No Shortcuts To The Top

Here’s a quirky little fact about me; I love reading about mountain climbing.  Bouldering, 8000 meter peak epics, Nepal, Everest, K2, The Eiger Wall, and The White Spider are just a few of my favorite subjects.  I’m mildly obsessed.  For whatever reason I am enthralled by the journey, internally and externally, of those who risk their lives to reach the highest peaks and scale the most technical climbs in the world.

I think in many ways mountain-climbing parallels high-level dancing, maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it.  Both pursuits require determination, discipline, and practice.  Both are beautiful.  I think I like ballroom better because I don’t have to risk my very existence to explore my vulnerabilities and limitations.  I am challenged quite enough two and a half inches off the floor, thank you very much! Lol.

Anyways, one mountaineer-author I particularly enjoy (there are many) is Ed Viesturs.  You may recall him from the IMAX movie about Everest (which rocked my world in high school when I saw it on that eight-story screen – seriously, Khumbu Icefall?  You may pee your pants seeing how they traverse it using aluminum ladders lashed together to cross cravasses) and the 1996 Mount Everest disaster documented in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.”  He’s a world-class high-altitude athlete and he is the first American to summit all 14 of the 8000-meter-er’s – the 14 highest mountains on Earth.  As you might imagine, it’s an exclusive club.

Things I appreciate about Ed are that he is pragmatic, level-headed, he trains like a madman, he climbs with an ethos, and he lives by the credo, “Getting to the top is optional, returning home is compulsory.” He pushes his personal limits while at the same time lives in a personally responsible manner.  He even takes on further responsibility when others are in need around him because that’s who he is.

Well, anyways, I’ve enjoyed reading about Ed’s pursuits and I’ve learned a lot about being human from his books (as well as other mountaineers).  Honestly, I think that is why they do such extreme feats – to get to the core of their selves, to come right up against their limitations, demons, and boundaries, and to test their mettle, to discover who they are.

I’m no adrenaline junkie, but I can relate to the journey of self-discovery.  For me, as I’ve mentioned before, dance is my practice.  It is my walking, moving, bodily meditation.  It helps me integrate all aspects of self: mind, body, spirit, physical, anatomical, atomic, subatomic, and energetic.  It also helps me connect with myself, others, the universe, God.  I am a drop in the ocean and the entire ocean in a drop.  I can go just as deeply into myself through dance as Ed does when he climbs high into the clouds.  In a way, we are on the same journey, it just looks different externally.  Internally, we are coming up against our core selves with every step.

This is why I came to Damir.

This is the work we are doing.

It is deeply personal and internal.  And it’s a big shift.  And that’s why I haven’t felt so much like blogging about every new awareness, because they are coming at light-speed.  It’s like drinking from a fire-hydrant. And I’m not even sure I could explain or describe the work we are doing, anyways.  It’s beyond dancing.  It’s beyond the movements.  It’s the metaphor of the dancing and it is the actual dancing, and it is so much more at the same time.

Everything is changing.

It’s not obvious.

People are going to be able to tell that I have changed when I’m through on the other side of this leg of the journey, but they may not know what I did exactly.

This is the work I am doing with Damir.  It is all of the invisible stuff, all of the internal dancing that happens between sinew, muscle, bone, and energy.  It is rewiring my neurons to fire differently.  It is retraining my muscle memory and placing my awareness in long-neglected cells of my body, in forgotten pockets of DNA.  It is changing my structure, my elasticitity.  It is allowing me to be stable and to stretch.  It is helping me find beauty in opposition, for only in using opposing forces can we move.

I’m learning it isn’t actually ideal to be completely balanced 100% because if you are, there is absolutely no movement; there is only stillness.  To create movement, there must be an imbalance, even if it is ever-so-slight.  And with this new level of rooting deep into the earth, this new level of stability, my bodily movement is so much more under my control, I can be so much more deliberate about it. Trust me, there’s still lots of work to do, but already it is improved exponentially.

This work changes everything.  It is transforming me and I will emerge on a different level.  From the outside, it looks like nothing has changed, or even maybe that I’ve “regressed” because it is so “ordinary,” as Damir puts it.  But I know the truth.  I know that internally I will never be the same.

Here’s a good analogy; I don’t care if you have a Rolex dripping in diamonds if it fails to tell accurate, reliable time, if it fails to fulfill its purpose.  I’d take a practical Casio calculator watch over it any day.  The faulty Rolex, however, is shiny and appears beautiful on the outside.  Dancing can be like this.  Right now I’m working to become a Casio.

With Damir, I’m learning to balance my Yin and Yang energies, my Masculine and Feminine.

I’m learning to stand on my own feet

I’m learning to hold and control my own space.

I’m learning to be present.

I have not learned any specific new dancing technique.  I have not learned one new step or one new way to style my arms.  I have not danced anything more than Rumba boxes, forward and back steps, delayed steps, hip turns or spirals.  No new figures.  No routines.  Only fundamentals.  They apply to EVERYTHING.  It is AWESOME.

I totally trust that I’ve made the correct move. This is exactly where I need to be.

I miss Ivan and I do hope we can partner again.  That’s mostly up to him.  I’m committed to do my work regardless.  But I have a deep knowingness that Damir is a coach, not a partner, at least at this point in time.  I also have a deep knowingness that I have no need to worry about this, that the right person will show up when I’m ready and he’s ready, be it Ivan, or no.

So that’s what’s going on with me.  I’ve no competitions in my sights.  I am committed to doing the work. And the work is, well, mundane, ordinary, and basic.  It is learning my body, feeling it spatially, and understanding how it works.  I’m honing my instrument in a way I’ve never had access to before.

I feel settled. If that even makes any sense.  I feel grounded and secure.  And I need this like no kidding to stretch beyond my current limitations.  That is part of why I had to make the change.  I could go no further without finding my center.  I needed a space where it was safe to explore my shortcomings.  With Damir, it’s encouraged.  We bring my imbalances to light and in this way dissolve them.

The work I’m doing is to find and embody the paradox; to find the stillness, calmness, steadiness in the frenzied movement of a Cha-Cha.  In this way I can be my most authentic self.  What a blessing to have found a guide and coach for this next leg of the journey.  I am becoming who I am, a little closer to my authentic self every day.

Dancing cannot fail to change a person if they take it up as their practice.  It is as potent and transformative as any practice, be it Yoga, or Soccer, Bible study or Mountain climbing.

And just like in Mountain climbing, I’m discovering that there are no short cuts to the top.  This is the title of one of Ed’s books and I think it reflects his philosophy, and a truth of life.  I am grateful to be in the place where I’m ready, willing, and able to do the work.  For me, it looks like this: eating clean, getting workouts in, continuing consistent coaching with Damir, practicing the basics.  It looks like putting in the time, doing the mundane process, and repeating until complete.  There are no short cuts to a body fat percent of 20% or less, or a balanced spiral turn.  There are no elevators to the top of Mount Everest.

And you know what?  Hooray for that!  I’m coming to know who I am more and more deeply and securely with each choice, with each pitfall, with each interaction.  I am building the foundation of who I am so as to be unshakeable.  And I’m not only after knowing who I am, I’m after loving who I am, reveling in who I am!  I’m going to get to be me, 100% me and I can’t wait.

Hooray for no longer striving and pushing and going to extremes.  Hooray for settling into do the work. It may take time, but time is going to pass anyways.  It’s simply up to me to be a consistent Casio, at this point.  Tic toc tic toc tic toc…..and soon enough the humble yet reliable Casio will be worthy of adorning the trappings of a Rolex.

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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! 🙂

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.

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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.