Pickle

Pickle

By Renee Comet (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh how I love my favorite Bulgarian, my dance instructor, Ivan. His language gaffes keep me entertained.

So here’s the story:

Ivan and I are working on our Samba routine. I think we have it completely choreographed but I have yet to dance the entire thing full-out, to music, in sequence, and we are days out from my next competition, people! AHHH!

I will just do what I did for Jive last competition. We had practiced it once, count it once, before Desert Classic and I knew all of three, count ’em, three steps. I did three steps for the entire Jive. So anyways, then with the un-practiced Jive, and now with the un-practiced Samba I’m simply going to give myself a mental pass on that dance, meaning that I will dance it the best I can and that I will be fine no matter if I mess up or how well or poorly we place because the fact of the matter is, we simply do not have the time to really make this routine polished. Heck! We are still working on, improving, and polishing the Rumba and Cha Cha routines and I’ve been dancing those for a few months now!

So I’m not going to be too hard on myself when it comes to performing the Samba this time around. I will be a little more serious about it for my next competition after I’ve had the opportunity to work out the bugs and practice! And yes, I may be in a pickle with this Samba dance at the competition for lack of preparation, but that is not what this post is actually about.

You see, on my last lesson we were working on the Samba and Ivan’s shirt flew up. I saw this big brown june bug on his side. I thought perhaps he had a tatoo on his abdomen or something. I was curious – I know, like it was so important to find out what this brown dot was when I was in the middle of learning a routine I will be dancing in a few days – I don’t pretend that I make any sense when it comes to these things. Well anyways, I had to know. I just did, okay?

So I told Ivan, “Ivan. Pull up your shirt! What is that brown dot on your belly? Do you have a tatoo?”

“No. What you talking about?” He pulled up his shirt to reveal his belly button and I scanned the skin for the mark I’d seen.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d thought.

“What you looking at?” He inquired.

“Well, I guess it must have been this.” I pointed at a small brown dot on his side.

“My pickle?”

“What?!”

“My pickle.”

Tears streamed down my face as I gasped for breath between guffaws.

“Ha ha ha, Ivan! No, that is NOT a pickle! A pickle is a very different thing.” (If you know what I mean)

“That’s a freckle.”

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200th Post: This Is My Place

The lights were off but it was mid morning so sunlight illuminated the wooden floor in thick yellow shafts through blinds. It was warm, but not hot and my task was to bend at the knees, into that position you see kids doing at roller skating rinks with their butts folded down to rest near their ankles. A position in which you could skate under your friend’s legs if you wanted. Compact. Small. Like a tight little ball of human being.

I, however, was unable to do this. Not ever in the roller skating rink as a kid nor now, at the yoga class. While everyone around me sunk two feet below my head, I continued to hover like a person not wanting to fully sit down on a public toilet.

Was I doing this right? Was there something else I should be doing? My Achilles tendon has always been tight and it was blocking me from going any further toward the earth. I was frustrated. I was hot and sweating and it was hard to hover. And I was wishing I could be in a different place with my body. I was feeling the want, the lack, the utter dissatisfaction with how I was in that moment.

I spoke up, asking the Yoga instructor, “What should I do here? I can’t seem to go any lower.”

“That is your place,” he wisely replied.

It didn’t seem like a proper answer. I didn’t like that answer. I wanted to hear a solution, a modification…something that would get me to where everyone else seemed to so easily be. But I wasn’t, and there wasn’t anything for it. I was where I was, but still I rebelled against it.

“But isn’t there something I could do?” I begged.

“That is your place,” he repeated.

And so it is in every moment, isn’t it? We are where we are, how we are, and there is nothing for it but to be at peace with what is…or not.

In that moment in that yoga class, I was not at peace with my place. I was not open to expanding my heart, being present to the joy that was available, and fulling inhabiting my body. No, my mind was racing – critiquing my sub-par performance, telling me that I should be more, better, different, and completely wound in knots over my limitation.

Never mind the fact that I hadn’t done yoga in years and had less than even 4 months total experience. Never mind that this was my third class back. I had expectations for myself and I was not living up to them.

I lived most of my life from this same space of not being enough, of feeling like I was always falling short, of comparison and lack.

Especially when it came to dancing. From having the “wrong body type” to never having my leg high enough at the barre, to struggling with double turns, to having no plie’ nor ability to jump and fly. Through the lens of dancing my faults and imperfections were magnified. I could never see any of my grace or fluidity. I could never see the beauty I did bring, however imperfect it may be, because my eyes were clouded by the thick fog of wishing I were someone different from me. It was especially cruel because at my heart I am a dancer. I couldn’t admit it to myself back then, it was so buried. I was dancing and didn’t consider myself a “real” dancer! I was someone who “did” ballet, not a ballerina. I “did” jazz, but wasn’t a bona fide jazz dancer. I did it for exercise. I did it because I didn’t play sports. But I didn’t do it because I was actually a dancer – the title was to lofty for the likes of me.

What a lie. How could I come to see myself in this way? I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that I loved ballerinas ever since I can remember and would stare endlessly at the one adorning my bedroom wall made of foam and linen with her pink toe shoes and a real piece of tulle for her tutu, her arms up in fifth position, her brown yarn hair fashioned in a bun atop her head. I wanted to be her. So badly. And I so wasn’t.

It is funny how life works though. You guys who’ve read the blog know the story – I quit dancing after high school because I wasn’t going to be a professional dancer and so what was the point of continuing? I got my degrees, I “grew up,” I got married, I ballooned. Although I always struggled with my weight, I took it to a new level of obesity after I stopped doing things I loved, like dancing, getting up to over 300 pounds.

And one day, I started dancing again.

This time it looked different. I’d never really been aware of ballroom dancing but DWTS was a big hit by this point and what the instructor teaching out of my gym was doing looked a hell of a lot more entertaining than the stupid treadmill. I thought I’d give it a try.

Where ballet never felt quite right, like a tuning fork of the right pitch, ballroom harmonized with my core. From its emotionality to the partnership involved, no other form of dance has ever suited me more. And though I’m still not satisfied with where I am in my dancing, physical appearance, expression, and connection, I am closer to than I was last week, last month, last year. I’m growing and changing. I’m dancing.

Interestingly, all the angst and imperfection and pressure I used to feel in dance class is no longer present in my weekly ballet and yoga classes (I’ve been going to yoga for 3 weeks now). No, in those classes I am joyful. I am where I am and it is what it is and I can totally laugh at myself. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to progress, improve my balance, strength, and flexibility, but it is okay to be where I am. It is somehow okay that my leg can’t get higher than 45 degrees, that I fall out of my turns, that I can’t entirely hold my turn out, that I can’t do a plank for longer than 30 seconds (yet!) or jump in properly from downward dog, that I fall short of what’s being asked for in so many ways. It’s totally okay and funny and joyful where before it would be all self-loathing and punishment. I know that next week or next month I might notice some slight improvement and it is enough. It’s enough and it is wonderful and I actually banged out a double pirouette this week, can you believe it! I am happy with my place in these experiences. I am open-hearted and alive to the joy of just being present in my body.

But in ballroom, I am not entirely happy with my place. I feel this pressure inside because I care about it so deeply. I watch videos of ballroom dancers on YouTube or television and this little whisper in my heart urges me on, believing, profoundly believing, beyond all sense or reason or the appearance of things at the moment, that I have some of Yulia or Joanna or Karina or Anna in me – that I have within my spirit and body and mind the makings of a champion. No, I’m not talking about being a professional or anything like that, but I am saying that I see something in them that I must have in me. Like I believe I could move people like they do through dancing. I will most certainly never be as technically perfect or polished as their dancing may be, but I can dance with my heart, and it just might get to a place polished enough, and I can be in a body healthy enough, that people can hear the message I’m sending. To be honest I think many can see it now, and I think of how much more powerful it will be when I am stronger, fitter, healthier, more confident, especially in light of the very broken place I’ve come from. I’m excited for that possibility. In fact, I have even had brief moments of being in a place where I am happy with my place. Like today on my lesson, my first stab at our Cha Cha routine was solid. And in our Samba routine, I can see that when I’m thinner it is going to be sexy hot!

So my mission for the next three competitions is to be satisfied with my place. To be as open-hearted and present and bold/fearless as possible, knowing that I’ve not “arrived” anywhere (nor will I ever), but that I am solidly on my journey…to a new body, to a new dancer, however much or however little it appears I have changed from the outside looking in, from the inside looking out, I will center myself in the knowingness that I am in my place. This is my place. And all there is for me to do is to be at peace with it…or not ūüôā

But, well, I’m declaring here that I will be at peace with my place, especially on the days I compete. I will laugh in the face of my fallibility and imperfections. I will dance with all the energy, technique, power, expression, and connection I can muster. It will be what it is as it is in the moment. All I can do is decide to leave every ounce of it on the dance floor, to not hold anything back. So that is what I’m deciding and I will refuse to be anything but joyful while doing it.

So here we are, on my 200th blog post, can you believe it? There seems to be something etherial about the number 200 for me right now – from this 200th blog post, and I just got a WordPress badge for getting 200 likes, to being only 2 away from having 200 followers on Facebook, to being closer to 200 pounds than I’ve been in years….it seems like a big deal.

So I looked it up and here’s what I found:

Angel Number 200 is a message from your angels that your devotion, faith and trust has led you to a ‚Äėknowing‚Äô that you are in-line with your life purpose and soul mission. Number 200 is a message of ‚ÄėDivine Timing‚Äô. Trust the Universe is working behind the scenes, and certain factors need to fall into place before desired results can come to full fruition. Things are happening behind the scenes that will prove to be of great advantage to you in the near future. Even though you may not be experiencing these opportunities just yet, believe that they are on their way into your life right now. Stay peaceful, positive and patient in the interim. Have faith and trust in the Divine and listen to your intuition, always. At this point in time you are where you are meant to be.

Uncanny. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? In other words, be happy with your place. This is your place. Be in your place, peacefully, and know that you will soon be in your next place.

Guess that Yogi had it right.

This is my place. Thank you for meeting me here. I am grateful.

I’m Eating Like A Freakin’ Hobbit!

The countdown to People’s Choice is inching along. Three weeks from tonight about this time I will be reflecting on my performances in American Rhythm and getting a good night’s rest to face Latin the next morning. I have 21 days to create whatever results I can, and they can’t come quickly enough!

So in case you didn’t know, I hired a nutritionist and I began working with her on Sunday. Chelle is amazing and she specializes in clean eating and sports nutrition, which is good because, like, you know, I’m a dancer and dancers are athletes.

She met me at the grocery store with my custom plan in hand and we did all the shopping for the week. The plan included the shopping list and all the recipes I’d need for each week plus food logs and such. The best part is I’m prepared. I can grill my chicken, portion it out in 4 or 5 ounces and be ready to grab and go. Seriously, daily prep has been a snap so far. I’m eating like a freakin’ Hobbit, though – I get breakfast, and second breakfast, and elevensies, and lunch, and snack or tea, and dinner, and evening snack! I don’t know what to do with myself eating like this when I feel like I eat too much already and this seems like even more food than I’d normally consume. Go figure!

Un hobbit

By Antoine Glédel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Honestly, for me, the hardest part of staying on track this week hasn’t been the eating or the preparation. Nope, it’s been the sick panic feeling in my stomach that the 2000 calorie plan is too high. It’s the fear that I’m not going to lose any weight before People’s Choice, and I so desperately want to. It is seeing my weight on the scale at the doctor’s office on a day when I wouldn’t normally weigh myself and having to face that number.

It’s the emotions that are the hardest part, which is what I expected. What I didn’t expect was the intensity of those bad feelings, nor the apparent randomness with which they descend upon me like an eagle snatching a fish from the sea. It is swift and seemingly out of nowhere and completely overwhelming. It is the feeling of not being able to stand being in my body one more second the way it is and being powerless to change what is in the moment. Because I can’t escape my Italian-grandma-size-fat arms or the huge Santa belly. They silently scream at me, pushing against the side of my chair and all I can feel is the adipose. It broadcasts what I think of myself without saying a word. And I’m so ready for it to go. I can’t tell you how ready I am for it to go. And it just sits there, all lumpy and giggly, laughing insanely at me, reminding me that it is still here and that I have a long way still to journey with it on my back. Sigh.

Oh, I’ve been absolutely spot on with my eating plan. Well, my eyes did skip the page and I ate the snack and dinner planned for tomorrow today, but that’s no big deal. I’ve adhered 100%, and what’s more, I could totally make this a lifestyle, which is kinda like the point. I just didn’t know what to do before and never would have taken the time to figure out all these details, from shopping lists to macronutrient ratios, so this has probably been the best money I’ve spent in my life to work with Chelle on this. I’m not kidding.

I was on the right track with my thoughts about food and all, but Chelle’s plan has brought things into focus with definite boundaries, and I like it….even if before I was feeling guilty for using one whole egg and two egg whites in my morning omelet, thinking that I should only have 2 egg whites or maybe one whole egg and 1 egg white, but Chelle has me on one whole egg plus four, yes count ’em FOUR! egg whites and that freakin’ blows my mind and makes it yell at me that this plan is UNREASONABLE. What does this certified nutritionist think she is doing anyways? HA! I love how convincing the voices in my head are until I say them out loud….

Anyways, the food is great tasting, which is important – and today I was particularly and pleasantly surprised with the simple salmon. There is variety in the menu, which is also important, while still some habitual snacks which makes things easy and automatic. And guess what? I’m not even jonesing for a cheat meal, which I can have once a week, which is kinda surprising. The only thing I’d like is maybe a glass or two of wine so maybe I will add that to dinner one night and make that my cheat meal! I guess I’m blessed that I’ve never had too big a sweet tooth or had weird cravings for potato chips and such…in fact the day before the plan started I was craving tuna tatiki from the local AJ’s, lol. So anyways, what I’m trying to say, is that the food and plan are easy to adhere to. I’m not having cravings or wishing I could eat something else. And this should bode well when it comes to creating results.

So anyways, I’m only on day four, but it has been a good four days in terms of eating according to the plan. Like I said, the difficulty I find is only in wishing results would happen sooner and the moments when I feel like the bottom drops out and the seductive voice in my head pretending to be an expert on nutrition casts doubt on the plan itself.

With the 6 Hobbit meals a day I’m very fueled to do my normal weekly activities such as ballet, Inna’s class, Rado’s class, lessons with Ivan, and work out sessions with my trainer. Most things have gone fine this week, no big drama-rama at the gym, and in fact my trainer and I even laughed a bit today about those guys at the gym who feel the need to grunt all the time. But I lost focus in Inna’s class, forgetting the combination and also not holding my space, losing my confidence, not feeling good enough, and seeing how big I am as compared to everyone else in the mirror. The same was true for in ballet, though it was generally a good time and I cracked some funny jokes and one of my classmates told me class wouldn’t be the same without me which was really sweet, but I was still, in the back of my mind, bummed about being so big. And Ivan heard it in my voice when I called on my way to our lesson that I wasn’t feeling great about myself.

It’s not like I didn’t see how big I was before, it’s just that because I am actually on a plan and actually striving with focus toward what I want, and because I want to transform so badly, that I am now even more aware/fixated on my stupid fat body. I feel like some of the pain of it was muted by being apathetic about it and/or ignoring the elephant in the room as much as I could. Like setting the fatness in a box and placing it on a shelf in a dark closet somewhere in my mind and letting it just sit there, separate, and yes present, but not at the forefront.

And now, with every glance in the mirror, I’m horrified over and over and over. I’m feeling like why am I doing People’s Choice? I look the freakin’ same as I did 6 months ago. I’m so disappointed that I haven’t made more progress with a quarter of the new year gone and that is part of why I decided to hire Chelle. But since I don’t look drastically different, and all my clothes still pretty much fit, I still have the same fat girl dresses as I’ve always had, and that is disappointing too. I’m going to be competing once again in the same dress I wore in my very first competition over 3 years ago. It’s depressing. I want a new dress along with a new body to show some progress, damnit!

So I’m searching for the goal I want to go for in People’s Choice since I’m not going to be looking all that much different in 3 weeks time, and I’m not going to suddenly be speedier or have drastically improved technique. I’m feeling kind of ho-hum about the entire prospect when I want to feel excited. I can’t wait for when people begin to notice and tell me that I look different, tell me I look great, for when I can get a new dress, and not one for a fat girl, for when I feel proud of me, who I am, what I’ve accomplished. I want to feel confident, you know? To feel like I am enough.

So all I can think to do is the perform the shit out of everything. This will be my goal. I will focus on connection with Ivan and the audience and the music. I claim and hold my space on the dance floor. I will exude confidence with every movement. I will dance with a palpable purpose and passion. And I will let that be enough….for now.

It All Begins And Ends With Fat

I had a really great double lesson with Ivan this morning. This is the difference having a solid goal and time frame in place makes. Because I’ve put the down payment on participating in 80 heats in People’s Choice, I know I’m going. Because I know I’m going, I know I need to do whatever I can to prepare myself in the short 4 weeks before the competition.

In only four weeks there is only so much you can do. Even while I work at it, I’m not going to lose¬†a significant percentage of my body fat in that short of a time. However, even dropping just 5 pounds will make a difference I can feel on my body. I’m determined to be spot on with the plan my nutritionist sets forth for me. I can be motivated for one week at a time, especially with the competition looming. There is a purpose, and an urgent one, that will be behind all my choices and struggles. I need that.

And I’m determined to not lose any momentum afterwards like has happened in the past. I’ve already gotten the days off work for Desert Classic, which is also just a short time away. But the thing is, as soon as I am complete with People’s Choice, I will have another goalpost on the horizon to focus upon. This is so important for me. I will have my next competition planned before I complete Desert Classic to keep the cycle going.

Also, I probably can’t improve my cardio¬†to where it really needs to be, but I do believe in a month’s time, especially combined with even a modest weight loss, I can make a difference. So what I need to do is practice exactly the task I need to accomplish while in the competition itself. We’ve been lazy on our lessons in this regard, indulging in long chats, stopping when it becomes a moderate effort, not doing rounds. I’ve talked in the past about making a playlist of songs for rounds of American and Latin styles with songs 1:30 each, but today I finally showed up prepared. I directed the lesson. I had an agenda. Because we have little time and I have to do what I can.

Before I fully committed to People’s Choice, I didn’t have a solid idea of what I was working toward…the vague goals of “getting better” and “losing weight” just weren’t moving me forward in any directed fashion. So I’d show up on a lesson and, as Ivan put it, say “Let’s do a Foxtrot. I’m fat.” He said I just moved and complained. That I wasn’t really dancing or doing anything.

So anyways, today I came in with a list of songs to warm up with. During this time we focused on connection. It was the perfect place to start and I told Ivan that this is how lessons need to look for a while – come in, warm up, focus on connection, then cardio, cardio, cardio doing rounds.

And guess what. It kicked my butt. I thought maybe I’d do okay since I did okay with the showcase number and that dance was pretty long. But nope. After swing I was kaput. And there are two more dances to complete. Because I was dancing full-out, pushing it during the beginning. Because that is my potential and capacity to dance like that, but I can’t sustain it. My body stops me. The asthma problems don’t help, but I honestly and truly believe that my body and physicality and lack of cardiovascular fitness are the biggest things holding me back right now. Anyways, I’m going to push during these next four weeks, doing rounds on every lesson and I do think it will get better. Oh, and it will probably feel better anyway because most likely the dances will only be 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds at the most and I’m intentionally making it longer for conditioning.

But even with the reality of how exhausted¬†I was after Swing, it still felt really good to be working on exactly what I need to work on and to be directed and focused. I didn’t have time to go all “poor me” and get in my head. And I have to say, for the first time, I had this moment of really being excited. I love the shapes I’m making, in Samba especially, and I could, for an instant, imagine how fierce it will be when I’m 100 pounds lighter.

And there were some funny moments that had me in stitches and it felt good to be happy and laughing on a lesson, even if my shortcomings were right in front of me. For instance, we were doing this move in Samba and I was really getting into it and so was Ivan. He wanted to spread his arms open wide, his chest puffed out like an eagle, presenting himself as very manly and strong. At the same time I was to step backwards behind, cross my feet, put one arm up in the air and the other one on his chest. We both went at it full force…but instead of connecting with his chest, my arm hit is wrist with a loud “smack!” and he was like, “Oww!” and withdrew his paw like a wounded kitten. It was so funny! Sometimes it feels good to hit your teacher, you know! lol.

And then there was some typical Ivan inappropriateness. On one step he told me to shut my clam. No, he didn’t mean for me to stop talking. He meant my, ahem, other clam, as in, keep your legs crossed daintly like a lady and don’t dance like a cowboy. Oh Ivan!

But mostly the lesson felt good because we were productive, focused, and clear. And while working on connection, I was able to control, direct, and project my energy such that at one point Ivan got goosebumps which is the ultimate in knowing I’m doing something right. I love it!

Which brings up another thing I’ve been pondering. I’ve been going to all these group classes that really emphasize technique, with Inna¬†and Rado, and that is great. I love these classes and learning all this amazing information. However, there comes a time when you just have to dance. And that’s what I’ve got to focus on during my (expensive) time with Ivan. We have to focus on connection and actually dancing.

Ivan was so funny on our last lesson. I was telling him about what we talked about on Rado’s¬†lesson and asking him for his take on it, thinking that I wanted him to tell me what I needed to do to “fix” things. But he basically said, “This so good you going to these classes. You learning all the different techniques¬†but it is different with everybody. I think you open. I think your mind is open and you can listen to all these things and understand there is no one right way. Many people is wanting this, right and wrong way. So go, and learn, and now use this information. You not stupid. You no need me to tell you what to doing wrong or how to fixing it. You can do this yourself. You just need to do your routines by yourself step by step.”

Well, dang if that isn’t taking responsiblity for my own dancing on a new level, I don’t know what is. And that is another thing I was reflecting on…how much responsiblity I’ve been taking for my dancing, especially since Desert Classic last year. It is a good thing.

Anyways, getting back to how Ivan was being so funny. So he was basically saying, yes, technique is important but it’s not everything and you have to dance, like really dance, if you know what I mean – the difference between “doing” the steps, passing through the movements and “being” the dance. It’s kind of hard to explain but when you experience it or feel it, you can tell the difference. Really dancing involves, for me, like actually hearing the music (like I used to before I learned the importance of counting) instead of just saying the numbers in my head. Like actually seeing Ivan, not just blankly staring at him. Like being playful and in the moment and responding to my partner, the crowd, what feels right inside.

And so we have this conversation about technique¬†and dancing, and Ivan slaps my butt when we are doing our Mambo routine and he says, “See! This is not technique.” And then we do rumba and he keeps me in this one position longer than unusual, and I go nuts wiggling my hips and he’s like, “Yeahhhh! See! This is not technique! But it looking so good!” I have these moments when there isn’t a conscious thought, and I just move like I feel like I should, and it is amazing…it is really dancing.

Because my truth is, I am a dancer. We know this. Everyone can see it. I’ve finally admitted to myself and I finally believe it to be true about me.

The other reality is, I’m fat. Everyone can see it. I never needed to admit it to myself, it is what it is, it is the truth about me.

I thought there was perhaps a way to see the dancing beyond the fat, but not so much. They are intimately intertwined. As Ivan told me, “It always begins or ends with fat.” You see, people know me because I move so well and it’s pretty unexpected because I’m extra large. So people will ask him, “Oh, who do you have a lesson with next?” “Stefanie,” he’ll say, and they will reply, “Oh the big one. She’s so good!” or “She’s so good! Isn’t she the fat one?”

People can’t just see me as a good dancer. They see me as a fat good dancer. Kind of like most people don’t see just a man, they see an Asian man. Or they don’t just see a woman, they see a woman with Cerebral Palsy. The fat is part of the picture, inseparable from me as being Asian or having a debilitating disease. Of course I can change this…I’m in the process of doing so…but this isn’t the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that as of this moment in time, this is part of my picture. Period.

So it was with mixed feelings that I read this post¬†from The Reinvented Lass.¬† I did the showcase Cha Cha and shared the video and it affected her.¬† She reached out to me and asked me if I minded if she posted it on her blog and talk about how it affected her.¬† Of course I didn’t mind!¬† I think it is so amazing she was affected, and that she wanted to share and engage in a conversation.¬† I love it.¬† And I really appreciate and honor her honesty.¬† She was so self-reflective and kind and yet, I have to admit, it still stung.

The Lass wrote that she was proud of me.¬† That she’d read about my struggles and thought that I was a, wait for it….good dancer, and that she liked how I got into character.

But in my head all this was overshadowed.  She also wrote:

…she did such a great job with it ‚Äď regardless of her size!

Yes, isn’t that the story of my life.¬† It all begins and ends with fat.

She continued:

But I started thinking about what things she can do better than me and how much better than me she can move. And to be honest, how much better than me she can move especially considering her size. Petty, right? And then I started to feel bad for myself and started thinking how bad of a dancer I must be. And I felt bad for having such thoughts about her.

All that in about 30 seconds. SIGH.

And reading this, I have compassion for both for her and for me. This stuff isn’t easy.¬† Petty?¬† I’m not sure I’d agree.¬† It’s just true, what she thought, but it does prick the heart.¬† It goes to my point that there is no way of really seeing just the dancing alone becuase¬†it is embodied by, well, my Rubenesque physique. And still, it pisses me off. Why can’t people just see the dancing?

And it made me think that being fat, letting myself present myself this way, is me handing others a weapon to use against me, keep me down (read – a way for me to keep myself down).¬† They can always be superior because at least they aren’t fat like that one girl who dances well, for God’s sakes (read – other people are superior to me)!¬† They may not be able to dance like me, but heck, at least they don’t look like me.¬† The fact that they have a body fat percentage lower than mine makes them a better, more worthy person somehow. And anyways, they can get better, and at least they don’t look ridiculous trying to be sexy (read – well, you know.¬† All this crap is just me projecting what I don’t want to own).

How unfair and mean and separating and victim-y is that to think? And all that in about 30 seconds. SIGH.

For me it brings up thoughts of how inappropriate it is to dance in this state. That I shouldn’t dance while fat. But it also makes me think that it is important that I still get out there anyway because the stronger truth is that I am a dancer. I am a dancer now when I am fat and I will still be a dancer in the future when I am thin. Who I am is a dancer, but who I am has nothing to do with how much I weigh….and everything to do with it.

So what is there to do? I’ll take a note from the Lass:

But I also told myself that it‚Äôs not a competition. It‚Äôs a journey. She‚Äôs on her journey, and I‚Äôm on mine…

And in the meantime, I can appreciate Stef, her journey, her ability, and her dancing. I can appreciate that we share a passion and that we both think dance is so important to our lives. And I can cheer her on to be the best.

Yes. That’s right. We are on our own journeys and how much better is it to root for one another, remind one another of our greatness, and have open, honest communication, than to get stuck in the mental muck that threatens to separate us? How much better is it to appreciate that we share a passion called dancing that is important to the both of us, and that really, we are more similar than we are different?

So, Lass, I cheer for you, and for us. I appreciate you and know that you do kick-ass swivels (which I suck at!) and turns. I know you are insightful and wise. I am so glad you had the courage to share what you thought. Thank you for being my friend, warts and all.

So maybe the title of this post isn’t quite right.

Maybe it doesn’t really all begin and end with fat.

Maybe, instead, it all begins and ends with compassion and respect for ourselves and others, how we are right now, holding a vision of the best in the future. Maybe it all begins and ends with connection, not separation, recognizing our similarities rather than only seeing outer differences.

Maybe the truth is that it all begins and ends with love.

Good Effort

So my Tuesdays and Thursdays now look like this:

In the morning I wake up. I feel sore and tired and just plain bad. My allergies are atrocious and I have to clear out all my sinuses. And my asthma is ridiculous¬†and I’ve made an appointment with the doctor next week because I think I’m at the point that I need a blast of steroids. My husband tells me I’m a vampire because I want no human interaction whatsoever, from talking, to making sounds, to touching me, looking at me, or even breathing on me. I am the anthesis of a morning person. Seriously, steer clear of me with a wide berth until about an hour after I’ve woken up. Throw in my moon time, and you have a perfect storm.

My husband, on the other hand, wakes up with a grin on his face, ready to take on the world, energetic, happy. It is about the opposite energy of mine and super annoying. You know, like when you are sad or grumpy and someone is just shooting rays of sunshine and rainbows out their ass? Yeah, like that.

Anyways, it is in this state that I stumble into the gym and take on some of the hardest things I will take on during the day. My poor trainer. She tries to correct my form but first off I don’t trust her so don’t try to touch me, especially in the morning (see paragraph one), and secondly, if you just ask me or tell me to put my hips parallel to the floor that is enough. I will do it. I have a good sense of my body position because, you know, I’m a dancer. Anyways, I digress….

These work outs are so difficult for me. So hard that I can barely do some of the exercises. So hard that I start panic breathing. So hard that I start crying silently. I’m already hurting and sore and then put this with a trainer who has no idea what it is like to be overweight or out of shape, who has never lost a significant amount of weight, in a room full of people who are all specimens of human perfection, and me seeing the cellulite on my knee through my workout pants, it is hard on all levels, emotional and physical. It feels like shit. Really, it does.

Woman fitness training

By MSGT Jon Nicolussi, U.S. Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, I don’t look like that when I go to the gym….

Me, I feel angry when I’m working out. So very angry. Because I can barely do the hamstring bridges on the physioball¬†and have to grunt to hover just pathetic inches above the ground. I’m angry because I’m so goddamned fat that I can’t do a proper Burpee¬†because my goddamned belly gets in the way and even doing the modified ones I can barely complete the jump at the end. So angry because of reasons I can’t even put into words or explain to myself.

But I do it. I on some level have faith that eventually it will get easier. That it might actually feel good to be in my body. That I will maybe some day be proud of how I look and what I can do. Right now this seems like a pipe dream and all I see is the huge mammoth in the mirror and my giggly parts and all I feel is the pain, the effort, the disappointment, the anger. It’s overwhelming and sucks and I’m shaking as I’m writing this.

So anyways, I’m doing my process this morning as usual. Pushing hard. Crying. Struggling.

And just about when I’m done with my work out as I’m walking back to the area to complete my last exercise in the circuit, this older man with stark white hair steps in front of me and says, “Really good effort today. I mean it. Just keep it up.”

Well, I lost it. I’m still crying. He’s a total stranger. I have never seen him or had a conversation with him or anything. I feel so alone in this. And I consciously (or unconsciously) block out other people in the gym as much as I can because it is too hard to feel all the body shame and stay together enough to complete the tasks in front of me. So it was a total surprise. Like, I’m not there to show off (that is a laugh! I usually look like I’m flubbering around on the floor like an injured slug) or for attention (like those dudes who feel the need to grunt with every power lift, calling attention to the effort they are putting forth, making sure the world knows they are there and important). No I’m there for me.

So I’ve made no friends. I’ve made no effort to make friends. And this guy just swooped down and crashed into my world, shot a spear straight through my heart. He noticed me. He noticed my struggle, my effort, my perseverance. He pointed it out to me when I can’t see it for myself, when I focus on my shortcomings and how awful and angry I feel. I block out the strength I’m demonstrating. It just doesn’t feel like enough, somehow. It’s the ultimate in the need to be right, according to one of my friends. I can never be satisfied with what is.

No, no I can’t. I am so unsatisfied. I’m so unsatisfied with not being able to dance like I really want to dance. I’m unsatisfied with being kicked off roller coasters. I’m unsatisfied wearing frumpy clothes because I hate the way I look. You are damn right I’m unsatisfied.

But it is stealing whatever joy could be in the present moment. As Ivan told me long ago, I still have that Mental Problem. Beyond all the physical battles, this is the biggest battle I will fight – the one to set my mind healthy.

And now I’m leaning even more into it. I’ve hired Chelle, from Recipe For Fitness¬†to hold my feet¬†to the fire when it comes to nutrition.¬† Because that’s the missing element from my transformation, and I’m pretty convinced I am not successful doing this stuff on my own and need help with it.

Because I have a BHAG¬†(Big Hairy Ass Goal).¬† I’ve decided I will do a solo at Emerald Ball next year in May 2014 an it will involve a lift.¬† This gives me just a few days over one year to prepare and scares the bajeezes¬†out of me. I’ve never been to Emerald Ball, which is a pretty big deal, and to dance a solo in front of that kind of audience, well, I’ve never done a solo at a competition before either!¬† There will be goalposts and milestones along the way.¬† I’m doing People’s Choice in like 4 weeks and don’t even feel remotely ready. And I will do Desert Classic or Galaxy or both and possibly Vegas in December. I will have weekly meetings with Chelle¬†and my sessions with my trainer. I will continue to take lessons with Inna¬†and Ivan and Rado. I will keep a food log and weekly progress reports. I will fit into normal size clothing and have Marieta design new dresses for me. I will hold my leg at 90 degrees or higher in ballet and complete a double pirouette. I will become the champion I can be, in dancing, and in life.

So that’s the dealio peeps. Taking my life on like no kidding. Scared, angry, sad, excited, determined, and strong. It is okay to move forward even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment. Feel the crap and do it anyway and all that.

You’re Never Going to Learn How To Dance

Here’s fair warning…this post is all sorts of choppy, jumpy, and jumbled. There is nothing polished, smooth, or elegant about it. So I’ll just dive right in and hope you stay along through the choppy writing waters.

First things first, in case you missed the video of my showcase routine on the Facebook page for the blog, here is a link to it.

The good thing is I actually feel okay about sharing this. Like, it’s a lot less cringe-worthy than previous videos I’ve posted, and I do think my ronde’ is much improved from the previous showcase. So that’s a win in my book.

It was also a win that my nerves didn’t get the best of me this time around. I wasn’t hardly nervous at all. Staying relaxed like that, especially in a competition setting, would be a good thing. Ivan mentioned that he thought I was maybe a little too nonchalant about it, that I didn’t have the attack that I might want to bring forth at a competition, but I reminded him that it was still progress just because it was different, that I’ve changed. That is forward movement.

Other than that, I’ve decided to change tracks with the diet and exercise plan. I am going to continue with the gal on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the gym but it is more about just going and doing some weights, something extra, getting pushed more than I would push myself on my own, I don’t really expect more than that from her. I don’t feel like she is committed alongside me to reach my massive goals, or that she’d even really know how to assist me in that, but rather that she will do her job while on the clock and that’s it, and that’s fine.

But, well, I need help. I need support. I need more direction and accountability. I’ve decided to work with a nutritionist who herself lost 80 pounds and now competes in figure shows. I think she knows what she’s doing. She’s going to create a custom diet plan for me and I will have twice weekly accountability check-ins. I’ve committed for the next three months. I’m sure I’ll share more about that as the process unfolds but for now, I feel good making another decision to support me in getting where I want to go.

I skipped ballet this week because my ankle was bothering me and the instructor makes us always do a bunch of jumps. It tends to strain my ankle, especially since jumps are hard enough when you actually have some plie’ and don’t weigh a ton, (which I don’t, and I do), and especially with all the ballroom dancing in heels I’ve done lately, I just felt like my body needed some recovery.

Last night Inna was out of town so we had Alla teaching us instead. It wasn’t as hard as a cardio work-out as I usually get from Inna, but I do have to say I enjoyed the new, more complicated choreography. You can see Alla dancing here on DWTS – she and her partner won and were on Cheryl Burke’s team.

Tomorrow night is week three of Cha Cha with Radomir, which I’m also looking forward to. Again, he offers some more complicated choreography and also explains technique….plus we actually dance with a partner, which doesn’t happen in the other group classes I take.

But I have to say, it’s amazing the knowledge these pros have, I swear! Rado’s technique is so pristine, I think, it is an education just watching him, just like it is watching Inna or Marieta or Alla or Igor or Artem or any of the other pros move, you know? I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be influenced by so many exceptional dancers in town.

And, skipping right along in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, one thing I’ve noticed, is that when I’m feeling good about my dancing, and myself, I’m more likely to want to put my heels on because my feet and legs look more feminine and I feel stronger. If I’m feeling lower, I’m more likely to put on my practice shoes with their clunky heels. Lately, I’ve been putting my heels on more often. I can only imagine I will get to the point that they are practically all I wear, especially as I continue to drop weight, look better, and subsequently feel more confident about myself. But this week I put my heels on for both Rado’s class and Inna/Alla’s class, and even wore them on my lesson with Ivan. I guess it’s been a good week.

Wanna ride bikes?

Just kidding, except that is how A.D.D. my brain is right now. So here’s my next thought:

I can hardly believe that a fourth of the year is almost past. People’s Choice is coming right up and we are still not complete with our Samba routine. And instead of finishing that, well, on our last lesson we messed around making up a bit of a Bolero routine. Who knows if these will be presentable by People’s Choice but oh well, at least I have some new material since the last time I competed.

And guess what – apparently there will be some videographers there at People’s Choice scouting out Pro-Am couples to follow for a reality show. They’ll also be filming some of the pros as well. I seriously doubt I’d be chosen with Ivan but I do like that my friends who knew about it said, “I’d totally watch a reality show of you and Ivan!” Ha ha ha! Ivan is quite entertaining, that’s for sure.

And speaking of that, I realize the competition is coming right up, but I didn’t realize yesterday was the official deadline! Yikes! I found out by accident looking for one of the links I used in this post. I feel like the deadline for comps usually fall closer to the actual date of the competition, but maybe not? In any case this meant an urgent call Ivan to get the ball rolling, seeing as I’ve taken days off work to participate and all, and I’d really like to stay at the hotel if possible. So I guess I’d better decide how many heats I’m going to do….

So now for the title of the post. What do I mean by saying you will never really learn to dance? Well, yesterday, after Ivan and I were messing around making up Bolero steps, we chatted. He was very talkative for some reason. I told him that I had been a little rattled after our prior lesson because he had been getting genuinely agitated with me. Why? Because I’m still bottled up, holding back. He was like, “It’s no secret. We know all your problems. We know you big, and slow. I don’t caring. We (he and Marieta) are here for you, right now. No more time to prepare or think about it. I already give you so much time.” Basically, he was like, get over yourself.

And he’s right….to a point. Like in the showcase I was aware, after the fact but not during, that I didn’t actually focus on any particular person in the audience. I didn’t really open up and connect. I looked over the heads of the crowd. I don’t even know if I looked directly at Ivan, to be honest.

It’s certainly something I want to improve. I do desire to bring that presence that pros seem to exude. It’s pretty intense, though, both to experience from a pro while watching in the audience and also doing it myself.

But the thing that is difficult is being that open or to pretend like I’m totally aweseome, hot shit, the best dancer around for the purposes of a dance show or competition. It feels extremely vulnerable or like I’m a total sham. I have a feeling it will get easier the more I get the weight off, but right now it’s a challenge and very uncomfortable.

So anyways, we continued to chat and Ivan brought up a good point – the fact that I’m never really going to learn how to dance. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but simply in the way that there is so much to learn, so many schools of thought about how to execute various steps, and that a big part of actually dancing is self-expression, finding yourself in the steps while still respecting technique, that basically no one can ever really learn it all. Some people learn to dance. Others were born to dance. It’s as simple as that. I just have to find the courage to let go and live the dance beyond “learning” it.

So why would anyone ever pursue dancing, especially if it can never be 100% mastered? I don’t know exactly, but for people like Ivan and me, it’s our addiction. We can’t not dance. And when I’ve not danced for periods of time, I’ve withered inside. Dancing brings me back to life.

He was like, “Why I dancing? I should be retire. Why you dancing? What we doing? We crazy!”

“Yes but we can’t not dance. We just can’t.”

“Some people not understanding this.”

Truth be told, even I, myself, am not “understanding this.”

But who cares? It’s one of life’s mysteries why we love what we love. Dance a non-negotiable for me anymore. Even if I will never really learn how to do it. Even if I’m never satisfied. Even if I’m always in pursuit of something more and better. Even if it’s not my vocation or career or I will never be a professional, or even dance at a professional-like level, it’s still okay. It’s still worth it. I can’t even really explain why. I can’t explain why I want to become a better dancer, especially when there is no grand purpose behind that in practical terms. Why pursue this intangible, impossible art? Why do I love it?

I just do. It’s in my DNA. There is value in the practice and pursuit of dancing just for the sake of it. It’s enough and I’m grateful for it. And I guess it just seems important to share that, to share me and my process and my dancing, however it is, at whatever level it is. So this is me, dancing, living, sharing.

So Funny And Completely Inappropriate

So this morning I went in to practice the piece for the showcase at 7:45am. The practice was uneventful, which is good, except for the fact that Ivan was super tired because yesterday he did all sorts of work and intense manual labor on his farm which is up for an inspection from the county. That, and he strained his back from carrying 80 pound bags of cement all over the place, so he was like, “Please no splits today.” And I was like, “No problem!” I didn’t mind skipping that part at all….just as long as he is recovered by Saturday, which he seems to think he will be.

So the practice went well enough and at the end Ivan had another morning lesson scheduled. In came a new student who is friends with one of Ivan’s other students who I know. They asked to see what we were working on so we showed them the dance and they were kind and said it looked good, and the new gal said she had heard a lot about me from her friend, and somehow the conversation became about the blog. I didn’t mention it…I think Ivan did, but the lady I know said she didn’t know I had a blog so I fished a card for her out of my purse.

“It’s about my experiences on dance lessons, and all the funny stuff Ivan does, and sometimes helpful information about ballroom dancing, and a little bit of me complaining about trying to lose weight.”

And we’re talking about the blog and Ivan chimes in. “Ah yes. Everything that happens goes on the blog. This why I no¬†have sex with her. because if I do, then it would be on the blog.”

Achtung

By see below. (see below.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

SAY WHAT!?! Who says something like that? And who can say that and still be likeable, especially in front of a new potential student? Only my¬†cuckoo instructor. Good thing he is an independent agent because I can’t imagine a comment like that would ever be tolerated at a studio, and good thing that I know him and how ridiculous he is, as does his other student, who I am certain has shared about Ivan to her pal.¬† All I can say is that he must have been deliriously tired to randomly say something like that!

So anyways, without missing a beat, as I’m walking out the door, I simply reply, “Oh, that’s the only thing holding you back, Ivan? That it would be written about on the blog?” And Ivan’s student cracks up in a guffaw while I think her friend is sitting next to her silently in shock over what just transpired.

Ha ha ha! So here it is, I’m writing about it on the blog. Lolololol.