Falling Flat On My Ass…Maybe Just What I Needed?

Heya blog-followers…..

I was editing some posts, categorizing them and adding keword tags and remembered that I had written this post a while ago when things were pretty tough back in March.  Back then I published it for a day then password protected it because the financial information was pretty raw and even though I didn’t mention my former employer by name, I didn’t want the information I’d shared to affect their business in any way.  But I remembered this post today and read it and now I think it is okay to share.  It’s a goodie…And it makes me that much more grateful for my current-much-better situation to reflect upon life for me 9 months ago.  So here it is.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did upon rediscovery. -Stef


You know that saying…

When life gives you lemons,

Stick them in your bra.  At least then your boobs will look bigger.

Seriously, I need a few laughs right now.  Life has given me a few lemons, and I’ve had a bit of a struggle making the damn lemonade, if you know what I mean.

It all started before the trip to Vegas.  You see, in my “real” life, I’m a pharmacist.  I got so burned out on it a few years ago that I actually quit and thought I’d never go back to it.  (That’s when I started tutoring).  But alas, the money was very good.  I finally found a part-time job but it was across town, and a fearful environment.  I knew that I wouldn’t ever make any sort of major contribution to this world in that place so when the opportunity to switch jobs and work for a smaller independent company, I was excited.

So I gave my two-weeks notice and took the job.  It has been way more stressful than any other job I’ve ever had as a pharmacist, mostly because I have to do these stretches of being on call and it is also about 45 minutes from my home.  The pay is the same….theoretically.

I say theoretically because two pay periods ago, my boss couldn’t make payroll.  I knew something was up when the delivery service we use on weekends said we had been locked out of the account.  I asked the CFO point-blank what the deal was, to please be honest with me.  Did I need to be looking for another job?  No, I was assured.  Things were tight but they’d be sure to pay employees over other vendors.

Then payday came…but no check.  Finally the owner sat us down and said that money was on its way, could we wait until Tuesday of next week at the latest?  Sure, we all agreed.  We understood – things happen.  It’s a small company.  Things are tight.

So on Wednesday when I came in, I expected to be paid….but again, I was not.  The money hadn’t come through just yet.  Finally on Friday it did, and I received my pay a week late.

My next paycheck was due the following Friday.  When I did receive it, I deposited it right away and watched it to see if it bounced.  It actually posted, not like with the pending transaction where only a portion of funds are available, but the entire amount got added to my balance.  Great, I thought, sighing in relief.  They are being honest.  Things are better.

But Tuesday night I got an email from my boss.  The check had been returned.

It was a very sleepless night.

I mean, what should I do?  Should I be like, the hell with you people.  I’m not working for free.  To me this was a broken agreement.  I feel like most people would bolt right away.  And this was the second breach of trust, if not the third, because I had asked earlier about what was really going on at the company and if I should be expecting a problem with getting paid.

Apparently my check was the only one that bounced.  They added a few extra bucks for the inconvenience and deposited cash into my account Wednesday.  Of course, this was at 4pm when it had been promised to me at noon.  Yes, I’ve already begun looking for other employment opportunities.

So, I’m at this precipice in my life.  Do I try and find yet another pharmacy job, or do I pursue something different entirely?  I’m not at all sure.  Do I quit now after all the games without something to go to, or do I hold on until something materializes and just accept that I may not get reimbursed for my service?

Part of me would be happy to find a job I could tolerate as long as it pays enough for me to dance.  I feel like I could keep myself sane if I had a double dance lesson every day and maybe I could afford that working as a full-time pharmacist once again.

The other part of me feels like I am not passionate about doing pharmacist work.  It would be settling to find another stressful job in this setting.  I’ve said for a few years that I want to retire myself from being a pharmacist, but to do what, exactly?

So the future is wide open, full of possibilities, excitement mixed with fear, stress, worry, uncertainty.

But through all of it, I dance.

Thank the Lord God for dancing.  Especially with the financial worries, knowing that I can’t count on anything more than what I have right now, and maybe even that will be pulled from my bank account, I feel like I should use what I currently have because who knows what’s going to happen next week, tomorrow, or even in the next moment.  So I dance.

It’s a non-negotiable in my life right now.  It just simply isn’t an option to stop dancing completely.  Even if I had to just take Inna’s class once weekly for the monthly fee of $85, I’d find a way to keep moving.  It’s my lifeblood.  It’s who I am.  I stopped once before.   Never again.  I slowly die when I stop dancing because I’m not living.

So on Tuesday I made an appointment to dance with Ivan in the morning.  He knew from the moment I walked through the door I wasn’t okay.  We didn’t talk specifics but I told him the latest installment of the financial situation, which I’ve mentioned before.

Oh well, I thought, I’m here now.  I should feel better after dancing.

But I could do nothing right.  I hated the way I looked in the mirror – my feet weren’t moving at all, it seemed.

“Shit!”  I exclaimed.  I’d missed a connection.

Then the f-word.  Seriously.  Normally I don’t cuss so much, but it was the only word that expressed how I was feeling.  I’d messed up again.

And then….


Flat on my ass.

Seems I was off-balanced in more ways than one.

Physically, my left ankle twinged and I went down.  I just lay there and shook.  The tears streamed down my face and I blubbered in all ways a person can blubber.

But emotionally I was off-center before I even left my house that morning.

“You okay?” Inquired Ivan.

“Uh, huh.”

“You hurt.”


But it took me a moment to recover from the adrenaline and for the tears to stop falling.

And then Ivan told me a story.

When he was a little boy, his parents didn’t have any money and couldn’t find a job in Bulgaria.  His parents were forced to feed him only bread and water for his meals.  They had no electricity.  He’d get dizzy on his dance lessons because he was malnourished and he remembers his parents crying about the fact they couldn’t feed him properly.

He told me, “This scary for you because you never having to do it.  But I live through it.  It no scare me anymore.  I know I survive.”

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  That man never ceases to amaze me.  I feel like if anyone deserves to be a champion, he does, after everything he’s been through.

In any case, we danced a little more, but I left the lesson feeling completely defeated.  I went home, and like a total loser, I played a video game all afternoon.  It was one of the less-destructive ways I could have chosen to escape, I suppose, but yet completely unsatisfying.

But then at 7pm I had a decision to make.  Should I show up for Inna’s class, feeling the way I did?  After a fall?  With a sore butt and ankle?

I debated and left it to the very last minute.

But I went.

Still distracted with the events of my life, and my body completely spent, it felt like a special kind of torture to do Samba and Cha Cha for over an hour.  I haven’t been 100% present in the moment lately, I have to admit.  I’ve left things at home I meant to bring with me, and during Inna’s class after crossing the floor doing basic Cha Cha walks, I leaned against the wall and zoned off.  I never do that.  It must be my training from Glenda Folk – always pay attention to the teacher!

It’s kind of ironic because I saw the exact same scenario unfold last week with another student who hadn’t been paying attention and then he got called on to do a demonstration across the floor alone.

Anyways, I kind of heard Inna spout off a combination, then ask Michelle to demonstrate it across the floor….”….and…..Stefanie!”

Oh, I snapped to attention in 2 seconds flat!  “I don’t know the combination!”

“Our usual,” she replied.  “Two Cha Cha walks, two time steps, two (blanks – I can’t remember the name), and two sets of locks.”

I thought quickly and off we went!

As per usual, the class went long, I was covered in sweat, and exhausted.  I’d had to use the strategy of dancing full-out, then dropping my arms, then stopping completely to rest, then joining the group again dancing full-out and repeating even though they never stopped moving.  My body just couldn’t tolerate it.  And my stomach was hurting.

But at the end of class, Inna came right up to me as I was taking off my shoes.

“Stefanie! You the hard worker!”  She told me.

You know, that’s awesome.  I still felt pretty defeated at the end of my day, and physically spent.  But at least I still danced.  And even when I couldn’t go 100%, 100% of the time, I did what I could and it felt good to be acknowledged.

“One day I’ll have enough stamina to make it though the class, Inna.”  I told her.

And I will.

After that, Artem made the entire class take a silly picture.  I wouldn’t have been in it if I didn’t show up, I suppose.

Well, anyways, I went home and went to sleep and dreamt about getting paychecks and awoke the next morning to have an early lesson with Ivan before work, (which who knows if I’ll get paid for, but what the hell else was I going to do with myself and I hoped I’d get what was owed me so I decided to go in) for a change and you’ll never guess what happened.

Well, first off, Ivan swore.  I’ve kind of created a monster.  He like thinks that saying “Shit!” and using the F-word make him more American or something.  He’s practicing, he says.  And I’ve heard more cussing on my last few lessons (though in jest) than I’ve heard all the months I’ve been dancing with Ivan.  Like today, when stepping out of a spiral turn (the bane of my existance) he said, “What the F-ing Hell are you doing?”  We both laughed out loud.  “Ballet,” I replied.  That muscle memory is hard to break!

Anyways, I proceeded to rock my lesson.  Seriously.

Before we took our first step, and he offered me his hand, I inhaled deeply and paused to actually connect with my partner.  Then, out of nowhere on this one part of my Latin Rumba routine, where normally my turns are like wah-wah-wah (wish I could insert sound effects here – we dancers use them a lot) they were like f-f-f-f-f  – by that I mean to imply fast and sharp and more exciting/dramatic – like the blade of a helicopter.  Ivan liked them and me too.  It wasn’t a conscious thought at all – I just did it.  It surprised me, to be honest.

By the end of the routine Ivan was so happy, and I was too.  You know, it can’t be a bad day when your instructor likes your dancing!

It makes me think that falling flat on my ass might have been just what I needed.

Isn’t life weird that way?  There’s a saying I’ve heard that I found to be true:  The biggest breakdowns are followed by the biggest breakthroughs.

Maybe the situation at work will now be followed by a major breakthrough.  I don’t really know.  Hell, I don’t know what’s going happen the next minute.  But what I do know is this; I’m going to dance my way through it, whatever comes my way.

On that tough lesson Tuesday morning, through the tears, I told Ivan, “You know what?  No matter what happens, no one can ever take away from me how I dance.”

At any moment, I can choose to become a diva, a princess, a sweet-fun-loving girl-next-door.

My future may be uncertain.  I may not have money in the bank.  I may face unpleasant surprises.

But no matter what,

no matter what,

I have me.

And I am a dancer.

The River And The Desert

Sometimes life takes us in directions we didn’t think we’d go. Little did I know today when I awoke that I’d be releasing a little bit of my life and the income that went with it. It made me feel as though there was an empty hole in my middle. I had the same feeling about 20 minutes after being in my first car accident as a teenager. You know, that burst of adrenaline followed by a shaky exhaustion.

I suppose I should explain what I’m talking about. I am a woman of diverse talents. I went to school to become a pharmacist. I got completely burned out doing this and quit. I was convinced that I never wanted to be a pharmacist again! I sought other job opportunities. I began to tutor high school kids.

It was great! I loved being with them, helping them, and helping their families. I got to do math problems and science and Spanish. It was so much more fun and less stressful than my previous job. I dove right in and have been doing it part-time ever since.

But this past year, I’ve really reconnected with the part of me that has been with me since age 5 when I began dancing. I started this blog, and also getting out into my dance community. My focus has shifted. This is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, but the passion that I had been pouring into my tutoring was now being applied to dancing.

I didn’t recognize it, but apparently others around me did. They were so happy at the positive changes flooding into my life, but my fire for the tutoring had waned. I was fully prepared to finish out the school year but I was called on this change in desire. I had a choice: choose in, fully commit and really show up for the kids or release it, create space in my life, and embrace this newfound passion and connection to dance, writing, and the dance community. One path was practical, and guaranteed a certain amount of income. The other was veiled and promised no obvious road to riches.

But the practical choice felt flat. I knew, if I was very honest with myself, that I couldn’t be there for the kids like I had been before. The more responsible and compassionate choice to both parties, I believe, is to get them what they need rather than to than hang on when I can feel that my passion has shifted.

It was simply time to move on. I just didn’t know it.

Honestly, it was about the least traumatic, most loving parting-of-ways I’ve ever experienced. There was mutual respect, trust, and gratitude on both sides. But I still grieve it. Sometimes we even grieve things that are gone that aren’t good for us, for heaven’s sake! This part of my life had been a Godsend.

I just know that this was the right thing to do for me now. I shed my tears and said goodbye and thank you to this portion of my life. Kinda like how I felt when graduating from high school. I knew things would never be the same. I knew the chapter was closing on one part of my life.

Yet I choose to believe that all things happen for a reason. I also believe that nature will always fill a vacuum.

I now have a vacuumed space in my life. I am believing that amazing and wondrous things, people, and opportunities now have the space to flood in. Before my life was jam-packed – every moment accounted for. Now, I have more space and time.

The flip side of that is that I don’t have as much money to put toward dancing.

Surprisingly, I’m feeling okay about this. I will need to be much more disciplined about my spending. I will need to participate in more group classes and less private classes. That, or get paid to be on a reality show that follows me and Ivan around because we are so dang entertaining! lol. Hey, it could happen!

But in all practicality, I am going to be fine. I will have to save my pennies and will probably be putting a few things on Ebay, but that is okay. I already told Ivan that we have to do single lessons from now on until I win the Power Ball. He said that the most important thing is that I just keep coming, however often that needs to be.

So after releasing this particular aspect of my existence, and processing all the emotion that came up as a result, I was left with a hole in my stomach. In my old days, I probably would have poured a glass of wine and made a nice comforting meal, and curled up with the tv remote for a nice sedentary evening. But “new” Stef, the one who wears the way-too-high-to-be-practical-cherry-red-heels-that-scream-look-at-me, she chooses differently. Even though she feels like she’s been through a battle, she grabs her gear, gets in the car, and drives to Imperial studio for a good old butt-kicking from miss Inna.

As usual, I am exhausted and shaky, sweaty and beet red, gasping, cramping, etc, etc, etc. As per usual, I’m the biggest girl in the ballroom. But not as per usual, there is a larger class than before the holidays and one of the participants is a high school kid (I think). His mom is watching the class while waiting for her son.

We do Rumba, then Samba. I mostly make it through but have to bow out during one of the last Samba exercises…something was gonna blow if I didn’t. Grabbing my water and Gatorade I glance over and smile at the mother watching her son. She smiles sympathetically at me.

Finally the class is over. I’m spent. As I’m packing up, the mother comes over to me and says, “You looked great out there. I could never do that.”

I thank her, and I really appreciate the fact that she took the time to say something. It feels great to be acknowledged, for sure. But I actually disagree with her. It’s kinda the point of my blog and, by extension, my life. If I can do it, ANYONE who wants to can do it. If that guy at the dance studio that coaches with Ivan’s mother-in-law and is an amputee can do it, ANYONE can do it. If Kristie Alley can do it….just kidding. She was great.

But don’t you see? We make up excuses as to why we can’t do something. I did it for 12 years. I abandoned dancing, this thing that feeds my soul, keeps me healthy and happy, this thing that I love, and I left it because I didn’t think it was a practical life choice. I got miserable and fat and damaged my health because I made up a story about why I wasn’t a dancer, why that couldn’t be my life path, denying my very essence, denying my true identity.

Thank God I finally woke up!

And so, life gave me a beautiful opportunity just now. I could choose to settle once more. It was even a great way to do it…seemingly. I would have gotten to be with others, help them, and make a little money on the side by continuing to tutor. But I would have been making that same choice I made so long ago to do what is expected, even if it’s not what I truly, deeply, want to be doing with my life. So this time, I chose differently.

It reminds me of a parable I once heard (I’m paraphrasing here):

There was a great river. The river could go anywhere it wanted and it wanted to return to the sea. Nothing could stop it. It could even penetrate through stone. But one day the river met the desert. The desert pleaded with the river, “please don’t try to go through me. It won’t work.” “But I am a great river. I have made my way through stone. No sand can stop me.” It replied.

So the river poured into the desert. And it poured and it poured. And it poured until it was exhausted and the desert had become a swamp.

“You are right, desert, I cannot make my way through you.”

“You are partly right, river, you cannot make your way through me in your current form.”

And then something happened. The warm air of the desert caused the river to evaporate. And it arose into the air where it became a cloud that floated over the desert. It traversed the desert and rained down into the ocean, finally arriving at its destination. The only way for the river to make it there was to transform.

My decisions in life have been like the path of the river. For a while, my mechanisms of moving in this world worked. I was able to navigate many situations. But at some point, I reached my own desert. I tried my old tactics and began to pour and pour and pour myself into it. It has gotten me exhausted and yet no closer to my dreams. It is time for me to transform, indeed it is the only way I will reach my destination. Choosing differently this time is one piece of that metamorphosis. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out just yet, but I’m trusting the process, just like the river had to trust the process of evaporation. I will make it to my destination, though I will do it as a woman transformed.

It’s even kind of exciting, huh?

Yes, I think it is.