Clean Eating, Challenge, Change, Consistency, Commitment

I am extremely grateful to find myself in a most clear, determined, and single-minded space after a week laden with emotional turmoil (as well as a little bit of humor.) As I continue this journey, which in my mind began three years ago, I am surprised and delighted with how much more quickly I can get through “the muck” back into a neutral or even positive mental place. Back when I was at my largest, it could days or even weeks of staying stuck, wallowing in my despair, anguish, anger, or resentment. I’d done a lot of work internally before I was ready to accept the help of a nutritionist and though my external results have been frustratingly slow (in my mind, at least), the deep roots of new coping skills and healthy tools I’ve cultivated continue to serve me well as I chip, chip, chip away at my own personal face of Mount Rushmore. Dang I wish I had some stinking dynamite!

Another reason I’ve been able to switch so quickly out of overwhelm and sadness, I believe, has been the support I am now able to receive from “my team.” No one officially signed up to be on my “team” – it’s just my own idea of people who are helping me get to where I want to go. This includes, of course, first and foremost, my awesome nutritionist, Chelle, owner of Recipe For Fitness, who wrote an amazing response to my Dear Body Letter. Seriously, go read Chelle’s blog post! I totally believe she’s got my back and that she’ll stick it out with me until I’m done. She’s the “coach” of my team….maybe I should get her a whistle! ūüôā

My “team” also includes, Ivan, he’d be the artistic director (hee hee), as well as my new trainer, Allison, who is so much better than my previous gal. I finally feel like I have a trainer who actually cares about me and my progress, and I appreciate it so much, especially with all the crap I’ve had to go through with trainers recently! Plus she, herself, trains as a MMA fighter, has 12 years of personal training experience, and is generally just a pretty awesome person.

And beyond that, I also consider you readers as part of my team. You encourage me and inspire me to keep going, even when the going gets tough. Fitocracy, a social media platform that is kinda like Facebook for people into fitness, is another resource I’ve used that is a postitive, encouraging outlet – you can find me under “loveablestef” if you ever decide to join.

Finally, many times I have people supporting me and encouraging me that I don’t even know! Like Tabitha – I’ve never met her, but she took the time to write me a powerful letter which helped me move forward, and from the feedback I’ve received, I’m not the only one she helped.

I must admit, however, that even though I understand and believe what Tabitha/my body had to say, I am still in slight resistance to certain portions of it. Rather than considering this a bad thing, I think having a little resistance is good, because it means I’m on the edge pushing against a limitation. Soon enough things will shift and I will have grown. If I had absolutely no resistance, then I’d already be done with the portion of “the work” she suggests and wouldn’t be any challenge! But, yeah, that’s not the case.

For instance, I still have a hard time swallowing the idea that my body is on my side. I’ve lived for 27 years considering my body to be a problem. It has never been a beautiful body in my eyes and it is frustratingly stubborn. It is limited in many ways and can’t do all the things I want or expect it to do. I experience it as being untrustworthy and I think of it as something that is sub-par and needs to be fixed but that it is so messed up that it’s a lost cause. Confusingly, it is also an ally in many regards, the most important of which are that it allows me to dance and to walk in this world, and sometimes it surprises me doing things beyond my expectations. Clearly my relationship with my body isn’t 100% in alignment, but I have faith that it can be.

I am also frustrated with the idea my body put forth about having to get internal affairs in order before seeing outward change. I feel like, egad! Haven’t I already done somuch?! I have been working at it for three years to get internal affairs in order but still I wait, wait, wait for the outside to match with the inside (yeah, it’s a little victim-y, I know. I’ll get over it). I am dumbfounded time and again at how very different my internal image of who I am and how I see myself in a fit, healthy body, and the reality of my current obese body are. It is beyond words the amount of internal work I’ve done and annoying that there is still more to go! Plus it is just plain incongruent with the external state of affairs. Like, last week I was eating my fish, brown rice, and asparagus, all portioned and measured, cooked clean after 90 minutes of ballet and I’m thinking to myself, “A person who eats this dinner doesn’t have a body like mine.” But I do.

I’m also in resistance to my body’s message to push and push hard. It’s not because I won’t or don’t push hard already, it’s because I’m sick of hearing it and I’m sick of having to dig down deep just to make it through Latin class with Inna or Mountain climbers with Allison, or planks on a ball with Chelle, or doing the stairstepper with asthma and my heart rate at 175 and me wanting to quit, having to talk myself into each and every step. I admit that here and there I am finally, finally, noticing small changes in the ability to do more. But again, I think it is good to be a little in resistance because it means I’m butting up against my limits and my job is to notice them and burst beyond them. Trust me, it is not in my nature to not push! If my trainer has a weight too low or I don’t feel like I’m being challenged enough I speak up! Usually, though, it’s the other edge I experience – the one where I’m being challenged beyond my perceived capacity – the place where I panic and get emotional and have to fight. I don’t enjoy that fight but again, discovering (finally, after hearing about it for so long) how to channel and transmute my negative feelings into pushing myself, has been a step forward. It may still suck at times, like when I was on my last set of mountain climber burpee thingies and Allison was like, “Go at your own pace. We can modify if you need to,” And I was like, “No!” and got I emotional, angry, teary-eyed, and grunted and groaned but I banged those bitches out, using that emotional angst instead of letting it defeat me. And there have even been moments when I’ve been up for more, that internally a desire to push myself a bit harder when working out on my own bubbled up from somewhere. Again, progress, but not the tangible, visual kind I want to see with a smaller butt, gut, and bat wings, with muscle definition and tone, seeing the definition of muscle working under the skin.

I am also in resistance to the idea that I shouldn’t use the scale. This is because I absolutely, as part of my goals, want and need to be lighter. If that means at some point I lose some muscle, so be it. To be the dancer I want to become I must be smaller, more compact, lean, and weigh significantly less. Period. I cannot stand the idea of living the rest of my life obese, over 200 pounds! Yes, I’m open to the possibility that I will look fantastic at a higher weight than most my competitors who weigh like 110 pounds, but I’m not willing to weigh over 200 pounds. This shit needs to come off. Anyways, for the sake of sanity and also to see a more complete picture, not just the one told by the scale, I’m considering getting some measurements in a Bod Pod, the gold standard for body composition testing.

As for the rest of the letter from my body, I’m totally on board with it. As you can see from the title of my post, especially for the days leading up to Galaxy, (and beyond I hope) I’m in RockStar mode. I am a clean-eating, ready-for-challenge, changing, consistent, and committed woman. This is how I am showing up in my life right now, ready to demolish this portion of the journey set before me. Like no kidding. Because I am hungry, starving, ravenous, for dramatic, transformational change in my body. I have been for a while. I’m so ready for new clothes, ones that I actually like! There is no going back and I still want more, so very much more.

To that end, I’ve made a little sign for myself that I’m hanging above my work computer so I will be staring at it for 8 hours a day to continually reinforce my committment. I have to say, however, that the decision has already strongly been made in my mind. Chelle created a new plan with lower calories and I’m following it to the letter. We also renegotiated a work out plan with cardio and weights. I’ve already been hungrier than before but thanks to the internal work I’ve already done, I’m able to weather it well. On other plans, more geared toward cultivating a healthy lifestyle, I felt over-full or would get hungry maybe once or twice near time to the next meal time. This time around, I get hungry 5 or 6 times before the next time to eat, most especially earlier in the day, but I have the skills to handle it. I can tolerate a few signals from my body where three years ago I would never even allow myself to get hungry, and if I did it was binge time. It may not be completely comfortable to experience a little hunger but I don’t care! I’m committed. And it’s a normal physiological function. I have 17 days now in which to make as much a change as possible before I step onto the ballroom again. I would rather accept the pain of discipline now than suffer the pain of regret at Galaxy, and I know that being in integrity with this plan will give me the best chance of feeling like I am awesome when it’s time to dance.

image

Already I’ve had these little victories like yesterday I went to visit a friend and stayed longer than I anticipated so I was quite late for dinner and really hungry. But did I grab the first most convenient thing? No! I grabbed a cucumber, a totally free food on my plan, quickly cut some slices, and nibbled on them as I prepared my dinner. To me that was proving to myself just how very committed I am. No straying from the plan even when things don’t go perfectly. No excuses!

I also made a point to steer clear of my husband’s Fantasy Football draft party. We had over 20 men at our house, eating pizza, drinking beer and other hard libations and I didn’t even want to be around it so I volunteered to housesit for my in-laws. Truth be told, I wasn’t even tempted with the debauchery before me! In years past this would have been as irresistible as a siren’s call and laced with a dose of guilt, remorse, and recovery the following day. And I was even more pleased with my decision when I saw how annihilated my husband and his buds were the next morning.

In addition, I’ve already talked about how I’m going to handle an upcomming trip with my husband. We have a kitchen where we are staying so first priority the morning after we arrive will be to get groceries and cook! I’ll bring my breakfast along with me. He knows I’m not going to bend at this time with the eating, even though we will be around many restaurants and bars. It won’t be like this forever, but for now this is the way it has to be.

So now I guess the biggest struggle isn’t the eating, or even the exercise since I’m clear on what I’m accountable for with that, but rather the biggest battle is waiting patiently and having faith that this change I’m seeking in my body will actually happen. I still don’t entirely trust that it is possible for me to have a gorgeous body, one that I love and would be proud to show off. I still feel like I will be pudgy and that I am not ever really going to be lean. But I do believe it can be better and I know I will not to back. The only path is to push forward. I wish it were happening faster, oh God do I ever! But since I have no fairy godmother to instantly transform my adipose into thin air, I’ll have to burn it off myself.

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My Body Answered Back

Well my friends, my body answered back. The interesting part is that she found a voice from outside of me! I was fully intending on writing a letter response but the gal who coached and trained Chelle, my nutritionist, wrote this to me. Interesting how life works, isn’t it? When the student is ready, the teacher appears. So I thank you, Tabitha, and so does my body. Thank you for caring enough to take the time to craft this reply, and to share this knowledge on behalf of my body. And now for your reading pleasure, I share with you this excellent treasure…hey! I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it! Lol.

Dear BGitB,

This is your body. I have heard your message loud and clear. While your words sting and hurt, I can understand why you have spewed them forth. Now it is my turn to spew forth words.

First things first, I am on your side. As you already know, change is difficult and that goes double for me. You have to understand that I can’t change on the outside until I get things in order on the inside. Rest assured that with your continued hard work, I have begun to change. Eventually the changes I am making in my deep innermost layers will start to migrate outwards for the entire world to witness. Even though you can’t see them, they are there. I am working to the best of my ability directly proportional to the work that you make me do and the fuel that you feed me to do it. The main point is…what YOU do (workouts and eating) affects me, affects how I change and in turn affects the long term goal that you have set for the both of us. I also dream of the day when we can reach that goal, but we have to do this together. It is not you against me or vice versa. We are a team! We are inseparable! Through good and bad, success and failure, triumph and struggle. This pity party is over! It is time to move past it and start working together again. With that in mind, here is what I need that will help me help you. You ready? Ok, let’s go:

1) I like to be pushed, and pushed hard! -Every time we workout it has to be beyond our comfort zone. We have to jump a little bit outside of our box every time. For example, It is not enough to just complete 12 reps of an exercise. If we are aiming for 12, get there and can keep going…we need to keep going. Because if you can do 12 with good form then you can probably do 13….and so on…maybe up to 15, maybe to 18, maybe even to 22.5! The point is we don’t just stop at a number we stop when we get to our limit and we cannot do even one more rep with good safe form. Maybe we have to increase the weight. You have the control to challenge me. Do not step away from this challenge and do not be afraid of it. It is what I really really need to push past the times when I feel like there is no reason to change. Which brings me to my next tip.

2) Change things up! I am a very adaptable machine. I thrive on adapting to stress. Meaning, if you throw stress at me I am going to adapt to it so that the next time you apply the same stress I am going to be ready to handle it. Let me give you a secret…if you continue to change things up and present new challenges I have to continue to adapt. I have no choice. I have to change to deal with that new stress.

3) Don‚Äôt trust that stupid scale! – I get such a bad rap because of that stupid machine. It makes me look lazy and like I am not doing anything. Don‚Äôt get on it. Smash it. Throw it out. It does not tell even a FRACTION of the story of what is going on inside here. You have heard the saying ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt judge a book by it‚Äôs cover‚ÄĚ? Well, I have a new one for you ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt judge fitness journey by a number on a scale‚ÄĚ. You don‚Äôt know how much muscle I can or can‚Äôt build in a month. If I have been inactive for a long time and there are muscles that I need to build to get those workouts done, you are darn tootin‚Äô that I am going to build it! (1lb, 5lbs, 10lbs) If I need it I need it! And once that muscle is built it will work in both our favors to burn off more calories when we are NOT in the gym. Instead, I want you to focus on how your clothes fit, measurements, personal bests, and photographs. Why use one silly stinking number to tell a whole story when there are so many other resources to paint a clearer picture? I am begging you to use them to our advantage.

4) Clean eating, Challenge, Change, Consistency, Commitment ‚Äď As you can see my favorite letter in the alphabet is the letter ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ. I must have your word as your bond that you will adhere to all of these ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ words. When you ‚ÄúBlip‚ÄĚ, I ‚ÄúBlip‚ÄĚ. You admitted in your letter to me that you may not have been 100% committed to our journey together. But, YOU have to be. I need you to be. WE need you to be. OUR GOAL needs you to be. If it helps, write these ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ words down and post them all over the place. I mean EVERYWHERE! Whenever you feel like you are going to stray off the path, try to remember just one of them and repeat it over and over to yourself. Technically all you have to do is remember the letter ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ. You have to make it your favorite letter too! Our goals and our dreams depend on it.

You have to remember that this journey is 90% mental! You control me. I don‚Äôt control you. Take ownership of that control and continue to do everything you can…EVERYTHING YOU CAN to leave NOTHING ON THE TABLE! I believe in you and I hope that you still believe in me. Together we are a team. We have to stay that way. Without you, I don‚Äôt exist, and without me, you don‚Äôt either. I am here for you no matter what, and I will work with you as a team. It is not going to be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. However, with your mind power and heart added to my physical power and ability we can move mountains! WE have to believe that‚Ķour goal depends on it!

Love always,

Your Body

Four Ounces Of Potato

I was really proud of myself today.  I guestimated the size of potato to chop off that would be four ounces and when I weighed it, it was right on the money!

What does this have to do with dance?¬† I mean, yeah, this is primarily a dance blog and all, but it is related.¬† It’s all related.

My diet/lifestyle, my body, my body image, my self-confidence, my ability to dance and perform, how I think about life and myself, they are all inter-related.

In a way, I feel like a woman transformed.¬† Again, it is back to that potato.¬† You all know I hired a nutritionist to help me from being obese and the biggest girl in the ballroom to someone who is fit and normal sized.¬† Well, anyways, of course it involves portion sizes and such.¬† The food scale is a permanent fixture on my kitchen island these days and even stranger than that is that it is totally okay.¬† I use it all the time.¬† But I don’t feel like a food Nazi, and I always thought of “those people who actually weigh out their food” as food Nazis.¬† Go figure.¬† Yes, the scale has become my friend and I’m surprised by the minimal amount of resistance I had to using it.

Kartoffeln der Sorte Marabel

Tilmann at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

So I don’t feel like a food Nazi.¬† Probably because when I’m “on” with my plan, I’m in it from a¬†place of true choice.¬† I want to do it and it seems effortless.¬† The results may not happen as fast as I think they should or whatever, but the actual “doing” of the plan is a good thing.

And then real life, weekends, social events happen.¬† Sometimes I navigate them well.¬† Other times, like Sunday, I totally blow it.¬† I think my motto is two steps forward, one step back.¬† As much as a big part of me wants to change and is willing to do the work of it – namely going to the gym, dancing, doing the food prep and eating on the plan, there is also a part that is not completely on board.¬† It self-sabatoges.¬† As I told my nutritionist, “Samurai Saying: knock down seven times, get up eight…..or eight thousand when it relates to me!”

But still, I notice changes.¬† If I take a “food excursion,” it is still not even close to the magnitude that it used to be.¬† And, after this Sunday when I made some terrifically poor choices around food and drink, I was able to get right back on track Monday morning – and in the past being derailed like this could last days.

That, and my pants are looser, even if they aren’t falling off me (yet).¬† And the potato thing.¬† First, I actually know the size of a proper portion of potato, what four ounces looks like, and I am weighing it out, measuring all my food portions (when I’m with it), and I have discovered that I actually can be disciplined around food, and that it doesn’t always have to be a huge, horrible struggle…except for when it is.

Again, Stef, how is this related to dance?¬† Don’t worry, I’ll get there ūüôā

You all probably noticed that there has been a blogging drought.¬† Part of that was due to the fact that Ivan left the country to go visit Bulgaria, and part of that was because I, for whatever reason, felt the need for a little hiatus from dancing.¬† I didn’t go to ballet.¬† I didn’t go to Inna’s class.¬† I didn’t blog.¬† I just needed a break after Desert Classic and honestly, I can’t exactly pinpoint a reason behind this.¬† A wise friend of mine told me “sometimes you have to step away from your passion to take the next step¬†forward.”¬† I figured I’d focus on my diet (really it’s a lifestyle reset) and working out at the gym.¬† Well, I kinda did, if not as vigorously as I originally envisaged.

I was kind of burned out after the last competition.¬† First off I wasn’t where I wanted to be physically.¬† I also discovered I hadn’t done the mental preparation and how important that is.¬† Then the new dress that I feel highlights my big belly.¬† The bottom line of all this was the both Ivan and I agree we didn’t dance our best together….all except for the last two open dances.¬† This was after the Latin day in which I did mediocre, on the Rhythm day where I did really well in placements and even won the bronze closed scholarship for my age division.¬† After that win, Ivan and I were happy and carefree.¬† We danced those last two dances with joy and freedom, and apparently he even saw some Latin pros he respects watching us and getting into our performance.¬† Other than that moment of glory, though, we were pushing and pulling each other and it was no fun.¬† We wanted to so badly to show something that we ended up showing nothing.

So I came home and was relieved on some level that Ivan would be gone and there would be a break.¬† That, and also I was having some body image stuff going on. Mostly because I see how huge I am, even after all this work since the beginning of the year, and I can’t believe I ever danced when I was bigger than I am now. It is ludicrous that I dance at this size, but I did it originally 83 pounds heavier, and since the beginning of the year at least 30 pounds heavier. It has always been freaking hard, but with as difficult as everything feels these days, I’m amazed I danced before now.

The truth is, I haven’t weighed myself for about a month.¬† I can’t handle seeing the number on the scale if it goes up.¬† I feel like even when I weigh in next Wednesday the scale will be the same.¬† I’m kind of mentally preparing myself for that possibility.¬† Of course I’m hoping that I’ve changed at least a little bit, downward.¬† But anyways, because of the way I’ve been going about this process it hasn’t been a wham bam whiz bang¬†go go¬†go and just do it all 100% and get amazing results fast.¬† I’ve been living life in between the spaces.¬† I have days where I’m spot on, and others where I’m really not.¬† I’m finding that it really is about dusting myself off and getting back to it ASAP and working toward approaching that 100% from where I am, which is currently¬†working the plan probably 80% on average, 95% when I’m really being a RockStar¬†and 70% or less when I’m off the wagon.¬† It ain’t a straight line, that’s for sure!!

But the thing is, something has shifted.¬† Well, a few things, actually.¬† Whatever the scale says next week, I have a realistic idea of proper portion sizes.¬† I have created a habit of doing food prep on Sundays to set myself up to win for the week.¬† And the biggest thing is that, at least for the moment, I’m not beating myself up for my occasional poor choices.¬† I’m not punishing myself for not being thin already.¬† I’m not hating myself because I’m not 13% body fat or whatever¬†like I think I “should” be.¬† Separating a momentary poor choice from shame has been huge.¬† I have never been able to just be like, oops!¬† Choose better next time and learn from the mistake.¬† But somehow I’m in that space at the moment.¬† Maybe because I’m gonna screw up some times – it is part of being human, and I can do nothing, absolutely nothing, in the moment to change my body instantaneously or to change whatever choice I may have made in the past that got me to where I am.¬† In the past, especially since I already feel bad about myself and my body, if I ate out of control it made¬†me feel¬†even worse and I’d sink into a depression and hopeless pit of despair that I was never going to get out of my fat obese body, that it was, in fact, impossible.¬† That actually,¬†God put me on this earth and he designed me so that I could never be skinny.¬† Yes, I thought like that.¬† I still don’t know what the end result will be, but I do know that it can be a hell of a lot better than it is!¬† In any case, somehow I’ve managed to tease apart the entwined mess that says in my brain that my self-worth is dependent and related to my weight.¬† I have equated that the fatter I am, the less worthy I am.¬† When I am fat, I am “less valuable” than other people, I feel worse about myself, and I even feel like less of a human being.¬† I can’t express the amount of shame tied to my body size, shape, and the amount of adipose I’m lugging around.¬† But somehow I’ve found a bubble that says yes, you are in this situation and¬†you can rationally acknowledge and own it and see it in the mirror, but you don’t have to be ashamed for being alive anymore.¬† More than that,¬†you don’t even¬†need to be ashamed to dance anymore.

That being said, I¬†am committed to change, because damnit, I deserve better.¬† However,¬†I don’t know how long this is going to take.¬† I thought it would take me a year to get to my goal.¬† Maybe it will happen that way.¬† Maybe I will go like gangbusters with the clarity, calmness, and centeredness I’m feeling at the moment and bulldoze¬†though the process, making new changes every week, building on what I do that moves me forward until I have an entire new set of habits, and an entire new life and body.¬† Maybe it will take longer because I choose to take detours.¬† The deal is, no matter what, I’m going to be in this fat suit for a while longer.¬† I’m nowhere near shopping in the normal clothing section just yet.

But God bless Ivan.¬† I have been in the question around doing the next competition here in town in September, next month.¬† I already got the days off work and it is local so it is kind of difficult to say no, but then with my lukewarm feelings from Desert Classic and still being so big, I was also feeling kind of like maybe I didn’t want to participate.¬† Back and forth I would go.¬† I should go because I want to support one of the owners and see my friends.¬† I don’t want to go because what am I going to show that’s different from the last competition?¬† God my arms are fat… and on and on in circles.

But Ivan said two things.¬† First, when I came back to my first lesson once Ivan made it back into the U.S. (yay!) we had a good one.¬† It was relaxed but focused.¬† It was a lot of fun and we had good energy.¬† Ivan was like, “if you were maybe not wanting to go to Desert Classic I would have been okay with that.¬† I didn’t really feel like I wanted badly to go dance with you.¬† Also, don’t feel pressure about Galaxy because if you can’t do it, financial or whatever, it’s okay.¬† But after this lesson, I hope you going to be keeping the same energy.¬† I think people going to wanting to see you dancing.¬†¬†And I want to go dancing with you at Galaxy.¬† I want us to build on the two good dances we did at the end of Desert Classic.¬† We always starting and stopping.¬† If we go to one competition and then not go to the next one we get comfortable.¬† We don’t work as hard.¬† We then have to work twice as¬†hard to get back to where we were once again if we don’t keep going to competitions.¬† But mostly I wanting to go with you.¬† We have different goals than most people.¬† Our goals is to¬†have the good energies like we had on those last two dances.¬† I think it would be good to be going.”

The second thing he said was, “Why you not wanna go?¬† Because you fat?”

And I was like, “Yes.”¬† Lol.

“Because we already knowing this.”¬†He replied.¬† “We already seeing this.¬† You think I caring about your fats when we dancing like that?¬† I no¬†caring.¬† In fact I almost forgetting your fats, until you remind me of them once again.¬† I looking at how you moving.¬† I thinking, I can’t wait to seeing the butt¬†move on the time step in the cha cha.¬† I don’t caring that it big.¬† I just excited to see it.”

Leave it to Ivan to put it in a funny way but I think he’s right in some ways.¬†¬†He’s right in that¬†there are¬†moments I forget about how I look.¬† In those moments I’m a free and I just want to move my butt, no matter how big it may be.¬† I’m dancing from a place of what I feel inside.¬† There is no judging or comparing or seeing all my flaws.¬† In those moments, I’m outside of myself and my personality.

So anyways, I am going to do the local comp.¬† This means, I think, that there will be more blogging in the near future.¬† That plus I’m waiting to get photos and/or video from the hubs from the last comp to share, plus I am wanting to do a “book review” series about books on ballroom.¬† It’s an idea I’ve had for a while but the author of a fictional book about ballroom approached me and I agreed to read her book and review it so it is the perfect excuse to finally do it for all the books I’ve enjoyed about my favorite form of dance.

But I digress….

So I’m going to the comp, and until then I’ll be measuring out my four ounces of potato, and hopefully that will translate into being a few (or a whole lot) of ounces lighter over the next month.¬† We’ll see!¬† Because I’m finding that as my body shrinks I feel better in it.¬† I have more confidence.¬† I can’t wait until I really like the reflection in the mirror.¬† What a freedom it would be to wear a sleeveless shirt or shorts or to have a dress I love and feel good competing in.¬† Right now I still see my body as a burden and a horror, though less a horror than before…which is mind-boggling¬†to me.¬† How did I get here?¬† Where was I before I was fat?¬† How did I ever get to 313 pounds?¬† I still feel the same as I did 80 pounds heavier.¬†¬† This stuff messes with my head…

But still, I’m chugging along, and I think I must be doing some things right, mixed in with the mess-ups.¬† First because Ivan wants to dance with me plus we have been doing good work on our recent lessons and, second, because tonight after class Inna walked right over to me and said, “Stefanie, you are looking good!”¬† I don’t know if that was in reference to my weight or my dancing tonight, but either way, I’ll take it!¬† Eventually the things that I do that move me forward will overcome those that pull me back.

In fact, maybe it’s happening on a small scale already.

Melt The Ice

Well, this post is a little bit belated.¬† Reason being I’m moving this weekend, and that takes a lot of time.¬† Between packing, and working, and still getting in a dance lesson or two, life has been going full speed ahead.

But I had the most amazing lesson Friday morning and I just kind of want to process it all.¬† I feel like sometimes I say the same things over and over, and maybe that’s repetitive and boring, but then I think, well, that’s what I do on a dance lesson, you know?¬† I practice the same thing over and over, but I’m discovering the same thing in a different way.¬† It is an entirely new experience each time I do a volta, even if it feels somewhat familiar.¬† This is because I am a different person and I’ve gained new experiences since the last time I did a volta.¬† But then again, when I bring up the subject of connection, say, again and again, I may sound like a broken record.¬† And yet, I am coming to know connection¬†anew – this familiar subject¬†–¬†but¬†as if¬†for the first time.

So anyways, I showed up on my lesson fresh with some ideas in my little brain.¬† One of the things I appreciate most about Ivan is that I feel like I’m an equal.¬† I feel like he will listen to me and my ideas, and that he values my dance experience.¬† I totally acknowledge that he is the more experienced person in the room and has expertise that I don’t posses, and yet, I have things to offer in the dance relationship as well.¬† Other instructors I’ve had have been very invested in keeping the teacher-student (i.e. supperior-inferior) relationship in place.¬† They were not as open to my feedback or ideas.

But with Ivan, I’ve felt that it’s safe to bring things up, ask questions, and even, gasp, have an agenda for my dance lesson.¬† Anyways, the night before I spent some time surfing on YouTube.¬†¬† I was actually looking¬†for music.¬† I was searching for¬†ballroom performances to find music that would be suitable for practicing and that I would like.¬†I happened upon a video of Donnie Burns conducting a lecture.¬† I didn’t watch the entire 45 minutes, but one day I really need to.¬† The bit I did watch was amazing.

You see, Donnie Burns happens to be one of Ivan’s heroes.¬† He used to watch Mr. Burns compete when he was in his prime.¬† So he’s mentioned the man on occasion.

I didn’t know much about the guy but when the video popped up, I was intrigued and decided maybe I should learn a little bit about one of the people Ivan most looks up to as an example.¬† Man!¬† It was amazing the little bit I happened upon.

Basically, Donnie was talking about connection.¬† I think it’s kind of¬†a lost art in ballroom dancing today.¬† Truly.¬† I never really even broached the subject until I danced with Ivan.¬† And the few times it has actually happened, me being actually connected to Ivan¬†on a lesson, have been amazing.¬† Most people are so focused on learning the steps, learning the syllabus and technique, and of course all that is important and good, but so much time and energy is spent on this that no time is taken to develop the connection.¬† Now, I realize I’m generalizing here.¬† And this is just my opinion.¬† I’m sure some instructors do work on connection with their students, but I have to say, I feel like Ivan is kind of a master at it.¬† From day one he brought to my awareness the need to be connected and focused on him as the lead.¬† Not only that, but he’s been working on pulling the emotional expression out of me through that connection.

Anyways, in the little part of the video that I watched, Donnie was talking about how when you first connect with¬†a partner you have to “melt the ice” a little bit.¬† The man has to get through the defenses of the woman so that she will respond to his invitation.¬† Even if you’ve only been apart for¬†a little bit of time, there’s some “ice” that has built up that must be melted.¬† This is a result of just the daily experiences and stresses of living.¬† But through connecting, the ice can melt.¬† You know it’s melted when you breathe together, the man begins to move, and the woman will settle on the hip in preparation to move.¬†(This was in the context of Latin dancing, by the way).

Donnie explained that dancing in a partnership isn’t about the man dancing with the inconvenience of a woman that he has to push and pull here and there.¬† He explained that 90% of the leads in the Rumba, say, are actually to stop the woman, not to start her.¬† She will move, on her own, if only the man will allow her to do so.¬† Suddenly, the dance becomes effortless, a physical, mental and spiritual joint experience.

And Donnie¬†said one last thing that really stuck with me.¬† He said that the only way to dance, was to dance.¬† That just like the lyrics don’t make a song, the steps alone, don’t make a dance.¬† Wow, I thought.¬† This is why I do this.¬† It’s about melting the ice, being connected, and dancing.¬† This guy’s a freakin’ genius!¬† No wonder he was a World Champion so many times.¬† No wonder Ivan idolizes him.¬† He’s got some good things to say.

So anyways, I had all this on my brain as I walked into my lesson.¬† I’ve been thinking for a while now that it is important that Ivan back off a little, meaning that he not help me as much when we are dancing.¬† Why?¬† Well, because when he¬†makes it possible for me to move when really I shouldn’t be able to, because on my own I’d be stuck, or off-balance, then I don’t get the kinetic feedback that something is amiss.¬† I don’t have the opportunity to correct myself.¬† Nor do I begin to build the muscle memory necessary to perform these movements properly.¬† Also, it causes both of us to expend a lot of energy in the tension of the physical connection.¬† And, I also realized, that I actually can’t move as well.¬† There is a restriction I experience when the lead is too strong.¬† The help Ivan is used to providing turns out to be a hinderance at this¬†point.

But the thing is, that I think that it is probably just as hard for Ivan to back off as it is for me to step up and drive forward forcefully.  But really, it is something we need to work on, I think, in our partnership, to improve the quality of our collective dancing.

Alright, so I began the lesson spewing all these thoughts out into the ethers, hoping that Ivan would “get” what I was blabbering on about.¬† Lucky enough for me, he totally did!

We began with Rumba.  And, we began with the simplest of actions, the hand connection at the start of the dance, but it was amazing.  Why?  Well, the whole point of the hand connection is to connect the body and the core.  The hand connection translates into a connection beyond the physical, though it also includes the physical.  In any case, this time, on this particular morning, I actually began by looking Ivan directly in the eyes.  I actually allowed my defenses to come down for just a second.  I became completely focused on Ivan, kind of the feeling I had when we danced with our eyes closed, when I had to rely on all my peripheral senses to follow his lead.  But I discovered this morning that it is also possible to feel that expansiveness with eyes open.  And magic happened:  Ivan began to move toward me, and just like what had happened in the video of Donnie Burns, Ivan and I breathed together and I settled onto my hip before we began the first step.  It felt as smooth and effortless a hot knife slicing butter.

And then, well, my usual programs began running.¬† I messed up a step.¬† Fell off of balance.¬† I lost concentration and ergo connection.¬† But Ivan wasn’t going to let me off the hook so easily.¬†¬† He was like, “You doing so well, then you gone again.¬† You show me a little bit of your world, then you shut the window again.¬† Why you shut the window?”

I didn’t have time to respond.¬† Ivan grabbed my hand and pointed upwards.¬† The studio where we were practicing is decorated like a¬†beach get-away and there are a bunch of floaty rings and beach balls hanging from the ceiling.¬† He pointed to one of the floating rings and said, “You only show me a little peep hole into your world.¬† Why you do that?¬† Your world is so bright and colorful.¬† Share it.”

Inside, I was processing all this.¬† Like, really, I thought, you actually want to see what’s going on inside me?¬† You are actually interested?¬† I have to come clear here and say that so much of my defenses and hiding have to do with not feeling good enough, feminine enough, pretty enough, and sexy enough to really be worth being seen.¬† And, a lot of that has to do with my physical¬†appearance.¬† Like, I will connect and show myself to a point, the point where it is comfortable, the point where I’m still holding a person at arm’s length.¬† I’m still blocking access to the inner sanctum of my essence, if you will, because I allow my personal demons and insecurities to get in the way.

But Ivan seemed so genuine, and we’ve been dancing together for¬† like 10 months or so, and he’s become a trusted friend.¬† If¬†I were to let someone in, really in, wouldn’t he be a good choice?¬† In the context of dancing, of course!¬† So something inside me decided in that moment to just let go.¬† And I did.¬† And we connected.¬† I’ve never looked that clearly, directly, and openly into Ivan’s eyes.¬† You know, one of them is half a different color.¬† Anyways, he’s always been there, been available.¬† I’ve been the one not open.¬† So when I decided to connect, really connect, he was right there ready for me.

“Wow.”¬† I said.

Honestly, I don’t know that I can fully capture the feeling of that experience in words.¬† All I can say, is that there was an entirely different quality to our movements.¬† We were in unison.¬† I could almost tell what he was going to do before he did it.¬† I began to tear up.¬† It brought up some emotion inside me.¬† Perhaps because I felt vulnerable.¬† Perhaps because it felt good.

I realized that one thing Ivan has always created the space for on our lessons was to actually enjoy the dancing.¬† Like the time he grabbed my hand and put it on various parts of his body, even his butt!¬† Saying, “Hello, I am Ivan.”¬† And really letting me know that it was okay to touch him while we were dancing and playing the parts that are played on the dance floor.¬† But again, I’d permissioned myself to only go so far.¬† “Okay,” I thought, “I get now that it is okay to touch Ivan.”¬† I still get a little shy about it now and then, but for the most part, I’ve accepted that he’s okay with me touching him.¬† The part I held back on was actually allowing myself to enjoy it.

What do I mean by that?¬† Well, I was keeping the experience at arm’s length, once again.¬† Letting the touching be okay, but keeping it very aloof, very disconnected…what I was thinking was “professional” or “appropriate.”¬† I didn’t actually let it be enjoyable.¬† I kept that feeling at bay.

But here’s the thing….natrually, when we are touched, by something pleasant, like a feather, or another person gently, or like getting a massage or something….it feels good.¬† It is natural for touch to feel good (when it is appropriate, safe, healthy, nice touch).

And yet there is a part of me that is like, for whatever reason I haven’t yet deciphered, that it’s not okay to enjoy this touch.

But the kicker is that the whole point of dancing is to feel and to actually enjoy it!¬† People can sense when you are faking that, just going through the motions, and when you are actually feeling it, emoting it.¬† I was blocking the very thing that brings meaning to my dancing!¬† What’s up with that!?!?

I can’t tell you how many times Ivan has demonstrated this to me.¬† He will show me what it is like to touch someone and to have them not react.¬† It is disconnected, off-putting, unexciting.¬† Part of what makes Ivan and Marietta’s dancing so mesmerizing is that they each respond to the touch of the other.¬† They look at where they were touched, or express with their face and body how it felt to be touched.¬† But me, I’m a cold fish.¬† Poor Ivan is reacting to me, but I’m unresponsive as a raw potato.¬† How annoying would that be to dance with?

But hey, I’m not all bad.¬† Just today, I was more aggressive on my Rumba walks, and then I just made all sorts of breathing noises and faces during my cha-cha which to me felt over-the-top, excessive, loud, uncomfortable, and crazy, but to Ivan, well, he just said, “You make me so happy now!”¬† Go me!

And heck, I’m opening up a little, at least.¬† Ivan got a glimpse inside me.¬† And the truth is, that I want to open the windows wide open.¬† Inside, I want to just let spirit fly!¬† I want to feel, and connect.¬† I suppose that is why I even want to dance.¬† And you know what, I’m on my way.¬† I’m getting there.¬† I’m getting closer and closer to that vision every time I practice.

Alas, there is still much to work on.¬†But I’m reminded of this thing I saw on Facebook just the other day:

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. -Martha Graham

Well now.¬† I’m deciding right¬†this instant¬†that I am a great dancer!¬† I certainly have great passion for this medium.¬† And well, maybe my inner great dancer is¬†not yet fully expressed, but she’s in there, I just know it!¬† She’s banging on the door to come out, and sometimes I even open it for her to play.

And yet, I know there is still more to be done.¬† For instance, yesterday after my lesson with Ivan, I decided to stay and practice a bit.¬† I popped on my headphones and was about to begin and this gorgeous blond lady walks in the studio.¬† Seconds ago it had been people I knew, now there was this stranger, and she was lovely to boot.¬† I was almost going to leave just because of that!¬† I always feel like I don’t want to take up any of the floor space at a studio.¬† It is one thing when on an actual lesson, but to just be by myself and practice…well, I don’t know if there are any “rules” about that, but I’d guess that couples with a teacher¬†take precedence.¬† And the studio was becoming more busy and crowded.¬† Certainly I wouldn’t want to get in their way.¬† But then, I cow myself in.¬† I don’t go around the room in a big circle to practice my Samba walks or Rumba walks like I want to.¬† Instead, I¬†grab a little corner in the back, and even then I worry about being in the way of people trying to get to the bathroom, or the instructors getting to the office.¬† I mean, like, couldn’t they um, just walk around me?¬† I’m not that important.¬† I’m not being disrespectful or obnoxious, right?¬† Or am I?¬† I ended up turning with my face to the back wall because I was so concerned about everyone else and what they might think of me that I had to physically turn myself around to block it out!¬† Isn’t this insane?¬† And also, it reveals to me that I’m not willing to hold my own space, to claim my spot on the dance floor.¬† I had a realization that I really was being run by my need to look good (or rather, not look bad!), my need to be approved of, my need to be liked….and…get this….by people I didn’t even know!¬† By people who probably weren’t even watching me!¬† (But what if they were? Oh shut up you stupid little voice!)¬†¬†So what if they were!¬† It’s crowded in my head sometimes, I tell you….

And sometimes it’s not.¬† Like when I’m connected and just dancing….

And yet, in that instance, I was paralyzed.¬† Yes, during my practice session, I did a little of this and a¬†little of that, but I stopped¬†myself from really feeling anything, really dancing full-out.¬† For instance, I was touched by this¬†one song, “Live¬†Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw and wanted (inside) to dance really big and expansive.¬† But did¬†I?¬† No.¬† It kinda makes me want to cry, this editing, this blocking.¬† Why do I do this to myself?¬† Actually, who even cares?¬† I do it now¬†and it doesn’t serve me.

It’s time to change.

And I mean that on a lot of different levels.

And life is going to change…tomorrow.¬† I’m moving houses which will mean a new environment and a fresh opportunity to claim and organize my new living space.¬† Also, lots is going on “behind the scenes” for me emotionally, though dancing and other¬†means.¬† I’m having a lot of time to reflect, for introspection, especially during my long commute to work,¬†and I’ve come to a few decisions about who I want to become in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, physically and mentally.

Remember that whole thing about being a broken record?¬† Well, I’ve become one to myself.¬† I’m sick of hearing myself say the same stupid things to myself about myself all the time.¬† So it’s time to take action.¬† A wise friend once told me, “If you want to change, you have to change.”¬† Well, I want some changes, so I guess I must make the changes necessary to create them.

It’s way past¬†time for me to stop the insanity, be who I am meant to be, and just¬†let that be enough.¬† It’s time to let my emotions shine though my dancing and to get out of my own¬†way.¬† It’s time for me¬†to claim my space on the dance floor and to stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking.¬† It’s time to really commit to creating the body I deserve and desire through choices that serve me each and every day.¬† It’s time to stop squandering my days as if they are not numbered.¬† It’s time to live a life I love, love the life I live, and love myself.¬† It’s time to create myself anew.

And, you know what?

It’s time to melt the damn ice!