Give Me All You Have

Be warned: part of the reason I started this blog was as a way to process my emotional experiences involved with dancing (i.e. me and life).  Today’s post is definately a selfish one – one in which I’m partly complaining and getting it all “out” so that I can hopefully move forward.  I don’t like to be all “wah-boo” about feeling down.  Pity-partys, though something I engage in, pretty-much suck.  I realize this is going “victim” and denying my power.  And, well, the longer I don’t address these profound feelings of sadness and powerlessness, the longer I allow them to rule.  So whatever.  Time to write and shed a few tears.  Just due warning this is how I am feeling in the moment.  Like the clouds in the sky, these feelings will dissapate soon enough.  Especially since I’m going to the gym to really sweat after this post.  I just really need to go do that.  I’m positive that, combined with venting here through my writing it will help shift me out of this funk.

Depression-loss of loved one

By Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve not seen as much of Ivan as usual lately becasue he and Marieta have been competing almost weekly.  This week they left on Thursday so I only got one lesson in.  As they are gone during the weekends, this means a paltry 45 minutes of dancing when I’m used to 180 minutes.  That, plus the opportunity to work overtime at my temp job and earn extra money, especially since I don’t get benefits and won’t be paid for days off like Thanksgiving and Christmas, means my days have been long and mentally exhausting.  It’s a 45 minute drive to and from work, then 9 hours staring at a computer – that makes it a 10.5 hour day without any other activities like dancing or sleeping or cooking.  I’m grateful, honestly, and happy to put in the work to save as much  money as possible since I don’t know how long this gig will last – probably through mid February at least but after that, unless I get hired on, I have no idea what my life will look like.  And, everything has prices and benefits.  The benefits of this position are numerous, making good money for the moment, with the chance to earn a little more with overtime, and some stability.  The downsides are decreased free-time,  decreased energy, a long-ass commute, and the fact that a majority of my day is spent being completely sedentary.

That combined with less dance lessons, I’ve gained almost every pound I previously lost back.  It sucks.  I am completely at fault/responsibility for this, and it takes an emotional toll as well as a physical one.  My clothes still fit, but they are more snug.  Worse than that, I feel heavier, it feels much more difficult to move.  And, I have worse self-esteem.  I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that all these facets are connected.  But it is crappy – feeling bad begets feeing bad and this makes it so much more difficult for me to show up to a dance class or work out session, knowing that I look horrible, and that it is going to be very difficult to move, and it will feel crappy.  Honest-to-God, I’m beginning to see what an act of courage it is every damn time I do show up.  I am so very, very sick compared to everyone else in my classes.  I cannot physically do what they can easily accomplish.  It is really challenging to go and be “less than.”  And yet, showing up to these classes is necessary if I want to heal.

So, anyways, this is all in the background of my mind as I show up to my lessons with Ivan.  When on a recent lesson and working on Rumba it becamse quite difficult, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  We’ve been putting together open routines for Rumba, Cha Cha and began on a Samba routine.  The Rumba is a rehash of a routine I did for a showcase with new and improved moves.  I really like the Cha Cha a lot and the Rumba is great too.  (One bright spot – my Sliding Doors are much improved.  I was able to repeat them for like 2 minutes in a row, by myself, totally on balance.  That was a nice move forward).  What isn’t great is how I look and feel while dancing the Rumba.  Mostly I am hung up on how incredibly huge I am and how gross it looks for this gargantuan behemouth of a body to be dancing the “dance of love” with Ivan who is fit and handsome.  The picture just isn’t right.  I find my body image issues the most difficult to grapple with in the Rumba because it is the “love story” dance, the one where a man and a woman play out that romantic relationship through sensuality.  But what man in his right mind would want to play out that story with someone who looks like me?  This is the thought in my mind, all the while trying to ignore how I appear in the mirror and just dance the moves, but it isn’t enough.  Not with a teacher like Ivan, who insists on the authentic emotional quality to the dancing (which is why I so adore having him as instructor – dancing is more than just the steps to me and he has really helped pull out this aspect from me into my dancing).

But when Ivan tells me, “Give me all you have,” it strikes an emotional chord with me and I have to ask him if we can change what we are working on because today, with tears in my eyes, “I am just not feeling the Rumba.”  He is asking for that authenticity and I am too fragile to give it to him today.  It is so completely at odds with my picture of myself as a woman that I am aftraid to get that open and vulnerable, afraid of being rejected, afraid of being so very ridiculous playing at being “sexy” when I am physically the exact opposite…I am a motherly, matronly fatty.  My body moves in one way telling one story, and my flesh silently screams another.

It’s all such a disappointment.  Instead of being motivated after Galaxy, I became deflated.  Yes, the loss of momentum with a hurt hip didn’t help, but where did my drive go?  I was on the right track, down a few pounds, and feeling like I could move somewhat better…Inna had even commented that it appeared that I had lost some weight.  And then, fizzle.  Back to square one.  What the hell am I doing, especially after the deep talk Ivan and I had after Desert Classic here, and my honest-to-God desire to not go to a ballroom competition again until I look different??? (I set a mental goal of 50 pounds lost before I step on a competitive ballroom dance floor once again, just for me, because I want to evolve and be different and amaze others and myself)  I just don’t understand what went wrong.  But wrong it has gone.  So very, very wrong.  I feel like I am drowning.  And it’s worse reading that post “You Lie Me” and seeing that at the end Ivan sent me a text saying “You so strong, girl.  I believe [in] you,” because wow, I royally screwed up, once again.  Epic fail.  His trust was misplaced.

I am so tired of trying.  Honestly, I am so tired of doing this or that, this eating plan, this exercise regimen, and it is slow going but I do progress, and then something derails me, and then I feel badly about myself and then I re-create the same damn experience over and over and over again.  I fully acknolwedge the insanity of this.  I have had trainers at the gym.  I have had a friend that agreed to meet me mornings to do cardio.  I have done a mail order diet, a physician supervised low calorie diet, Stax, Weight Watchers, and more.  At some point or another, they don’t stop working….I do.  I am 34 years old.  I have big dreams of where my dancing could take me.  And I am still embroiled in the same drama as I was when I had my first diet at age 12 and lost 60 pounds.  Is it time to get a gastric bypass?  Even if I did get one is that really the answer?

I am broken.  In some way, I am broken.  I don’t know how to fix me.  I’ve been trying to “fix” me all my life since I became aware that I was larger than others and that that was not okay.

All I do know is that today I am going to the gym.  It doesn’t seem like enough.  And, well, in truth going to the gym once isn’t enough.  But it is that or wave the white flag once again.  And in truth, part of me really wants to do just that.  How many times must a person fail before they just give up?  But I guess there is still some fight left in me after all – honestly I’m a bit surprised because I feel so beaten down inside.  It doesn’t feel like there is much fight left in this old dog, but there must be some tiny shred there or I would choose to spend my day watching TV on my ass, but the truth is, I can’t even stomach the thought of doing that right now.

So when Ivan asked me to “Give me all you have,” the honest truth is I can’t even give me all I have.  Clearly, based on results, often harsh but always fair, I haven’t given physically transforming “all I have.”  No, I’ve regressed.  And I feel like shit about it.

Alright, pity party and rant offically done.  Time to go to the gym.

Ivonne, You’re My Hero

Yesterday was a day of friendship.

I got to spend time with my dear friend Sonya who is a powerful and compassionate woman.  She is helping me create a transformational workshop using the metaphor of dance that I’m planning for March.  She shared with me her current struggles, and I shared my with her.  She is one of those friends you can not talk to for a year and pick up right where you left off.

I also got to hang with my new friend, Ivonne.  I met Ivonne at Dance Starz and immediately liked her.  She is vibrant and inquisitive, and has an amazing zest for life.  She’s one of those people you meet and suddenly, effortlessly, you are friends.  No need to set up a coffee date, you just fall into an easy pattern of talking on the phone and meeting up for different activities.

Finally, I got to talk to another special friend, Erin, who lives across the country and has been experiencing some very difficult health issues.  I hadn’t heard from her since I heard that she was injured, so I was thrilled that she called.  She and I enjoy one of those very deep, authentic friendships in which we can share absolutely anything with one another and will receive support, even if it looks like tough love.  She brings out the best in me, and reminds me of my specialness and awesomeness.

I treasure all my friends, so if you are reading this and you aren’t mentioned, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it just means that I didn’t see you yesterday!  So call me!  Let’s hang out soon.

Being with my friends yesterday, whether in person or on the phone was just what I needed.  I am feeling much better about myself and life after sharing with my friends.  This post, however, is mostly dedicated to Ivonne because she is a dancer like me, and this blog is, of course, mostly about dancing, right?

So Ivonne is amazing.  Let’s just start there.  She has been dancing all her life.  She has a Cuban heritage and so dancing to rhythm is in her blood.  But in terms of ballroom dancing, she just started in October.  She’s already lost a partner and gained a new one.  And, get this, she’s already committed to doing a competition next month!  Can you believe it?  This girl doesn’t mess around.  I have rarely experienced this level of courage and committment in others.  But with Ivonne, it is just one of her traits.  She regularly dives head-first into experiences that may be beyond her current abilities.  Listen, she blew me away when she told me about racing a Chinese Dragon Boat.  How many people would say yes to an experience like that, especially when she just showed up because they needed one extra person on the team?  They won gold!

I think being Ivonne’s friend is going to be a rich, effervescent adventure and I can hardly wait.  It could also be very dangerous because she is comfortable with being uncomfortable.  She has made it a habit to get out of her comfort zone, something I admire greatly about her, and want to do a bit more in my own life….but that comes with a price….the price of being uncomfortable, and even, gasp! failing once in a while.  That, I have yet to experience as fun, but this I know:  If you’re not failing at anything, then you’re not doing anything.  (Hmmm, I should listen to my own advice)

So last night Ivonne came with me to Inna’s class at Imperial studio.  Inna and Artem are busy placing first in the Rising Star category of the UK championship (Congratulations, guys!) so Igor taught the class.

I personally had a great time.  It was actually pretty enjoyable for me, for once, because we wern’t doing cardio intervals in the form of Cha Cha combinations across their football-field-sized ballroom.  Rather, we focused on technique.  I especially liked the exercise he did taking each body part one at a time.  We did the same combination over and over but first we focused only on our feet, trying to make them absolutely perfect, forgetting about anything else.  Then we worked on the legs, then the hips, then the arms, then presentation.  Finally we did it (ahem, attempted) to incorporate all aspects.  He also had each student step forward and dance in front of the rest of us one-by-one.

Now, mind you, this is still an advanced level course.  When Ivonne asked me if she could come, I didn’t want to discourage her.  How many times are people passionate about something and others throw cold water on them to dampen their spirits, to tell them what is “reasonable” to do?  Well, the heck with that!  I think if Ivonne wanted to be there, then Ivonne should be there.  No matter what, she could create value for herself, even if it was just by watching, even if she wasn’t yet able to do everything presented.  Also, who am I to determine Ivonne’s limitations?  I think Ivan has proven to me that I don’t even know my own limitations, so how can I possibly presume to determine them for another human being.  So I decided to encourage Ivonne to join me.  Maybe I could have mentioned that there is another class on Wednesday that might be less intimidating, or demanding, but even if I had, I have a feeling that Ivonne wouldn’t have backed down from the challenge.

So Ivonne came and told me about a quarter of the way in that it was way over her head.  Oh well!  She hung in there, did what she could, and even got in front of the class (Igor was kind enough to stand beside her for some support) just like us regular students.

I love her courage.

At the end of the class, Ivonne shared with me that she felt a little defeated, just like I had felt after Marieta’s class on Monday.  But, also like me, she knew it would pass.

What a Samurai!

I’m just so proud of my new friend.  She is open to the full experience of life and even the threat of potentially failing in the moment doesn’t deter her.  I am excited for her as she prepares for the Dancesport Jam in Tucson, Arizona next month.  I’m also excited for me because I get to watch her journey as she kicks butt and takes names and because she is my friend.

So for Tuesday, January 17, 2012, Ivonne, you are my hero.  Just thought you should know.  Love, Stef

Fail!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Imperial Ballroom Dance Center

Group International Standard and Latin classes for competitive ballroom students

Sometimes in life when we try something new, we fall flat on our face.  Such was the case for me when I showed up for International Standard class last night and the instructor chose to work on the Quickstep.

Now luckily, I didn’t literally fall flat on my face.  But metaphorically, wow, big fail.  I have to give myself a break here because I only learned the basic steps in the Quickstep over about a two week period and the last time I danced it was in June.  Also, I don’t know the basic figures by myself.  In ballroom dancing, it is one thing to dance with a partner in front of you who knows what they are doing and guides you to the proper location.  It is another to know what you are supposed to be doing on your own without that frame of reference.  It is simply one of my least practiced dances and last night, boy, it was apparent!

So Inna explains that we are going to do a basic, traditional warm-up for the Quickstep.  Okay, I think, I know the basic.  I should be able to muddle my way through this.  Not so.  I kept getting completely lost.  The other girls in the class were gliding past me, and all I could do at one point was stand still, watch, and count:  slow, slow, quick, quick, quick, quick, slow, slow, quick quick….  My new Native American name is “Deer in headlights.”

I seriously wanted to cry.  I  was so completely out of my league, out of my depth, unknowledgable.  It was quite uncomfortable and part of me wanted to run screaming from the studio in embarrassment.

But the stronger part of me stuck with it.  I stayed in the class.  Although not with proper form or technique, at one point I was able to get it together enough to make it around the circle once with the “right” steps.  Then the wheels fell off the wagon once again.

Blessedly, the class finally moved on to something else…oh, wait….jumping!  Yeah, that is awesome to do in a 270 pound body.  Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle.  Not to mention being out of breath, burning calves, oh, and why am I doing this again?

Gasping for air like a pearl diver returned from the deeps, I am grateful that the class finally ends….only to begin torture anew with the Latin class.

At least I am more comfortable with the Rumba warm-up we do after a few weeks of practice and working on the dance with my instructor on private lessons.  And, I do detect some slight improvement in my stamina in that I was able to make it through the warm up mostly without stopping.  But endurance and cardiovascular capacity are severely limiting me at this time.  I want to dance more than I can physically can tolerate and it is an awful feeling.

I thought I was smart.  Now I bring a big jug of water and a Gatorade, as well as my inhaler and proper practice shoes instead of heels in preparation for the onslaught of physical demands before me.  I place them near to the edge of the ballroom so I can quickly grab them between exercises across the floor.  Though this may help with decreasing the amount of muscle cramping I experience (I still have some), it can do nothing to improve my stamina.  I am literally doubled over, leaning against the wall at times, beet red in the face, dripping sweat in thick droplets, and my peers are barely glistening.  I am in a prison in my body, and one of my own creation, no less!

Inna even asks me at one point if I am okay.  “Yeah,” I reply, “I’m just horribly out of shape.”

My mental problem kicks in once again…hey, wasn’t I going to dance in “paz” tonight?

But in a moment of weakness, the negative thoughts surface.  I’m certain others in the class are thinking I shouldn’t be there.  Inna is purposely making the exercises hard to prove the point that I’m not up to the challenge. I’m positive they are all thinking I am not at the right level expertise, and clearly my physical condition is limiting me.

But are they really thinking this?  I have no friggin’ clue.  Is it possible that this is simply a projection of my own negative thoughts about myself onto others?  In truth, it is really none of my business what anyone else thinks of me.  And probably, I’m not that important – all the students are busy in their own experience during class, they don’t have time to be worrying about what others in the class are doing…I certainly don’t…unless we are in danger of colliding head-on.

And, isn’t it possible that maybe someone thinks it’s great that I’m there, chug-chug-chugging along, even in my decrepit state just like the Little Engine That Could?  Maybe it is even inspiring.  Hey, maybe a part of me is projecting that thought too.  In fact, I can choose which one I want to believe.  I think it is clear which one will serve me better.  I’ve spent enough time in my life deprecating myself.

So, I’ve decided that if I get to choose which thought I believe since I’m making it all up anyways, that I’m going to believe that it is awesome that I keep showing up.  It is wonderful that I stick with it, even when I am at my physical limits.  I am proud of myself for going after something I want with all that I am in this moment.  And I’m believing that I’m going to transform before my very eyes because of it.

So, this brings me full circle.  Have I really failed?  I think I will only fail if I stop showing up for my own life.  And, my Quickstep needs some work!  Ha!

Namaste’, Stefanie