Friday, August 6, 2010

Dancing to a different (heart) beat

I woke up this morning feeling like a fraud and it caused my heart to stutter.

Over the past few weeks, emails have flooded my inbox regarding my dance journey. What began as a friendly challenge to get fit, cure writer's block and tap into a different kind of creative energy has morphed into something bigger, something more intimate than I ever imagined possible.

And to be truthful, it's overwhelming.

Of the hundreds (thank you!) of emails, many people have expressed gratitude for inspiring them to step outside of their comfort zones. And a larger contingent have congratulated me on my courage.

I didn't feel very brave last night.

J'Adore Dance cultivates a safe, inspirational and fun place to learn. Women (and the occasional guy) of all shapes and sizes can sweat it out on the dance floor, without fear of being judged. The writer in me can't help but observe the various commitment levels of my dancing peers - the women who flail their arms with abandon, the girls who hold back, the dancers who feel the beat, and those of us who are reminded weekly of our two left feet.

Everyone is not watching me. But I am - and sometimes, I can't get past that image in the mirror. The frumpier, uncoordinated Dawn.

Last night was one of those nights.

An hour before the first of two classes, I sat at my kitchen table mediating a conversation between the angel and devil on each of my shoulders.

Tell Jessica you had to work late.
No, that would be lying and you respect her too much for that.

Tell her you don't have the energy to try Old School Hip Hop.
But you made a commitment.

Pretend you lost track of time.
And then that's all you'll think about all night. Why put yourself through that?

In the end, the angel won - but not with a clear victory. En route to class, I got caught in a traffic jam and considered turning around. As the clock ticked closer to start time, I worried I wouldn't make it there before someone slipped into my coveted back-row spot. And just when the devil on my shoulder had given me one more excuse to just go home, I called Sue and asked her to talk me through my fears.

If you've read my dance posts then you know this: I always have fun. I love being surrounded by inspirational women, and instructors who are committed to helping me grow as a dancer, but also as a person. And selfishly, I've enjoyed reconnecting with Jessica, and can't help but be proud of the life she has built for herself by following her passion, chasing that dream.

And yet, every morning, I wake with a bubble of insecurity. As the day progresses, that bubble expands, sometimes into anticipation and excitement, but often with fear. Most days I can quash it, remind myself that this journey I'm on is helping me in so many ways. But last night, that bubble grew until it almost choked me with dread.

Jessica often asks us at the end of class to focus on the one thing we did well - and forget the rest. Last night, I focussed on surviving. (If that sounds dramatic, join me next session...)

Old School Fit Hop is hard. Jessica choreographed a routine that was like interval training. Instead of weights, we did the Roger Rabbit, and the Running Man, and criss-crossed to Ice Ice Baby. (Do you remember Vanilla Ice?) I loved the music, and even rejoiced in learning some of the steps. But for some reason, the bubble in my chest never truly went away and by the time we finished class, hot and sweaty and gasping for air, I considered going home instead of pushing through Naughty Hotties.

But there was Jessica, with her pep talk and brilliant smile, listening while I lamented about a crappy, emotional day. She did not judge when I said my breakfast, lunch and dinner consisted of pizza. And she didn't flinch when I confessed to going home after Salsa Burn and eating a bowl of ice cream. How could I not stay?

EROTICA didn't make an appearance at Naughty Hotties. Though the Lady Marmalade chair dance is absolutely fun - and sexy if you understand the concepts - it was definitely ME struggling through those steps and insecurities. The mirrors felt stifling, and my alter ego never came out of hiding. I worried about breaking the chair, or falling on my ass, or, as always, looking ridiculous and definitely unsexy. Feelings I never actually shook.

I'm leaving for holidays tonight, which means missing a whole week of dance. There's a piece of me that is saddened. But there's this other piece that is a bit relieved. I'm going to Christina Lake, where there are trails for me to hike, a massive body of water for me to swim, and a path I love to run. These fitness activities are familiar to me. I know the mechanics of running and have been swimming Christina Lake since I was a kid. For a few days, I'll be in my comfort zone and I admit I'm looking forward to it.

Don't get me wrong - I'll jump right back into dance the week I return.

Because I've made a commitment to this, and because in honesty, I can see the difference. My body feels stronger and leaner, more energized. But more than that, so does my mind. My most recent pages have been crisp and well crafted. Ideas are flowing and I don't dread that blank screen. Dancing has helped re-open that creative gate when other tactics have failed. I can't quit. Not now.

I owe it to myself to complete this journey.

The Book In My Bag Today: Ink Exchange, Melissa Marr


  1. The beauty is in discovering yourself. The fear you feel is the last push from your mind to keep you you from reaching the summit and seeing everything you've accomplished. Out-witting that fear is what makes the journey (with all it's ups and downs) so much worthwhile than if it were just a flat and easy course.

    You are amazing. Your commitment to yourself is incredible, and I hope that you save all of those emails to help you see just how awesome you are!! Not only are you growing yourself in this challenge, but you are building up everyone around you! I am so proud of you!! xoxo

  2. Dance is one of those things that can sometimes feel very challenging when you're having a not-great day. In other art forms and other types of exercise, you don't tend to judge yourself so harshly, and you can wait for inspiration or take a day off. When I'm in a bad headspace, an entire dance class can go by without a shift in my mood because my body expresses what I feel. There will be better days!

  3. Meaghan - I agree that I need to push through the fear to fully grow. Some days are just harder than others... Thanks for your awesome support. xoxo (And I hope to see you again at class, despite being somewhat intimidated by your awesome booty pops :-)

    Anon - thank you for your comment. It's true that in other art forms and exercises we tend not to judge as harshly - I love that you pointed that out. I took boxing for a few years and loved it. I felt powerful and strong. But the minute I had to shadow box in front of a mirror, my arms dropped or my focus faltered because I was too busy judging myself. WHY DO WE DO THAT?! Have an awesome weekend.

  4. Good for you for fighting the excuses and getting to class! The battle of the mind is often the hardest to overcome but you're doing it.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  5. Dawn...thank you so much for sharing this journey with us all. You are an inspiration for women to push their personal boundries. I have truly enjoyed your honesty as I know that I have very often used the same excuses you mentioned to get out of things I am uncomfortable with...the truth is, you never feel any better when you succumb to the excuses.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again for sharing!

    Have a wonderful vacation!

  6. Thanks Jaydee. I'm feeling MUCH better today - but very excited about my vacation :-) Happy writing!

    Anon - Your comment made me smile. I appreciate you reading the blog and am glad you've enjoyed it. Hopefully I can get past this silly insecurity and push forward next week!

  7. Good for you for GOING and for STAYING even when you couldn't tap your dancing queen. A week of legitimate break might be a NICE break, but had you taken a cheated one, you probably would have felt like you cheated and taken on a shame thing. I think it is great to be out of our comfort zone from time to time, and I congratulate you for powering through!

  8. Wow. That's a beautiful, brave, honest post. Good for you for recognizing all those tough emotions. Writing them out will give you the power to continue.

    Cheers to you. And enjoy the trip in your comfort zone.

  9. At least you didn't 'wake up in the morning up feeling like P. Diddy' ... just saying! ;-j

  10. Hart - thank you so much. I agree completely that a legitimate break will be awesome. Truthfully, I miss it already.

    Suzanne - writing them out will absolutely power me through. Thank you <3

    True dat, Jan :-)