Almost There

I can’t believe we fly for the competition tomorrow night.

For some reason it seems a little surreal. I feel really good heading into this competition. No, nothing will be ‘perfect’ (nothing ever is), but I know that I am as prepared as I am going to be and that I am stronger going into this competition than I have been since 2014.

That said, tomorrow night also still feels a million hours away.

I have been giving some thought as to what my own personal goals are for this competition. Basically, it is to do my best, complete every dance, and have fun. I deserve this and it is going to be great.

I have some legitimate concerns about endurance. All of my multi-dance events are scheduled in a row with no breaks between. That means I will do almost 20 dances in a row each day, pretty daunting considering I start struggling to get through 5 dances!

In the end, it is just a deep breath, visualizing my routines and keeping calm. I don’t need to over-do it, I need to stay relaxed and calm.

Easier said than done, right?

At least my heats are not at 7 am, they don’t start until 11 and noon each day which I definitely appreciate.

My new shoes should arrive today and I am going to pop home from work at lunch to see if they are they. I don’t have much time to break them in, but since they were ordered long-distance, I just hope they fit! 2 pairs are almost identical to shoes I already own, so it should be good. I have never worn standard shoes from this brand, but do have practice shoes from them. I will take both the new and old shoes with me, so I can adjust if needed.

One more lesson tonight to clean a couple of transitions, and then it is packing, one more day of work, and all focused on the competition.

The competition will include a pro showdance competition with 6 couples registered and more than anything I can’t wait to see that!

Almost there!

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Refinding my strength

I had an interesting revelation 2 weeks ago.

I was practicing and I noticed something was feeling different. Or rather, I was noticing something I hadn’t realized had been missing.

I could feel strength in my body.

For the first time in almost 3 years I could feel the strength moving through my body from my feet to my head and back down into the floor. It was like my muscles just suddenly woke up and realized they have a job to do.

It’s a hard feeling to describe and since I am a very tactile person it is probably more obvious to me than those who are less so, but in many ways this is where I draw my power from. I use this feeling through my body to push down into the floor and move my entire body.

For me, that is what ‘feeling grounded’ means.

It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling, but it also took a bit of time to realize I have to use it properly and exercise some control.  Some speed came back with it that I didn’t expect, and I have spent the last 2 weeks fighting a tendency to get ahead of the music–especially in cha cha and quickstep–something I don’t think was possible even a month ago. Paying attention to that, I think my movement have also gotten a bit sharper.

I don’t know why this sensation came back all of a sudden, it could be a number of things–the ‘magic’ 2 years post radiation milestone, 2 years post major surgery, adjusting to the hormonal changes from my last surgery, general recovery. Likely it’s a combination of things, but I am not going to dwell on it.

It’s a good time to have it though as I am competing on Friday (this FRIDAY!) and Saturday. I had a good run-through of standard at the rounds practice yesterday and it was easy to see where the work on my endurance is starting to pay off.  I was not tiring and ‘dying’ so soon yesterday and when I was, there were times I was able to recover and finish strong.

We did a latin run-through on Friday which was a little bit disastrous a I kept blanking on routines, and styling, but our second time through was smoother. We will do another latin run-through tonight I hope will be better.

After tonight, I have one more lesson before the competition, so right now it is mainly things that can be fixed short-term, cleaning, and run throughs.  I am excited to get out on the floor again but I can’t say I have much as far as expectations.  I just want to go and enjoy myself and see how it goes. If I can keep myself ‘calm’ and from ‘trying too hard’ there is potential for some good dancing.

As I continue on this journey, it does amaze me as I recover things I didn’t know I had lost. This feeling of strength is one of them and I can’t wait to keep building on it after this competition to prepare for the next one.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

Latin reset

Sometimes you don’t know you are missing something until you discover it.

It’s been a busy week for me. I was traveling for work, and after returning Friday I went to visit with a friend for the long weekend.

One of the things I did while I was traveling for work was to take advantage of being somewhere new and to take coaching lessons.  I managed to fit 3 lessons into the short time I was there, but the exciting thing was that the couple I was working with are one of my favourite latin couples–and people I have wanted to work with for a long time.

I did one lesson with the lead and 2 with the follow and all 3 were absolutely amazing!

I have only once worked with a coach other than Boss on latin, and that was for one lesson while the others were focused on smooth. I have never worked in latin with another male dancer. In three lessons I was able to put together more than 3 pages of notes and felt like a sponge soaking up information.

Before I left, I had discussed with Boss some topics to focus on during my lessons and we sent 3 videos of cha cha, samba and paso for them to review ahead of time.  We decided to focus on connection and styling–both of which turned out to be exactly what I needed.

I feel like it has been quite a while since I have worked on more than just sequence of steps in latin as most of my lessons with Boss recently have been focused on standard and taking advantage of the progress I am making there.

In all honesty, I have felt a little bit like I was ‘spinning my wheels’ in latin and lacking some specific points to focus on. One week I would challenge myself with one thing, but then I would switch to something else and mainly I just kept working through my routines to get the choreography down.

The lessons with the coaches help to give me a new focus for latin and several new points to focus on which I really needed. Styling has been a big issue for a long time, but I felt I was lacking some specifics to focus on. Now I have a lot of specifics and I can’t wait to spend some time working through the things we talked about.

Eye contact, especially with my partner, was one of the really big things brought up in the lessons. I have always had problems with this, as when I work alone I tend to retreat into myself and look down when I think. It’s not that I haven’t been told to keep my eyes up before, part of it is just not being ready to commit to it. I can’t say for sure that I am really ready to commit to it, but it has become enough of a problem that it is officially annoying me.

I worked on arm movement with both of them, but with the lady we were able to work through the beginning of my cha cha and samba to ‘clean’ my arm movements and strengthen what I am doing so it is less ‘flappy’ and busy. We worked through a couple different options and came up with some solid movements for me to work through on my own.

I was also given exercises, both for connection and styling, but are diverse enough to include other aspects of technique (like weight transfer).

One of the most significant topics I discussed with the lady was that of using my body in my styling. Not only moving it, but also touching it, and touching it with commitment and purpose. She even gave me some exercises to develop a habit of doing this to work it into my routines and so that it looks (and feels) more natural. We had a discussion about why strong solid touch is preferred to doing something like a ‘shadowed outline’ and she pointed out it displays a difference in confidence, emphasizes the body shape, and shows commitment to the styling. All very logical reasoning.

I could go on for hours about all the different things we covered in the lessons, but to keep this short, I want to go back to my title. After doing these lessons I feel very renewed and reset when it comes to latin. I have some very specific things to focus on and build on, I feel I have some new goals (eye contact being at the top of the list), and it has renewed my enthusiasm and invigorated me for the future.

I really hope to work with this couple again soon. Among other things, I just had a blast and had fun digging into latin in as much detail as I tend to work in standard.

It’s less than 2 weeks to my next competition, so I don’t expect to be able to incorporate everything I want to do, but I hope at least some of the work will be able to come through.

I can’t believe it is only 2 weeks until the competition though. I feel like I have so much to do before then! My nerves are settling in a little and I know that practice next weekend will certainly ‘set the stage’ for me. Because I was away, I didn’t do practice this weekend, but although I am a little nervous about that I am also glad as well.  It forced me to relax and take a step back before the final push to the competition.

The couple I worked with will also be at the competition I am going to and I can’t wait to see them dance in person. I have always watched them on video or live stream, so seeing them compete live is going to be an extra bonus to the competition I am going to.

I am really happy I was able to schedule the coaching lessons into my work trip. It was a tiring trip, but so so worth it!

The Myth of Pro/am closed gold

I have discovered an unexpected aspect of pro/am.

There is a self-perpetuating cycle where there are almost no closed gold pro/am events. One of the main reasons there are no events is that there is no demand for them; no competitors. The main reasons there are no competitors? Lack of other competitors and events.

And so it seems the circle goes.

I discovered this when I was doing research into some potential competitions. I was very surprised to discover that there were almost no closed gold multi-dance or scholarship events in most of the competitions I was looking at.

Intrigued, I asked one organizer and posed a question to a pro/am forum I participate in.

The organizer said he stopped offering the events because no one was registering for them. The pro/am students said they weren’t competing in them because no one else was and they were rarely offered.

Because of this, most students said they just ‘jumped’ from silver to open.

It was also pointed out that there isn’t really a syllabus for gold in American style. The NDCA only has a list of restrictions (such as no entrances, no separations for more than 4 bars).

The bottom line to this is that I have had to rethink my current competition goals. I was going to focus on closed gold now that I am able to get back to competing consistently, but if there are no events, and no competition, there is really no point.

The competition I was going to do in the spring not only doesn’t have anything except single dances for closed gold, but it also significantly raised the prices for 2018. The combination of the two together, led me to decide to take it off the table as an option.

I discussed the issue with Boss as I want to have an idea of what is next after the competition in 3 weeks, and he had an interesting suggestion which we have combined with one of mine.

My time spent in silver was completely during the time I was sick. I really only did one competition in silver, and my routines were more bronze at that time. It was right before I was diagnosed. When it comes down to it, I basically haven’t done any competing in full silver. If I was an amateur competitor who collected points to determine my competitive level, I would have almost none for silver.

So that was what Boss proposed: that I consider competing in closed silver for syllabus level at the next few competitions and see how I place. We have some closed silver routines, and they could be modified to be more like competitive routines and less test routines. The goal would be to keep them short so they could also be used as drills and practice for the future.

The real focus would be on developing and learning open routines and steps for competing in open competitions and to begin to work at the open level.

It’s an interesting idea. Since I haven’t had an opportunity to really compete in silver, I really have no idea how I would do. I can let the results speak for when to leave silver behind. The gold steps I like can be part of the open routines.

I will still do my gold test when Boss thinks I am ready and it is able to be scheduled. Like the silver test I just did, we can spend some concentrated time working on gold routines to prepare for the test.

The part of this that was combined with my own proposal was a suggestion that we consider doing a competition earlier in the new year that would be cheaper than the one in the US we were looking at. The information for that competition isn’t out yet, but once it is we will look at it closer and decide then. After that comp, would be about 6 months until the next comp I want to do–a nice long time to keep developing the open routines and strengthening my dancing overall.

The small wrench is that I will be away from dance for about 2 weeks at the end of November as I will finally have my surgery to complete my reconstruction. It’s almost all ‘surface work’ and no muscle involvement, but it will still require time to recover. I will talk about that closer to the date.

So this unexpected twist in pro/am competitions has meant rethinking my approach to competing in order to align with what happens in practice versus theory. That said, now that I am clear on the next steps, I have 3 weeks to focus on my next competition which will be with my full gold routines I have been working on.

The future will of course include continuing to focus on building my fitness and endurance, but I feel a bit better about that since taking the step back yesterday. I feel much better and less drained after my lesson yesterday, so I am hoping that will translate into a strong rounds practice tomorrow.

I feel almost like a mythical creature aiming to do full gold routines at my next competition.

Perhaps I will shine like a unicorn 🙂

The little things

I had my first ’rounds’ practice today in more than a year.

There were some small victories I want to celebrate.

I made it through the entire practice without completely dying and using my frame. I even had a little energy left over.

I missed the final quickstep because I had a blister pop quite badly during the foxtrot just before. That’s what happens when you don’t wear competition shoes for 9 months–you forget where the ‘rub’ spots are.

I made it through 2 Viennese Waltzes in the centre of 5 dances for 1:30 without having to stop, and still being able to move through the dance. Boss even commented on how it was better from Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t even get through the start of the second one as I felt I was exhausted after the waltz and tango, but I surprised myself by being able to muster my energy and dance the entire way through.

I did have some difficulties (aside from 3 blisters). My left side tired much quicker than I expected in standard. I was much more tired for the second round of latin than I expected. Once my body tires out, I lose the muscle memories of my routines and start missing things. My upper body also starts to collapse making it harder for me to follow and respond to Boss’s lead.

The rounds gave me an opportunity to experiment with moving my upper body and using my head in standard. It was inconsistent, especially at the beginning, but I think it started to settle out some by the final rounds. It’s something I will need to continue to work on more, and a big part of it is needing to become more comfortable with what I can do.

Overall, Boss also seemed pleased with how things went, although we will have to discuss some points more tomorrow during my next lesson. At least for me, it seems Quickstep is the weakest dance/routine, followed by tango. A big victory was going through the paso routine at full speed (for the first time), twice. The second time I was even able to add some power to my steps and it seemed there was shaping.

The latin routines went well, although the first round was a little rough. We were able to identify spots in 3 routines where we have to agree better on the hands and hold, and it turns out that the cha cha routine is shorter than we expected (we made it through almost 2 full loops in 1:30).

Hopefully subsequent practices will only build on today’s and things will become stronger and smoother as we get closer to the competition. 4 more weeks to go.

I do want to say that I found something today I didn’t fully realize I had lost. The we did today was strong and intense, but underneath, I was enjoying myself more than I had in a very long time. I had a moment where I felt pure joy.

It’s definitely the little things.

It only ‘sucks’ for two weeks…

Usually…

We started a new aspect of training in my lessons this week–specifically aimed at increasing my conditioning and cardio endurance. It was something we spoke about prior to my surgery, but hadn’t consistently applied it yet.

We have now.

What we have started doing is essentially the ballroom dance version of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The second half of my lesson is spent doing 1:30 intervals of Viennese Waltz or Jive (depending on the day), with 3 minutes spent working on less intense sections of my routines or ‘rest’.

Yesterday we actually tried alternating jive and samba for the intervals, but today we upped the ante with 7 rounds of VW. We had to cut down the time for the final two rounds to only 1 minute, but I got through them.

Barely.

As mentioned, we had to cut down the interval times for the last two rounds, and I barely made it through them. In the second last, my feet just stopped working and keeping time, I finished the last feeling very light headed and had some minor dry heaves.

I still religiously wear a fitbit, so I made a point of checking my pulse. One thing I noticed–the first 4 rounds, my pulse recovered from over 160 to less than 140 before we started again. With the last 3 rounds, my pulse recovered a lot less, and before the final round, it didn’t recover at all and was reading 158 before we started. It was 170 when we finished.

I have done HIIT training before, a lot (but never through dance), so I had an idea what to expect, and I have an idea what to expect. Boss told me his intention is to do this during my lessons for the next little while, since we have them regularly 3 times a week. I am perfectly game as I know my stamina and cardio endurance for dance is not likely to improve much otherwise.

From previous experience, it usually takes about 2 weeks for me to start feeling some improvement. I wouldn’t say things get easier, but I should be able to push harder through the full interval without fading so much.

It’s a little scary how much my endurance has suffered while I have been sick. The extra weight I am carrying isn’t going to help much either, but hopefully the intervals will also help it to keep gradually going down. I have been at a plateau for 4 weeks now, and I hope this might help push me through it.

I am trying to approach the intervals with as much drive as I can. Already, the ‘average heart rate’ for my lessons has increased from 115 to 135, which is a good sign. They are meant to be difficult and exhausting, and truly they are going to ‘suck’ for about 2 weeks before I will start feeling stronger. I just keep reminding myself of that.

I actually really hope that we will be able to continue with the intervals through the lessons. I know that beside being hard on me, they are difficult on Boss too (although less so). If we can keep consistent with them, then I hope when it comes to the competition in a month, I will be able to be more confident in my ability to get through a 5-dance scholarship.

After my lesson, I was even able to stay for latin technique class, which really surprised me. I had a little time to rest and really recover, and the class was less intense than my lesson (I think anything will be now!). I was happy to be able to complete it after such a hard lesson.

Boss and I had a quick talk about the group classes, as I have been trying to regularly attend them. Particularly on Mondays, I have a lesson, then usually I do some practice between my lesson and the group class. I asked what he would prefer–I cut back practice some to make the class a priority, or focus on the practice and skip the class if I am too tired. We both agreed that the class should be the priority for now. It gives me a chance to do drills I would do in practice, and it allows Boss to see things that may need to be worked on in my lesson.

Among the stress of the intervals tonight, I also had a revelation about ‘stretching back’ in standard versus ‘leaning back’ (or falling back). The first one involves stretching back from my shoulders and neck, but still keeping my ribs and chest forward. That is what I need to be doing and need to work on doing more. The second one happens when I stretch my hips forward, but let my upper body fall back from them. It brings my entire upper body behind me, hence the feeling of falling.

As we were working on foxtrot between rounds, I was able to work with this newfound knowledge and explore a bit how much stretching I could do before over doing it. There still seems to be more I can do, but doing it free up Boss some and allows us to work together a bit more in standard. I need to allow this to process more so I can apply it to the other dances.

It’s great to see a definite improvement in an area I have been working on for a while, especially when the rest of my lesson was difficult and I was bordering on exhaustion.

It’s the silver lining in many ways of my mind being freed up as my body physically grows tired. I look forward to seeing what other small improvements might be on the horizon, and seeing where the work on the conditioning takes me.

It should only ‘suck’ for 2 weeks.

Bad week

Bad weeks happen, right?

I am actually very worried and scared that I am becoming depressed again, after only 3 weeks off the anti-depressants.

This seems to have come out of no where.  Tuesday, I was absolutely fine. In fact, I was told by one of my doctors that my recovery was ‘above average’ and that he was extremely happy with my progress and only saw things getting better.

Then Wednesday afternoon I experienced an overwhelming sense of intense nausea just after eating. It passed after 10 minutes and I felt fine the rest of the day…until my lesson.

We were working on standard drills in my lesson and about 10 minutes into it I started to feel nauseous again and it built to the point where I had to stop and sit down for about 10 minutes.  I was very close to being sick, but it lessened (although it didn’t completely go away) and I continued back in the lesson, although I was fighting it the rest of the time. By the time I got home, I felt like all my energy had been drained and came close to being sick again.  I fought my way through a shower and went straight to bed.  My working theory is that I may have actually had a bit of food poisoning, because the next morning my stomach felt better again.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with the lack of productivity in my lesson and that I couldn’t stay to practice as I planned.

Thursday, for the most part, I felt better, but I could still tell something was off.  It wasn’t anything physical though, my mood just seemed to be jumping up and down. By the afternoon, I was finding myself getting upset and overwhelmed by things that weren’t really a big deal, and the level of emotional reaction I was having didn’t make a lot of sense.

Since I was feeling ok physically, I went to the studio early to get some practice in before my lesson that night. I couldn’t seem to focus on anything I was trying to do, felt scattered and disorganized and that just led to frustration. I stopped after 30 minutes because I was so upset with everything (not just dance). I actually felt my mood plummet.

Despite that, my lesson went pretty well.  We were running through the latin routines and in between rounds working out some of the details that weren’t quite coming together. We were able to go through all 5 routines in a row without my stamina completely failing or major disasters. We also did all of them at full speed, except paso. By the end of the lesson I actually felt much better, energized and motivated again.

Later on that night, I learned something that concerned me, and I could feel myself get upset about it, but at the same time, I also felt myself not even try to express my concerns. I just felt defeated without trying and that is unusual for me. Usually, even if I know something that concerns me isn’t going to change, I at least make a point of airing my concerns.

That defeated attitude seems to have persisted. I felt better when I woke up this morning, and fairly positive when I finished work as it had been a very productive week work-wise.

I decided to head to the studio early to take advantage of some practice time without a busy floor to work on standard, but shortly after I got there things started going downhill again.

Everything I was doing felt unfocused and scattered and all I really did was frustrate myself. I wanted to review the routines as I knew in my lesson we would be running them, but I kept running into things I couldn’t figure out. I just couldn’t seem to pull anything together.

My lesson, unfortunately, wasn’t much better. I had a break of more than an hour to clear my head, but pretty much from the beginning of my lesson things went downhill.

As I mentioned, I knew we would be running rounds of the standard routines (and only 4 of the 5 dances), and working on details between rounds. From the very start of the lesson I felt like jelly and defeated.

It’s a weird feeling to explain. Consciously, I wanted to push and work through the routines. Subconsciously, or at least as far as my body would respond, there was nothing there. No drive, no energy, no frame, no real dancing. I was walking through the steps.

I could actually feel the block but I couldn’t find a way to get past it. The minute I knew that we would be doing rounds without stopping, I could feel myself start to get small and cautious, and working to conserve energy. It was like somehow I had already decided that I no matter what I wouldn’t have the stamina, so I had better do less to make it through.

That seems to be an attitude to standard I can’t seem to get past. I can’t seem to make my body work as hard as I want it to, or at least in the way I used to. It’s like part of me is refusing to risk running out of energy, losing balance, making a mistake, and therefore it won’t respond with the effort I want to put into it.

Words cannot express how disappointed I am in myself because of this block.

I could also see, hear, and feel Boss’s frustration because I just couldn’t seem to respond to anything, and that just made things worse.

It’s a complete turn-around from how I felt and was able to dance two or even 1 week ago.

I feel completely overwhelmed and defeated by standard right now. It’s like I have all the tools to do it right, but all I can do is stand over them without being able to figure out how to pick them all up and use them.

I don’t feel this way in latin (at least not anywhere near this extent or noticeable–although there may be a small element somewhere).

This week, I suddenly feel weak and tired. It could be an accumulation of the work and return to activity from the last 3 weeks, but it doesn’t feel like that. I’ve kept things to a minimum and even did much less this week and last than I did the week before, or the first week I returned to dance.

I don’t like feeling this way, and I especially don’t like how quickly this seems to have manifested. One of the things I could say is that despite everything I have been through, I have never felt defeated.

But I am feeling defeated now, and I am scared it’s not going to go away. The idea of having to return to the anti-depressants is also overwhelming because it seems like a step back–something left over from Cancer that means it will never be over and I will never be able to move forward.

I think that is what scares me the most. At the beginning of the week, I was sure the worst was behind me and I was finally at a place where I could finally completely get my life back on track and moving forward.

Now it seems like I am only taking steps back.

And somehow that feels like failure.

I see my doctor on Monday, and I know, especially if things don’t improve over the weekend, that these feelings of depression will be on the table. Again. Especially if I continue to feel almost non-functional, as I did tonight. I am just not looking forward to that discussion.

Part of me really wants to hope that this is just my body adjusting to the new activity levels and I am just tired which is depressing my system. But considering all I have been through and my previous experiences, the realist in me really doesn’t believe that’s the case.

I guess the weekend will tell if this is a real problem, or just a bad week.

Damn.

A Week of Small Victories

I meant to write sooner, but I got bogged down in a paper for school.

Despite the schoolwork, my week included several victories well beyond what I expected for my first week back at dance.

I am feeling small side effects from stopping the anti-depressant, but they are manageable with a little bit of nausea and light-headedness.  I hope that is how things stay. It should be cleared out of my system tomorrow but it will take 2 weeks for my system to fully adjust. Things look really promising.

But back to dance!

I had my coaching lessons on Wednesday as planned and they went amazing. We were able to get through everything we wanted to cover and even a couple extra things as a bonus. Despite it being 90 minutes straight, my energy stayed up.

After coaching, I had a small break, then a lesson with Boss. I lasted about another 45 minutes before my body started signalling it was reaching its maximum and not fully cooperating.  The good thing was that it was only fatigue, no pain or other issues. During the lesson, we were able to go through some more things from the coaching to reinforce it. Overall, I was pretty amazed at how long I was able to last–it was well beyond what I expected.

After that lesson, my next one was on Thursday and we were able to go through 4 of the 5 latin routines to review them and make some small adjustments. It was my first time doing latin after coming back I was also glad how well I went.  I was feeling a little strange from the lack of medication, and could tell I wasn’t completely on my game, but it still went better than I thought.  If anything, it lacked a little bit of the energy from the previous lessons, but in retrospect it all makes sense.

Yesterday, was like a bonus round for me. I didn’t have a lesson, but I felt the need to blow off some steam and clear my head after a big push on my school paper, so I went to the studio for practice.  I was able to work 50 minutes pretty flat out before I started feeling fatigue seeping into my body. It was enough time to sort out the hand movements for 4 of my latin routines–at least movements that work for me.

The trick now is to first remember what they were, and hope that they work with Boss as well as they do on my own. There may be some places where Boss’s position in my head doesn’t match reality, or we might be in hold and I am not so free to move.  At a minimum, I hope that none of the movements will end up accidentally hitting Boss.

I am not sure when we will try them together, but I am going to work at reinforcing them into my own practice, and I guess we will go from there.

My next lesson is Monday, so I am taking it easy this weekend and enjoying the facebook live streams from George Pytlik of Delta Dance from the Canadian Closed Championships in Gatineau, Quebec. If it weren’t for surgery, this comp would have been high on the list for consideration, and I am glad to see some live footage from it!

I am looking forward to next week. Boss should have enough information to put together his plan for the next 8 weeks (eep! only 8 weeks!) until the competition in Calgary.  I am trying not to sweat it (except for doing some actual sweating!), reminding myself that the goal for this competition is not to be at full perfection, but to get back on the floor with full effort.

It’s been a revealing week, but a great one. I am finally starting to feel like the dancer I was before I got sick–full of drive, motivation, discipline and effort, and I hope it continues.

Monday I start back half days to work and I am looking forward to putting all of this behind me.

the end of 2017 is looking like a great lead up to a great 2018!

(Bonus shout out to The Girl with the Tree Tattoo who is getting ready to compete next weekend at the Embassy Ball! Your prep looks great and good luck!!)

Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

A plan coming together

Monday seems such a long way off.

On Monday I see the surgeon and should get my clearance to return to activities, including dance. The following week I return to work half days.

Since I have an idea of when I will be returning to dance, I was able to sit down with Boss and put together some thoughts for competing, and how to get back into training.

Among other things, we decided on a competition goal–that is just over 9 weeks away. 9 weeks of working to prepare for a competition that is nearby, but still requires a plane ride. Before that, I may do a solo at a local comp, but I haven’t quite decided on that yet.

We also took a look into the new year, and right now we are looking to attend a bigger competition in the US in the spring. After that, plans are in the works for a unique opportunity, but more on that later.

Even though it is really in the short-term, I am relieved to have a competition goal to work towards. I suddenly feel like I have focus for dance again and I am eager to get started.

We have a plan for the first few lessons to get an idea of how things feel and where I am at.

For myself, my goal is to start with the regular 3 lessons a week, and when things feel good and stable then work to add practices and eventually group classes from there. When I can handle 3 lessons and work, then I will add some more activity. As eager as I am to get working, I am not eager to move too fast and end up injured.

I am finding I have a renewed motivation towards dance. Even though I will have one more surgery in October (after the comp), finally there is really nothing looming on the horizon for me.  I can get back to moving through things as I want to without medical interference.

Among other things, I finally found the word that has been eluding me for about 6 months. The word is ‘effort’. It may seem strange, but through my illness I have gotten use to reducing the effort I put into lessons and practices in order to conserve energy. It’s made me cautious, and it has also limited my endurance and conditioning because I never really push myself.

I have realized that I don’t want to play in this ‘safe’ zone anymore and want to get back to pushing my way through everything I do with my full effort. I really hope I will be able to translate that back into dance. I feel like I have allowed myself to get lazy, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

I think the challenge of competing in only 9 weeks is exactly what I need to help remotivate me. Outside of dance, there is renewed energy in a few different areas of my life as all is connected.

I have different ideas for things I want to do and how I want to approach practice and preparation over the next few weeks. I only hope that Boss will also be on board.

Slowly the plan is coming together.