Work It, Girl!

In case you didn’t know from all my posts on Facebook, this weekend was Emerald Ball in Los Angeles, California.  With over 1100 heats, it was a huge event with thousands of participants.  I happened to know a few people who went so I avidly watched for pictures and video posts on SuperShag.com as the results came in for my friends and for professional couples that I admire and follow.

You can see all the congratulations and who won what or placed where if you care to here and while you’re there, make sure to like the page for Dancing With Stefanie.  That way, a link to any new posts on the blog will show up in your Facebook News feed.  Plus, sometimes I post things on the Facebook page that don’t make it onto the blog.  There is also a “like” button on the upper right hand side of the blog page you can easily click.

Alright, enough with the boring housekeeping items….here’s what’s been going on.

Since Ivan and Marietta went to Emerald Ball on Thursday, I haven’t had a lesson since Wednesday and it’s kind of like going through withdrawal.  Maybe not that dramatic, but by the end of the weekend I was really missing this major part of my life.  But, as they say, nature will always fill a vacuum.  Luckily my friend Ivonne had a perfect solution.  Why not join her for some Lindy Hop and Tranky Doo (yes, that is actually the name of a dance)?  I was especially motivated to go having not danced in days and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

It was a group lesson and social dancing – and the instructors could spot us “ballroomers” a mile away.  “Relax!  No Frame!” were our constant reminders.  It was about getting the rhythm of the dance into our bodies and we were required to actually sing while we moved.  Hoooo Wah! Hoooo Wah!  Hoooo Wah Ooopty Dah!  I’m not even kidding!  But I got why they did it.  And they said that even they still sing these rhythms (different than the beats or counts in the music) while practicing as pros.

It was a nice sized class and a progressive one.  It will continue for the next four weeks, and then if I decide to progress, I’d have to repeat the basic level before they’d allow me in the intermediate class.  Kind of an interesting way of doing things.  I think it’s cool that they value the fundamentals and want their students to have a firm grasp of them before progressing on to harder steps without a proper foundation.  And it creates a strange sort of motivation of like, I want to be a “cool kid” and be in the intermediate class.  Plus it probably weeds out less motivated students.  But we’ll see.  I’m not sure how far I want to jump down this rabbit hole.

After the Lindy Hop class was a class on Tranky Doo.  I really enjoyed it.  You get to dance solo.  It’s from the 30’s.  Here’s a video – sorry the sound is bad:

Anyways, that was lots of fun, not too difficult, but I got a little dance fix and I worked up a good sweat.

But there’s nothing that compares to a lesson with Ivan so I was very excited that he agreed to have a lesson with me today, even after competing late last night (making it to the semi-final) in Professional American Rhythm and Emerald Ball with Marietta, and driving home.  Probably because of that, I had a lot of extra energy and was thinking about all we had worked on last time we met.  I tried my best to project my energy, and after about 3/4ths of the lesson, Ivan finally noticed that I was doing it.  I suppose it’d be better if he’d noticed it right away, but hey, progress.  He gave me a hug.  We had to navigate some issues because the computer through which the stereo runs wasn’t working properly and I ended up using Pandora on my phone for some music.  Not ideal – we quickly used up the maximum 6 skips per hour – but better than nothing.

After the lesson we had a little conversation.  I’m doing Desert Classic so I have to figure out how much I’m going to do, the cost, all that stuff.  I also told Ivan, “Hey!  We have like two months.  I know cardio is an issue, but what other little things can I be working on and fixing during this time?  I want to do the best I can.  But we just dance and you have to tell me!”

He basically told me that yes, there are little things to fix, but the cardio is killing me.  It’s my biggest weakness.  I can’t maintain 100% full energy for long enough.  It’s a problem.  My feet/legs are good, not perfect, and there are expression things to work on, and he put me through my paces on a cross body lead in Cha Cha and doing the Hockey Stick properly into a Fan in Latin Rumba, but the biggest problem is the cardio, and of course, secondarily, the extra weight.  He suggested I work most on those things and lose as much weight as I can before the competition so it will be easier on me.

So I kind of left my lesson feeling a little bummed.  Not a news flash, all this information.  I already know it.  I just wish I could wake up and be the size I was when I was 16 again.  Also, I was feeling insecure.  I tend to vascilate between feeling secure and good about myself and my dancing and then being dismayed that I will never be as good as I want to be, and that mabye I’m delusional about how good I even am right now!  Does anyone else cycle through these as well?

But I digress.  I found, that the dismay also kind of motivates me.  When I have a definite goal, with a definite deadline, and I know I’m not even close to where I want to be, I personally become more motivated to make changes.  So on my way home, I realized that all I would do if I went home was to sit on my fat butt and watch DWTS and maybe write a blog post.  Then I remembered that Marietta teaches a woman’s styling class at Dance Starz on Mondays.  I made a U-turn and headed over to the studio.  No time like the present to take action,right?  Plus, it meant that  I got a double dose of the Dishilev’s tonight!

Anyways, it was one of the best classes I’ve had with Marietta.

This may seem like a tangent, but follow me here – everyone is a genius at something.  From my perspective, Marietta is a genius at sensuality and femininity in ballroom dancing.  It is one of her greatest strengths.

Also, it is amazing to me, how the professional ballroom instructors I’ve experienced are so unabashed about their bodies.  There is like, no shame whatsoever.  I just can’t really relate to that.  But a part of me wants to get there and as uncomfortable as it is, especially with how I’m packaged right now, I’m willing to do the best I can in the moment with it.  These ballroom mavens like Marietta and Inna are the perfect people to model this for me, being as comfortable with themselves as they are.

In any case, Marietta is one of my favorite dancers because she really feels the movement.  She has totally permissioned herself to enjoy every sensuous movement, to touch her body, to play.  The movement she creates with her arms, for instance, as she explains it, isn’t because someone told her to do them a certain way, it’s because that’s where they want to naturally go, where they naturally extend, in a gorgeous and controlled way, because of the movement generated from her body, from her core, from her heart.  She is 100% okay with being sexy, oogled at even.  Again, I really can’t relate.

But what I can’t relate to even more, is putting on socks, taking off my shirt, putting on lotion, and looking in the mirror.   Yes, I know this makes no sense right now, but here’s what happened on the lesson.

Because the styling and movement of the body and arms comes from a natural, organic place, Marietta suggested we start with an everyday task we girls supposedly do.  Marietta suggested we begin with looking in a mirror.  Um, yeah, I generally avoid looking in mirrors, and I don’t have any hand mirrors in my possession.  She had us pretend we were grabbing a hand mirror, looking into it, and loving what we saw.  Uncomfortable.

Then she asked us how we put on socks.  I just slap those suckers on.  She was like, “Oh no!  That won’t do at all!  If I were alone and putting on socks, I’d do this.”  And she bent over, legs demurely crossed, butt up in the air, and delicately, sensually, rubbed her ankles then allowing her hands to traverse her calves, thighs, and all the way up to above her head.  By now, other people in the studio started to watch the class.  I admit, it’s difficult to keep your eyes off Marietta.  And, about this time, I noticed that my legs are at least twice as wide has hers.

She had us practice this movement a few times and then we were on to taking off our shirt.

“How would you take off your shirt?  Please demonstrate for me.”

I shrug my shoulders, cross my arms across my vast belly, and mime pulling upward.  Kind of in a manly, unconcerned way.

Again, not even close to how Marietta demonstrates.  It’s really difficult to describe this all in words!  How to get your mind’s eye to see how it all looked is kind of impossible.  But here’s the best I can do.  She crossed her arms, grabbing at her tiny waist, and drug her hands and fingers, not missing one inch, even her bosom, upwards, uncrossing them until her arms were above her head and only her wrists were entwined, creating almost like a fan out of her hands.  It was gorgeous.

Then she had us put on lotion.  I just cursorily slap that stuff on, when I even bother to use it.  Quick, functional movement.  But Marietta, oh, you’d probably already guess by now, she luxuriates in the movement.  How can a person make something that is so mundane look so interesting?

Finally we had to put it all together.  A basic Rumba box, two Cucarachas, a step back and them “Bam!” We’re supposed to project that sensual energy, reaching for something we want with all our might toward the mirror, arms reaching outward to grab this thing we want so very much.  Then we are to pull it into ourselves, caressing our necks, down through our chests.  Finally, put on a sock, rip off our shirts, rub lotion on our arms, and look at ourselves in our hand mirror.  It’s embarrassing!

It is easier just to do prescribed movement.  Rote movement.  Exact placements of arms rather than feeling it from the inside and expressing it nakedly on the outside.

It’s easier to not become the center of attention, and to avoid touching this body of mine.

It is difficult, for me, to allow myself to really enjoy any of this.

Marietta got a bit upset with me at one point because I was feeling self-conscious and shy doing all this and she wanted me to demonstrate reaching forward with all the yearning energy for that thing I want so badly for the other student in the class.  By then, I’d noticed other people watching us.  That made it even worse for me.

Marietta was like, “Go.  Do it.  Now! Move!  Go! I’m out of words!” And I was like, in my head, waiting for this person to pass behind us, that person to look away, that person to exit.  I didn’t want to be seen.  Eventually, after a lot of deep breaths and once people had moved far enough away, I did my best – enough to satisfy Marietta, but also just enough for me to think I looked like an idiot.

But I survived.  Amazing, isn’t it?

But then Marietta explained something that really stuck with me.  She said that she doesn’t really know how things look when they look good – that that is for others to judge – but rather she knows how it feels.

That, right there, is her genius.  That is why I love watching her and Ivan dance so much.  She is fascinating to watch not only because she is gorgeous and moves fantastically, but because she is actually enjoying the movement.  She revels in the sensuality of it all.  She is unabashed and confident in herself.  Her femininity exudes powerfully and draws me in as a viewer into her story, which seems like it should be a private affair, but there she is, enjoying it and sharing it with the entire crowd.

It’d be awesome to have that kind of power.

It just really affected me – her comment about that she doesn’t know how it looks but rather how it feels.  I reflected; maybe I’ve been looking in all the wrong places to find this for myself.  I realize that look to others, and compare myself to them.  That’s a losing game.  I also look to the mirror but it is not something I love or enjoy to see.  Indeed, it is an invitation to tailspin quickly.

But instead, what I can do, is put the blinders on to the outside and feel.  The Stefanie inside doesn’t feel she is 300 pounds, big, jiggly, and gross when she is in the zone just feeling and being present in the moment.  Like when Ivan and I have dance with our eyes closed and I have to really tune into my body and the leads, nothing else exists – there is no space for the insecurities or the fears or even to consider what other people might think of me, how I look, what I’m doing.  That is where I need to look to find this movement – that was the epiphany tonight.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that feedback from others or the mirror isn’t useful.  It’s just that it may not be the best place for me to find the feeling, and from that feeling the movement, that I’m looking for.

Toward the end of the lesson, Marietta asked me what I thought this lesson was about – and that if I couldn’t handle the 5 people in the studio watching me be all sensual and stuff, how would I ever handle an entire ballroom full of people?

I replied, “This lesson is about feeling really uncomfortable and doing it anyway.  It is about deciding to not care what other people are thinking of me as I do this, and to just get in my own little bubble and do whatever it is I want to do here completely.”  I didn’t say it out loud, but what it was also really about, was claiming and holding my space.  Like, really owning my space on the dance floor, as if I’d put up a fence to declare it mine – one that said,  this is my area to shine and play and do whatever I want.  Don’t come invade it, it’s mine, not yours.

So anyways, it seemed apropos after all these realizations, when I opened my mail tonight and saw a card from my crazy aunt Julie (by marriage – and I mean crazy in the most lovingly way possible – it’s kind of a term of endearment for her).  Anyways, it fits perfectly into the theme of my lesson with Marietta, the sensual genius, tonight:

Boy does that cat look stupid in a pink bikini doing a pole dance.  But you know what, that kitty is working it!  Maybe I should take a cue from this feline.  Let it all hang out…after all, I am totally about the Meow!  Lol.  I’m going to take this opportunity to pledge to myself (and publicly) that I will continue to “work it” as much as I can.  That I am willing to go to these uncomfortable places if that’s what it takes to become who I want to become.  And finally, to thank Miss Marietta for being my teacher, mentor, and friend, and for pushing me a little further out onto the branch today.  Pretty soon, just like Ivan’s new chicks, I’m gonna fly!

Well, it’s been a long day and I am pooped, especially after staying up late to watch the last night of Emerald Ball online and two amazing dance lessons – one that stressed me physically and one that stretched me emotionally and as a woman and performer.  It’s time to go collapse in bed…I’m not even going to watch DWTS tonight and that should tell you something!

How are you “working it” in your ballroom journey?  What things do you struggle with the most?  Can you describe some moments in which you had a breakthrough and let it all “hang out?”

Until next time, I’m signing off.

XOXO, Stef

You Push A Big Button Today

On the heels of my last lesson with Ivan I decided that I should at least attempt to wear something different on my lesson today.  You know, about letting the sexiness out and all that.So I decided to wear this dress.  That cute doggie is my girl Buffy.  She was curious while I snapped the picture.  Thanks for the cameo, Buff.

You know, a normal person would just wear this dress, right?  But me, with my big body and my body issue complex, well, I couldn’t bear (or bare) to show that much skin.  So that was just the base of my ensemble.

Next, I added a skirt.  Why?  To put on top of the inner dress liner but under the kind of see-through part.  This way, you couldn’t see my huge ass and big belly as much.  The liner clung to my midsection and you could see every paunch, every pooch, every rounded mountain of flesh, and it wasn’t pretty.

Okay, now for the arms.  I got to cover the wings.  I can’t have all that jiggly flesh wagging in the wind with every cross-over.

Finally, the legs.  With all the cellulite, I need to keep the cottage cheese knees under wraps.  So on went a pair of black leggings with a little short skirt attached that folds over the top.

So the final outfit had four layers of material.

Maybe it’s not such a mystery why I sweat so much on all my lessons.  I’m always wearing three to four layers of clothing.

Usually, just my calves and forearms are showing.  Oh, and my face.  Everything else I try to cover, in black (it’s slimming, right?) so I look like a big black ball with calves and forearms sticking out.  I kind of want to just make the middle section just disappear, you know?

So I walked into my lesson all bundled up, with my cover-up tied around my waist so you could barely see the dress poking out.

Especially with all the commotion created by the chicks I gave him, we made it through Swing and Cha-Cha without Ivan noticing anything different in my clothing choices.

During the Cha-Cha, Ivan and I experimented with facial expressions.  I did everything! From faces I knew were hideous, just for fun, to “Pah!” and “Shah!” and winking and sticking out my tongue and anything else I could think of.  So that was good, I was playing and experimenting and feeling like it was okay to do that, but you know Ivan – he has to push it to the next level.

“What face you make when you thinking you so good?  When you so beautiful or proud or feel like you are better or stronger than anyone else?”

The question stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve been so focused, most of my life, on blending in, being good but not too good.  Standing out for all the right reasons, but not standing out too much.  Being a sheeple (people + sheep), so I fit in to the fold, being an individual that is slightly recognized, but not showy.

So with all this programming of how I should be, and how I should censor myself so that I’m outstanding, but not too outstanding, I was at a loss as to what a face like that would look like.

It’s not one I practice.

I have a complex, clearly, about being seen as “cocky” or “self-absorbed” or “vain.”

But what if, that was simply a well-founded pride of self?  A healthy appreciation of me?  Wouldn’t that be okay?  What would that look like?

I actually decided I should meditate on what that face would look like for me.  I do think I will explore it, and play in front of the bathroom mirror, alone, to see what it might look like for me to express confidence and love of self, even if some people might interpret it as being stuck up or haughty.  Let them think what they will…AHHHHH!  It kind of already freaks me out.  But whatever.  The lesson didn’t end there.

Because then I revealed myself…I made a fatal mistake, divulging I suppose my true intention with wearing the dress today, though I’d tried to do it in a way that didn’t make me too uncomfortable.

I lifted up the cover-up to wipe the sweat from my brow and the dress underneath was out in the open.

“What’s this dress you wearing?” Inquired Ivan.  “Why you wearing that cover up?  Take it off.”

“No Ivan.  It’s my arms.  I have to cover them.  I hate them.  They are so ugly.”

“I don’t care.  You have to take it off.  You have to loving the arms.  It’s just us here.  Take off the cover.”

Reluctantly, I peeled off the cover and tried my best to ignore my upper extremities.

That was traumatic enough for me, but not nearly enough for Ivan.

“Why you wearing all these layers?  You have to showing the fats.  You have pants on underneath, you should only be wearing top and bottom.  No extra stuff.  Lift up your skirt.”

“Ivan no!  Are you seriously crazy?”

He grabbed it and raised it and discovered my black skirt.

“Show the fats.  Show the fats!  You don’t have a big belly (which isn’t true, I totally do), you having a big ass.  But it’s okay.  Take off the skirt.  Show the fats.  Love the fats.”

He made me shed the extra skirt and then tuck the remainder of my dress into my bosom.  This revealed my legs.

“See.  You looking thinner with less layers.  Now your legs showing.  You going to be incomfortable (that’s an Ivan construct for uncomfortable) but it’s okay.  Now I see your legs.  I never see more than from the knee.  I want to see how they working.  Normally they are covered with a skirt and I can’t see what they doing.”

I was mortified.  But Ivan didn’t let up.

“You have big ass.  This okay.  Touch the ass.  Touch it!  Love it.”

He started playing a Latin Rumba.

“It’s okay, it okay.  See, don’t be scary the mirror.  Look in the mirror.”

Ivan made me stand beside him and face the mirror.

“Do a Latin basic.”

We stood there, side by side, with the romantic music playing, and began to move.  I have to say that my lines matched his.  And for the first time, you could really see my legs were doing exactly what they are supposed to do in that step.  Tears streamed down my face.

“See, the body so free now.  It never getting to be free.”

I have to admit that it felt nice to be cooler without all the layers.  But it is really hard to see myself.  I’ve mentioned that before, I know.

“See.  I not caring how the body look.  I see the straight legs.  I see the good technique.  Love the fats.  Show the fats.  It’s okay.”

I cried during the whole time we danced.  Silently, cleansing tears dropped to the floor as I rocked my hips, grabbed my fat ass like it was the most amazing thing on this earth, and danced as if I were a sexy beast.  I know my face didn’t show it with all the waterworks, but my body told the story.  My big, cumbersome, hefty body.  It talked.  It spoke loudly.  It screamed, “I am a slinky panther.  Watch me stalk my prey!” and “I may be three times her size, but there is a Karina Smirnoff in here, yes there is!

Seriously.  I heard it. 🙂

What a process this is for me!  I am so grateful to feel safe enough to go here – to have a dojo in which I can do my practice, where I can discover myself and work things out before I present myself to the world.  I am so very blessed to have this safe space to unwind the knots in my psyche – where I know on some level that I can let it ALL hang out, and I won’t be ridiculed, or made to feel inferior.  Indeed, I am encouraged, supported, and pushed forward into the realm of “incomfortable” – the place where the magic of breakthroughs happens, where my life changes, and where I am healed.

Gosh this is an emotional post for me.  I must say.  Reading it back for editing brings more tears to my face.  So be it.

It is worth it.

At the end of my lesson, Ivan looked at me and said, “You push a big button today.”  And boy did I.  I sure did.

This last little bit won’t make sense unless you read my previous post which you can read here.

Anyways, it was a big day.  Just as Ivan didn’t know he’d be surprised with some baby chicks today (see here if you missed that story), I didn’t know I’d be surprised with an opportunity to really step into loving myself, just as I am, while at the same time keeping the vision of what I want to become.  I didn’t know I’d have such a strong chance to connect with my inner tigress, and feel safe enough to shed layers of clothing, which, one could imagine, was a metaphorical representation of shedding layers of psychic and emotional protection so that I feel secure enough to fully and finally unleash my whole self.

On a somewhat funny side note, I also didn’t know that the studio would look suspect with my layers of clothing strewn across the floor from when I’d peeled them off!  Trust me – I was still completely covered from ankles to chest, even with all the changes and nothing improper happened.  But I have to admit, I freaked a little when Ivan’s next student walked in the door!  What must she have thought, seeing my skirt lifted up and articles of clothing laying hither and thither?

Well, you know what?  Who cares?  Who cares what she thought.  It was none of her business, really.  And it is none of my business what she may or may not thought of me.  What matters is what I think of me.  And what I think of me today, was that I was courageous.  No matter what that looks like, I went to a place I’ve never gone.  And that, my friends, is progress.  Woo hoo!

Holy Hell!  What a day.  What a post.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow….

Love,

Button-Pushing-Stef

The Power Of Dance – The Sequel

One of the most special things about starting this blog is that I’ve connected with amazing, powerful, beautiful people.  One such person is Chomsky, who can also be found on DanceForums.com.  She reached out to me early on and has been an amazing support during my journey. 

Chomsky agreed to write a guest post for my blog, here, and I am so grateful.  Her story is nothing short of miraculous and I am so honored she chose to share it with me and with you readers as well.   As you will see, she has innate tenacity that bewilders me.  I have to ask myself, would I have continued to show up if I had started in her condition?  I’m not sure I would.  She is an inspiration.   Her journey thus far has sincerely moved me profoundly.  I can’t wait to hear more from this strong, determined, persistent, brave, precious woman.  -Stefanie

Dancing for me is like a prayer. I used to be a devout orthodox. Before I met my hubby everyone thought I was going to be a nun; I have changed since then, but deep down, I haven’t changed much.  All this change is due to dance, at least on the surface it is.

When my wonderful friend and teacher started teaching me I was something that looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was clinically obese, and couldn’t straighten up my back from the excruciating pain. I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t lie down, sit down, sneeze or cough; the pain was unbearable and non-stop.

So, someone told me to join this ballroom class ’cause the teacher is nice. During that first month, I kept attending even though I couldn’t stand up straight. And then, out of the blue, during the class, I got myself into such a state because of the pain that I left the classroom, went to the bathroom and cried my eyes out: I couldn’t believe how bad the pain was. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t move to music at the age of 37. I was handicapped and  felt my youth was gone for good, no way to get it back.

I didn’t give up; I went back to class.  The teacher asked me to do the samba figure he was showing but I refused because I couldn’t stand the pain. He said it didn’t matter, I could always sit and watch him do it with the other student.

After class he chatted with me (not such a talkative person, but there you go, he must have felt how badly I was [doing]). He told me it didn’t matter I was in pain; I would get better; I would dance the figure if not in a week, in a month or in two months time.  The the main thing was that I would. No matter what the doctors had told me, I would get better. Afterall, I was learning even if I was watching and not doing. He even said I was a slow learner but it didn’t matter; he was a slow learner too.

All this made me believe in myself. I wanted to prove him right. Guess what? I did. I lost one-third of my weight. I am standing up straight. I even run after four years of not being able to walk quickly not to miss the bus to go to work.

To me it is a miracle. I am not in a wheelchair as I was told I would be. I am not in excruciating pain and can sleep at nights. Now, what I wish for is not to wake up from this dream I am living; to grow old and still dance. I can and will never forget I have a herniated disk that badly needs an operation. If I do, I might prove the doctors right and lose the quality of life I now have. I never want to forget ’cause I will harm myself if I do.

So, obviously dancing for me is like a prayer. Still, the physical miracle is not the reason behind it. It is the emotional and social aspect of it. I am now a different person. I started changing from the inside.

I used to be, and still am in a way, someone you can easily manipulate. Dance has changed that. I still have problems saying no to people just like I told my counselor. Not as much as before, however. I still feel I am guilty for the sins of the whole world. I still am unable to put myself in front of others. I still cannot love myself if it is not through other people’s eyes. I  don’t feel good with myself, I can’t just love myself if others don’t love me first.

Yes, but all this has changed; if not radically, it still has. And all this is due to dance. Dance makes me love myself, my hands, my head, my legs. I love my body and in the end I am sure I will grow to love myself too.

Fat Shopping

This post is a bit overdue seeing as I went shopping with Katie last Friday.  But I still want to share the experience because it is part of my transformation and I wanted to contrast it with a previous experience I had a few years ago.

So, this post isn’t about dancing but it seems like this blog is shaping up to be mostly about dancing but also about my process of changing and sometimes there are peripheral stories that are a part of that.

Katie and I met at Nordstroms at Fashion Square mall.  You have to understand that Katie is a professional at this.  She had called ahead and made an appointment with Karen in the women’s department to help me find the perfect outfit for Ivan’s Name Day party.  Karen was gorgeous and effervescent.  I liked her immediately – her lovely cocoa skin, her adorable feminine outfit, her toothpaste-worthy sized smile, and her enthusiasm.  We made our introductions and she began pulling clothes for me.

I have to say, it was the most painless shopping trip I have ever had.  I did little more than try clothes on in the dressing room and then show Katie if I thought they were a possibility.  Far from being overwhelming, it felt effortless.  And I’ll never forget the moment that I found the right outfit.  I stepped out of the dressing room and both Karen and Katie, open-mouthed like groupers, exclaimed, “Oh my God!”  Their reaction was priceless.

So, although some outfits didn’t work, I didn’t get discouraged nor go into my usual pattern of self-loathing.  I didn’t feel overwhelmed searching the racks of clothing for something that might look good on me.  This contrasts greatly with previous shopping trips I’ve made.  They have generally been so painful for me that I avoid shopping for clothes as much as possible, wearing items over and over even to the point of disintegration.

Here’s what it used to be like for me:

There’s nothing like a trip to the clothing store to knock a girl right out of her confidence.

I wake up this morning, and, unexpectedly, I am happy for no reason.  I head straight to my trainer at the gym and bang out thirty minutes of strength training.  I don’t have time to do cardio before I meet my mother-in-law for lunch, so I promise myself to return to the gym later and complete forty-five minutes.  I go have a lovely lunch, a delicious Cobb salad with dressing on the side, and keep my word to myself and make it back to the gym.  The endorphins are flowing, and I am feeling confident and pretty after a shower and applying some mascara.  So, I decide, in my infinite wisdom, to knock myself right out of this happy place. 

How, you ask?  Well, I decide to go get something cute to wear out to dinner on a date with my husband tonight.  I have it all planned out:  I’ll do my hair, apply thick black eye makeup, and gloss my lips the perfect shade.  I’ll look great.  I might even wear high heels.  The sparkly ones I got at Nordstrom’s pop into my head. 

The sick part is that I’m going to the store to find something cute.  I think I’m going to enhance my already high self-esteem today.  I’m going to find the cutest little top to accentuate my eyes, and step out on the town boldly, radiating confidence in my beauty.

The only trouble is I’m fat.  I know what you’re thinking…some twiggy chick complaining about two pounds of water weight during her cycle.  Well, think again.  I’m one-hundred pounds over a healthy weight, so it is a realistic issue.  I know, however, that I am not my weight.  I know that I am not even my body.  I know that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.  And that doesn’t stop me from identifying with my body, nor does it prevent the pain of feeling inadequate solely based on my body image. 

The interesting thing is that I have had the same experience with shopping all my life.  Even when I was more than one-hundred pounds lighter, I found all the parts of me to despise:  my too thick thighs, the cellulite, the wings under my arms, the double chin, the belly pooch.  I realize that I have always experienced shopping for clothes as a reinforcement of how truly ugly, unappealing, and unworthy I am.  It is a prime opportunity for self-loathing.  And even when I had a body I would kill for now, I had the same thought processes about it all.  I see all that is wrong, all that needs to be “fixed.”  I do not see me in the mirror.  I see the projection of all the love I withhold from myself simply because of my body size and shape, as if by somehow withholding that love and acceptance will motivate me to become acceptable or loveable by having a “better” body.  It is truly agonizing.

This time, I cried in the dressing room.  With each shirt, that was supposed to accentuate the positives and help me feel and look my best in this current state, I felt instead like a walrus.  I see a huge black mass with a pretty face staring back at me in the mirror.  It is too painful to see.  It is why I usually avoid shopping.  There is this bright shining face, with vibrant, beautiful eyes staring back at me from the mirror.  They are so expressive and yet they are shadowed by the meaty black bulk trailing behind them.  The large whale-like mass is distracting from the being inside who wants to be seen.

I remember that even as a child on the playground I would daydream about going to a body part store where I could exchange out my belly or my arm for a perfectly toned one.  It is a deep-seated weed that has roots entrenched inside my heart and one that continues to grow back even after I remove it’s leaves.  I don’t know how to finally expel it from my psyche. 

One thing is sure, I am not happy with how I am now.  I am not happy with how I am choosing to present myself to the world.  It is a struggle to continue to be engaged in life and risk when I feel this way.  I want to hide in my shame and embarrassment.  I want to disappear until I have transformed in my bat cave so that I can reappear to the world as a perfectly toned goddess.  It is tricky not to be knocked sideways out of the flow of life in this vehement torrent of self-pity. 

So, the choice before me is to choose something different.  If I want to change, then take action to change.  It is all up to me. 

And. 

And.

And, I find it very difficult to sustain the changed choices over a long period of time.  I find it difficult to based on my past experiences to maintain the program of exercise, eating on a strict diet, when my body changes at a barely perceptible rate.  I want instant gratification, damn it!  I want to see the results of working out today, today!  And every time I don’t see the results, I label it a failure.  Of course I can’t be skinny.  I can’t have that lean healthy body.  It just isn’t in my genetic makeup, or some other such excuse.  The hardest part is that I know I’m full of shit.  I know that saying “can’t” really means “won’t.”  I know that I’m making up excuses to stay stuck where I am at.  I know that I do have the power to change this, if I really want to. 

And I don’t change it. 

Or if I do change, it is half-hearted.  Really, how can someone work out with a trainer and ballroom dance for over three years and still be obese?  I don’t know exactly how, but I’m managing to do it!  So if I’m already doing all that, then I shouldn’t have to do more, right?  I just don’t have a body that responds to exercise like other bodies.  Plus, there are so many other more “important” things that must take precedence over my health like marriage, career, school, friends, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.   I know that if I want to make time for activities that move me in the direction toward a healthy weight, then I could make that time. 

There must be some inner conflict, some benefit that I am enjoying with being so big and fat that it is painful to go shopping.  Something that really is tied into my emotional survival instincts.  They say that being fat is simply an external, physical form of armor or protection of self.  What, oh what, dear God, am I protecting myself from?  What, oh what, God, is the benefit I am getting from being so big?  If I could answer these questions then I could address the underlying hurt behind them.  So far, I am just hurting.

So now I have a choice.  I’m sitting here crying in my office, writing this out in the hopes that it will be of some benefit to someone someday.  And, I have a date planned with my husband.  I want to honor myself and fully acknowledge my pain.  And, after doing so, after sitting in this really uncomfortable place, I am going to put on the shiny heels and black eye make up.  I am going to be the confident, sexy, beautiful girl that I am.  I am going to brave the world and continue living despite my huge frame.  I am going to find some love and compassion for this person who is hurting so deeply.  I am going to find the love for me. 

I don’t know how just yet, but I will.

It is hard to read this, even today.  But the good news is that little by little I am finding some love and compassion for myself.  I was able to have a different shopping experience this time because of the support of a friend.  I don’t think I’ll ever tackle this task alone again – it is just too easy to get caught up in all the negative self-talk.  But with the help of a friend, who loves me for me and wants me to feel good about myself as I am in this moment, I am able to stay more positive and even feel good about myself.

I’m not where I want to be, but at least I’m moving in the right direction.  And with the support and friendship of people like Katie, I just might get there.