I’m lucky to have the friends I have

27 May

I have good friends. As in these-people-really-know-how-to-be-a-friend kind of good.

I feel especially that right because I’m having another stupid episode. The details don’t matter, but it’s a convergence of things happening that is making me feel insignificant. AGAIN. I’m so tired of fighting this stupid wiring in my brain on this shit. I hate that it’s a constant struggle. And while I know it’s just faulty wiring and I have many more tools to fight it than I used to, I still hate it. I would love to be carryfree and not an overanalyzer. (That’s a word.)

I’m lucky to have a therapist who is really good and who can help. I’m lucky to have friends who will put up with me when I hit these episodes. I never show how bad the episodes are – I rarely even talk about them here in any great detail – because I’m afraid that the next time will be the time no one wants to deal with it and I won’t have any friends anymore. Totally irrational fear. Based on some real past experiences.

So thanks, friends, for hanging in there with me. I feel so grateful that you haven’t left me yet. And don’t worry – I’ll pull myself out of this soon. Then we can have fun again.

Guest post: On finding a new partner

17 May

You all know how much I enjoy Stef’s blog. She is such a great writer, and her journey is super inspiring! She has been through a few dance teachers, so I asked her to write a post on her experience with that. I wanted to see what her experience has been because sometimes it’s helpful to know what others have experienced. And hearing how someone worked through it is good too. Each of us has our own experiences when changing teachers, and here’s her story…

***

I woke up from an uneasy dream and I just knew it was over. After a couple weeks of cancelled lessons and rescheduled lessons, after we had completed our first competition together, after I’d bought a dress and made it through blisters and tears, and at a time when I was really getting into this ballroom thing, ready to step it up to the next level, it was suddenly apparent that my time with Matt was at an end.

Isn’t it odd how in specific moments a nebulous idea that’s been floating around in the spirit realm can crystallize into an undeniable truth? Well, on that morning, for me I was suddenly grounded in the knowing that my first ballroom teacher was no longer going to be my teacher or partner and that my journey was going to take a drastic, unwanted, and unexpected turn. I just knew that this wasn’t a temporary thing – that his protestations of a hurt back – wasn’t going to go away. For whatever reason, he was out.

Unfortunately for me, losing my first ballroom teacher was a mixed bag and a crappy situation. Here was this person who had introduced me to a form of dance that rekindled my passion for life. He had helped me move my hips. He had endured my tears. He had invited me to push beyond many boundaries both physical and mental. And, he also took money from me for 100 lessons and disappeared.

It didn’t happen all at once. It seemed like he just had some health issue. He had occasionally cancelled a lesson here and there in the past so I didn’t think too much about it at first. But days became weeks, and at a certain point I knew something was up.   He was never able to come 100% clean with me, which is a shame. I’ve actually not seen him since then, but for a while I took lessons from his mother who was also a ballroom instructor as a substitute. There was a half-hearted effort to set things right, but it wasn’t her responsibility to take that on, and anyways, it’s just not the same learning from a female as having a male instructor lead.

I had to grieve the loss. It may sound silly but I’m not kidding. Dance had become a big part of my life. I felt the void created by both the loss of the person I’d bonded with and the dancing that filled up something in my soul. I had to find a way to cope with that. The good thing that came out of that experience is that now I know, for me, dance is a non-negotiable. I will have it in my life until I can’t move. Period.

I chose to forgive the financial transgression. I let it all go. Because I wanted to focus on all that I appreciated and gained from the experience. And that was worth more to me than any price. It doesn’t make the situation okay, but I don’t think about it and I don’t hold resentment in my heart.

The downside of it was, however, that it was poor timing. I was completely burned out at work and wanted a career change and I quit. It meant that I didn’t have the extra finances to pursue ballroom and find a new instructor right away.

So when things became more stable financially after a year or so, I realized I could get back in the game. But where to start?

Here’s the deal, life is interesting and unexpected. Sometimes things happen to us like our instructor leaves when we would prefer they didn’t. But at the same time every new beginning is some other beginning’s end. The leaving of one person creates the space for another person to come into our lives. Looking back at the chain of events, I’m grateful for all of my teachers, even the one who essentially stole from me. In the long run I’d never want to work with someone dishonest like that when I come to this process as authentically as I can. The Universe knew that and he was removed from my path.

So now I had at least an idea of what I was looking for in an instructor but I had no idea where to find him. I think for me, as well, it was especially challenging because people didn’t take me seriously when I walked in the door – I mean, I weighed 300 pounds and here I am saying I want to be a competitive dancer. They just partnered me with any Joe Schmo that had an open schedule. I was clear I wanted a higher level dancer than that. But I had no idea how to break into that “exclusive club.” I had no connections to any dance studio but I did know enough to be able to see the caliber of dancing.

So I did what I could. I looked at some websites. I looked at photos and videos of the teachers. I weeded out some places like that. Then I signed up for introductory lessons at a few different studios to essentially try-out various instructors. I weeded out a few more. Of course location was also an issue, which is funny because with my current instructor Ivan I have driven across the city more times than I can count – but he’s worth it!

Anyways, without having a foot in the door, I settled on the instructor that seemed the best I could find. And you know what, for the part of my journey that he helped me with, he was great. He was very knowledgeable but more of an athlete than a dancer. The distinction being he could intellectually describe all the steps and go through the motions, but he didn’t actually emote or feel the music or the dance or the communication. He helped me learn more basics and helped me get in to better physical shape.

But at a certain point I knew that he couldn’t get me where I wanted to go. I craved that “dancer” part that he lacked as well as connection. But because I kept taking each step forward, for instance, dancing at his studio, I came into contact with other people. I observed Inna and Artem at this time as they danced out of the same studio, so I knew this level of instructor was around. Also I met Nona, Ivan’s mother-in-law. I actually had her coach me and she changed my Latin Rumba walks in 30 seconds! She knew exactly what to say to communicate what I needed to do and I was very impressed that she knew what the heck she was doing! Also she had competed professionally. So I kind of look at this part of my journey as another stepping stone that moved me forward and positioned me to take the next leap.

So when the studio closed and I knew I wanted more than this particular instructor could give I called Nona to ask her who I should dance with. The rest, as they say, is history. I had made the right connection that put me in the sphere of the kind of instructor I’d always wanted. I think part of that was getting clearer and clearer about what I needed and wanted. It also meant kissing a few frogs to find my dancing “prince” and it meant taking steps forward when I didn’t know the ultimate outcome. The most important thing was to keep taking the next step before me.   Now I consider myself to be the luckiest girl when it comes to my dancing instructor and partner and friend. If those were the actions I needed to take to get me to arrive where I am then I’m grateful for them.

If I were to give any advice to someone who is facing a transition from one instructor to another, especially if it is not something expected or wanted, I would say a few things. First, acknowledge that there has been a loss. You don’t have to categorize it as good or bad but just accept that a void has been created in your life. Second, take time to process and/or grieve the loss. This has been an important part of your life and it’s totally valid to do what you need to do to comfort yourself, accept it, and move forward. Third, I’d say be open to the possibilities. You never know what your next instructor may bring to your life and your dancing. Fourth, I’d say get clear on what you want out of your ideal instructor. Meditate on the best aspects of your previous instructors and think about what you’d put on a “wish list” too! Finally, I’d say don’t limit your options. Take some time and put some energy into finding a good fit. Perhaps visit various studios and take some trial lessons with a few instructors that interest you. Look at as an opportunity to learn and grow but resolve not to settle for what’s convenient just because it’s there.

Please to make your acquaintance…again

14 May

Hi there.

peeking-from-behind-the-curtains

Remember me? It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Sorry I’ve been missing. Life…well, life got a bit crazy the last few months.

My dance teacher left. I know, right? He’s off to exciting new things with opening his own studio. But in a different part of the country, so I can’t continue to take lessons with him. Very sad. I’ve told you before what a big influence he’s been in my life. And now he’s gone. Once I found out he was leaving, I had to take some time to grieve the end of the relationship. And grieve what he won’t be here for in the future. And figure out who I was going to take lessons with after he left. That’s all been done…although the grieving might take some more time. Like the end of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, it’ll pop up especially at milestones. I have a plan going forward for my lessons and my dancing. I’ve talked to my new instructors about what I need from my teachers and how they can help me. While I’m sad to see my teacher go, I’m extremely happy for him. And I’m ready to move my dancing forward with different teachers.

There was some potential for some things to change at work recently too. Luckily they’re not, but that would have added to it as well.

And as some of you know, I’ve been working towards some financial goals the last few years. That’s made me live cheaply and on a cash-only basis. But I’ve kept dancing through it all. And now I’m almost at my goals – I will be by July 1 – so I started looking for an apartment. And I found one! In the building I wanted to be in!

So LOTS of transitions going on for me right now. And too many transitions can paralyze me. Or at least make me withdraw into a suburb of the thinky place. So all that is why I’ve been missing from here.

But I’ve missed you! I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed the feeling I get processing things here instead of just in my brain.

But I’ve had the Stanley Cup playoffs to keep me entertained. Silly MN Wild, losing to the Blackhawks like that. SIGH. Oh well, now I can say ‘Go Toews’ with a clear conscience!

Change and attitude

22 Mar

The Arthur Murray in Santa Monica keeps a very interesting blog. I love reading their articles – always very thought-provoking. The one on the 7th was fascinating to me. In it, David talks about “A genuine smile creates a magical environment. A smile comforts others and opens up the doors of trust, communication, and connection.” He talks about “leaving the negative behind and carrying light so others may see.”

I need to remember this. You see, there’s a lot of change coming into my life in the next six months in many different aspects. And some of it, I don’t yet know what it will look like on the other side. And I can handle change, but that much of it (with so many unknown outcomes) can be a bit much for me. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed, which looks on the outside as grumpy. So I need to remember to smile and know that the smile will help others and will come back to me and help me.

Basically, I need to keep a positive attitude, trust that all will land in a place that will be great for me, rely on my friends, and smile.

stay-positive

(Oh! And guess what? Jason Bateman won the play-in round. And then he beat the number one seed!!)

 

March madness, the boyfriend way

11 Mar

I like March Madness although I’m not a huge fan of basketball. (C’mon, it’s a winter sport and so’s hockey. So I spent all my time watching hockey not basketball. Plus the squeaky shoes drive me nuts.) I enjoy the brackets and seeing who’s in and who’s out. But it’s not my life by any means.

HOWEVER…

Here is a bracket I can get behind. My friend B does this every year on her blog. I believe we’re in year three now? First it was the movie boyfriend bracket. Last year was the TV boyfriend bracket. This year, in a stroke of sheer genius, it’s the celebrity boyfriend bracket. So all those actors you have crushes on. And HOCKEY players. (What. Hockey players here and on the next season of Dancing with the Stars?!? My life is complete.) And it’s got a play-in round!

So go check out B’s blog. And while you’re there, subscribe so you get notices to vote every week. You can make your case for any guy in the comments section. It gets pretty heated sometimes! What can I say, we’re passionate about our fictional boyfriends.

But please, please, please…vote for Jason Bateman in the play-in round RIGHT NOW.

jason-bateman

(And read the rest of B’s stuff. She’s a great and entertaining writer.)

Refocus…AGAIN

10 Mar

OK, so every year at New Year’s, I try to refocus. But this year, January was super busy with work, then I got the flu. So now I think I’m over the flu (mostly, anyway). And I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds since Thanksgiving.

So starting today, I’m refocusing again. Food and exercise. Must lose those pounds and get back to where I was, ideally where I was right before I broke my foot. I think that was when I was in the best shape – the thinnest and the strongest and the healthiest.

The thing is I’m not very good at the long haul. I tend to get discouraged and quit when I don’t see immediate results. Dancing is the only place where that’s not true. In dancing, I can wait for the long term gain. But elsewhere in life, not so much.

Every Sunday, I do the crosswords in the paper. And the horoscopes are right next to the crosswords, so I read mine(Virgo), just for fun. But here was today’s:

horoscope

A timely reminder right? Each decision, each day. I can do that.

In defense of Cuban motion

27 Feb

I really enjoy reading other blogs. I read some about food. OK, a lot about food. And some about ballroom dancing. OK, a lot about ballroom dancing. I like hearing other people’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how their experience compares to mine. And what’s different.

But every once in a while, I read something that gets to me. And I feel the need to respond. And debate a little.

This happened a few days ago when I read this entry from Facing Diagonal Wall. Go read it and then come back, because otherwise my post may not make sense.

Done? You’re back now? OK good. Let’s continue.

Believe me, I know how hard it can be to learn Cuban motion. When I first started working on it, there were huge mental blocks in my way. HUGE. I was raised NOT to move my hips like that EVER. Plus, I was still a relatively new dancer (early in bronze II, I think). So that was a ginormous thing to try and work through, which I did with the help of my teacher.

But I disagree with what Facing Diagonal Wall says: he states “I know it is an essential part of any Latin dance but let’s be honest, you’ve either got it or you don’t.”

WHAT?

My whole experience with dance and my studio is that you can anything related to dance. You may not be able to do it like a professional, but even the most-challenged dancers can do a version on Cuban motion (or any dance technique or step), and it doesn’t look stupid. It looks appropriate for how they dance.

And I can attest (and my friends can, too) that I cannot move on a non-ballroom dance floor at all. AT ALL. I’m pretty white. I mean, when I started dancing, I was convinced I wouldn’t be good at it because I was so uncoordinated. But with a great teacher, I am able to do these things and do them well. (Helps that I had some undiscovered talent for ballroom dancing, too, but still.)

I wonder if the difference between his (Facing Diagonal Wall) experience and mine is the teaching. And the teachers. Mine could recognize that this was a mental block for me (yet ANOTHER one) and could draw on his experience to know when to push, when to pull me through it, when to switch to something else for a while, and when to just let it rest. And maybe Facing Diagonal Wall’s teacher didn’t have that insight or experience to draw on for whatever reason.

Yes, Cuban motion can be awkward when you first work on a new portion of it. So can any new technique in dance when you first try it. Of course it’s awkward – it’s NEW. It’s a new and therefore not muscle-memory-comfortable way of moving. But eventually it will be comfortable. You just have to remember how the basic step in waltz felt at first – awkward, too, right?

I’m going through it right now as we work on the next level of Cuban motion. (Well, not right now, because I haven’t been able to dance for a week or so because of this stupid flu.) But it’s awkward. And I’m still not sure how to tell what muscles to move where. But I’ve been through enough of these experiences in dance to know that it’s just part of the learning process, I know I’ll get it eventually, and I just need to keep trying and keep working on it. It doesn’t freak me out anymore or derail me.

I’m guessing that Facing Diagonal Wall has some mental block on Cuban motion that he needs to work through. And probably his post was just a rant that we all need to do about dance at times. (My poor friend SP – she gets so many texts from me that are rants about my dancing. So does AD. And they’re both still my friend – that’s amazing. Thanks, guys!) I think he’s stuck in the thinky place on this. And we all know how much I’ve been there, right? I’ve just learned how not to set up a second home there.

So hang in there, Facing Diagonal Wall! I feel your pain. I will say that if you think it’s something you either have or don’t and you don’t have it, you’ll never get it. But I believe (and I’m sure your teacher believes) that you can and WILL learn it. Just remember the four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. Also known as initial, awkward, conscious, and natural for you non-nerds.

(Oh my goodness, my teacher would be so proud of this post. Defending Cuban motion, claiming anyone can do Cuban motion, and spouting the four stage of competence! Don’t tell him, OK?)

So, Facing Diagonal Wall, if you have anything to say in response, I’d love to hear it! But meanwhile, just know I’m rooting for you. You’ll conquer Cuban motion yet!

Down with the flu

25 Feb

Remember I said I got a cold last week? Wednesday night, I got a sore throat. Thursday, I was a bit stuffy and kinda achy. Friday I went to work but left at noon because I wasn’t feeling well. When I got home, I took my temperature and had a fever of almost 100.

Over the weekend, I cancelled all my plans, including my dance lessons. (That was tough.) Saturday, my fever got to over 101. Other than going to the grocery store and paying a bill, I literally did not move off the couch the whole weekend.

the-flu

Which would normally tough for me. But I didn’t mind it all, which tells you how crappy I felt.

Yesterday morning, my fever had broken and was normal, so I went to work. I decided to try and see my doctor or go to urgent care if he wasn’t available. Luckily, he had an opening in his schedule, so I went to see him.

Turns out my cold was the flu. Still is, actually. He told me that while he wouldn’t tell me I had to stay home or I’d die, his preference was that I go home and not go to work again until Thursday at least. He’s worried about it turning into pneumonia, strep, or a staff infection. So I’m not contagious, but I’m susceptible to other germs right now.

So I’m home today. On my couch. Thank god for Netflix and Hulu! I watched the whole “The Borgias” series over the weekend (which was really good). Today I started season two of “House of Cards”. Which is really good. Especially the plot twist in the first episode – WHAT WAS THAT.

I’m not antsy yet, which tells me I’m still not anywhere near 100%. The downside is that I’ve had to cancel a bunch of dance lessons, so I haven’t had one since February 12 other than one exchange lesson last week. Two weeks without a lesson with my teacher. And two weeks of no parties or group classes. I miss it.

But I need to get well. I need to not go to dance so I get better faster. I need to be careful about how much I work so I don’t overdo it. Because being sick really gets in the way of living my life.

Chicago outings

22 Feb

Last weekend, I went to Chicago to visit my friends JF and BF and their kids.

My friend SP wanted to go see her friend, too, so she rode with me. I had to work Friday morning (boo) so we left around 1. First stop, coffee and doughnuts! Great way to start a road trip – caffeinated and sugared up. We talked a lot in the car – lots of secrets and analyzing life.

We hit the Illinois border around 7 or so. Both SP and I brought change for the tolls. At the first toll stop, I was shocked – three dollars!?! You can tell it’s been YEARS since I drove to Chicago. Apparently I’ve been flying there for a long time – I was still expecting the forty cent toll. Whoa.

SP dropped me off at my friends’ synagogue and took my car to go the rest of the drive to her friend’s (about 45 minutes). I stayed with my friends for Shabbat which was interesting. I think the only Jewish ceremony I’ve been to was their wedding. My friend JF translated into Catholicism for me, plus the books (I’d call them hymnals but I’m guessing that’s not the right word) were in Hebrew and English both. It was a beautiful service. Then we went to their house.

They moved into this house about a year ago, and I hadn’t seen it yet. Of course, it was gorgeous, and very relaxing.

Saturday morning, we just hung out and watch the Olympics. Then we went to lunch at a pizza and pasta place that I can’t remember the name of. Oh well. After lunch, we were going to go to the Museum of Science & Industry to see their Walt Disney exhibit. But by the time we were done with lunch, it was around 1. It would have taken an hour to drive into the city plus time to park and buy tickets blah blah blah and the museum closed at 4. So we decided it wasn’t worth it. The main reason I went to Chicago was to see them, not the city necessarily, so I was fine not going into the city on one trip.

So instead, JF and I went to a movie which I never do at home. We saw “The Monuments Men” – it was really good. I mean, how could it not be with such a great cast including George Clooney and Hugh Bonneville. And it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it was a good story and well done.

Saturday night, we went to dinner at a great Mexican Tex-Mex whatever place called Cozymels. (We had a great debate in the car about whether it was Mexican, Tex-Mex, or something other cuisine.) Excellent food, great table-side guacamole, and lots of good conversation and laughing.

Sunday, SP and I left around 1:30. It took us about 7 hours to get home – silly Wisconsin drivers who go the speed limit and don’t get into the right lane.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I so needed to get out of town, it was great to see JF and BF, and the time in the car with SP was so fun.

Then this week, I got a cold.

Olympic glory

18 Feb

I love the Olympics.

sochi_logo

Especially the winter games. I mean, there’s HOCKEY.

mens_hockey

(side note: my friend B has a great list of Olympic boyfriends. You should go check it out! And keep an eye out for her boyfriend bracket. The annual contest that people get very passionate about.)

And now there’s (almost) ballroom dancing.

ice_dancing

But I found out this year…it’s a lot more interesting and fun when you have someone to cheer for.

The brother of my good friend ND was on the US men’s skeleton team. And ND did a great job keeping people informed on when and where to watch the runs. So many people were cheering so hard! I’ve only met Matt once, but it still felt like I was cheering for someone I knew. And when he won the BRONZE MEDAL…

matt_bronze

…yeah, I got a little teary-eyed. Because even though I hardly know him, I’ve heard so much about his journey from ND. It just made it a little more real and less something you watch. It made the Olympics an actual event to me and not just a TV show. I’m so glad I got an Olympic experience like that.

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