Relaxing is hard

11 Feb

I took yesterday and today off as vacation days. And they’re really hard days.

I have a hard time relaxing. I always feel like I should be doing something. The idea of just sitting and reading, or watching a movie, or just knitting is very hard for me to grasp.

I can’t do this.

You see, before I started dancing, my life WAS just sitting around on my ass not doing anything. I’m much happier now as an active person. And my life now is super busy with work, the part-time job, and dancing. So I don’t get a ton of time to just relax. So when I do get more than a half hour, I’m not sure what to do.

For me, I feel incredibly guilty if I just watch movies or read all day. At the end of the day, I have horrible guilt that I should have done more that day.

But I desperately need these two days. I’m tired from having a crazy January with lots of overtime and dance camp. My boss even noticed that I seemed a little run down and encouraged me to take both days. He knows that I only take time after dance events or if I’m going somewhere. I don’t take time off just to be at home often.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about this issue. I mean, I really should be able to just have a day or a half day of nothing. So for me, it’s finding the balance between getting stuff done and just hanging out.

So yesterday, I went to the gym. Then I read for a while, then I watched movies while knitting. (Thank god for knitting…it really makes me feel like I’m not wasting time.) And by the way – did you know the Ken Burns documentaries are streaming on Netflix now??? I cleaned out some files. I went to dinner with a friend and went to the group class at the studio. All in all, not a bad day. Still felt a little guilty though.

Today, I made brownies and watched a movie. I’m not sure what to do this afternoon. I’d like to go to the gym, but it’s so cold. (One below with a wind chill of 18 below.) I could read more. I could do my taxes – not exactly a day off activity but still needs to be done. I could watch more movies while knitting.

I’m really struggling with what to do with my day that will be relaxing and yet not make me feel like a slug that’s wasted a bunch of time.  I know, first world problem, right? It’s so hard to be me – what to do with all my free time today?

Dance camp

27 Jan

Last week, I went to camp. Dance camp, that is.

Twice a year, our studio hosts dance camp. You can participate at either the two lesson a day level or the three lesson a day level, and you usually have an exchange lesson (a lesson with a teacher other than yours) each day as one of the lessons. The lessons generally are earlier than the studio usually opens. They also have one group class each day just for the dance camp participants. The nice thing about dance camp is by doing so many lessons so close together, you can really make some great progress on your dancing.

I decided to do the three lesson a day level. Figuring it would be a bit exhausting perhaps, I had taken the whole week off work. I have the vacation time, and it’s a good excuse to use it. Plus, I figured it’d be tough to dance then work each day. Unfortunately, work turned out to be way more busy than either I or my boss had expected. So I did have to work, but luckily I got to do it from home except of a few meetings I had to go in for.

So there were two objectives for me for dance camp. (Apparently. You all know that I think my teacher is the expert so I leave those types of decisions to him.) One was using your sides. We worked a lot on stretching your side in smooth dancing and using it to provide momentum down the floor. It was a lot about contrabody movement and pointing your ribcage down the floor. We worked on this I think a little bit each day, primarily using waltz as the vehicle to practice the technique. We also worked on getting your side (bottom rib, really) over your foot in Cuban motion in the rhythm dances. Which pushed my Cuban motion even further than I had been doing it. Which, duh, was kinda the point – taking Cuban motion to the next level. It also applies to swing a bit especially in turns. Get on the foot, get your side over the foot, then turn. (I have trouble with the “then turn”. I tend to turn early.) We had been working since Showcase in November on the swing open. Right after Showcase, my teacher decided that it was the perfect time to take swing apart and really work on the technique. So between that and the work we did during dance camp, I no longer consider swing the bane of my existence! It feels sooo much better. Not awkward. Easier, more controlled. Waiting to turn. More swing-like.

The other objective was learning a chunk of choreography for the Lindy hop routine I’m doing at Showcase in June. Choreography is a great thing to do during dance camp, because you’re going back to it every day. It gets solidified in your brain more quickly. And I’m super excited about this routine – I’m doing it for my dad. He loves to see me dance, he loves to see my teacher dance, and Lindy hop is from his era of high school and college. And my teacher has accepted the challenge and is making this a pretty advanced Lindy hop routine. So advanced, that there’s one step I can’t do yet! I don’t know the name of it, or if it’s even a real step. But basically, we’re in side-by-side position, and we do a grapevine. But in the grapevine, we’re on our heels on the front feet and our toes on the back feet. Basically we twist our centers to get the movement. I can do it without my shoes; I think there’s something psychological about putting all of my weight on one heel of my shoe even for a split second. But I’m practicing it, and if I can get it (which I think I will), it will look so cool!

The group classes were fantastic. I had to miss two of them – schedule-wise, I had lessons during the group class time on two days. But on Monday, my teacher did one on turns – smooth and rhythm. The smooth turns are harder for me because I haven’t worked on technique on those as much as rhythm turns. Plus, everyone else in the class is more advanced than me, which can be difficult for my brain. Wednesday, Abby did one on rhythm arm styling. That was awesome and so helpful. Oh, I had to miss Thursday’s class because I had to call in to work and talk to my boss. So I guess I only did two of them.

I had exchanges lessons, too. One with Abby on getting your side over your foot in Cuban motion. I like her. She’s a lot of fun and a really good teacher. The other two exchanges I had were with David; we’ll be dancing rumba at Super Saturday in a few weeks so it was a chance to work on that with him. They were great lessons. It’s never the same as working with my teacher, plus I find David harder to follow in rhythm than smooth. But it’s always great to hear things in a different way.

So the big question I’m sure you all have is how did my brain handle so much information in one week?

Well, Monday morning, I showed up for my first dance camp lesson. So first thing on my first lesson, my teacher starts with the really deep technique about using your sides for smooth dancing and makes me try some things on my own.

Damn. I forgot about that part of dance camp.

I absolutely hate trying things on my own. It is extremely uncomfortable for me. And it’s worse if other people are in the ballroom which luckily there weren’t. And my teacher knows all that, so I know when he asks me to do so, it’s for a very valid reason and is a necessity. But when he asks, my brain just gets muddled. It’s pretty much a direct and Concorde-speed route to the thinky place.

But…luckily I’ve gotten much better about the thinky place. I think I have a good self-talk script now. I don’t go there often anymore, and when I do, it’s usually for just a brief second. This one took about 5 minutes to start to pull myself out of. But eventually I did. I did a good job of staying out of the thinky place the rest of the week.

I woke up on Tuesday with my inner thighs hurting a bit from working on waltz. But they quickly adapted and weren’t sore the rest of the week. That was pretty much the only physical issue I had, other than my muscles just being used a lot more than they are in a normal week. But my poor brain was a mess. I did end up having to work about 20 hours, so I was constantly switching gears between work and dance. I don’t do that well, especially when both were demanding so much of my brain power. I was pretty mentally exhausted by the end of the week.

So for my last lesson that week, we just did run-throughs. In order of the nine dances, closed then open. (So waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero, mambo. Except we ran out of time for bolero and mambo.) I think it was my teacher’s way of showing what progress had been made during the week. Plus it’s just a nice way to end dance camp.

We started dancing and I noticed it’s easier. Lighter, in a good way. A bit more powerful in my legs. We danced waltz, tango, and foxtrot, and they all felt good. Then we got to Viennese waltz. We danced it closed, and then my teacher went to change the music. Then he looked at me.

My teacher: Cathy, are you OK?
Me: Yes.
My teacher: You sure?
Me: Yes, why?
My teacher: You look like you’re about to cry.
Me: I am. (as I’m tearing up)
My teacher: Why? What’s wrong? (in a very concerned tone, probably thinking oh crap now what?)
Me: That just feels so different. So light, so easy. So very different. So much better. (I’m crying at this point)
My teacher: Yay! Happy breakdowns! (as he gives me a hug)

God knows he’s had to deal with more than his share of negative breakdowns, so this was a nice change for him.

But the point is, I made so much progress last week that even I could notice it. I felt after that like I do after a performance – I know I’m a good dancer, and I want to just learn it all now.

When I did dance camp last, I think I had just started bronze II. And it was a great experience. But to do it as a bronze IV student – so amazing. I can’t wait to do it next January – I’m going to try to keep doing it every January. Because it was a great experience, and I love how I feel about my dancing right now.

(In case you’re curious…I danced 12.75 hours during dance camp: 1.5 hours in group classes, 9 hours in lessons with my teacher, 1.5 hours in lesson with other teachers. And that doesn’t include the regular evening dancing I usually do which was another 3.75 hours I think. Grand total = 16.5 hours of dancing. Yes, I’m a numbers person.)


Daily prompt: The first person

21 Jan

Daily prompt from January 18: Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her.

This was the daily prompt on last Saturday. Saturday, my roommates were out of town, so I woke up to an empty house. I got up, got ready, had breakfast, drank coffee…all in complete solitude. If that sounds like a nightmare to you, you must be an extrovert. To an introvert, it’s ideal. (Read this article for a bit more insight.) Then I went to the dance studio for my lesson. And the first person I saw there? My teacher.

So…my dance teacher. I’ve said before that I’m extremely lucky. He is an excellent dancer and an even better teacher. His teaching style fits my learning style very well. He knows when and how to drag me outside my comfort zone and when to just leave it be for a bit. He has learned how to deal with my thinky place and whether (in his words) I need a kick in the pants or a hug to get out of it. (Sometimes he guesses the wrong solution. No one’s perfect.) He has seen me at my darkest, craziest place, and I still feel supported. It’s really the first time, outside of a romantic relationship, that someone has seen so much of that side of me and has not walked away. (It’s also the first time, outside of a romantic relationship, that I’ve shown someone so much of that side of me.) That means a lot to me.

He’s not perfect. He is extremely private, which can make conversation awkward at times if he feels it’s going to a place he doesn’t want it to be. He rarely missteps in dealing with people – when he does screw up, he feels very bad about it. We’ve had our arguments and our run-ins, and we’ve always been able to talk it out and move past it.

We do tend to debate on lessons. Not about dancing, but about stupid things. (The latest was the use of “you” vs “one”. I lost.) In the battle of words and wit, I lose. Always. I keep trying though.

He listens and is willing to sit down and talk about goals or issues or problems about dance. I’ve let him dictate what we work on when because he knows my goal (to be the best dancer I can be) and therefore he knows how best to get there. (One of our debates was about that goal. He says that my actions and manner tell him that my goal is to the best dancer. Period. Read about that here.)

I trust him 100%. Except when he compliments me. I’ve gotten much better at believing him. It was hard for a long time because I felt like it was his job to say those things. Then I realized that while part of his job is to keep me happy, he does NOT have to use those particular words.

He’s got a goofy sense of humor that I laugh at, sometimes because it’s just weird not because it’s funny. Other students sometimes say he’s too serious. I have not experienced that. He’s serious about dancing, but he tries to be a little goofy with me to help keep me from being too serious and thinky.

He changed my life as dancing has changed my life. Which is a topic for another day. For now, I’ll leave you with a picture (actually it’s a picture of a picture because I don’t have the electronic file) from our Lindy hop dance at showcase. It’s one of my favorite pictures.


I still thank the stars that I started dancing and that I got him as my teacher.

Part of a village

19 Jan

My friend Stef is starting a ballroom village. It’s a list of ballroom dancing blogs. (Seriously, go check them all out.)

When I first read about it, to be honest, I was a bit hurt she didn’t ask me. Then I realized that while I mention dancing, I do talk about a lot of other things here. Not just dancing. And I also realized I haven’t really written about dancing in a long time. Then I wondered why?

Well, some of it is I’m protective of my lessons. I’m not one to share much what’s happened on my lessons, nor do I want to hear what’s being done on other people’s lessons. It’s odd, but those moments on lessons are mine and I’m careful about what I share. Weird, I know. But there ya go. Also, my teacher is an extremely private person, and I try to honor that. So writing about dancing means striking a balance between what I need and want to share, my privacy, and his privacy.

So I’m OK not being part of that village, although I know Stef does like it when I actually talk about dancing. But a big part of my life journey is the journey in dance, and I do want to share that more. In pieces, anyway.

Remember how I told you how tough December was? Part of that showed up in dancing too. I was really hard on myself and getting discouraged as we worked on things. After Showcase, my teacher decided it was time to tackle swing, which has been my bane for a while. (In my opinion, not his.) And I would get super frustrated with myself in not being to quickly apply the new techniques in swing action. Even though I know there are no quick fixes now. The time of quick fixes ended a LONG time ago. But I was getting a bit thinky on it all, and it was compounded by everything else that was going on.

Finally, I think right before the holidays (maybe after? I can’t remember), I talked to my teacher. Just gave him a quick update on what all was going on because he had been very concerned about me. I also told him what was going on at the studio in terms of how I was feeling when I showed up. We talked for a long time about it all. Mr problem-solver had some thoughts, which were helpful. (Why do all men try to fix everything right away?) But one thing he said to me was that he wished I could just focus on the journey and stop expecting so much so soon from myself. Again, goals and high standards are fine – he’s said before that it’s my expectations of the timing in reaching those standards are the problem.

And for some reason, that all sunk in pretty deep this time. Since that conversation, my lessons have been more fun because I’m not so hard on myself. I KNOW that he would not give me anything he didn’t think I couldn’t do. And therefore I KNOW that if he’s giving it to me, I’ll be able to do it eventually. And the only way to get there is to keep doing it AD NAUSEUM. Or at least repeatedly. So I’ve just pushed through and not let my brain go thinky.

And the funny thing is that when I do that, my progress is actually much faster. Which he had said. (I hate it when he’s right. I so rarely win with him. I think I won one argument once.)

So I’m in a really good place with dance right now. Which of course I then start thinking it’s going to crash soon. Because I’m Irish, and the other shoe always drops. But I have dance camp this week – 15 lessons in one week! So I’m going to try to keep this attitude for this week. And I’ll probably collapse at the end of the week.

What happened to December?

12 Jan

You may have noticed that I had just a few posts in between Thanksgiving and now. I had one about Showcase in early December because my friend AD asked me to write that. Other than that, I had a merry Christmas one, a happy new year one, and one about setting goals for 2014. There’s a reason for the lack of posts.

December was very difficult for me. I had a major anxiety/depression episode that started around Thanksgiving and went through Christmas. It wasn’t due to one particular thing – just a lot of little things. The main thing was the holidays – that’s always a difficult time for me. Plus, I’ve been missing Mr Big a lot lately – apparently I’m going through yet ANOTHER layer in grieving the end of that relationship. (I wonder how many more layers there are?)

So I talked to my therapist, I talked to some friends, I did some of the tricks I have to help with this. It was so bad for a while that none of that helped. But right after Christmas, I started to feel better. I jumped on that feeling and kept at it with the tools I have. And I’ve been feeling so much better since new year’s really. Just in time for work to get CRAZY busy – like crazier than it has been in years.

Although I’ve been feeling better this month, it’s just been too busy for me to even think about writing. Which makes me sad. But I think this week will be the last of the crazy craziness, so I should be able to pick up writing on a more regular basis soon. I’m thankful that I have you readers, and I hope you’ll come back.

Oh, and starting the 20th…DANCE CAMP!!


Time to refocus

1 Jan

Happy new year!

Here we are again. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of resolutions. But I know I’m not perfect, by any means, unlike Calvin:


(I love that cartoon.)

So looking back at what I wanted to focus on in 2013 and setting the focus for 2014…

Physical health
I did get back to the gym on a regular basis. I certainly ran more. But then I broke my foot. I was in such great shape prior to that, and it’s been hard to get back into a regular routine with any sort of endurance. But this week has been good. So for 2014 I’ll keep working on going to the gym regularly, building endurance, and running more.

My eating didn’t change much this year, although I somehow got a little sugar addiction lately. Boo on holiday food. So let’s refocus on that for 2014: more veggies!

My writing was definitely done in waves. I had stretches of lots of blog posts, and then nothing. (See: lack of posts in December.) So there’s the focus for 2014: more consistent blogging.

Breaking my foot really made me appreciate dancing. Prior to that, I was going to more groups and practicing on my own. After I broke my foot, I practiced a lot because I was working on checking out. But since then, I’ve struggled to get into a routine. So after the holidays, it’s more group classes, more practicing on my own, and still appreciating it.

Creative hobbies
I stopped baking for a while in the last few months for various reason. I packed my grandma’s recipes, so I can’t go through those until after July. But I’ve baked more this week and will continue to do so. I did learn to crochet but didn’t practice, so now I need a refresher. I certainly knitted more this year and will continue to do so for 2014!

No movement there. Meaning no action taken on my part to have anything happen. Stupid Mr Big still in my brain. But steps have been taken this week…more on that soon.

I’ve made some progress towards my financial goals, although Christmas was not planned for as well as it should have been. Oops. So I’m going to take the first six months of 2014 and refocus on money.

Mental health
This year, I realized that my issues are like a chronic condition. I will always have them; I can only cope with the flare-ups. And I’ve done a better job of that lately. This will always be a focus for me though.

At the end of the day, I still strive for this:


And hope to remember this:

light of your being

I hope 2014 is everything you want it to be. Happy new year!

Happy new year!

1 Jan


Wishing the very best to you in 2014!

Here’s to love, joy, peace, happiness, and fulfilling lives with friends and family!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec


Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you the best of the holiday season: love, peace, joy, and happiness. Take a moment, too, to think of those who are struggling this time of year or who don’t have all that you have.

Merry Christmas!!

Prepping for Showcase, part two

3 Dec

I’ve told you before about my hair and makeup prep for Showcase. But a friend of mine asked about what tips and tricks I have for the day. So, AD, this one’s for you!


I actually have a list of stuff to bring for the day. (And yes, by list, I mean a Word document I save on my computer. Nerd alert.) First, my dresses. Oh my dresses. I love my dresses!! Anyway, before I had dance dresses, I used to list my smooth skirt, my rhythm skirt, my top to go with both. Oh, and don’t forget the shoes! Both rhythm and smooth shoes. I keep my old pairs – there’s a whole rotation scheme for each – so I always bring one old pair just in case something happens to my performance shoes. I also bring an extra pair of nylons.

(OK, the scheme is this: I buy a new pair of shoes. That pair becomes the performance pair. The pair that was the performance pair becomes the shoes I wear every day at the studio for lessons and groups and parties. The pair that was the pair I wear every day become the old pair that I use to practice at the gym and for studio dance outings. The pair that was the old pair gets tossed. See? Simple.)

I bring the clothes I’ll need for dinner, since we have a dinner/dance afterwards. So I’ll bring a dress and a change of nylons. Usually because I’m done with fishnets at that point. Worse case scenario is I just change into a different pair of fishnets.

I used to bring my flat iron, ponytail holders, bobby pins, a brush and a comb. But I’ve gotten lazy and comfortable, so I just leave my hair up for the evening portion. Too much work to try and change it for dinner. Oh I also bring jewelry for dinner as well as a purse. To carry my ID and cash for the bar. Best tasting cocktail is the one I get after dancing all day.


I bring my makeup so I can do touch ups throughout the day if needed. And also to prepare for the dinner. I bring deodorant and perfume – for the same reason.

I bring whatever medication I might need – ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepcid, etc. I bring breath mints. ‘Cause, ya know. Ew.

I bring food. The studio does have the hotel provide morning treats and afternoon treats. But the morning treats are pastries and fruit, and the afternoon treats are cheese and crackers. All really great, but there’s rarely enough, and there’s not a lot of protein there. So I try to bring food to eat throughout the day. Especially protein. I bring my water bottle. Again, the hotel provides a ton of water; it’s just habit for me to bring mine.

I bring my camera to take pictures throughout the day and videotape some stuff.

Almost most importantly, I bring my IPod. I’m an introvert, so I worry that being around people all day like that will be draining. So I’m always prepared to sneak off for a few minutes and decompress with my IPod. I haven’t had to do it yet, but I want to be prepared for it. Of course, the tough thing for me is that you’re part of the studio community, so you should show up for others because they show up for you. That’s being part of a community. So I would probably feel guilty if I snuck off, which is probably why I haven’t done it yet.

I bring a highlighter (although I forgot mine this time!) so that I can highlight my name in the program. That makes it easy to find, so I can quickly tell when my next heat is. I bring a small bag to hold the stuff I want to keep in the ballroom with me – phone, lipstick, face powder, snacks, mints.

I pack (or at least lay out) everything the night before. I don’t want to make the morning too crazy, and I want to spend the morning focusing on my hair and makeup. I review my list a few times before I leave though. Gotta ease the OCD tendencies.

I try to get there right around the time warm-ups start. That gives me time to change and warm-up a little. I rarely have anything except maybe a 45-second spotlight in the first hour, so warming up isn’t super important at that time. But I do like to do a few warm-up dances just to loosen up. I try to actually do a few warm-up waltz boxes by myself a few heats before my heats. And when it’s rhythm, I do a few moves to loosen up the hip muscles before my heats.

I also support my fellow students and help them with whatever they might need too. I also try hard to stay positive and just enjoy the day. I’m lucky that I don’t get nervous that day. To me, it’s just the one day (or 2 days technically) each year that I know I’m a great dancer, and I dance better than I ever have, even on lessons. I’m so thankful for that.


So that in a nutshell – or a wordy post – is my plan for Showcase.


Happy thanksgiving

28 Nov

Happy thanksgiving to all of you!


Among the many things I’m grateful for, I’m grateful for every reader I have. You all mean so much to me!

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