Well, here it is.
Well, here it is.
I cannot tell you how incredibly pleased I am to get to share this next Balllroom Village Blogger with you!
Please welcome Girl With The Tree Tattoo!
I appreciate her authenticity, enthusiasm, and willingness to share. Please do check out her Blog at:
And for a special treat, you can see her in action, dancing!
Without further ado, Enjoy!
“I can’t…I have dance.”
Balancing a Full-Time Life and Ballroom
First of all, I am honored to be writing a guest post for the Biggest Girl in the Ballroom! I found Stefanie’s blog because it showed up on my suggested list from WordPress. Thank you, WordPress algorithms! It’s so exciting to be able to connect with a fellow ballroom dancer. As for me, I have been a student/addict of ballroom dancing for over 2 years. I have been competing for just under a year and currently compete at the bronze level in Smooth. I call myself the Girl with the Tree Tattoo because of the tree tattoo that covers my entire back. Important to note: I have not been dancing my entire life. I did a couple years of ballet, jazz and tap when I was 6 and 7 years old. But that’s it for my dance education. So I can’t do a split and spray tanning still weirds me out.
I wanted to take this opportunity to share the challenges I face in trying to maintain a balance between my “regular” life and ballroom. I am a full-time member of the cube farm, working as a technical editor. And to help pay for ballroom, I’ve taken on two additional jobs, freelance editing and personal assistant to my ballroom instructor, and started selling scones (I love baking and scones have become my specialty). A typical weekday for me starts at 5am and goes like this: get up, take my two dogs for a walk, eat and get ready for work, go to office and work, go home, take dogs for another walk, eat (maybe), go to ballroom studio, take group class and/or practice, go home, take dogs for another walk, go to bed. Two days a week, I have private lessons, so insert another “go to ballroom studio” in between work and home. I’m usually home for the night around 9:30pm and try to be in bed by 10:30. Somewhere in there, I find time to write, take care of any freelance jobs I may have, and complete entry forms or other assistant tasks for my teacher. Doesn’t leave much time for anything else! I hate it when I run out of food. It’s such an inconvenience.
If you’re like me, once you started ballroom dancing, your entire life pretty much revolved around it. You scheduled other appointments so they wouldn’t interfere with your lessons. You declined non-dance friends’ invitations because you were going to a practice party that night. If your teacher asked to reschedule a lesson to an atypical time for you, you did whatever you could to rearrange your schedule to make it work. Everything starts to take a back seat to ballroom, including grocery shopping.
Unless you’re independently wealthy or you find a way to get paid to be at the studio all of the time, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom and your work. And if you want to maintain relationships with the non-dance people in your life, like your family and friends that were there before you discovered the missing piece that was ballroom, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom social life and your “regular” social life. It’s not easy!
I’ve been blessed with friends and family who are very supportive of my ballroom dancing. They see what a positive impact it has made on my life, how much happier I am, and they want that to continue. And it just so happens that my boss is a fellow ballroom dancer and is the one who introduced me to the studio I dance at now. So she understands when I tell her “I can’t stay late today, I have a lesson.” But their support and understanding will only go so far if I start neglecting things other than my dancing. The key is balance. I rarely go to the studio on weekends, saving that time for social time with friends and errands/chores. Also, I make an effort to return the support. It’s easy to get swept up in your own passions, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there to support your friends in their passions. So I will skip a group class and I have even told my teacher “sorry, I can’t reschedule.” Dance withdrawal be damned!
It’s an odd feeling to be so dedicated to and passionate about something that others view as just a hobby, secondary to “real life.” Sometimes it feels like I cross into another dimension when I enter the studio. There, people understand why I have three pairs of shoes in my dance bag – rhythm, smooth and practice. I can say that my next goal is Emerald Ball and they nod and smile and say “that’s great!” They know what I mean when I say I need to work on my frame. Outside the ballroom dimension, people just ask me if what I do is like Dancing with the Stars. No, Dancing with the Stars is like what I do, not the other way around. It’s a little anti-climactic when someone at my office (other than my boss) hears that I wasn’t at work the other day because I was at a dance competition and they say “oh, that’s cool, how was it?” and I exclaim “I won best of the best in bronze smooth!” And they just stare at me with a blank smile and then say “ok, great!” while walking back to their desk, because they have no idea what that means or what a big deal it is for me. Like I said, different dimensions.
On the flip side, having a full-time job outside of ballroom means I can’t dedicate myself as much as I might like to my dancing. I can’t make it to the day classes offered at my studio unless I take a long lunch and then make up the time at work, assuming my workload allows for a long lunch. I always have to request time off to attend a competition, and I almost didn’t get it approved for Emerald Ball next month because my boss is on vacation at the same time. She has no issues with it, but my time off also has to be approved by a manager above her. When my teacher asked me if I would be able to afford a few entries at the upcoming San Diego Ballroom Beach Bash, organized by one of his coaches who he wanted to support, I had to tell him I probably could figure something out finance-wise, but there was no way I would get the time off because my boss was also competing at San Diego. I tell him it’s because the company is very focused on utilization goals right now and I get that familiar blank smile/stare. Different dimensions.
I say again, the key is balance. I am not one of those people with endless amounts of energy; I have a limited supply, and so I need to be particular about how I spend it. Some weeks are really hard to get through. By the time I get to the studio for a lesson and my teacher asks me how I am, the most I can say is “I’m here.” But it’s so incredibly worth it. That ballroom dimension provides something you just don’t get in the “real world.” And once you get a taste, you don’t want to give it up. So do what you have to do, walk that tightrope between those dimensions, and keep chasing those dreams!
Yes, I know it is improper to end a sentence in a proposition, and also, it seemed appropriate…So sue me! Not! Lol. Artistic/Poetic License and all that….
Okay now (and as fair warning, I will be using lots of ellipses in this post)
First things first….I am so Influential! LOL! FINALLY got my friend Nena and my Mom to take advantage of the introductory lessons I gave them for Christmas!!! So what, it is March….? Better late than never!
Ahem…and Michelle, you know who you are…
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FUN, please 🙂
Okay, so back to the narrative, I’m so genuinely thrilled for them both (Nena and Mom)! They both enjoyed their time at the studio, from the sounds of it, dancing, which makes me so very happy.
They can choose what to do after the introductory package runs out, that is totally up to them, and I respect that. Nena danced with Ivan previously, and my mom also had one lesson with him too, before her two knee replacements! Now they are both ready to dance if they choose to….
And now, switching gears, on to the philosophical frontier….
Geezes. Not sure how to put all this into words. So here goes.
Not so good things.
Here’s my way of “explaining:”
I guess the place to start is the showcase. I can’t believe how many people liked and commented on the one photo I shared, both on my personal Facebook page and the blog page. Truly, I was astounded.
Well, so the “report” is that it went well. I felt totally calm which was great. I knew what I was doing and where I was dancing. Other than that, I was grateful my parents, husband, and friend, Nena, came to watch.
So I come to my lesson Monday morning and the DVD of the performance is in…I am not necessarily keen to watch it, but I also understand the value of having my instructor see it. So we plug it in and I’m not horrified, which is good, if you’ve ever watched yourself perform. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is for me to watch myself in action on film. Truly, it makes me sick to my stomach. But anyways, I want to grow, so I’ve resigned myself to watching feedback so that I can get better.
Well, watching the film, like I said, the worst wasn’t realized. I was okay with it. Not epic, or lovely, or beautiful, or any of that, but also not disgusting and maybe a little bit fun…I’ll take it!
So we watch the DVD and proceed to dance on our lesson. Interestingly, about 3/4ths of the way through my lesson after the showcase I noticed something different was happening. It was so weird!
Like I said, Damir watched the video, too. As we danced, he was giving me all this high level information, information about my lats, my upper body, things that had previously been “off limits” or to “be ignored” just because I was focusing on my feet, ankles, and knees for stability. Well, suddenly, I realized 40 minutes in that I’m getting coaching and information on all this stuff that I knew was missing but that I also implicitly agreed was off the table for the moment, until I could get my foundation under control.
So here we are, 40 minutes into a 45 minute lesson and I suddenly feel like I can move, like I can do more, like I’ve been holding back for the sake of creating stability. And Damir says, “Stefanie, you were so solid in every step on that video. Each step could not have been more clear. You knew where you were on each weight change and you never took any step that was too big. I am basing all the information I am sharing on this, from seeing the video. And, apparently it is time for you to have more information.”
For sure I’ve felt more solid, stable, and on balance, but I have to say that I’ve wondered if I’ve changed my dancing at all since I stepped into Damir’s studio. The truth is, yes, I most definitely have. It has been subtle, and maybe slow to appear, but yes, the quality of my dancing has changed.
I have to tell you, lol, I was horrified! Damir informed me that when I first walked into the studio my feet moved “6 feet” at a time (according to him) but now they are “planted.”
All I know is that I feel much more stable and generally I know where my weight is – and also that if I go off-balance I can recover much more quickly than before. All are immeasurable benefits.
I guess it’s good. Maybe with this coaching and information I can maybe mold myself into the artist I long to be….
And, yes, it IS good. I am supported. I am growing. My dancing IS changing. There is even evidence of that fact captured on film, at least according to Damir! Lol.
So yeah, time to switch to yet another subject…. (more ellipses)
Yesterday I went to work out and I was pissed. There were so many things that were SO difficult for me to execute. There were so many times I pushed my heart rate to the max. I was annoyed that my body is not in the condition to execute all items asked to an elite level. And, also, I fail to acknowledge all I did do during that session. I was in the top 3 people getting through rounds in the weight room. I pushed my heart rate up to over 185, and I saw many others not needing the recovery period like I did because I pushed myself so hard. This is not to compare, this is only to say, I did my best, in a lot of ways in this work out, and, if I am honest, in every work out. No I don’t max myself in every single way on every single work out, AND, I DO push myself, and usually I max out at least one muscle group, or my lungs, or something! I mean, if I don’t push my limits on at least one exercise in a workout, what was the point? The point of a workout is to grow and expand limits. Maybe not on all items, but for sure on one or more! So anyways, good work, why can’t I acknowledge it? Why am I obsessed with the thought of being “inferior” or not “good enough?” Truly that is a question worthy of exploration!
In any case, the bottom line is that I did a “good” job and at the same time, I have these mental demons that torment me and remind me at every turn how I am never, ever, ever doing enough. So after pushing my limits a few times (not on every event – but still) after my work out yesterday, I was discouraged, disheartened, and upset (And, as an aside here… (more ellipses) What the hell is up with that?! OMG! – So Crappy, that is!!! – Because like 2 years ago even the thought of doing what I’m doing in these workouts stopped me dead in my tracks and now I’m doing them regularly…) I just felt like it is all so difficult. I push so hard. So why am I still so Fucking Fat? I see people beside me who look so perfectly proportioned, lean, beautiful…and they are barely breaking a sweat. I can’t even explain how UNFAIR it feels.
Can you hear the Bullshit alarm going off? I can!
Do I know what they do, eat, or execute during the other 23 hours of their lives when I am not on a treadmill beside them???
OF COURSE NOT?!
Why do I even go into the Comparison Game, Anyway? It’s a Lose-Lose Proposition…..
Oh the DRAMA! I’m so damn Human! lol.
So the bright spot is I left the work out and had a decision. And I usually would have just thought, “Well, I’ll go home and wallow in my misery.” And this time I went to the studio and practiced a dance exercise. LOL! Why? Because I’m committed. And, I am determined to get the proper dance rhythm in my body. So I am willing to work on it. And it was great, and I got to see people at the studio I love and adore. It really was such a nice choice, especially after my mental negativity fiasco.
Go me! I mean, really now! This is Epic. At least for a mere mortal like me. 🙂
So what is the sum total of all this talking/writing? I’m not sure, except that I DO know I have a LOT to be GRATEFUL for.
I just posted a status on my personal page that said, “As much as I still sometimes (daily) have negative thoughts about my body and how it looks, I am also constantly reminded of how grateful I am for the condition it is in now as compared to even a year ago. When I see people having trouble getting around in the grocery store, when I watch My 600 pound Life on tv, when I see my own reflection lifting 100 pound barbells in the gym…I have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s to three weeks of consistently getting to all my dance lessons, gym sessions, and all but one Orange Theory workout. Good job, Stef! Keep up the good work and it will only get easier to move!”
I mean, most people in this world haven’t experienced the joy of walking! It is SUCH a joy for me these days. It used to be that I had the weight of a refrigerator on my back. Now, I can stroll as if I am walking on a cloud. I walked for 3 hours on my desk treadmill like it was nothing today! This would not have been possible before, and I tell you, in all sincerity, even 10 pounds makes a world of difference! So just imagine having 100+ pounds on your frame. You can’t! That’s the goddamned truth.
Well, anyways, enough of that ranting diatribe! Lol. I am done waxing poetical for the moment!
The Bottom line is that I AM Grateful. I have so much to be grateful for.
And, I promise to post a video of the showcase once I get the digital file from Damir.
Howdy folks. I thought it was time for another blog post and also a lot of crap has been going through my brain and this is one great way to sort through it.
Let’s start with the dancing, that’s probably the cheeriest part. The big news is that I’m doing a showcase next Friday. The routine is still incomplete and I haven’t danced a full routine, much less in public, in many many months. Also, I only have one wardrobe option because I ended up giving my other two dresses away. Why? I vowed I am changing and I refuse to be seen in those old dresses again. I wanted to get rid of them because I wanted to send a message to my subconscious that I was serious about this vow, that there was no back door, no way out, that I have excised the choice to even step backwards and present myself as I was before. Anyways, I’m doing a cha-cha to “Boogie Shoes” because I wanted to do something fun, light, and energetic. I don’t feel too much pressure about this since it’s not a competitive setting and pretty much I just wanted to have some fun dancing. I’ve been focusing so much on the technique lately, and all my lessons are so early in the morning, that it hasn’t been as much fun, even though I do enjoy my lessons for the most part. So anyways, I’m looking forward to it and it’s also a plus because now I’ll have an open routine for if/when I dance next. Happily, my husband and parents will be in attendance and there will be a DVD.
Also in dance news, I posted it on my Facebook page, that I was a super-lucky-ducky and because Damir is friends with Andrej Skufca and Melinda Torokgyorgy, he occasionally has them coach at the studio and I got one lesson with each. Damir ended up being really sick so I was alone with them but it was absolutely wonderful. It was so helpful to see the way Melinda moved and she was able to work with me on Rumba on basic steps. We talked a lot about incorporating the upper body and arms, which basically stems from using the core, squeezing and compressing between the hips and ribs, which made it easier to coordinate the lats. It definitely elucidated some muscle memory habits I have, and it also gave me the opportunity to feel the correct postures in my body. On my lesson with Andrej, we worked on samba and it was also excellent. He helped me, again with principles of dancing on basic steps and it again elucidated how much more movement I can be generating with the body of mine, which is kind of exciting while at the same time daunting. It is also just wonderful to be in the presence of greatness, to stand beside these people, see how they are moving, and compare it to what I’m doing, and getting nudged toward what I could be doing to expand, express, and hold my space even more. Truly it was a wonderful experience and I think the best part was that I wasn’t overly intimidated. I mean, these two compete in the top competitions in the world alongside the likes of Joanna and Michael, many times in the final. I certainly have an immense amount of respect for them and look up to them. However, I didn’t feel “less than” them, even though certainly I’m less experienced and on their dance level. It was a wonderful space to be in because just a few short years ago I think I would have been so “in my head” worried about how bad I was compared to them that I would have missed being truly present with them and what they had to offer as coaches/teachers. So that’s a big win, not to mention all the other benefits I already mentioned. And this is especially wonderful in light of my body, my big, pudgy, large, non-dancer-looking body. I’m still pretty embarrassed about it in general. I’m still not proud of it, so that is a bummer and brings me to my next section…
The not-so-cheery stuff.
So I hired that guy to help me with my goals and it just didn’t work out. What I thought I was getting, and what I had actually purchased were two very different things. Initially I filled out all these forms with all these questions and I was very vulnerable with this guy, telling him everything, pretty much begging him to help me get this done once and for all. I thought I would be getting coaching, but instead, I got 2 half-hour workouts with his sister as a trainer that didn’t even push me as much as I push myself when I go to the gym on my own and I sent him emails of what I ate every day. That, plus a 20 page manifesto that was not clear and had a lot of information he never followed up on, as well as a calorie and carbohydrate limit for the day. So after a few weeks of diligently sending my menu daily, I’d get one word feedback like, “don’t drink Diet Coke” or “Don’t use too much Bragg’s Amino Acids.” And I was like, hey, I know Diet Coke isn’t like the best choice, however, it’s not the worst, either. Look at the rest of the day and how awesome I did. Thanks a lot (not!) for focusing in on the one not-so-great thing – firstly, that’s why I don’t choose it every day, it’s a once in a while (like once in a month) type choice and secondly, I am not about being perfect, and thirdly, I’m already so hard on myself, I already focus in on all my shortcomings and flaws, I don’t need this type of crap from a person who is supposed to be coaching me, ESPECIALLY since this was the only feedback for the entire day – there was NO mention of what I did well, there was no encouragement building me up….and that’s what I thought I’d be getting. I mean, great, give me feedback about not drinking Diet Coke but, like, anything else you wanna mention? So basically, I was doing this process on my own, like always, and so why I am I paying for that? I communicated my true thoughts to him, which is a pretty big deal for me to really speak my truth and to really say, “hey! This isn’t working for me!” It’s not always easy for me to declare my needs and ask for what I want but I did. And he was like, “Well maybe what you need is Life Coaching.” And that was probably the best advice he gave me. He’s right – and – based on our interactions – he’s not the coach for me.
So that’s that. And now here I am, fatty-fat-fat. At least that is how I am feeling right now. It’s so disappointing to see my body in the mirror, while at the same time, I’m about 10 pounds down and can move easier, at least it seems so. It feels like my fat tissues are thinning out, however, when I look in the mirror, I’m still as big as ever. I don’t see changes, at least not big ones, and I’m still in my same clothing.
I’m still watching my diet and doing my orange theory cardio sessions and getting to the gym twice weekly to get in some heavy weight lifting (last week I did 90 pound deadlifts, which was a personal record and I am looking to do 100 pounds this week because I felt like I could do more.) Oh – and one of the things the trainer said to me was that as I lost weight I’d lose strength, and that so doesn’t work for me. No way, Jose! I intend to continue to get stronger. That’s totally possible! Why would a trainer ever say something like that? Okay so anyways, the process continues, and it feels like it is so Goddamned slow – but what’s new? A this point it is imperative to stay consistent with the process. However, something’s got to change, I’m not sure what, because I’m committed to changing!!! But here’s the deal that’s really hanging me up right now:
I don’t want to compete until I look dramatically different. On one hand, it’s my line in the sand and I know that it will be such a boost in confidence to really make a change before I dance again. On the other hand, it’s a big bummer because how long do I not dance because I’m so hung up about my body and my appearance and miss out on something that brings me so much joy? I don’t know that there is a “right” answer to this, it’s just the crap that is swirling around in my mind.
So Damir told me he talked with Ivan the other day, and I was so excited about it. I think there is still hope we might dance together again, though I’m not attached to that particular outcome. But anyways, today I decided to send him a little text just to say I miss him and I hope everything is going great for him and Marieta. He was happy to get my text and asked me how I was and when I’d be on the dance floor. All I could say was that I don’t know and that I don’t feel ready yet….and what I didn’t say is that the biggest reason for that (besides not having completed routines lol) is because I’m still fat. Part of me was tempted to answer, “How are you?” with “Still too fat to dance with you.” Because part of me would love to dance with him, but I really want/need to be confident in myself before I do that, and to me, that means having a dramatically smaller, leaner body.
Seriously, it’s really mucking me up inside. How much do I let my adipose rule my life? But also, what about compromising on my vow? That’s really important too. The answer is seemingly simple: Just lose the weight, dork! Then you can dance and not break your vow. Well, that’s what I’ve been intending to do…and it doesn’t seem to be happening. I mean, on one side it seems like it’s happening because I feel like my body is changing, slightly, but then it doesn’t seem like it’s changing because I’m still in the same clothes and my belly seems so big right now, and I just don’t want to step on the competitive floor like this. Ugh!!!!
And my mind is so mean to me. Like today while working out I was so bummed with myself because I can’t do all that is demonstrated, and my heart rate doesn’t get below 160 even when “resting” and it’s just so hard, and I even got my heart rate up to 192 and killed myself, and it’s like still not enough. My body is so stubborn! I look around the room and I’m killing myself and so what – I still look like a slob. I sometimes go into the “It’s so unfair, pity-party, victim bullshit” for a moment or two, I’m not gonna lie. But even with all this negative Nelly going on, I mean, I’m still there. Double Ugh!!! I’m just in a bummer mood lately. I am also frustrated because it’s a choice to feel this way. I mean, I could be loving toward myself and happy with myself regardless of my weight. And yet, my happiness is very much tied up with this. I know I’d feel better about me if I were thinner. It’s so crappy!!!!! It’s so, so crappy. Like, I withhold love, acceptance, and approval of myself and I think I’ll give it to myself if I were thinner. But is that even true? It’s such a racket! Why am I stuck in this mind spiral? How do I get out of it? When is what I do enough even if it is not getting the results I want? Does that mean it is truly not enough? When is enough, enough? When do I just feel good about me and feel confident about myself just as I am? Period. Without all these requirements and conditions? I keep thinking that if I continue to monitor my diet and workout the outcome should be inevitable…but it sure doesn’t seem to be a straight line at all. Triple UGH!!!!
Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily asking you for the answers to all these questions lol (Though if you have some kind encouragement or insights, I’m open to hearing that). Mostly I’m just processing this so it gets out of me and I can move forward toward my goals and dreams. Because one thing is certain, I’m not giving up! And there are really big changes in who I used to be and who I am today – like how working out has become a habit and I have a totally different relationship with food, and like how I actually spoke up for myself and stated what wasn’t working for me and what I needed. These are all good things, and I’m still trucking, damnit! Even if the results have been disappointing to me thus far.
But speaking of goals and dreams, the showcase is a week away, then after that Damir promises me we’ll sit down and talk about “the plan.” “The plan” meaning what we will do this year. I think it will have to be flexible, but also I think to actually put something on the calendar will create a shift in urgency and make things real again. So, we’ll see.
I don’t know how “good” of a blog post this was tonight, but I do know that I can’t be the only one struggling with my body and questioning when I let it hold me back from experiencing joy in life. I can’t be the only one who struggles with self-esteem, self-appreciation, self-love. Maybe that has some value in sharing? Who knows? Thanks for humoring me.
Hey guys! Thank you so much for all the feedback about the name of this blog. I sincerely appreciate all the comments and suggestions. I am still a little bit “in the question” around what I should call this blog so I have a little experiment that I’m going to conduct for the next week to give myself time to get clear on what the name means to me as it is, to try on a new possible name for size (haha), or to potentially land upon the perfect completely new name.
I believe that words are powerful. And as I’m in the practice and process of transformation, both inside and out, it makes sense to me that as I evolve, things in my life will also evolve. I want my blog to support me in this process and I am currently ready to let go of the story I’ve been replaying in my mind, heart, and body, the one in which I live as though I am a fat person, like that’s the most important part of who I am. I’m ready to let go of the part of the story where my personality is so wrapped up in claiming this physicality as my identity. As I let it go, it is a little death. And it creates the space simply be who I am rather than make up a story about it.
So I’ve been doing some work around this idea of the story that was imprinted upon my psyche that I claimed as my identity, and I’ve engaged in a process where I can identify where this may come from. Once seeing that, I can then choose a quality to practice being. That may sound a bit confusing so here’s an example of what I mean: I did this work previously some years ago and discovered that I was run by the need to be liked. I’d compromise myself, even betray myself, not speak up for myself, and so forth all because I needed people to like me. Of course, this rarely created the desired effect. In fact, this “act” I engaged in pushed people away. Yet it came from a deep need in me, so I don’t blame myself for operating this way back then. I didn’t know better and I didn’t have the tools to cope better. I was pretty much doing it unconsciously. However, once I discovered this and became aware of how it was affecting my life, I gained the power of choice around it. I could decide that I was more committed to being an honest, authentic woman of integrity and choose different. I could then ask myself, “How would an honest, authentic woman of integrity act in this situation?” Then, I could “show up” in my life that way. I would practice recognizing when I was about to engage in people-pleasing behavior and then I’d practice being different – being honest, and authentic, and in integrity. Or I’d notice when I’d fallen into the old pattern and ask myself what I could do differently the next opportunity. I got better and better over time – and it took some time – and a bunch of practice. It also went from being scary and overwhelming (I mean in my mind being this way could lead to total rejection and abandonment) to being second nature. I wouldn’t say I’ve 100% let go of that need, but I will say I am much more in choice around it.
Okay, so anyways, the quality I’ve landed upon that I think would help me most to move forward in my life right now is PRECIOUS.
Why precious, you may ask. Well, here’s one of my “acts:” I act really capable, even over-achieving because I want to be seen, loved, valued, and acknowledged. Well, that’s like saying to my subconscious that I’m only worth something because of what I do, what service I can perform, or what value I can add to the life of others. I think it comes from a need to be seen as important or significant or that I matter so that I can feel validated that I have a right to exist. That’s hogwash in reality but my subconscious totally buys into it. I mean, we all have the right to exist because we do exist! Right? Anyways, this “act” is not necessarily good, bad, right, or wrong, and it really serves me in come contexts, like at work. However, it doesn’t serve me in other aspects of my life, because I am not in the state of knowing and believing in my bones, on a heart level, that I’m loveable and precious just because I’m me. And because of that, I only give myself love when I “do what I’m supposed to be doing.” This is especially in the context of diet and exercise. And it also results in my withholding love from myself which is just mean. It doesn’t serve me.
The word PRECIOUS is defined as: of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly, a term of address to a beloved person, highly esteemedcherished.
I think that works perfectly to shift my focus. So my challenge is to incorporate a practice of treating myself as a precious person in my daily life. It certainly works in the context of nourishing my body properly and exercising it excellently, while doing it in an encouraging and loving manner – without comparison to the journey of others, and with a dose of grace. It becomes a process of how I’m being rather than on what I’m doing.
Also, being PRECIOUS has nothing to do with how I look, how much I weigh, how well I dance – which are all things I’ve strongly identified with as who I am, and with the persona of this blog. In reality, these features are only a tiny part of who I am, of who any human being is. Ergo, as I am doing the inner work to let go of this junk, and create a new, more evolved, enlightened, and expansive self, I thought perhaps changing the name of the blog was something that could support me. Lord knows I could stand to step into more than one quality in my life. I don’t like using Precious for the title of this blog but since I do use the words in the title to this blog quite a bit via social networks and in person, and since I know that repetition is a powerful tool for change, a new name might be just the ticket to ease me into another aspect my new self that I’d like to call forth.
Which reminds me of something Damir said. Oh yes, we are still dancing. And today was another wonderful lesson…more on that later. Anyways, he said to me, “Stefanie, you are just converting physical size into energetic size.” In other words, I’ve used my physical body as a way to claim my space in this world. Now the process is to claim my space on the invisible plane. His point was that I’ll still be “big” but in a totally different way, a non-physical way.
So in some ways, the name “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom” still fits. It could fit in the context I just mentioned from the conversation with Damir.
Other comments from you guys that I got were:
Because you’re about owning your place and your space – not about size – and because people do know the blog name, maybe go with something that’s a variation of it so you don’t totally lose brand identity?
So… the reason I came across your blog is because I noticed that there weren’t really any fat chicks in the dance studio and I felt a little bit out of sorts… “Is this really for me?” “Why am I the only one?” I am grateful to have come across your blog because it was encouraging to me that even if there are only TWO starfish in the sea, at least I wasn’t alone. I have done some growing since I started following you… and you have too. Biggest girl in the ballroom isn’t about size for me any more… it’s about putting on your big girl panties and accepting who you are for what you are and accepting others too. It’s about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to give up. Due to an injury, I’m no longer able to dance, but I still keep up with you. You’re not the size you once were… life changes. BUT the lesson you teach seems to me to be about being a big girl even when the world tries to make you feel small.
We think keep the domain name the same so you don’t lose any readers or followers. And Then Making it “The (formerly in handwriting font with an up arrow) Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”. We think will imply the journey and the success you have made of it. All of the best with whatever you decide.
I agree about the larger meaning of being Big. I was also thinking about being a Big Girl (in the being responsible for oneself idea) and also re: not losing your branding. Since comparison is the least interesting and least important part, how about “Big Girl in The Ballroom”?
Biggest isn’t just about weight. It’s about power. It’s about presence. It’s about an indomitable spirit. Why wouldn’t you want to be the biggest girl in the ballroom?
I think the biggest girl in the ballroom’s meaning can morph and change regardless of your size. Biggest can mean so many different things. My opinion is it is perfect just as it is.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?! I feel so blessed to have this type of engagement with you! It’s helped me re-frame my thinking about this issue and I appreciate it very much.
So here’s what I’ve settled on; I’m going to try on a potential name for one week. I want to see how it feels. I want you to see how it feels to you and let me know what you think. I chose this new name because it encompasses a lot of what the people above were saying, including dropping the comparison game, which I think is especially important for me. I’m not 100% sure just yet and still open to feedback, and, at the same time, I want to create some forward movement on this so this seemed like a great step to take. I will make my final decision by next Thursday so make sure to make your thoughts known urgently. All the input thus far has helped me immensely to get more clear on what I want to create. And, yes, this is ultimately my decision.
The name I’m trying on is “Big Girl In The Ballroom”
Let’s see how it goes 🙂 And Lisa, you may just be the winner of a $25 gift card 🙂 You’ll know by next Thursday.
Alrighty, now that that’s all taken care of, I want to share with you what happened on my lesson today. I think I should talk a little bit about dancing here too! lol.
So as much as I sometimes miss Ivan, I so totally trust the teachings I’m getting from Damir at this time. My experience of it thus far is becoming more aware of my body on a more detailed level and being present in neglected areas. Basic areas, like feet and knees. We haven’t really even made it up to lats and arms just yet and that’s totally okay. When I get results like I got today, I’m grateful about going so slowly.
Damir said something pretty profound today that teaching dance was his calling. It’s not a job, it’s not even a vocation. He’s convinced he could do anything he’d want to do in this world as a profession. Dance didn’t come easy to Damir. He searched for answers for a very long time and ended up having to find them for himself. Even though he had many instructors and coaches that influenced him, his process, from how he describes it, was him having to go so slowly in every step and breaking it down minutely and focusing just on one body part for months at a time. Because he went through this process, he’s now able to see things in others’ bodies – alignment, energy, where their focus is. He’s also able to adapt his language in such a way that his students understand clearly what he is asking of them – at least that’s been my experience.
It’s like, I’ve wanted these same answers. I’ve known that my dancing didn’t look like it potentially could and all the answers I got were from the outside in – making things happen. God bless all my instructors – they gave me the information I was ready for, that I could handle, and/or to the best of their personal understanding. However, now I’m being coached from the inside out and it is a total game changer.
It’s also a lot more physical work! I feel that my body will be changing soon simply from the new method from which I’m approaching dance. It takes a lot more focus and energy and is based a ton on creating oppositions internally in the body. It’s awesome and it ain’t easy.
Anyways, Damir focuses on a very practical method for dancing, the thought being that if you have a structure to follow, no matter what your emotional state or how your body is feeling on any particular day, you can use this structure to discover what adjustments might need to be made to still perform at an excellent level, especially in the context of a competition.
And this structure system begins with the feet. If I thought I used my feet before, I was wrong. They are experiencing an entirely new level of conditioning.
We are just now beginning to focus on the knees. Being the second major joint in the leg, they affect a lot of things. Hips are now moving as a result of the movements in my feet and knees, rather than actively “trying” to make my hips move.
I’m starting to see where the true causes of movement stem from, which is internal and not always obvious, rather than just seeing the end result, which I think a lot of us gravitate toward trying to emulate. Both ways of approaching movement can be helpful in different contexts, by my personal dance education has been deficient in the information Damir is sharing with me.
It’s pretty wonderful. Sometimes I may feel like I’m not doing anything on our lessons, that I’ve regressed as a dancer, or that we’re just talking too much! Then there are moments like today and I realize that all my previous work has been valuable. I realize that all the work I’ve done laid some foundation and that with new tiny bytes of information, new small puzzle pieces of data that I’ve not been aware of now being presented, things can shift dramatically and quickly in my dancing.
So we were working on the knees, just doing 1,2,cha cha cha, in place and focusing on really stretching the space between the knees as much as possible – like doing it with an imaginary resistance band around them. And it was hard work! It engaged more muscles, but was controlled, and it caused proper alignment, and made me pull up in my abdomen, there were all sorts of great results from focusing on this particular aspect. I’m learning how to utilize internal resistance, opposition, and elasticity to create a new quality of movement with stability and control.
So then Damir invited me to use this skill I’d just started practicing in Rumba walks. Oh. My. God. For the first time in my life Rumba walks felt GOOD!
Some iterations were better than others but that doesn’t matter. I had a few really quality ones. I got the feeling in my body. It felt like my standing leg was pulling my moving leg forward, instead of the other way around. I was (mostly) on balance. It just felt “right,” not so forced.
I had a flashback to Inna’s class. We’d practiced a lot of Rumba walks in there. And her style is more aggressive in terms of coaching us to step big, to use big arms, and most of all, to push forward. This could work great for some students. For me, I always felt I was forcing this and it was taking way more effort than it should if I was moving ergonomically or biomechanically correct. But I could never figure out how to do that from the language and demonstrations being used. With Damir, I’m focusing on very different things: the back of my neck and head, staying on my standing leg as long as possible, planting it into the ground and allowing the elastic resistance between my knees to pull the walking leg forward under my body, keeping my hips under my ribs, and even a little in compressing my lats and pushing my chest forward (but that’s pretty advanced for me right now). And it freakin’ feels better, way better, totally-different-breakthrough better, like I’m never going to dance the same way again (well, yeah, I may have some muscle memory to overcome) but now that I’ve had this visceral experience, I could never truly go completely back. Things will never quite be the same.
It gives me hope that possibly all my dancing could feel this good. It’s showing me I have things in my body ready from the work I’ve previously done to jump to a new level of quality with just the next right bit of information and practice. It has been a joyful, fun process, for the most part, and although I have some urgency about my goals, I’ve also surrendered to trusting the process being laid before me by my new coach. All will unfold in it’s proper time. I fully trust Damir has my best interests at heart. In fact, I feel so incredibly lucky to work with him, even more so because he told me that he hasn’t taken a new student in years and he’s totally booked with the students he has now. I’m one lucky ducky he fit me in and I’m going to make the absolute most of my time with him.
Probably the greatest gift Damir has given me is the freedom to be me without expectations, both around my body and my dancing. I always felt such pressure with Ivan, as well as his frustration and disappointment. With Damir, I feel like he believes in me, like he believes in all his students, 100%. He also believes that it’s up to the student to determine how far they really want to go with this dancing thing, and how fast. It’s so great to be given this responsibility. He’s totally just there to support me in my process. It’s a precious gift of his time, attention, presence, information, guidance, and nurturing. I’ve been able to stop beating myself up so much in this space, as well as to embrace the work required. I’ve also become less fearful about making mistakes and not being perfect. He’s helped me define the game I’m playing, and it’s one of personal excellence rather than comparison, authenticity rather than staged performance, deliberate internal presence rather than external forcing, one of groundedness rather than an emotional roller coaster. He’s supporting me to become the excellent, authentic, present, consistent, grounded dancer I know I can be. And at the same time, he places no need on me to be anything different than what I am.
I was so lit up about how excellent my lesson turned out today, that I totally thought, “I have to write a blog about this!” And that was cool because it’s been a while since I’ve felt that way. I think perhaps it’s because I’ve been in transition and thus the blog has been too. The blog is going to evolve right alongside with me. I did start this blog and journey years ago, and I’m not the person I was back then either. Sometimes it’s okay to let old identities die and integrate their experience into the whole. I feel like who I was cannot exist in the same space of who I am now, just like the partnership I had with Ivan could no longer live on once shifts had been made.
So life looks different now and probably the blog will too. I’m excited to see where the journey leads me.
When I was five and I lived in Aurora, Colorado, I had a black vinyl dance bag. I use the term loosely, because the “bag” was actually a rectangular cardboard box covered in ink-black shiny vinyl imprinted with a pink pair of ballet toe shoes in Sous-sou.
Two to three times a week I made a sojourn from my home on the Army base to the doors of Ernie Miller’s dance studio to practice ballet and tap. Again, I use the term “practice” loosely. At the age of five through eight, I mostly flailed grossly. And yet at the end of each dance lesson I was reward with a Dum Dum sucker, being the adorable “little peanut” I was.
Every year the studio would have a recital. Every year Ernie and his wife would dance the very last dance in the show. It was a lovely and vulnerable and authentic moment. So much so that it made quite an impression on me in a time in my life when I don’t remember much detail. It was that special.
The deal is, Ernie and his wife and his beautiful daughters who taught in the studio WERE the studio.
Of course there were physical walls, and spring-loaded wood floors, and barres fastened securely to the walls. But the studio was Ernie. He created it. He carved out the space for it to exist. And he and his family populated it. They created the tone. They created the atmosphere. They created the philosophy. They lived it and breathed life into it.
So now fast forward 30 years. I am an adult. I’ve rediscovered dancing through the medium of ballroom. I’ve been through three instructors and now I’m on my fourth. I’ve recently left my most favorite instructor (thus far) who moved me forward exponentially. I’m now with this crazy Bosnian who is so very ORDINARY.
He emphasizes proper alignment of the bones and the body over anything flashy. He promotes repetition, repetition, repetition of any and all steps, done properly, 10,000 times. He is not teaching me any new figures or choreography whatsoever. He’s simply going deeper into the most basic work.
So here I am, being serious and all about my dancing. I don’t have much interest in being a social dancer. I don’t care much to dance with people who are less experienced than I.
And yet, I’m invited to the annual EuroRhythm Luau. With all manner of enthusiams! Not only from Damir, but also from his wife. Truth is, my hubby was out of town so what else was I going to do Friday night? I figured there were worse ways to spend time and bought a ticket to attend what I thought would most likely be a hokey stupid party.
And so after work I took a break then got out my hair dryer and straightener. I put on mascara and a comfortable outfit. I got myself ready and drove over to the studio.
At first, it definitely seemed super hokey! And then, after about 2 minutes, it seemed awesome. It seemed like home.
It struck me as shockingly as if I had stuck my fingers into a socket – I have lived this before. I have lived this as a five-year-old in Ernie Miller’s Studio.
It was family. As humble as it might be, as hokey as it could be, who the hell cares. There was joy in that space. There were families present with grandparents and grandchildren.
And this studio, that I am now a part of, is Damir and his family. He’s so very clear about his role as the leader of it. He knows absolutely that he sets the tone, the rules. He knows beyond a doubt that he is the one that creates and holds the space.
I’m not going to lie. The physical space of EuroRhythm is tiny! It seems humble. From the outside it is just a part of a strip mall. On the inside there is nothing flashy.
And you know what, for me it melts away. It’s not what I notice. I walk into this space and I am embraced as I am, where I am, who I am in this moment. I notice that I feel comfortable, I feel that it is safe and supported. I know that I am surrounded by greatness, and that greatness is eagerly, generously shared with all those who walk through the doors; it’s shared with all those who seek the wisdom being offered.
I was just so singularly struck by this feeling of familiarity Friday night. I knew that I knew this space. It recalled and referenced my past experiences with Ernie Miller. And wow, how very grateful I am about it all.
I got a great start with Ernie. My mother to this day will profess the influence he and his daughters had on me in terms of molding me and shaping me to be the dancer I am today. What a blessing and advantage I had being able to dance at such a young age. I am especially grateful to my mother and my father for making that possible for me.
And Damir is just like Ernie. He IS the studio. His family IS the studio. He sets the tone. He creates the atmosphere. And I’m just left agog. What an amazing human being I have come to interact with. He has come from a war-torn country, experienced unspeakable traumas, I’m sure, he became a world-class dancer, he immigrated, he created his own studio, and best of all, he is a JOYFUL and GIVING human being. He has arrived on the other side of all these negative circumstances and chosen to be a compassionate, loving, generous, passionate, kind, caring, gentle, expert human being and dance coach. He has created a home for all of us who chose to accept his brand of study and excellence.
Damir, and the results he creates, looking both at the students of his I know and his studio, are seemingly humble, simple, and, even, dare I say, boring! And yet, they are also captivating, impeccable, and embodying excellence. He has a quiet sort of “shouting” to the world. And his results speak loud and clear for those with eyes to see, for those who have the clarity of mind to understand.
So you know what? I am so happy I went Friday. I realized that I will never miss a party for the studio again if I can help it! I realized that it’s about family. And I realized, on a whole new level, what a special and excepetional human being Damir is. God bless him for creating this space.
I am come home.
Here’s a quirky little fact about me; I love reading about mountain climbing. Bouldering, 8000 meter peak epics, Nepal, Everest, K2, The Eiger Wall, and The White Spider are just a few of my favorite subjects. I’m mildly obsessed. For whatever reason I am enthralled by the journey, internally and externally, of those who risk their lives to reach the highest peaks and scale the most technical climbs in the world.
I think in many ways mountain-climbing parallels high-level dancing, maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it. Both pursuits require determination, discipline, and practice. Both are beautiful. I think I like ballroom better because I don’t have to risk my very existence to explore my vulnerabilities and limitations. I am challenged quite enough two and a half inches off the floor, thank you very much! Lol.
Anyways, one mountaineer-author I particularly enjoy (there are many) is Ed Viesturs. You may recall him from the IMAX movie about Everest (which rocked my world in high school when I saw it on that eight-story screen – seriously, Khumbu Icefall? You may pee your pants seeing how they traverse it using aluminum ladders lashed together to cross cravasses) and the 1996 Mount Everest disaster documented in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” He’s a world-class high-altitude athlete and he is the first American to summit all 14 of the 8000-meter-er’s – the 14 highest mountains on Earth. As you might imagine, it’s an exclusive club.
Things I appreciate about Ed are that he is pragmatic, level-headed, he trains like a madman, he climbs with an ethos, and he lives by the credo, “Getting to the top is optional, returning home is compulsory.” He pushes his personal limits while at the same time lives in a personally responsible manner. He even takes on further responsibility when others are in need around him because that’s who he is.
Well, anyways, I’ve enjoyed reading about Ed’s pursuits and I’ve learned a lot about being human from his books (as well as other mountaineers). Honestly, I think that is why they do such extreme feats – to get to the core of their selves, to come right up against their limitations, demons, and boundaries, and to test their mettle, to discover who they are.
I’m no adrenaline junkie, but I can relate to the journey of self-discovery. For me, as I’ve mentioned before, dance is my practice. It is my walking, moving, bodily meditation. It helps me integrate all aspects of self: mind, body, spirit, physical, anatomical, atomic, subatomic, and energetic. It also helps me connect with myself, others, the universe, God. I am a drop in the ocean and the entire ocean in a drop. I can go just as deeply into myself through dance as Ed does when he climbs high into the clouds. In a way, we are on the same journey, it just looks different externally. Internally, we are coming up against our core selves with every step.
This is why I came to Damir.
This is the work we are doing.
It is deeply personal and internal. And it’s a big shift. And that’s why I haven’t felt so much like blogging about every new awareness, because they are coming at light-speed. It’s like drinking from a fire-hydrant. And I’m not even sure I could explain or describe the work we are doing, anyways. It’s beyond dancing. It’s beyond the movements. It’s the metaphor of the dancing and it is the actual dancing, and it is so much more at the same time.
Everything is changing.
It’s not obvious.
People are going to be able to tell that I have changed when I’m through on the other side of this leg of the journey, but they may not know what I did exactly.
This is the work I am doing with Damir. It is all of the invisible stuff, all of the internal dancing that happens between sinew, muscle, bone, and energy. It is rewiring my neurons to fire differently. It is retraining my muscle memory and placing my awareness in long-neglected cells of my body, in forgotten pockets of DNA. It is changing my structure, my elasticitity. It is allowing me to be stable and to stretch. It is helping me find beauty in opposition, for only in using opposing forces can we move.
I’m learning it isn’t actually ideal to be completely balanced 100% because if you are, there is absolutely no movement; there is only stillness. To create movement, there must be an imbalance, even if it is ever-so-slight. And with this new level of rooting deep into the earth, this new level of stability, my bodily movement is so much more under my control, I can be so much more deliberate about it. Trust me, there’s still lots of work to do, but already it is improved exponentially.
This work changes everything. It is transforming me and I will emerge on a different level. From the outside, it looks like nothing has changed, or even maybe that I’ve “regressed” because it is so “ordinary,” as Damir puts it. But I know the truth. I know that internally I will never be the same.
Here’s a good analogy; I don’t care if you have a Rolex dripping in diamonds if it fails to tell accurate, reliable time, if it fails to fulfill its purpose. I’d take a practical Casio calculator watch over it any day. The faulty Rolex, however, is shiny and appears beautiful on the outside. Dancing can be like this. Right now I’m working to become a Casio.
With Damir, I’m learning to balance my Yin and Yang energies, my Masculine and Feminine.
I’m learning to stand on my own feet
I’m learning to hold and control my own space.
I’m learning to be present.
I have not learned any specific new dancing technique. I have not learned one new step or one new way to style my arms. I have not danced anything more than Rumba boxes, forward and back steps, delayed steps, hip turns or spirals. No new figures. No routines. Only fundamentals. They apply to EVERYTHING. It is AWESOME.
I totally trust that I’ve made the correct move. This is exactly where I need to be.
I miss Ivan and I do hope we can partner again. That’s mostly up to him. I’m committed to do my work regardless. But I have a deep knowingness that Damir is a coach, not a partner, at least at this point in time. I also have a deep knowingness that I have no need to worry about this, that the right person will show up when I’m ready and he’s ready, be it Ivan, or no.
So that’s what’s going on with me. I’ve no competitions in my sights. I am committed to doing the work. And the work is, well, mundane, ordinary, and basic. It is learning my body, feeling it spatially, and understanding how it works. I’m honing my instrument in a way I’ve never had access to before.
I feel settled. If that even makes any sense. I feel grounded and secure. And I need this like no kidding to stretch beyond my current limitations. That is part of why I had to make the change. I could go no further without finding my center. I needed a space where it was safe to explore my shortcomings. With Damir, it’s encouraged. We bring my imbalances to light and in this way dissolve them.
The work I’m doing is to find and embody the paradox; to find the stillness, calmness, steadiness in the frenzied movement of a Cha-Cha. In this way I can be my most authentic self. What a blessing to have found a guide and coach for this next leg of the journey. I am becoming who I am, a little closer to my authentic self every day.
Dancing cannot fail to change a person if they take it up as their practice. It is as potent and transformative as any practice, be it Yoga, or Soccer, Bible study or Mountain climbing.
And just like in Mountain climbing, I’m discovering that there are no short cuts to the top. This is the title of one of Ed’s books and I think it reflects his philosophy, and a truth of life. I am grateful to be in the place where I’m ready, willing, and able to do the work. For me, it looks like this: eating clean, getting workouts in, continuing consistent coaching with Damir, practicing the basics. It looks like putting in the time, doing the mundane process, and repeating until complete. There are no short cuts to a body fat percent of 20% or less, or a balanced spiral turn. There are no elevators to the top of Mount Everest.
And you know what? Hooray for that! I’m coming to know who I am more and more deeply and securely with each choice, with each pitfall, with each interaction. I am building the foundation of who I am so as to be unshakeable. And I’m not only after knowing who I am, I’m after loving who I am, reveling in who I am! I’m going to get to be me, 100% me and I can’t wait.
Hooray for no longer striving and pushing and going to extremes. Hooray for settling into do the work. It may take time, but time is going to pass anyways. It’s simply up to me to be a consistent Casio, at this point. Tic toc tic toc tic toc…..and soon enough the humble yet reliable Casio will be worthy of adorning the trappings of a Rolex.