A Rainy Day: Shoot Ivan, And Then He Goes Down To Hell

Yesterday I awoke to grey skies, frigid air, and fat wet drops beading upon my car.

Desert rain is a wonderful thing. There is nothing like the smell of creosote and wet earth. Since we get rain so infrequently I tend to really enjoy rainy days and overcast skies, even if it makes driving a little bit scary.

But I braved the weather (and traffic) so I could dance – I mean what else could propel me out of bed on a day that just begs to be spent in pajamas, under the bed sheets, with a cup of hot tea and a good book? You are right. Nothing.

But dance did rouse me and I met Ivan for a double lesson and we continued to work on our routines. And also, something kind of funny happened. We never discussed it, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we are working on an open Mambo routine. Actually, this started a few lessons ago, but today we took it to a new level.

Now here is a funny aside for you…from what Ivan tells me, dancers trained in Europe in the International Latin style have a very difficult time picking out the “2” count in the Mambo. For years and years, Ivan says, he and other dancers he knew danced off the timing, and started on the “1” count because that is what they could hear. In any case, these foreigners finally devised a way to locate the “2” count by pretending the song was for a Cha Cha! So, for instance, if you count a Mambo as a very fast Cha Cha you can find the “2” fairly easy. In fact, I remember Rado sharing this same tidbit at the dance camp! In any case, I find this amusing.

But I can relate. The very first partner dance I ever did was when I went to Spain. I went abroad for a summer of classes. An enterprising dance instructor talked many of my classmates into meeting at a local bar for Salsa lessons while we were at school. So for about a month and a half twice a week I went to a bar, drank Fanta orange with Malibu, and learned Salsa with my main partner who was from Algeria. Wow, when I write it like that, my life kind of sounds exciting!

salsa1

Anyways, I loved it!

Can you believe this is me?!

Can you believe this is me?!

But of course in Salsa you start on the “1” count. This is what I was used to when it came to Latin music. So when my very first ballroom instructor began teaching me Mambo, I totally thought he was off the beat! LOL. I danced along with him, but I secretly thought he couldn’t hear the music properly! It took a long time to hone in on the “2” count, but ironically enough, now that I primarily dance Mambo, it feels awkward to dance on the “1” beat!

salsa3

Okay, so back to my narrative.

We are working on this Mambo routine which is kind of exciting to me because it’s the first American Rhythm dance we’ve worked on beyond syllabus steps. I think I just asked for “cardio” in my lesson and this was the result. But anyways, just like in the Rumba and Cha Cha that we’ve already worked on, I need to know the choreography, the timing, the sequence of the steps. So the lesson was all about this, and it was pretty awesome.

Here’s the thing, though – in the beginning of the routine there are a lot of distinct steps, out of hold, and this makes them easy to remember in sequence. In the middle of the routine, however, I do about 15 left-right-left-hold (meaning balance on the left leg with the right leg free and available to move) steps. They all look different because we are doing different things with our arms and different facings in relation to the dance floor. But when it comes to remembering the routine, by myself, it gets tricky!

Seriously, the first hurdle is just knowing the steps with the proper timing. We didn’t even broach technique, character, performance, accenting, etc. But Ivan helped me. First, he laid down on the floor. You see, I was to do this by myself, and Ivan had had a late night involving wine heh heh heh. Second, we counted the steps and I did them over and over. The first few times, he’d prompt me when I was drawing a blank. By the end of the lesson, I pretty much had it. I say pretty much because I’m still slow – my brain is still working on overdrive to remember what comes next – but that is okay. Because now even if I have to pause and think, I can run through the routine on my own.

But the other thing Ivan did to help was to label certain distinguishing characteristics of the mostly similar steps. For instance, the first step, doing the left-right-left hold ends with me pointing forward with my left hand. We labeled this “Shoot Ivan.” Next in the sequence, I turn my partner lifting my left arm high and my right arm low. For whatever reason we focused on the low arm and Ivan called this move, “Send Ivan to Hell.” I laughed at these stupid names, but you know what? It helped me remember what was coming and it even makes a little bit of sense. I mean, you have to shoot Ivan first before you can send him to Hell – you know? LOL.

So anyways, the majority of my lesson was just getting clear on the what I’m supposed to be doing. Once we had done the choreography, and by “we” I mean me by myself, I asked Ivan to review the proper motion for the basic step. Why? For a few reasons. First, it’s been a long time since I reviewed the proper motion, much less danced the American Styles with any consistency. Second, because I noticed that I looked different doing it than Ivan did. Well, it was a great thing to request. More and more I find that going back to the very basics is so important and elucidating for more complicated steps and choreography. Knowing how to move properly in the basic sets me up for moving properly in every step.

So here’s what I learned. Well, probably more like “remembered” because I swear I’ve been told this stuff before but hey, if you don’t use it you lose it! (There is no Mambo in Inna’s class and Ivan and I have been focusing on Latin lately.) But anyways, what I “remembered” is that when doing the basic step you first place the foot (going forward or backward) and then even as you are changing your weight to that placed foot, you are actually propelling yourself in the opposite direction to land on the opposite foot. For instance, if you place the foot back, at the same time, as you are committing your body weight to the back foot, you are simultaneously shifting it forward to land on the next step on the opposite leg and foot which is stepping forward. The same holds true for the front step with the left foot, placing it but then shifting the body weight on to the back foot almost immediately. (One note here: the steps described are from the perspective of the lady (a.k.a. my perspective – because, after all, that is the most important perspective, no? lol).

Not only does this way of thinking about the basic Mambo step exemplify proper technique, but it also will change the look of the step, and even better, it will make dancing it with a partner easier and more in unison if both partners are doing it properly.

So I guess that’s the meat of my latest adventures. After my lesson, I made my way to a ballet class. It was pretty cool and in some parts easy but others challenging. I do believe that I will be sore tomorrow from the work I did today. And also, we worked on turns. And just by the way, turns from 5th position suck! LOL. Seriously, they are so hard, especially for someone with a tight Achilles Tendon and limited plie’ (AKA me) but we practiced them nonetheless. We did chaine’ turns across the floor which I managed fairly well, and weirdly I don’t get dizzy actually doing them, but I get extremely dizzy upon stopping (and I remember a time where I didn’t get dizzy anymore at all!), and then we did the turns from 5th. Well, mostly I did them average-like to poorly, but there was one really lovely turn! And you know what? I want to celebrate that one lovely turn because it was uplifted, and I looked like I was almost floating, and I held the posse position for just a fraction of a second longer than necessary with such beautiful control and center, placing my foot in 5th gracefully and solidly to end it. It was awesome! Of course, right after that the next 3 turns sucked ass, but hey, but you know, that’s what dancing is, right? Lots of practice to find that balanced uplifted strong space. 9 times out of 10, or even 99 out of 100, I blow it, or something is “off” – but then that 10th or 100th time it clicks and is an out-of-the-body experience of perfection. Well, at least that is how it feels to me.

So shoot Ivan and send him to hell! It’s been a good day to dance. And, to echo a Klingon sentiment (because I am a total nerd and Trekkie), it would be a good day to die. Because if I died today, well, I was in my process, doing what I love to do, working towards my potential. There is no worthier pursuit, no better way to spend my time. And for that, my friends, I am grateful.

The end.

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My Expensive Alien Hand

I’m so glad that holidays are finally over!  Why?  Because they really threw a wrench in my normal routine.  Dance classes were cancelled, or I was working extra hours to make up the time taken off.  I’ve missed two weeks of ballet, three weeks of Inna’s class, and only seen a little bit of Mr. Ivan.

But a few days ago I got back to ballet and though I screw up a lot, and it’s difficult, there are also moments where my body remembers how to be aligned properly and balance.  In those moments I feel open and free.  It’s pretty amazing.  But, sadly, I ended up straining my left calf.  It takes quite a bit of brute force to maintain some of the required positions, especially in my current body size, and my standing leg was strained to the point of shaking from fatigue while my working leg was doing what it needed to do.  I ended up bowing out of doing jumps, but did finish the class and I did go to see Ivan afterwards for a lesson.

It wasn’t actually injured, and with some ice and heat and lots of stretching, it’s already pretty much back to normal, though I skipped ballet the following night because I knew the teacher tonight does a ton of jumps and I didn’t want to risk injuring myself or having to sit out half of the class.

Otherwise, my legs feel good, worked out, slightly sore, and I can see a faint glimmer of their old dancing shape beginning to emerge.  Of course being off for over two weeks hasn’t been ideal, but I’m looking forward to the strength, flexibility, and lengthening that will be coming soon after more consistent attendance.

As far as things with Ivan go, we are continuing to work on our routines, and we began to develop the idea for a showcase number to that song “True Colors” from Glee that was really inspiring to me (http://vimeo.com/37544876) mentioned in a previous post.  I love that Ivan is so cool about stuff like this.  It means a lot to me – there is a lot of my own personal story that I want to put in the dance, and it’s really special to get to create something to express myself in this way.

And I also learned a new Cha Cha Step:

A new step in the Cha Cha

But the big thing that remains is the weight.  I’ve ordered a new diet plan which arrived early this week and the plan is to commit to that and more exercise and to show up looking different at the next competition, (which, if you haven’t seen on the Facebook page, I’m looking for advice on which competitions to go to this year).  That’s honestly my main focus (besides work) right now.

As Ivan says, I could stop dancing today but if I lost the weight than everything would change even without any practice.  Well, that isn’t gonna happen because I love it too much and dancing is part of my healing process, but I’ve had enough of my belly getting in the way of stretching, and being limited in what I can do dance-wise because of my body.  I can’t wait to not worry about what I’m going to wear and spend time finding the outfit that will make me look the least fat.  It’s for the birds.  Enough is enough.  This is my year.  It has to be.  I’ve decided.  Because I have big aspirations and this is going to get me closer. I’m drawing my line in the sand, declaring my intention, and refusing to let this hinder me any more.  And so far this diet plan is working really well for me.  I’ve been able to stick to it all week, and I don’t feel stressed out about it or like I’m starving or anything.  The biggest problem is that there is mandatory overtime right now so even without exercise or a dance lesson, I’m putting in 12 hour days, and working weekends.  Things will get better once the peak season is over, but the diet thing is a big step in the right direction and I’m going to get in whatever activity I can for now (like I’m committed to always using the stairs at work…a small thing but I think it will add up over time), with plans to make it more scheduled in the future.

Speaking of, even though I had to work today, I was able to schedule it so that I could fit a double lesson in with Ivan this morning.  I think this post is long enough so I’ll just mention two things.  First, I had a Dr. Strangelove/Alien Hand Syndrome moment this morning.

Dr strangelove peter sellers

By Directed by Stanley Kubrick, distributed by Columbia Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like for reals, yo!  We all know I have arm styling issues. As Ivan said, teasingly, “On Alemana, I never know what arms you gonna use.  It always a surprise.  And always you look dyslexic like a chicken.”  (Ivan Bulgarian-English translation of dyslexic is uncoordinated even though it doesn’t mean anything close to that!)

Well, anyways, we are working on perfecting the Cha Cha routine, still breaking down each count and movement so I will know what I am doing, and on this one part I’m supposed to pause and look back at Ivan and I decided I’d put my arm on my neck for styling but yeah, it didn’t work so well.  My arm kind of spasmed this way and that, unsure of where to place itself.  It almost had a mind of its own, but it was a very confused mind.  I just thought it was funny and it made me think of Dr. Strangelove Syndrome.  I’m weird like that.

The second thing I’ll mention has to do with a comment Ivan made while we were dancing.  I was doing a move and he was like, “No!  Why you rushing?  This is expensive movement.  Show how expensive it is.”  It was a weird way to phrase it, but it is actually a very, very true statement.  Every step I’ve learned, every step I work to perfect is expensive…in the literal sense it has cost me money and time and effort.  But just like Chanel perfume or a pair of Versace gloves, you can tell the quality, the expense that went into making it.  Well, that’s how I want to highlight my dancing, as a luxurious and beautiful expression, the quality of the movement demonstrated in a millisecond, and the money, time, and effort behind making it seem effortless recognized by those with the eyes to see.  I mean we all want to look like the pros when we dance, but are we willing to “pay our dues” and work as if we were pros, even if we are not?  I want to clothe myself in the finest metaphorical silk, but am I willing to weave the silk to make the cloth in the first place?

It makes me think of this status post from Joy In Motion.  If you haven’t liked her page, go do so.  She’s primarily about Lindy Hop but shares all sorts of wonderful dance-related thoughts, blog posts, and videos.  I’ve enjoyed following her on “the Facebook.”  Anyways, here is the quote:

“By nature, we humans shrink from anything that seems possibly painful or overtly difficult. We bring this natural tendency to our practice of any skill. Once we grow adept at some aspect of this skill, generally one that comes more easily to us, we prefer to practice this element over and over. Our skill becomes lopsided as we avoid our weaknesses. Knowing that in our practice we can let down our guard, since we are not being watched or under pressure to perform, we bring to this a kind of dispersed attention. We tend to also be quite conventional in our practice routines. We generally follow what others have done, performing the accepted exercises for these skills.

This is the path of amateurs. To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.

First, you resist the temptation to be nice to yourself. You become your own worst critic; you see your work as if through the eyes of others. You recognize your weaknesses, precisely the elements you are not good at. Those are the aspects you give precedence to in your practice. You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring. Second, you resist the lure of easing up on your focus. You train yourself to concentrate in practice with double the intensity, as if it were the real thing times two. In devising your own routines, you become as creative as possible. You invent exercises that work upon your weaknesses. You give yourself arbitrary deadlines to meet certain standards, constantly pushing yourself past perceived limits. In this way you develop your own standards for excellence, generally higher than those of others.

In the end, your five hours of intense, focused work are the equivalent of ten for most people. Soon enough you will see the results of such practice, and others will marvel at the apparent ease in which you accomplish your deeds.”

– Robert Greene

Well, it blew my mind.  And, it made me want to work harder!  I found it extremely motivating, and it also helped me focus my intent behind my new diet.  So, weird Alien hand moves aside, I’m really excited about the coming year and where my dancing will take me.  The only caveat to the above quote is that while being a critic of my weaknesses, I pledge to hold them compassionately.   It’s way too easy for me to be hard on myself, so I intend to do the good work as suggested by this Robert Greene, but in a kind, self-loving context – this doesn’t mean being blind to my faults, denying them, or excusing them, but it does mean loving myself while pushing myself in a bold, disciplined, focused and intense manner.  With any luck, I will generate results similar to this other gem of “the Facebook,” Rick, a very inspiring dude down from 426 pounds!!

And I guess that’s it for now!  I uploaded some fun pics from the dance camp on the Facebook page for BGintheB and videos will follow shortly of the pro show from the dance camp, choreography presented, as well as video from the Imperial Ballroom Holiday Showcase (including the routine that won the Ohio Star Ball Showdance for the International Ballroom division from Artem and Inna)  – it just takes a long time to upload them from my phone, so if you haven’t liked it yet, remember I do post some extra content there.

So for now, good night!

You Growing So Quickly!

Today, I must say, was a good lesson.

I don’t know why some days are just better than others and today turned out to be loads of fun, a good work out, and left me feeling as bubbly as a shaken champagne bottle.

I walked into the studio and caught Ivan doing something in front of the mirror.

“What were you doing?”

After a pause, “Looking at myself.”

That’s Ivan for you!  Unabashed.  I hope to get that comfortable with myself one day.

“I seeing how I look, if I am handsome.”

“Oh Ivan, I think like every female in my life thinks you are handsome.  My mom has mentioned it.  My mother-in-law, when we were at Galaxy, and the subject came up said, ‘I may be old, but I’m not blind!’  Yes, Ivan, I often get comments about how lucky I am to dance with someone so handsome.”

He glowed.  His inner rooster puffed out his chest.  He stood a little straighter.  I think if I can compliment him (or Marietta, or Katie, or whomever is going to dance with him) before we begin at a competition, he’d dance better, with more confidence.  There is something about having your partner compliment you, like what you are doing or how you look, that just is encouraging and invigorating.

I told him, “Maybe you should say something nice to Marietta before you dance.  And just think how you’d dance if she said something nice to you?”

“I used to.  But now, even if I say something, she not believing me.”

“Well, don’t worry about it.  Just say something nice and leave it at that.”

Maybe he’ll take my advice.  Doubtful, but maybe.  At least the took the advice in the moment.

“You so beautiful!”

“Thanks Ivan.”

So we began with Foxtrot and from the get-go I was connecting and following pretty well.  I was just not thinking, just dancing, just being, and it makes things so much simpler.  The more I get out of my head and into my body, the better I seem to do.  I didn’t even know it, but we were dancing the International Standard Foxtrot.  How could I not know this?  Well, I just thought I was doing a step in the Smooth Foxtrot where you don’t close the feet but pass them.  Silly me.

So I had a moment of brilliance.  I was tuned in, really connected and following, and Ivan moved very, very slowly, leading me into a develope’ at like half speed.  But I did it!  I had great balance.  He was like, “Wow!”

And the best part was, that wasn’t the only “Wow!” on the lesson!!!

Next was the Tango.  Again, good frame, and snap, snap, snap.  My head whipped left and right quick as if I were watching a match between Borg and McEnroe as we went into Promenade and back.  “Good!”  Said Ivan.  Only one small mishap – I kicked him on accident doing some Gauchos.  But he just kicked me back and we laughed.

Then Waltz.  Nothing really remarkable on that one, but I did get to learn a new step with a ronde’ and develope’.

Then Viennese Waltz.  “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler On The Roof” was the song.  So I started singing.

“How you know this?”  Asked Ivan.

“It’s from a musical – Fiddler On The Roof.”

“You so smart!  You know so much!”

“Don’t they have musicals in Bulgaria?”

“No.  No musicals in Bulgaria.”

I don’t know if I believe him, but whatever.  He was so impressed I knew the song.  Why, I wonder?  Most songs I don’t know and he’s never been impressed before.

All the Smooth dances complete, we moved on to Rhythm.

I was enjoying myself doing the Rumba and Ivan encouraged me to dance in 360 degrees.  To pay attention to my back, not just my front.  To make my shoulders and upper back move as much as my feet.  To style my arms so that I don’t look the same as everyone else, because as Ivan puts it, “You not like everyone else.”

I’m getting much better at the Spiral turn, which is a triumph.  It helps just to have that little extra help with balance holding on to Ivan’s hand, but I’m getting more and more independent.  It’s this weird dance between relying on my partner and yet being fully self-sufficient.  Like I could do everything I’m doing on my own, but I’m choosing to do it with a little assist from my partner.  Sometimes it’s not that centered, though, and I rely on my partner too much!  On other moves I try too hard to do it all on my own.  No wonder it takes a long time to develop a proper and good connection, but I digress.

So we were dancing and I was following so well that Ivan, I guess, felt like he could lead me into stuff I haven’t exactly learned.  He dipped me over his knee, and I bent like a wet noodle into a back bend.  It is like I got there and then I realized what was going on.  If I had thought about it, I’d probably have stiffened up, lost my balance, resisted.  But it happened so quickly – quicker than I could think about it, and I did this move I wouldn’t expect my body to do so easily first thing in the morning…or anytime during the day, really.  Once again, I don’t know my own limits.  They are much more expansive than I’d have thought.

“You’ve never done that with me before, Ivan.”  I say as he changes the music.

“I don’t want to telling you so you no thinking.”

That’s probably a good thing.

Next, the highlight of the lesson.  It rivals the time Ivan taught me the move at the end of the Rumba routine.  The one where I was like, “You want me to do what?”

It was a split.  Him holding me up.  Me giving him my left leg, him stretching me into the splits (I may be bigger, but I’m pretty dang flexible – I can still do the splits, believe it or not!), me opening my arm.

“Wow! This so good!  Why we not put this in our routine?  Fuck!”  He said.  He has that new penchant for cussing, just because he can.  It was a good-natured remark…but “Dang it!” probably would have been more to the point.

He made me do it again, and I was sure he was going to drop me.  I can’t believe he could support all this weight.  Seriously, he was holding at least 90% of me up, maybe more!

Not only did he make me do the split thing, but then he dragged me around, doing this move I’ve seen him do with Marietta.  Now she has a bit more space between her ribcage and belly so she can really collapse toward him, but still, I was impressed he was moving me at all, still holding me up.

“You have to trusting me.”

“Yeah, Ivan, you’re right.  I just can’t believe you can hold me up like that.  It makes me scared.”

On the up side, if I lose more weight then I will really not fear doing these tricks as I’m doing them now and he is handling them.

“I strong.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Wow, your dancing is growing so quickly.  You growing so much!”

“Well, you’re giving me more to do.”

So we then danced an unremarkable Cha Cha, except I was doing “Pah!” and “Sha!” expressions, practicing the performance element of the dance, and then it was on to Samba.

I ask him to review the step he taught me for the Latin Samba.  We do that and then he starts in on Samba Rolls.  He’s tried them with me once before, but its trial by fire.  He doesn’t show me the move, he just wraps is arms around me and tells me to step, front, side, together, back, side together, while dragging me where I’m supposed to go and twisting my upper body and arms around in a large circle.  It was pretty horrendous, but that’s okay.  After all I did so well today, I don’t mind not getting this one.

The lesson ends and we part with our usual bear hug.

“What are you doing the rest of the day, Ivan?”

“I’m renting a machine to plow the earth.”

Ivan was able to purchase a horse property recently and I’m so happy for him.  It was one of his dreams to have a large property like that and I guess they are putting in irrigation tomorrow so he has to till the earth in preparation.  Not your typical life for a professional dancer, I know, but there’s nothing typical about Ivan and Marietta.  She’s studying astronomy and loves the science of the cosmos.  They have a life outside of dancing, which is not something you usually see in dancers of their level, I think.

“I like this lesson today.” Ivan says as he closes the door and jumps on his Vespa.

Me too, Ivan.  Me too.

Dancing In Heaven

Finally!  Though not fully healed, I’m breathing well enough to have my first dance lesson in like two weeks.

It’s so very interesting to me how my obsession with dancing waxes and wanes over time.  There are moments when I am compulsive about it.  I want to spend every second on a dance lesson, or practicing, or watching endless hours of internet videos of both students and professionals dancing.

Then there are times when I don’t dance, like these past two weeks when I was sick, and it is somehow okay that I’m not spending every waking hour dreaming about dance.  How odd.

But one thing is certain:  it feels really good to dance, espeically after a little hiatus.  I forget how cleansing it is for me on so many levels when I am without it for a while.  Physically, psychologically, emotionally it’s like getting purified by a soft spring rain when I make the space in my life to dance.

Anyways, I showed up to my lesson kind of lukewarm about the prospect but, even so, amazing things happened.  For one, by the end of the lesson Ivan was happy.  He told me, “You give me energy.  Like the past three days have been hard to sleep.  Now, I feel good.”  That was amazing to me because I didn’t feel like my usual ebullient self.  I was just kind of neutrally present but not effervescent.  Just by dancing together, both of our spirits were lifted.

Second, we worked on our frame.  Ivan encouraged me to dance softly connected, gently holding on.  I about cried when we danced the waltz, it was so beautiful.  It reminded me of one of our first dance lessons.  Ivan told me that one day maybe we’d dance together in Heaven.  I don’t remember the context of the conversation or anything, but the comment stuck with me.  Like somewhere on a soul-level I do believe that after we die we will meet up in the afterlife and dance together once again, swirling freely in rivers of energy, unencumbered by our bodies, floating among the clouds.  And the dancing we did yesterday was probably about as close as I could come in real life to experiencing that.  We were floating across the floor on strains of music rather than clouds, but just the same, it was a little piece of Heaven here on earth.

Also, I managed to dance for a full five minutes doing a Foxtrot.  That is quite a cardiovascular accomplishment for me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like doing a Cha Cha for five minutes, but still, pretty good, especially after a bad cold.  I was shocked.

Lastly, hugs.  Ivan and I always hug to greet one another and to say goodbye.  Not like, superficial quick squeezes, but rather full-on bear hugs.  I was like, “Ohhhhh Ivan, I missed you.”  And he was like, “Ohhhhhh Mocha, I missed you.”  He said, “I miss the hugs.”

“But Ivan, you hug all your students.  Don’t you?”

“Yes. But it’s different hugs with you.”

“Awwwww.  Well, I do have a lot of body to hug!”

We laughed.  But there is nothing better than a good, heartfelt, bear hug from a friend.

It makes me think that there are miracles everywhere in life if only I have the eyes to see them.  And a lot of them happen for me when dancing.

Yep, dancing is my Heaven.

You Want To Meet at WHAT time???!!!

At the end of my lesson on Thursday, Ivan told me that he was going skiing this weekend in Payson to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

“Have fun and be safe,” I said.  “I will probably see you next Tuesday, then.”

For some reason, maybe because it would be 4 days without practice, Ivan said, “Come for a lesson tomorrow.  I give you buy one get one free.”

I couldn’t turn that down so I said “Well, Ivan, I work until 5pm so it’d have to be like 6pm.”

“Let me check my schedule.”

And we agreed he would call me to confirm the time for this extra lesson.

About 3 minutes later, I got a call.

“Stefanie, I forget I am leaving at 5pm tomorrow to leave for Payson.  What time you have to be at work?”

Was he really this committed to getting an extra lesson in that he was suggesting we dance before I went to work for the day?

“I have to be there at 9am but it is like 40 minutes away from the studio so we’d need to be done around 8am.  We’d have to meet at like 6:30am to get a double lesson in and be done in time.”

“Oh my God!  6:30am?  Let’s try it.  I never had a lesson so early!  But we do it.  Okay?”

I agreed.  But warned Ivan, as my husband can attest, that I am NOT a morning person.  I was gonna have to be up by 5am to get ready and make it to the studio on time.  It is about 45 minutes away from my home.

It was dark and cold when I arrived at the studio, but there is something magical about starting the day in darkness and watching the world warm as the orange sun rises in the horizon.

Sunrise in Aachen, Germany by Lusitana

Ivan told me that everyone was asleep in his house, even the dogs, but that his father-in-law woke up and asked him what he was doing.

“Teaching a dance lesson,” he explained.

“What?  At this hour?  Who is so crazy to have a lesson so early?”

Um, that would be me.

We began with stretches and a Bolero to warm up.  We then proceeded to mark the Rumba routine, which Ivan has changed once again.  After about an hour working on the showcase piece, we just start dancing, going through Samba, Swing, Cha Cha, and Mambo.  I’ve worked up a sweat and my body was warm and buzzing and it wasn’t even 8am yet.

Maybe Ivan is crazy and maybe I’m crazy too.  So far this man has had me do all sorts of tricks that I’d never imagined I’d do, meets with me regularly at a location that takes me 45 minutes to get to, and now has me coming in for lessons at ungodly hours of the day.  But I saw it as an opportunity.  I could have said no, thanks Ivan, but I’d rather get an extra hour and half of sleep and stay in my warm, comfy bed, plus I’m not a morning person.  But really, now, even though it was a little bit uncomfortable, which experience will I ultimately treasure more?  Sleeping or dancing?  The answer is clear for me.

So, what else am I saying “yes” to in my life?  What am I saying “no” to?  What am I missing out on because of those choices?

“Yes” to sleeping in means “no” to time to meditate or do some physical activity in the morning before going into work.  “Yes” to wine with dinner means “yes” to extra calories, sleep disturbances, and not being my best the next morning –  but it  feels really good in the moment.  I mean, every moment is a choice, and every choice has prices and benefits.  What benefits am I garnering by my choices and what prices am I really paying?

I’m glad that in this instance I chose to say “yes” to an extra dance class.  Though I had to pay a price of being a little bit sleep-deprived, in this case I think it was worth it.

But I have to be honest here.  I don’t always choose in ways that ultimately support me in achieving the things I say I want.  Isn’t it a strange aspect of the human condition that we can be moving toward something and fighting against ourselves at the same time?  I have been doing it for years and years with my weight and my body.  Sadly, I think the price hasn’t been high enough yet for me to commit to changing, no matter what.  I haven’t committed.

I’d love to be able to write here that I’ve chosen to commit, but based on results, often harsh but always fair, I really haven’t.  I’m telling myself I’m committed to the picture in my head of what I will look like at the Desert Classic, but I’m not always taking the actions to support that.  I’ve plateaued with the weight loss this past week because I went off plan.  I’ve been saying yes to comfort and no to my goal.  I got knocked a little off path emotionally when I released the tutoring and went to my habitual way of coping, which isn’t coping, it is eating.  I will say it was less severe than other times in the past but it has still set me back.  Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I’ll do well for a while and then relax.  I’ll be feeling good, have some positive momentum behind me, and then I self-sabotage.

I’m in this pre-contemplative state.  I have access to that Insanity work out program that I could do at home, and I have a dvd of the New York Ballet work out, as well as Hip Hop Abs.  I have a Kinnect on my Xbox 360 and Dance, Dance Revolution.  I could stretch.  I could practice doing a Rumba box in my kitchen.  I could say no to the lunch they are ordering at work because I brought my BistroMD meal.  I could be doing so much more.  And I don’t.

In moments when the pain of the burden of the flesh I’m carrying around is acute, I resolve to myself that I will change.  Like, when I was at Galaxy and I saw pictures of myself, or when I’m in Inna’s class, dying for breath, in those moments I realize I can’t continue to exist like this and that I must change.  But the feeling fades and so does the motivation.  I can’t seem to make it “stick.”

So, I’m gonna ask for some support here.  I am not good at this.  I can’t seem to resolve to just power through this journey like I did for the first few weeks.  I experienced some unsettling feelings in my life and I allowed it to become an excuse.  I’m up against the wall and I’m caving in.  I’ve done this same thing for years, now, basically just treading water but not making it anywhere.

Like in my mind I intellectually know exactly what I could do.  And I know that I need to do it no matter how I “feel” about it if I’m going to get where I want to go.  I need to be pushing my body regularly in new ways that stress it and make it adapt.  I need to be eating on my plan.  I need to be getting the proper amount of sleep and take a multi-vitamin.  So if I know all this, why am I still not doing it!?

I hate to be such a “Debbie Downer” and this is my reality right now.  I’d love to be all, rah, rah, sis-boom-ba! I’m gonna tackle the world and kick some ass!  But that would be lying.  I need some external motivation, I think – some tighter accountability and someone to push me even when the going gets tough.  I’m just being a whiny wimp right now, I know.  I’m sure I’ll shift out of it at some point.  But why do I even go here in the first place?

Well, this I know.  I have a dance lesson to go to most days this week.  I know I will show up for styling with Marieta on Monday, Inna’s class on Tuesday, Toni’s class on Wednesday, and Tina’s class plus a dance party on Thursday.   I know I will also schedule at least 2 lessons with Ivan.  I know I will show up for these things and will keep showing up.  I know that I will choose to get back on plan and I know that I will progress.  I just don’t know why I continue to take these detours along the way.

So, if anyone has some suggestions to help me out, please post a comment.  I am open to your feedback on how I can be more self-disciplined.  What has worked for you in the past?  What helped you to finally overcome something you came up against over and over?  What finally got you to make the changes you knew you needed to make and stick with them, no matter what?  What got you to commit?

I’ve hit a wall and I need some help to get over it.

AND

I have NO excuses.  Seriously.

This man, Nick Vujicic, is a Samurai.  Check out his video and you’ll see what I mean:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc4HGQHgeFE&feature=youtu.be

Ok, enough complaining, Stefanie.  It just relieves the pressure so I don’t have to do anything about my situation.  But the reality is, I need to be putting that energy I’m putting toward complaining toward my goal instead.  After all, the sun will rise on a different day tomorrow.  I can choose back in.  And so I will.

-Stef