So how about a dance post?

Despite everything that has been going on, I have been able to get some dancing in, and the activity actually helps some with the symptoms.

I haven’t gotten in as much dancing as I would have liked, but something is always better than nothing.

I did have a rounds practice on Sunday, which was fairly interesting considering I was having intermittent moments of dizzyness and light-headedness and had to stop more than I would have liked.

Aside from that though, there were moments when things seemed to be finally coming together. After the first round in standard, Boss told me to focus on keeping my core connected with him and that made for some interesting 2nd and 3rd round dancing.  The result was that I was more aware of when my left side opened up away from him so I felt like I was spending every dance fighting with myself to keep my core where it needed to be. Boss told me yesterday he thought that was great because I kept noticing and correcting when I opened up. Ah, the differing perspectives.

Boss and I had a brief discussion yesterday about the practice on Sunday and there were two things of note that came out of that.  The first was that Boss told me most of my standard routines are pretty disastrous because my footwork sucks.  But then he told me it was ok since I just seemed incapable of rolling through my foot properly.

*sigh*. There is nothing I hate more than being told I am incapable of doing something which I have neither been told I need to work on nor given direction on where in my routines I should be focusing on it.  How can I be capable of something I am not really aware of having to do?  I am not even sure what specifically he is talking about when he says ‘footwork’ and ‘rolling’.

The other discussion was a bit more interesting.  Boss expressed frustration that I seem to have developed a habit of going really big on some steps and then tightening up small on others.  It’s like I let the gas out then apply the hand break while still revved up every now and then.  He found it fairly strange that I seemed to just stop traveling at certain points in routines, but then start moving again at others.

This makes perfect sense to me. Besides the fact that I haven’t really been encouraged to travel during my routines in quite some time (and honestly have forgotten a bit how to do it), when I come to a step that I am not quite sure of, or I don’t trust myself to be able to control the momentum, I immediately start to ‘err’ on the side of caution because I don’t want to screw up and hurt myself or Boss.  So those steps get small.  Then when I reach a step I am more confident in, I go back to putting everything I have into doing it.

I wasn’t fully consciously aware that I was doing that, but I wasn’t surprised when he mentioned it.  We did a section from our Waltz that the steps needed to be clarified on and it ended with a Wing to a Fallaway.  I am never sure how much I can step during the Wing (and apparently I move far enough), but Boss made a point of showing where I can take the opportunity to move more once we get into the fallaway.

It’s enough to give me something to think about and put into my own practice until the next time we do rounds (which could be in 2, 3, or 4 weeks–I haven’t been told yet).  Together with the focus on the connection and keeping my left side turned in, that gives me two very solid things to focus on during those practices, now that I am much more grounded in the choreography.

The other thing I heard yesterday that I don’t think I ever thought I heard was that I was doing CBMP when I wasn’t supposed to and that was complicating some of my quickstep steps.  Go figure–I have spend months trying to make sure I am using CBMP when I need to that I have apparently overdone it.

I have an extra lesson this week to make up for the one I missed last week, and I suspect my lessons will focus on the smooth routines for the next little while.  The tango and foxtrot are coming together a little bit (tango more than foxtrot), and I think there is an intent to pull the waltz together too.  Boss mentioned an idea of doing a rounds practice with just smooth in a few weeks, so we will see what happens with that.

The other thing of dancing note that happened recently was a bit of a strange conversation with one of the amateur couples.  They recently started coming more and more to the studio for their own practice and last Friday they were there not only for my lesson, but also had to share space with me while I did a practice after.  Their initial comment was ‘Wow! You work just as hard as Boss does’ (which was a little bit insulting considering the level of their surprise at that), but then on Sunday they clarified that they had no idea that I worked so much and so hard on my dancing.  They have been dancing in the community for quite some time, but their experience seeing me work has been only since I was sick, not before (as I practiced in a different hall).  It was an interesting conversation which ended with them expressing some genuine respect that I work 100% all the time–even on my own.  Perhaps it’s a mini pro/am victory of sort for the community. (The community where I live has a general lack of understanding and respect for pro/am dancers and we are seen as being ‘carried’ by our pros and ‘not real dancers’–I have been told that by amateur dancers).

I continue to be frustrated about my health but it does seem to finally be settling down (fingers crossed).  The one thing I am finding most difficult is that my mind is fuzzy and foggy all the time and I can’t seem to remember simple things.  It means a lot of repetition and makes me worried about the idea that I am supposed to perform one of the smooth routines (dance still to be confirmed) in less than 2 weeks.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but since I can’t seem to retain much these days….OY.

But tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully a stronger, more clear-headed one.

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Recognizing Anger

I am angry. And I have been for a while.

I very rarely get angry and when I do, I seldom give into it, but sometimes it is healthy to let out the anger and frustration to give it a chance to ‘clear the air’ so you can move past it instead of ignoring it.

So I apologize in advance for the angry post that is about to follow.

My body and I are still not getting along.  Even when good things happen (like being able to stop taking medication I no longer need), my body rebels.  I feel like my body and I have been at odds since before my diagnosis, and in some ways my diagnosis was my body’s way of fighting back against the changes I had been making.

Changes to get healthier.

The year before my diagnosis was one of the most positive years in my life.  I was doing very well at work, I was progressing steadily in dance (even transitioning from bronze to silver), I was steadily losing weight and that was having a positive impact on my body.  I rarely needed medications, and I can’t even remember the last time I saw my doctor other than for a mandatory check-up since sorting out my hormone issues the year before.

I was full of positive momentum and charging forward with it.  It wasn’t free of bumps in the road, but the bumps were easy to work through and I just kept overcoming it.  I could even see myself reaching my weight loss goal and was only 25 lbs from it (considering I had already lost 75, 25 was really not much).

Then I found the lump in my breast and everything changed.

Suddenly, I had no control over my body anymore.  Everything from diet to medications to hormones was taken out of my control and put into the control of my cancer diagnosis.  I kept trying to maintain control by eating a specific diet, trying to stay active and doing as much as I could.

But it wasn’t enough.  My activity level had to be reduced, medications (mainly steroids) that caused weight gain had to be taken, and chemo caused so many food aversions I couldn’t eat the things I had come to rely on in my diet and had to find substitutes.  My hormones were thrown into complete flux, first because I had to stop taking my supplements, then chemo caused premature menopause (which also tends to trigger weight gain).

My body was abused, worn out, and eventually gained 35lbs I had lost (which I have been told is the average for chemo).  After recovering from my surgeries and returning to work, I started working on me again–trying to take back control of my body–and get it back in ‘fighting form’.

But it hasn’t worked.

Over the past few weeks I have been getting angrier and angrier because I have put in a lot of time, effort, and sacrifices, but the result has been the opposite of what I expected.  It just seems like every time I get just a little more control of myself, something happens to take it away from me.  I get sick. I have to adjust medication. I have side effects from medications. I fall. I get injured.

The list seems to go on and on.

And I am very sick of it.

The withdrawal symptoms I started experiencing last week are continuing.  I missed 3 days of work last week and will miss most of this week to try and give my body the chance to flush out the medication and get used to functioning without it again.  One doctor said expect 3-4 weeks, another 7-10 days. At this point, I don’t care how long it takes, I want this over with.  It is almost like the last hurdle I need to get over to really take my life back and it is like I reach the top of it only to discover there is still another summit to go.

I feel like I have been fighting to regain my life for more than 2 years now. And I am tired. I am angry. I am trying not to give up the fight.

I am trying to remember how good it felt to see positive and expected results from hard work. I am trying to remember what it felt like to be strong and confident.  I am trying to remember what it feels like to be me–driven, motivated and full of perseverance.

Perseverance used to be my word. I might not be first or even second, but I was going to finish and I was going to do it the best I could knowing that the work I was doing meant I would be even better next time.  I knew that because I knew if I kept doing my best every time, then my best would just keep getting better.

I don’t feel I can do my best anymore. I feel like that has been taken away from me.  I know what that was and despite so much effort I feel like I am no closer to reaching the goals I was trying to reach before I got sick.  And I am really angry about that.

I feel like I am doing everything I can to help my body get stronger and healthier and it is refusing to respond.  I feel like despite all the work I have done in the past year, I am still where I was this time last year–recovering from radiation and shingles and preparing for the biggest surgery of my life.

My instinct is to try to keep fighting and force my body to cooperate as much as I can.  But in the past 3 weeks, my trainer, my physiotherapist and my doctor have told me I am probably doing too much.

I am angry that the thought of slowing down and giving myself a break puts me in a panic.  I am barely able to maintain my health and weight doing as much as I am–doing less sounds like the road to disaster.

I am angry because it is like cancer was a cruel joke sent to me as a message to tell me that I can’t reach my goals. That my goals are impossible and I am a fool for trying so hard and having faith for so many years.  I have spent my life taking one step forward and two steps back and doing things people told me I would never be able to do.

I am angry because although my mind refuses to quit, my body refuses to cooperate.  A part of me is almost wondering what obstacle it is going to present me with next as a further roadblock to my goals.

I am angry because I want to stay positive. I want to keep pushing. I want to feel like my goals ARE possible.

And I feel like that is out of my control.

I keep telling myself to be patient. I keep telling myself to remember that I have been through a lot. I keep telling myself that if I keep working, it will all come together. I keep telling myself to have faith and trust and just believe that it will work out.

But how long can I keep telling myself these things before I am living in a fantasy world instead of reality? How long is too patient?

I just don’t know if my expectations are unrealistic for the new reality in which I find myself post cancer.  I feel as though I am constantly making compromises to adjust to the changes that have occurred, but I am also questioning at what point do compromises become giving in?  I am angry because I don’t think I have anything left to compromise on, and the only options left to me is to give in completely.

I am angry with myself because I blame myself. Somewhere I didn’t do enough, didn’t try hard enough, haven’t been strong enough.  I am not able to be the person I want to be anymore and I am grieving for that.  I feel as though reality is telling me it’s time to give up my dreams and find new more reasonable ones. I am angry because I am not even really sure what those dreams were any more.  My past hopes seem so naive in comparison with my current reality.

All of this may also be part of the withdrawal symptoms I am undergoing (anger is one of the symptoms listed), but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, and it doesn’t change that I feel like I have been failing myself.

That is the hardest thing to deal with right now–feeling like I am failing.  Every day I am not able to do everything I want to do and have to adjust or compromise I feel like I am failing.  Like I am not giving myself the best chance.

Before I got sick, I was very used to doing things on my own.  Too independent according to some people.  While I was sick I had to learn the hard way to allow myself to depend on others, and as long as I was sick I was able to justify that.  Now, I am no longer sick and in my head I feel as though I should be able to take care of myself again without having to rely on others.  I feel like I should be able to work through things now without having to inconvenience others.  But I am angry because I feel like an inconvenience to those around me.

I am also angry because I feel like too many of my posts lately have been about my health and less about dance.  I am angry with myself because I feel like there has been a lot of negative coming out of me lately.  And one thing I have never been is a negative person.

So, I am giving myself some time to just be angry. Time to acknowledge that I am angry about a great many things–some in my control, some not. I am giving myself a moment to feel bad and wallow a bit in self-pity and grieve all I have lost.

My hope is to be able to find within myself the courage to regroup once again. To know that eventually I will move beyond these withdrawal symptoms and when I do the future will be waiting for me to grab it and push my way towards it.

I just have to hang on a little bit longer.

Please forgive me for expressing my anger.

Cancer-versary

That’s what we call the anniversary of the day we are diagnosed.

Today is my two-year cancer-versary.

I don’t think anyone forgets the day they hear the words ‘I am sorry but the biopsy came back positive for cancer’.

It’s a day your life changes and no matter how much you try to prepare for it, you are never really ready to hear those words.

The day started out pretty bad as I woke up with a bad case of the flu and had to go to the medical clinic first thing. While I was there, I asked my doctor if my biopsy results were in because it had been 10 days since the ultrasound when the sample was taken. She didn’t have the results yet, but promised to track them down and call me later in the day.

I went home to bed with lots of flu medications and napped for a couple hours. I woke up at about 11 am when my doctor called me with the news.

Beyond the initial statement, the rest of the conversation was a blur. I really wasn’t able to completely process at that time everything she was saying and my mind was racing.

When I got off the phone, I gave myself a moment to take a deep breath and began to wonder what I should do next. I began to wonder who I should tell and how. Up until that point, other than my immediate supervisor and my assistant at work, no one knew I had discovered a lump and that they suspected cancer, except Boss because we had competed the weekend before my ultrasound and I was quite stressed and distracted.

I started making phone calls, and I remember talking to my assistant and she was the first person who I told that I had cancer. Saying it was one of the hardest things to do, but it got easier after that. I called my supervisor, my parents, one of my sisters (the other was with my mother) and the senior communication officer for the region.

In the middle of all that, I received an email from the National communication officer to tell me that I had been selected for a major extended overseas assignment. So on top of everything else, I had to call Ottawa and turn down that offer.

After that, I gave myself some time to process and ended up calling my doctor back with questions. She actually called me shortly after with a referral to a surgeon for the following Monday.

And so began my cancer journey two years ago.

After I gave myself time to process I told Boss–I was supposed to have a lesson that night and between the flu and the news, it wasn’t going to happen.

The next few days passed in a blur of the flu,  doctor appointments appointed information gathering. At that point, no one knew the extent of my cancer so there were lots of tests to be done before what turned out to be my first surgery.

From conversations I have had with others, no cancer diagnosis is the same, no one reacts the same, and rarely is the initial diagnosis the same as the final one. I was initially diagnosed with stage 0 ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS). My final diagnosis was aggressive stage 2 DCIS and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

That began my journey, and in many ways it is still on-going, even though I will celebrate 1 year cancer-free  next month.

Dealing with the withdrawal symptoms I have in the past week, today was probably a little harder than it needed to be.

But tomorrow is a new day.

Back on the same page

When Boss and I clash, we tend to clash hard. But when we get past the clash, it’s pretty interesting what comes out of it.

Last night Boss and I sat down to discuss mainly the future for competing. It was a very productive conversation.

We discussed the value and merit of doing the local competition in January.  It’s a difficult call as there are advantages and disadvantages to doing it and in the end it comes down to what do I want to focus on now as far as routines.  If I do the competition in January, then it is an opportunity to solidify more the open routines and add the jive and paso routines I don’t yet have.  It is also an opportunity to put the open smooth routines on the floor.  I know I won’t be competing for a while after January, so it would be the last short-term opportunity to do so.

If I didn’t do the competition in January, then it would make more sense to put the open routines aside and begin working on closed gold routines (which is the plan after the comp in January).  As the open routines are not the most solid at the moment, putting them aside now would likely mean having to pick them up from scratch at a later time.  Considering the work I have already done on them, I am reluctant to do that.

So, after going through all the pros and cons and options, Boss and I agreed that doing the competition in January would be a good opportunity and an advantage.  I will be doing only open routines, and I will compete in 3 styles.

That means a lot of work needs to happen in smooth over the next few weeks.  We have 4 routines to put together and we have only worked on one once since I returned from overseas.  Boss will be adjusting the plan of my lessons over the next little while to give more focus on smooth and help bring them together.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation I seem to have agreed to perform one of the smooth routines in just over 2 weeks.  Not really sure how that happened–I think I was tricked somehow 🙂 . I don’t know which routine yet, but Boss suggested the simplest one.  All we have to do now is figure out which one that is.  I had a look at the videos of them last night and actually suggested the waltz.  I don’t think it’s the simplest to put together (I think foxtrot is), but I think it works better with the season and focusing on it will make it a very strong start to smooth multi-dances.  I will see what Boss thinks about that.

We discussed a few changes for my latin routines as I had made some small suggestions over the weekend.  Boss seems to like them, so we will see how they will go.

He also surprised me by making some suggestions for ways we could focus a little bit on fitness and general conditioning for dance at the end of lessons.  After the conversation we had last week, I really didn’t expect any sort of suggestion or further discussion on this, but I guess Boss took some time to think about what I had said and reconsidered his position.  It will be interesting to see what comes of his ideas.

We also talked a little bit about the plan for after the competition in January.  It will be a period of adjustment as I get used to being a student on top of balancing work and dance.  I think Boss expects I will be doing less dance and less focused, but I am not quite sure I agree.  I know there will be some changes I will have to make, but I also know that dance is one of my escapes and stress reliefs and that fitting school around dance will only be a benefit to school.  That said, we will see how it goes.

We are going to talk more about competing in the new year after the competition in January, but I have made a decision to prepare, commit to and focus on a large competition overseas at the end of August.  I am not going to give more details now, but a competition goal like this is something that I really need to give me something big to look forward to.  Boss is very excited about the idea and I hope that other people will want to join us.  I don’t know right now if I will do any other competitions before this one, but it is going to be the main goal in the new year.  I am eager to work out the details some more.

I am having a difficult day again today with the reduction in medication.  It’s been a very rough day and I have been quite light headed and nauseous.  I did go to the gym and that made me feel a little bit better, and I am going to try to practice tonight (although it remains to be seen if I will be able to as the world keeps spinning a little unexpectedly).  I talked to the pharmacist yesterday and all I can do is keep fighting my way through these symptoms until I adjust or go back to my previous dose.  If anything, the side effects and difficulties I am experiencing now cement my determination to get this drug completely out of my system.  It’s just a very difficult battle and my body still hasn’t adjusted to the reduction (which according to the pharmacist is not surprising and it might take a week).

I am so torn about this.  On the one hand, I know I should give my body and mind a break–it is trying very hard to adjust to being without a chemical it became accustomed to having.  On the other, I need to push my way through it to maintain my mental and emotional health.  I am making some concessions for the adjustment, but I am trying not to cut back too much on my activity–as I said it does seem to help some even though it is difficult.  I already missed one lesson and practice this week due to this, I don’t want to miss more. At least every other day I feel ‘normal’.

I will have a competitive practice this weekend and I hope it will be productive.

Withdrawal

Last night I began what will probably (and hopefully) be the final reduction of the side effects medication to eliminate it completely.

Unfortunately, I have reached the point where I only take the medication every other day and my body is very unhappy to find itself without something it has gotten used to.

I started out the day feeling pretty ok, but by 3 pm I was not doing well at all.  I was hit with a massive headache, nausea, shakiness, light-headedness, chills and dizzyness. I had to leave work 10 minutes early because I just couldn’t tolerate it any more, and almost felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack.

Needless to say, I ended up cancelling dance tonight, which is probably the most painful part of this.  I hate cancelling a lesson in the first place, but to have to do it so late in the day is really hard.

The good news is that my body should adjust in about 48 hours (at least that’s how long it took with the other reductions).  I just have to get through to that point.  The other good news is that with the reduction of medication, the side effects of the hormone therapy (which this medication was prescribed to control) are only occasional hot flashes–which is a sign that my body has more or less adapted to the HT.

I knew this week would be hard, but I have to say I never expected it to be this hard and intense.  My plans for tonight are now limited to a hot epsom salt bath followed by bed.  I am hoping the bath will calm the chills and help me relax so I can sleep.  Of course, it will probably help that I will take the medication tonight.

Amazing how something seemingly small can have such a big effect.

I can’t wait until the day when the only medication I will be taking is the HT. It’s coming…one day at a time.

Lack of Latin interest

Because of Remembrance Day being yesterday and the studio being closed, I didn’t get a chance to do my Friday practice until today.

Friday practices focus on working on my latin routines after I complete my basic exercises.

But today something came clear that I have really been struggling with for quite some time.

I have very little interest right now in practicing and working on latin.  When it came to work on my routines today, I discovered that I just didn’t want to.  ‘Bored’ is the first word that came to mind, but upon reflection, that is not the right word.

I feel as though I have nothing to really work on.  I am not saying that everything I do is perfect–far from it–but that I am lacking direction on where to direct my focus.  What I can’t figure out is if I am frustrated because I still can’t do on my own, in time with the music, the spins and turns that I feel like I have been working on for months.  But I do know that when I do them with Boss and am able to use our connection to add to my momentum they work.

I only have 3 routines in latin right now–cha cha, samba and rumba.  Of those 3 routines, both cha cha and rumba are almost the same as my closed silver routines I have been doing for the last 2 years.  The samba is more different, but the spins are still eluding me at fast speeds.

There have been some small changes to the routines since the last competition, but in truth I have only had one latin lesson since that competition.  Most of that was focused on learning a new step in Paso.

I should have a latin lesson on Monday and I do hope that it will give me some direction and respark some interest in it.

I feel very challenged and driven in standard right now, but the most enthusiasm I can muster for latin is ‘meh’.  I am not sure how I can work on pushing my speed more, but that really seems like the one thing I have to focus on and there are limits to how I can progress that.

I just feel like I am doing the same things over and over and expecting different results–but at the same time I am not even sure what different results I am expecting.

I suppose there comes a point in every learning process when you feel you have reached a plateau and perhaps it is just a plateau I have reached in latin.  I am not sure what to do to break past the plateau into a new challenge.

I am hoping Boss will have some guidance.

Knees, Feet and Thighs

You really have the strangest conversations in dance lessons.

The most interesting part is that while the conversations might be strange elsewhere, they are perfectly normal in dance.

Today I had a lesson in standard and part of the lesson involved a conversation about my knees, feet and thighs.

The last couple lessons I have had in standard, Boss has been watching my footwork as I did the routines on my own, but also he had remarked a bit, especially in chasses in tango about the ‘clapping’ sound my feet make when I bring them together.  When I do a chasse, whether in standard or latin one of the things I make sure I do is make sure I fully close my feet.  In standard, I get a little over enthusiastic about this sometimes and I quite literally clap them together.

This habit seems to be knocking myself off balance.

The problem is that when I bring my feet together, my knees tend to overlap each other, instead of resting beside each other, so one ends up a little in front of the other.  This then pushes me out of balance.  In short, if I put my knees next to each other in line, my feet remain about and inch apart to compensate.

So what does this have to do with my thighs?  The same thing happens with them.  If I stand with both feet fully closed together, one knee is always slightly forward and one thigh is as well.  I cannot stand with both legs parallel from my hips down with my feet closed.  My thighs are basically too big.

So what was the conversation?

Boss asked me to not think as much about bringing my feet together, but to focus more on my knees and thighs being together.  This does leave a gap between my feet during quick chasses (like in tango, waltz or quickstep), but it also keeps me from knocking myself off balance, which right now is more important.

It’s a little like taking away one security blanket and trying to change it with another.  When I do steps that require me to close my feet, I rely on the feeling of my heels being together to let me know I have done them right.  Not closing my feet feels a little sloppy to me, but I have to work on changing my thinking and adapting my footwork. I tried it a little while doing my routines today and it does seem to make a difference in my balance overall.  I am just not completely convinced about the aesthetics.

Hopefully as I lose weight my thighs will shrink down some and it will become a non-issue.  It’s a little mortifying to think that my thighs are too big for my feet to close properly.

I have one other issue that plagues me and that is that my right foot naturally turns out from my knee down.  Basically, when I stand and feel that both my knees are facing forward, my left foot faces forward (12 o’clock) and my right angles to the side (2 o’clock).  If I turn my right foot forward, I feel like my right knee is angles in (11 o’clock).  This is an issue in standard because while my knees might be facing the right direction, my right foot is usually not oriented the way it needs to be.  I have to constantly remind myself to keep it turned in, and for some steps where I need to turn my right foot in, I feel like my knee has to be almost facing backward to make it happen.

Apparently Boss has been doing some research on this as he was asking me today about it and if I can turn my foot without turning my knee (which I can).  I don’t know if that is usual or not.  It will be interesting to see where he goes with this and what he discovers.  I have a hard time sometimes figuring out if I should pay attention to the direction of my knee or my foot in standard.

I think in just about any other setting, a discussion about my thigh size and how it affects my ability to close my feet would be strange.  But in dance, it’s almost par for the course.

No lesson tomorrow due to Remembrance Day, but I will head to the gym after the ceremony to practice and do my workout.

For all who serve and have served–thank you for your sacrifice.

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Lest We Forget.

Communication and Resolution

I have been a little quiet lately.

There has been a lot going on, and I wanted to give it some time to be resolved before I posted.

I don’t think there exists a relationship in the world that is without conflict and certainly the pro/am student/teacher relationship is one of the most difficult to navigate at times.

There is large power imbalance inherent in this relationship as there is money involved, but also because on top of being a student/teacher relationship it is also a partnership as you compete together.

Communication can be tricky as each half of the relationship has their own thoughts and ideas about what is necessary, as well as their own desires and goals.  Sometimes, in communicating those things misunderstandings occur and conflict and tension happens.  It’s a normal part of any relationship, especially when each party has so much invested in it.

Boss and I have been working and competing together for more than 3 years now.  It’s been a rough ride, but also rewarding.  When things go well, they go really well.  When conflict comes up, it’s usually pretty heated and stressful, and centred around misunderstandings in communication.

The past week has been one of those times.

For a few months now, Boss and I have been butting heads over the subject of competitive practices.  We both had different opinions on the purpose of these practices, their usefulness and above all their frequency.  On top of that, Boss had forgotten that before I went overseas he had told me we would practice on October 30th, and was surprised when I expected that practice to happen (and it didn’t).

One of the biggest problems with this is that even though we had different views on the practices, neither one of us was really communicating those views to each other.  Then, as things did or didn’t occur as we each expected, there was a lot of confusion and stress.

Last night, my lesson was not a lesson but a very heated discussion that finally resulted in what seems to be, at least I hope, a final resolution to the question of practices.  On top of discussing practices, we also worked through some of the underlying issues, one of which is communication.

Boss and I generally communicate a lot.  It’s very important to me, because of the amount of time, effort and money I invest in my dancing that I understand the big picture of what I am learning and how that contributes to my goals.  I am a very goal-oriented person and my goals help to motivate me and knowing how everything I am doing fits into the bigger picture helps me to feel comfortable with how much I am investing in my dancing.  It helps me to know that the investment is a good one that benefits me–my health, fitness and largely, my mental well-being.

Boss though finds my need for understanding unusual and at times difficult.  He does not know anyone who asks so many questions and needs to know the ‘why’ of what I am doing.  He does like that I am communicative as is shows how interested and committed I am to my dancing, but he often doesn’t see the point of providing context and my need for understanding.

We both constantly work on keeping a compromise about this, but like all compromises, it can be difficult.  Boss sometimes finds I over-explain things and I sometimes find that I am lacking context or that Boss is dismissive of my concerns.  But I think and hope that we are both learning and most certainly our communication has become more effective and efficient over the past 3 years than it was when we first started working together.

So, lots was worked out last night, or so it seemed.  My only disappointment is that it took more than a week for us to finally be able to resolve the issue and start talking to each other instead of at each other.

One good thing that seems to have come out of it is an agreement about practices and an understanding of what the goal of the practices is, and what the intentions are with them.  Boss finally told me that while he intends to do them as frequently as possible once I have my routines more in my feet, he doesn’t think it will be possible to do them every week.  But, he has said that on the weeks where we are unable to do the competitive rounds practice we will take time from the end of my lessons to run through the routines.  This makes perfect sense to me and I hope it will be put into practice.

I am glad to have that issue sorted and hopefully behind us.  It’s been something outstanding that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time, and really the only thing that has been causing friction between us.  With that behind us, I hope we can now keep moving forward with the momentum we seem to have developed.

I have asked Boss if we could discuss the competition in January.  I am open to considering it, but in order to commit to it I need to understand what the value of the competition would be, what the goals of the competition would be, and how it would be different from the last competition I did.  Before I got sick, I always had a very specific goal for each competition I did, and I chose competitions based on the goal I wanted to achieve and spread them out so that there was enough time between them for something new to be accomplished for each one.  After I got sick, the competitions I did were mainly for the sake of doing a competition–to get out on the floor–without anything specific or forward momentum.  I want to get away from that approach to competitions and get back to using competitions for the value they bring to my dancing beyond time on the floor.

Routine Work

I had an interesting day today.

I woke up and I found myself just wanting to do some work on my routines.  I had specific things I wanted to work out, like keeping my knees bent, and doing them with the music.

So I went off to the gym and was lucky to have the entire upper gym to myself.  I just turned on some music on my ipod and got down to work.  I worked my way through QS, Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot.

It has been a long time since I have gone to just practice on my own and do what I really wanted.  I could tell all last week that the time was coming though.  It’s hard to explain.

I was finding that my other practice times at the studio seemed a little chaotic.  The studio was busy this week and while that doesn’t usually bother me, this week I was distracted by it.  I just felt unfocused and out of sorts.

Today was completely different.  I was in my ‘zone’.  I knew what I wanted to do and I got it done.  By the end of the practice, I had been able to run through all 4 routines with the music, with some shaping and keeping my knees bent–especially in quickstep.  The timing in quickstep and tango was a little off, but I couldn’t tell if I was rushing the ‘quicks’, or generally behind.

What made today so interesting is after I realized it was something I used to do, but hadn’t in quite a long time.  I just get in these moods sometimes where I just decide and determine to do something specific with all routines.  It doesn’t have to take long (today was about 40 mins), but sometimes I can get into that zone for more than an hour.  There is just something about working with no one around, no cell phone keeping track of time, no time limitations.  Just me, my ipod and what I want to work on.

I can see myself returning to doing this a little more in the future.  It was just a little piece of something I used to do that I had forgotten how to do. Getting through my routines with the timing helped my confidence.

It was healing after a hectic week.

Tooth Ache

Seriously.

I would really like a break on the health issues. Pretty please?

I have never had a tooth ache before, but I have had pain on the right side of my mouth since Sunday.  I saw a dentist on Tuesday and he thinks it’s a spasming jaw muscle and gave me some muscle relaxants to try and calm it down.

Tonight during my lesson it went into ‘overdrive’.  I don’t think it’s the muscle anymore.  It seems to be in my mouth now around two of my bottom teeth.  I see the dentist again tomorrow.

Geesh.

My lesson was good tonight despite the pain.  I was able to run-through all my standard routines on my own without any major hiccups and sort out a couple places that just didn’t want to come together last night.  I also did it in my latin practice shoes, so an extra 1/2″ on the heel.  Surprised myself with that.

After that we worked on the latin routines–added some of the changes Boss wanted to do in rumba and cha cha and at the end I learned a new step in Paso.

It’s called ‘the twists’.  I think crazy heel turn combo would have been a better name.  It basically involves syncopated alternation between argentine crosses followed by heel turns.  It’s pretty crazy.

I love the challenge of it.

Tomorrow will be a smooth lesson and I am curious to see what we work on.

I just hope my mouth feels better and the dentist is able to figure out what is going on.