet up with the gals and we have a grand old time celebrating the birthday of one our dear friends with dinner and a comedy show by David Allen Grier and some dancing in the nightclub after that. It was so much fun! Doubly so because all of us are ballroom dancers except for one of the birthday girl’s friends and we gab about dancing the entire night long. Honestly, I adore these women and appreciate each one of them so very much. It’s wonderful to share something we all are so passionate about and it’s special to have people who support you and who you can support when going to competitions or class together.
And, as you might imagine, because they are all competitive ballroom dancers, they all have killer bodies. I mean, like, stellar – lean, long, toned. I’ve never had a body like any of them and I can’t even really imagine a universe when I ever would. I mean, I can imagine it could be a lot better, like it was years ago, but I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that I will ever look like they do. But going out with them, besides being a total blast, was an interesting experience for me in a few regards. First, I felt like the Melissa McCarthy character in Bridesmaids….like one of these things is not like the others. Second, because they are all so gorgeous, they garnered a lot of male attention. Wherever our group went men were looking. Perhaps they are used to that, but I most certainly am not. I’m used to being ignored. But here I was, in the group, so experiencing the stares, and it was uncomfortable even though I knew they weren’t looking at me. That was weird too – being aware of all that male interest and also being all too aware that it was not directed at me personally. I don’t really know how to deal with it. I mean, there isn’t really anything to do, per se, but it was an experience beyond my usual way of walking in this world, different from how I am generally perceived and even if it wasn’t directed at me, because I was in proximity to it, I got a taste of it.
It makes me feel resigned inside. I’ve just given up and accepted that I am a cute fun girl but I am not an attractive one. I am not one that a man would ever describe as “hot” and this makes me sad – but it also complicates the Rumba. Obviously I don’t feel that I am sexy, I don’t believe myself to be sexy, and yet I’m in love with the dance that is all about being sexy! It’s a quandary. Because it’s tied to my body, and my body image, and my confidence. I can’t believe myself to be attractive because my body is so disgusting but I can’t really wait until my body is different until I play the part and act it out because it may mean years of waiting and life is happening right now. I would miss out on dancing and enjoying it if I wait until things are “right” but I can’t seem to enjoy it fully until it is at least somewhat better. I can’t seem to allow myself to go there. So I just die a little bit inside and lay down and try to block it out and I’m not fooling anyone. Certainly not Ivan and definitely not myself.
On the one hand this is all incredibly motivating and I’m fueled and focused to stick to my diet the coming week. On the other hand I’m incredibly sad.
So all this is in the back of my mind, even if I’m not 100% aware of it as I show up to my lesson this morning. And it was one of those lessons where we talked more than we danced. Oh, we worked on our routines but it was deeper than that, too. That was probably why I started to tear up a little bit as we began with Rumba. I didn’t expect to be emotional at all, but now looking back on all I’ve written, I guess it’s not a mystery why I was.
The main gist of all the discussion boils down to a few things. First off, Ivan really believes in me as a dancer. Honestly, he probably believes in me more than I do. He has a vision of me just like I do as a champion, a winner, but in my head it is more of a dreamy fairytale. He tells me he really wants to go do this with me – that I’m the complete package – that he won the “student” lottery in a way – that I am feminine, and serious about the dancing, and have good technique, and have the emotionality, and can perform, and that I’m creative and will eventually contribute more to creating the dances we do. He tells me all this stuff and it seems grandiose and I want to believe it so badly about myself.
Secondly, Ivan reminded me that I’m still holding back so much when I’m dancing. I only open the door to my soul a small crack, it seems – just enough to reveal that there is a lot going on inside, enough to spark interest, but then it’s shut down. He encouraged me to really let go, let the wall down, saying it’s just him and he’s not going to “laugh with me” (meaning laugh at me) that it is okay to go here. And I’m just not sure how to do this. It’s such an ingrained shield and to be as open as he’s asking feels so vulnerable and I’m ashamed of it especially because of my stupid fat body. If only my body was more acceptable, it would maybe be easier.
Third, I’m still struggling with confidence. This wasn’t anything Ivan said, it was just my experience of myself as we worked through the lesson. I feel naked if I have to dance alone. I tense up, panic, have anxiety about doing things “right,” and worry about how others are thinking of me, and then lock up and block movement when the funny thing is if I relax I tend to just naturally perform better. How would anyone ever see me as a champion if I can’t see it for myself? If I can’t own it and project it? And it’s even worse knowing that I have to do this and it feels like a total lie.
Finally, I have to breathe. Cardio continues to be a challenge – again related to how I am lacking, “less than,” and unacceptable because of my body, but I have to be focused and controlled about my breathing as much as I can because just like a Tai Chi master, integrating breath with my movement helps me to make it dynamic, beautiful, fast. By modulating the breath I can modulate my dancing, and direct the energy behind it.
So I think it’s great that I still choose to participate in ballroom dancing no matter how I am right now, and even to compete. And, I’m really ready to create a different experience. I would like to experience in real life actually feeling good about my body. I would like to experience actually liking the way I look. I would like to experience feeling and believing that I am sexy and/or physically attractive. I would like to not be the biggest girl in the photos with my friends. I would like to have a costume and every day clothing that I love and think looks good on me. I would like to be able to go clothes shopping and enjoy the experience. It’s such a bummer to experience the opposite and I’m living that reality right now. It’s the one I’m more comfortable with, even though I’ve resigned inside, even though I chose to give up on myself to get here, and that is the saddest thing of all.
And, well, for all my internal griping and pity-partying, the story isn’t over yet. The good news is I can reverse the decision any time and dare to believe…to trust that what Ivan tells me about myself is the truth rather than the crap story I tell myself. To believe that I can do this, that I can have a body that I love, not just one I’ve resigned myself to. That I can somehow find the fight inside me to make this happen. That I can accept the pain of discipline rather than the pain of regret. That I will go for this with all that I am because I am really done with how things are, that they are not working for me anymore, even though it seems like I’ve been failing at it for 34 years and why should it be any different this time around?
I don’t know exactly what I’m getting at here because like the title of the post says I feel as though I am swirling, swirling round and round in a whirlpool even as I’m reaching toward the shore. I’m looping back on myself, adrift in the same problems that have plagued me as soon as I became aware of my body being different, that I was bigger than the other girls, and that it was unacceptable.
But a few things are certain. First, I’m so thankful to be dancing again. I have an entirely different relationship with the process of dancing and learning to dance than I once did as a child. Believe it or not, it is a much more joyful and compassionate experience than it used to be, even as much as I get stuck in the negative muck.
Second, I’m grateful Ivan is my teacher. He continues to impact my life in profound ways. There are no words for it.
Here’s a funny picture of him from the other morning. Yeah, it’s pretty dark outside when we meet at 6:30am.
And here’s a detail of those crazy pants. No only do they have zippers up their entire length, for what purpose, I’m not sure, but they also have this awesome detail – a ribbon of a couple dancing in frame all the way down the legs. Only in ballroom…
Thirdly, I will keep dancing no matter what. It’s a non-negotiable.
Finally, I get to choose where to go from here. Every moment is a choice, and every choice has prices and benefits. I get to choose what to think and to believe and to feel. It’s all up to me, http://www.facebook.com/BalletShoesAndBobbyPins#!/photo.php?fbid=414652881956653&set=pb.114088722013072.-2207520000.1359927732&type=3&theater.
As disgusting and wrong I feel that my body is, it is the only one I have and I am grateful for how it can move and all that it does for me. Plus, this is the only life I have. I’m not going to get another chance so I’d better embrace what is, find the joy, and push on. For now, I’m just going to believe that it’s not too late, that it is never too late and that I don’t have to give up. It may not be a lot, but that is what I can commit to believing today, and so I will.