Swirling, Swirling

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…

dance pants


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.

6 thoughts on “Swirling, Swirling

  1. Aw Stef – so much to say. As someone is typically the “big girl” in the group when I go out with all my friends, I can relate to so much of what you wrote. And I remember when I did a James Bond showcase (a Rumba) I had to act “sexy” and I just couldn’t do it! So I get it – really I do! But as you know, we teach best what we most need to learn, so here are my thoughts for you. You used the example of the Melissa McCarthy character in Bridesmaids – I get what you were saying, but think about it – whatever other people saw, that character saw herself as a sexy as all get out. She saw herself as a seductress – think about the airplane scene. So sexy comes from inside – not from outside.

    Also – I know you love ballet and all your dance classes – but maybe either add one more or switch one out for a few weeks and take a pole dancing class. It might sound silly, but it is about movement and feeling. It could help. Sending love and hugz.

  2. theoldmaid says:

    Wow, I can relate on a lot of levels. I struggle with trying to be happy with my body the way it is too. I don’t feel attractive either, and thankfully I don’t do a sexy dance.

    I am not good at watching what I eat either. So I haven’t made very much progress at all in trying to get into the shape I want to be in.

    I’m also trying really hard not to beat myself up by thinking I’m not attractive. For some reason, which I don’t completely understand yet, I’m just feeling like losing weight to improve my appearance is too shallow or external a reason to help me keep the weight off for the long term. I feel like if I’m just trying to change my appearance than I won’t really learn how to eat for a new way of living.

    So with that in mind, I was trying to discern what my real reason for losing weight would be. I was thinking about that for about 2 weeks, when something happened at a dance event Friday night.

    A young friend of mine (I’m probably almost 20 years older than he is) asked me to dance to a song that’s about 200 beats per minute. Fast. We danced, and it was fun. It was a really good dance actually, but my heart was pounding the entire time. Did I mention the song was fast? I made it through the song but just barely. If it had been 30 seconds longer, I would have had to quit. When the next song started, my friend danced with someone else and I went to the side and caught my breath.

    That’s my reason. I want to be able to dance to every song I want to in a night.

    That means that I need stamina for the 200 bpm songs (thankfully, they are rare), and I need endurance for workshops that involve 6 hours of lesson a day and a dance in the evening for several days in a row.

    So now I just need a good reminder of this reason when I’m making my food and beverage choices throughout the day. And I’m hoping (although I may be just fooling myself) that if I do lose weight to be able to do all kinds/tempos of this dance that I love, then I don’t have to focus on my appearance. And if I don’t have to focus on my appearance, then hopefully I can feel better about myself.

    Hang in there, Stef. Feel what you feel, borrow others’/Ivan’s confidence in you when you need it. And concentrate on the dancing things that make you feel awesome when you need a boost. And keep us posted.

  3. Stef–My husband, George, designs and dresses women all shapes and sizes from all over the world (and men), and has for the past 45 years. Top stars, movie actresses, dancers, athletes, including Ocsar and Cannes award recipients. He tells me everyone–that means everybody–second guesses their sensuality, how they feel it, and how they portray it when they perform–on cue–on command. His sister was Miss Lebanon and Miss World, and ran the pageants at one time, and in her 50’s she will tell you the very same thing. One of the top boxers in the world told him the ritual he went through before every fight, to “get up” for it. He was a gentle man who stung like a bee when he was in his performance “personae.” Personally, I think Totie Fields was one of the most sensual, sexy women on television. Loved to watch her entrances on Dick Cavett shows, and how she purred sensuality when she was being interviewed, and used it to take control of the interview. How men in our culture look at and respond to women I think has a lot to do with what George says is all about “charisma.” From culture to culture, the idea of sexy body changes radically. He is Christian Lebanese, and likes the MIddle Eastern concept of a woman with something on her. I say, go out there and command the floor. Sensuality is a mental mind—**** from the sender to the receiver, and back again. You can’t control them—you can control you. Get yourself mentally into it, train your mind while you train your body. And then go out there and sting like a bee! I see “small toned” ladies who dance but project sensuality like wax mannequins. Remember that you are there to control them with your mind—that’s the game. Have them eating out of your hand. It’s power. Remember that Sheherizad captured the Sultan by telling him stories all night—-she did it with her clever mind. One more thing—back in his young running around days, George used to go to Playboy Mansion and Hollywood parties with friend Sergio Franke, and George always got the girl they were both pursuing. When Sergio asked him why, he answered, “Because I have charisma.” Be Blessed!

  4. Mr. Wanton here:
    Stef, the Mrs. struggles with some of the same issues you do. Dancing is more of a fun opportunity for us to connect with each other, but it would be cool to get to your level some day 🙂

    I try to encourage her to abandon the negative self talk, it can be incredibly corrosive. At whatever weight she is at she is still incredibly attractive to me and I wouldn’t love her less or more if she gained or lost weight.

    It sounds like you are getting a lot of physical activity (or it reads like it anyway), if your health insurance is decent you may want to go get your thyroid checked, and definitely have your Vitamin D status checked. Simply adding in some Vitamins D,C, and B might have an immense effect on your physical goals.

    Don’t make it all or nothing! If you were to lose a pound a week for two years you’d be as svelte as the women were you envying. That’s a 500 calorie deduction a day either through exercise or diet. I know my wife would make herculean efforts to lose weight, would have poor compliance after a while and then would have the rebound weight gain.
    You have to find something that you can adhere too, that doesn’t leave you tired, hungry and miserable! A consistent pace can get you where you want to be!

    I noticed a lot of people grossly underestimate their caloric intake. Mrs. Wanton has an app on her I-Phone now where she can track her calories, and make adjustments. This lets her know if she is a bit over or if she has some extra room in the week. Either way it keeps her near her goal, and she’s sometimes surprised by how much she can eat and still be within her self-set daily goals.

    We’ve also switched from coffee to tea (black and green), for the health benefits and tea all by itself can definitely help with fat loss.

    Any time you are feeling down on yourself perhaps share it with your husband, so he can help pep you up or encourage you to break the negative self talk. There are plenty of things and people in the world that will beat you down, don’t be one of them!

  5. reikipixie says:

    Hi Stef – I loved reading this, its so personal and honest. I am struggling with weight issues too, even though I realistically know i am not very large in the grand scheme of things – I am bigger than I have ever been, and yet my hubby still tells me how beautiful he finds me, no matter how I feel about myself inside. he tells me i am sexy…something i dont see, in the slightest, as I cannot imagine that my overweight figure could be – but what he says is that my curves, my inner light, and my personality are what makes me sexy, and that even if i dont feel it, i still exude it just by being ‘me’. What he means by ‘being me’ is that by staying true to who i am, I give off this aura of sex appeal.
    What I feel when I look at you is the joy that you give off when dancing – that you are true to yourself and what you love, and I am sure this is what Ivan sees and is trying to convince you of. Like me, you probably have to get out of the negative mindset which is limiting your ability to let go.
    NLP is meant to be very good for this, and when I can afford to invest in some sessions, i may well take this up myself.
    As for the diet thing – make sure your diet isnt making you feel like you are missing out. Willpower on a diet is based on whether your mind feels like it is being forced into complying with a routine that it doesnt really want to comply with. When you cut out everything you feel is bad, you feel deprived and this is one reason diets fail. Cutting down on portion size, eating healthy, and still eating small portions of things you fancy is the easiest way to stick to something.
    one last thing – your thoughts about your body being ‘unacceptable’ – did this arise from you originally, or from other people pushing that perception on to you? In this day and age, so many people judge others on appearances, and its wrong. if you were slimmer in the past and you want to get back to this, think about your figure then – were you still bigger than is deemed ‘acceptable’? were you the same size as others around you? is it realistic to want this old figure back, or has your body adapted to a different way of being?
    I know its hard when other people around you get attention, but I have been on both ends of this. I used to hang around with people smaller than myself (i was a 12, and they were 6/8) and I felt like a fatty compared to them, but I recall that I actually used to get more attention because of my personality, and my curves. My friends used to ask why men always spoke to me and not them, and at the time i had no idea – now, i understand it was due to my more shapely figure, and due to the fact that i always smiled and laughed, and I was always myself and not any kind of masked persona.
    I have also, since putting on weight (i went to a 16 and then down to 14, where i am stuck for the moment) been on the other end of the scale where thinner friends were the ones attracting the attention – tbh, it made me more understanding of how shallow society has become over the years, and I was quite glad that I was blending into a corner rather than having superficial people talking to me. You don’t need the approval of anyone but yourself. Dont be so hard on your appearance – look at how well your body moves to the dance, and try to reconcile the inner conflict going on. You have talent, you have strength, and you have a wonderful inner light which shines out of you. Embrace those things…

  6. Anais says:

    I came across your blog somehow and curiosity got the best of me, so I began reading. I want you to know that stories like yours are exactly what it means to go against the grain, chase after your dreams, and live life with freedom. People will always be against you, no matter what. Even more so, you can always be against yourself. I think it healthy to be wary of the thoughts and comments of others, but it is more important that you become your own person with your own opinions and ambitions.

    Reading your entry is inspiring! People need to look beyond their shell so I am proud that you have chosen to continue with your endeavors, despite that nagging part of your brain that tells you only negative things. Change cannot happen if there is no action. We can have motivation all we want, but all it takes to succeed is the decision to move and get going. If you want to be on a diet, do it. If you want to dance, do it. If you want to do things that make you feel good about yourself, do it! Whether you are 120 lbs, 400 lbs, brunette, blonde, short, tall, or whichever, you will always be the same person.

    Opening up and showing your soul takes time and a lot of self-healing. I am confident that you will get there…

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