The Return of the Fog

Out of the blue my focus and concentration disappeared today and it hurts to think again.

Yesterday, I felt great. I was working on school, my head was clear, things were great.

This morning I felt a little fuzzy, but by this afternoon it was apparent the fog was back. Things switched that quick. I am doing First Aid Training for work and as the day went on I was struggling more and more to stay focused on what was being taught. It was to the point where I got to the end of one period and realized I had no idea what we just covered.

Needless to say, when we moved to the practical portion I was first to volunteer as a casualty to see what we were doing (it was slings and bandaging).

Good thing it’s a refresher course.

The struggle I was having was also really apparent less than 10 minutes into my lesson. We were working on the second half of the open samba routine and we had to keep repeating the first three steps because I couldn’t remember all 3 steps together. I either did one and two and blanked on three or did one, skipped two and tried to go to three.

It made for a frustrating lesson for me (Boss seemed less concerned). We went through the entire second half of the samba, but my retention, based on my practice….almost nothing.

It shouldn’t hurt to think through things that even yesterday were basic for me.

I stayed to practice because I really want to get back into being more consistent with it, but it was a struggle all the way through. Stuff that usually is no problem for me just seemed all over the place. And that was before I started trying to review my routines.

I got so frustrated I almost broke down in the hall. I had to keep stopping just to breathe a little and try to reset.

I got through it, but it was a bit disappointing how little progress I made in samba. Even stuff I had down cold yesterday was completely blank for me today and reading my notes was like trying to translate another language. Waltz went ok, but it’s probably the strongest (and shortest) section I have right now. Rumba was in between. I was still stuck on one step I had yesterday, but the others we worked out were mostly there.

As I mentioned, I start tracking these menopause symptoms to see if there is a pattern. According to my notes, it’s been almost exactly 5 weeks since the last time my brain became murky fog. That’s actually one week more than I expected. If there is a pattern, I can expect my head to clear in a week, but that my hot flashes will double in intensity and frequency next week and I will feel exhausted.

If there isn’t a pattern, then next week could be anything.

I have to also admit that the trigger could be stress as well. I returned to work on Monday into a stressful personnel issue that doesn’t appear to be resolving anytime soon. It was compounded by some other big changes in programming, problems with computer equipment and last minute being sent on First Aid so working from my BB between classes some.

I am also trying to get on top of two school assignments before heading overseas in two weeks for training, so some of the stress is a little self-imposed.

I just keep reminding myself the fog has never lasted more than a week and to give myself a break. If I still feel foggy tomorrow, I will ask Boss if it is possible to switch up what we are working on more often in my lesson instead of concentrating on one dance for an entire lesson. The changing seems to help a little because instead of trying to stay focused for 60 mins and absorb 60 mins on one dance, I am focused on smaller section of multiple dances. Somehow the volume is smaller overall that way.

Adapt and overcome, right?

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Blogger Appreciation Award

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I have recently been recognized for the Blogger Appreciation Award, and I want to take a moment to complete the rules of:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Use the award image.
  3. Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself.
  4. Nominate and notify as many bloggers as you wish.

So for number one, I was nominated by DWall of Facing Diagonal Wall , with an overwhelming description of my blog and what he likes about it. I think it was a bit overwhelming because as much as he enjoys and admires my blog, his blog was one of the first ballroom blogs I stumbled across and strongly contributed to me beginning to write here. When I found his blog, I read a few posts and related to it so much I went back to the beginning and read they entire blog in almost one sitting. Having been doing pro/am and experienced the franchise system, I understood a lot of what he was writing. At that time, I was going through chemo and it got me thinking that blogging might be as an outlet to air some of my frustrations, work through the stress and provide information for others struggling like I was. And so this blog was born.

Something positive about me–like DWall said in his post, I am a fighter. I have been through a lot and still keep smiling and pushing forward. When faced with choices between fighting on or giving up, I always choose fight, even if I have to change my tactics and retreat a little before finding that way forward.

There are two other bloggers I want to nominate, both of which also contributed to inspiring me to start my own blog and share my story. I follow both of them regularly and never miss a post.

The first is Adventures in the Dance Kingdom by The Thesbian. I love his cast of characters and lego figure photos he includes with every post. I can’t imagine the time it takes to plan and stage each photo. He writes about being a male amateur competitor and some of the quirks and quarks that come with that and shares his journey and interactions with other in his Kingdom in great detail. He has embarked on a new journey recently with his competing and I wish him and SparkleDancer luck!

The second is The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I really hope to meet this amazing lady some day. Her blog and experiences, while she focuses on a different style, very much echo my own. We both have moments of self-doubt we overcome and we both are struggling to pro/am competitors and all the challenges that includes. She is an avid writer (with 2 ballroom dance e-books out!), and very passionate about her blog and dancing. She is very open and regularly posts videos and photos, something that I am much less inclined to do. I love how she always puts herself out there.

I am so very humbled and encouraged to see that my writings (and occasional rants) are enjoyed by so many in so many ways. As things start to settle in my life (in theory), I plan to try to write a little more often as I continue my journey with Boss in dance and recovering and surviving. You all help keep me motivated and inspired.

Happy reading 🙂

General Musings

I feel like I need to just catch up.

After my lesson yesterday, I realized there are quite a few random and disjointed thoughts swirling around in my head about dance, none of which (on the surface) are ready for their own post. So I thought I would just collect them here and see what comes out.

Yesterday was a review of 2 of the open standard routines, one of which needed some additions to bring it to the proper time. We started with Quickstep (which needed the additions). Of all the dances, Quickstep is definitely the one that changes the most from syllabus to open level. I am finding it intimidating on the one hand, but ready to dive into the challenge on the other.

Following QS, we went through the Foxtrot, which was more a case of me trying to follow what Boss was leading as, like the QS, we haven’t really worked on it or run it together. I think the main point of the first part of the lesson was for Boss to simultaneously review the routines (it had been since before Christmas for both), and determine the places where I need the most work so we can start focusing on them in lessons.

I am going to be away for 3 weeks beginning the middle of March, so until then I will have 4 lessons a week to sort of pre-make-up the time. I am looking forward to the concentrated block.

When I get back from that trip, Boss tells me he hopes to have some news about us dancing together more as he has an injury that will be reassessed. I am eager to hear what he will have to say but don’t hold out for much beyond working together more in lessons. Competing is more or less up to him right now and I don’t seem him as eager to get back on the floor. For me, there is so much to do I am not in any rush myself.

I still haven’t completely figured out how to work through the open routines on my own yet, but I can feel ideas peculating in the back of my mind. Have to let them settle.

After the QS and Fox, we worked a little bit on Tango before going into tango conditioning (which is 4-step, promenade close, drag, back corte repeated for a set amount of time followed by rest till my pulse recovers and repeat). I was surprised that Boss did the entire set with me (which certainly got the pulse up!). Usually I do all conditioning on my own while he monitors time and the technique, although the last couple times he has done the last set with me. I think he is testing out his injury a little and seeing where he is at for conditioning (generally much better than me!).

There is a strength and quality about my movement in standard right now that is new. When we were doing tango, Boss kept asking me if I could feel that I am now ‘using my legs’, but while I can tell there are different elements happening, I can’t (yet) equate or describe what I am doing or where it is coming from. In tango especially, I am willing to bet it is different if I don’t try to focus on doing something and just let myself move. There is definitely something happening in my ‘natural’ movement I can feel my mind trying to latch on to.

In retrospect, the same could be applied to both foxtrot and quickstep. There was something about how I was moving in general that was different (and I think positive), although perhaps not completely consistent that is coming from somewhere (likely some of the exercises I am doing). Like I tried to describe above, I can feel the difference, but I can’t describe it or say what it is I am doing and I think trying to figure it out changes it. Again, I think Boss recognizes it more that I do (and thinks I am better aware of it than I am). It’ s like I just want to work through some things in standard until I can understand what I am doing so that I don’t ruin it by ‘trying’.

Some general thoughts on Latin–

Ever have something seem just a little bit out of the reach of your brain and you keep doing it but you can tell it is just a little off? That was me until a week ago in back steps. Boss had explained them (again) and I had begun work on them, but right away I could tell I was missing a big piece. The way I was focusing on the movement was off. We had gone through several different versions of the same thing–focusing on hip, moving leg, feet, turnout, it just always seemed a little ‘off’. Two weeks we hit on it though–for me, I need to focus on the standing leg and everything else tends to move as it should. Once I centred in on that, the back walks seem to have ‘clicked’ together and what Boss is describing and what I am doing now makes sense.

Love those ‘aha’ moments but man, they tend to make you want to pull hair out getting there!

For latin routines, I am feeling pretty good on the two sections I am working on in both Rumba and Samba and am ready to try to venture out. The technique is of course not fully there, but the sequence and timing is coming more naturally and taking less thought, which is my first goal with the routines. Once I have the movements joined and flowing, I can start pulling apart the technique as we work on them in lessons. I hope to equally be able to do the first part of the waltz when I get back to regular practice on Wednesday.

My schedule was a bit disrupted last week while my father was visiting, which was expected. He has headed back home today, so tomorrow it’s off and running again.

The other thing we have been working on in latin is the connection between us, the action and reaction, and keeping our weight (meaning mine mostly) forward towards Boss. It’s another thing, like the movement in standard that I can feel my mind processing through in the background. Something that needs to become an innate habit and is almost there, but not quite.

In both cases, it is like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, almost ready to jump, but not quite sure if I brought the right harnesses. Eventually, I just need to do it, but there are still too many options and directions to go for me to be completely ready to take the plunge.

It’s a bit of a fascinating time for me in dance, with a lot more going on that I have had in a while. I can feel myself slowly preparing for bringing things to the next level, so that I have a chance of making it work when I get there.

More baby steps, but not bad for recovering.

Finding Balance

Still experiencing an evolving process for working through the open routines.

But getting there.

It’s been a little challenging to find the balance between standard and latin, technique and choreography, and working on my own versus with Boss. I actually had a suggestion for Boss last week that we do less dancing together in my lesson.

It was an interesting conclusion to come to, but I noticed that after we worked on something together in my lesson, when I would go to work through the same thing on my own I kept experiencing difficulties (especially in standard, but also in latin) with alignment and remembering the exact points he wanted me to work on.

It was still necessary to do it with him as where he is positioned also was one of the things I was having trouble figuring out some times and doing it with him gave me a good understanding of context, but the focus when working with him is more on how we move as a partnership than how I move myself. That was what I was missing.

My last lesson was a great balance of both.

We were working on the open waltz and while we haven’t gotten very far into it (I think 8 or 12 bars), I know what I need to do on my own and I can do it. The biggest challenge for me are the rotations and making sure I am rotating from my hips, not just my upper body. So that is what we worked on clarifying on my own (and the alignments).

The interesting thing is that we found a couple of places where I actually try to stop my rotation instead of following it all the way through–partly for control and fear of losing my balance and partly for lack of confidence in how much I can rotate. After doing the rotations a few times I felt much better about it and learned that I can still do the full rotation with control.

It’s back to needing to push myself out of my comfort zone and keep myself there. The lesson showed some classic examples where I stay too cautious and don’t stretch myself to the limits of my abilities.

But slowly I am getting there. It’s going to take a lot more exploration and pushing those limits, but if we continue working in my lessons in the way we did last week, I won’t have any choice but to push myself forward to the next level.

Which is really the point right now, and the biggest challenge I am facing. Overall, I have to admit that the progress on the open routines is moving a lot faster than I really thought it would. Of course, we haven’t started Paso or Quickstep…but I hear there may be some work in the near future on at least one of them.

I feel more focused and grounded now than I have in a long time. Not only do I have time to really explore and learn these routines, I seem to slowly be reaching a great balance to doing so. My motivation is high and I am coming out of the murkiness to a place where things more and more make sense.

A great balance.

Settling into a groove

Finally.

The best thing I can say about this week is that I feel almost normal. The hot flashes have backed off and are down to 4-6 in a day versus 1-2 an hour. My head is clear and I have energy. I am having a little trouble sleeping (can’t have everything I guess), but its more my usual insomnia than waking up all night with hot flashes and weird dreams.

The worse is that my left side is really unhappy. The worse part is my ankle, perhaps my achilles, but my knee, hip and elbow have also been tweaky. I am guessing it is all related and seems to be the small changes in movement I am making–particularly in footwork. It’s still manageable, but I have a suspicion its going to get really angry before it gets better. Something else to follow-up with physio.

All of that aside, I am getting into a regular and consistent pattern of working that already is feeling productive and good. I have worked out a pattern for exercises and feel focused on them, and slowly working through my routines on my own. Samba seems to be the most productive so far, but rumba isn’t that far behind.

In standard, we are working on the open waltz and I haven’t quite found a way to work on it, but I know it will be coming in my lessons. We are going through the steps in detail and differentiating which steps are in CBMP, require more rotation or less, etc. It might seem fairly straight forward and intuitive, but for me it is not.

Building on the work we did in standard, Boss has identified for me about three different ways to place my foot as I move–straight forward, under my head or under my elbow–depending on how much rotation is needed for the step. Under my elbow is usually full CBMP with under my head in the middle.

We are now going through the steps in the open waltz and figuring out which step requires which movement. It’s not quite sticking like I wish it would and when I work on my own I am sure there are times I must be turning the wrong way. It’ll come though.

Tonight my lesson was focused on Latin, which is another way things are getting into a grove–a lesson on standard, a lesson on latin and my third lesson in between.

We were able to clean up some of the sections in both routines I have been working on myself, and after running through them on my own tonight I am ready to head into working through the next section on my own. The latin routines seem to be going easier than standard, but that is not surprise to me.

We also started working on connection and lead and follow, doing exercises in keeping my weight forward and towards my partner while moving and responding to Boss’s lead without losing the connection. It’s a lot of feeling and processing things, so pretty much right up my alley, although still challenging.

When working on the routines, I could start to understand where developing that sensitivity is going to help and already I am starting to apply it to the routines in little pieces. I just have to work on doing so more consistently because when I do it Boss can respond and actually lead me, but if I don’t we are both stuck trying to dance on our own.

Similarly, in standard Boss was telling me that I have to make sure I stay consistent with my upper body and head position and stretching–even when we are not moving at full strength in our feet–so that we can consistently counter-balance each other. If we don’t, the entire movement of the dance changes and again we are each then trying to dance separately.

Its given me a lot to process this week in a good way, including a better understanding of the demands that this next level is going to make on me and how I need to respond to move into it. I am not there yet, but I have a better understanding already of the amount of work ahead of me and what it is going to take to get there.

I feel better prepared to move ahead and much less out of my depth. I am starting to feel these routines are doable, and able to do well.

It’s a good grove to be in.

Making Sacrifices (again)

The time has come to accept that I still can’t do everything I would like…again.

I have really been struggling lately. My energy levels are just not where I would like them to be. I am struggling through the week (and granted weeks have been hard lately), but I am finding myself unable to fully recharge during the time off on the weekend.

I have one week to go until 2 weeks of vacation. I hope that the 2 weeks will give me a chance to reset my energy levels.

But that doesn’t really solve the problem overall. I don’t seem to have a baseline right now that I can maintain, let alone build on. I keep hoping my body will adjust to what seems to me to be a minimal activity level, but I keep hitting road blocks.

That said, the little I am doing seems to be stabilizing a little…but only when the menopause symptoms are set to low.

It seems these are the centre of the issue right now. I have noticed that when the intensity and frequency of the hot flashes are high, its all I can do to get through a day. My energy seems to be used up producing the hot flashes. They also wake me up at night meaning I am not getting as rested as I am at other times.

Cutting back on activity does seem to make the symptoms worse. That in itself is a good reason to try and keep up some level of activity throughout the day. My current baseline is 3 hours of strength training with 3 dance lessons and about an hour and a half of practice in a week. I would like to double the practice time, but for now I am letting my energy levels dictate how much I do, without pushing too hard. I came close to that goal last week.

Where the sacrifices have really come are the group classes. I enjoy doing them but they are at 8 pm at night and it is turning out that is too late for me, even twice a week. My energy levels are regularly sending me to bed just after 9 right now.

So I am accepting a little bit of temporary defeat right now for group classes and reducing my goal activity level overall until I reach a point where I can consistently maintain the basic level without feeling exhausted all the time.

I am optimistic that as I continue to settle into a regular schedule I will notice an improvement overall–not only with energy but also with the menopause symptoms.

The worse thing about the menopause symptoms is that there is no way of knowing how long my body will continue to produce them. I could experience them until the age when my body would have naturally finished menopause in my 50s or even 60s. I am trying to accept them as the new normal and keeping an eye on them because if they do get severe there are some (although limited in my case) options for treating them. Unfortunately most of those options are not without their own side effects.

So a period of sacrifice, although I hope temporary. I am working to try to reduce the strain and demands on my body through weight management and getting a lot of rest, but both of those are dependent on a lot of different things.

Until then, I hope to be able to get through 12 weeks of relatively consistent minimal (to me) activity levels and then re-evaluate everything from there.

On a dance note, Boss and I seem to have finished up going through the exercises and we both seem to be on the same page about where to focus my energy right now. I am excited and optimistic about what we will be doing, and after a long period of flux it seems things are settling into a routine again.

As much as sacrifices suck, when done for the right reason they are worth it. Getting back to a ‘normal’ level of activity that will allow for increases in the future is the short term pain for long term gain.

Consistent work should bring consistent results.

All in good time.