Down in the Valley

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I’m thinking back to Showcase.  I don’t know what a “normal” reaction is supposed to be.  I remember one of the judges talking about how you could use this as motivation to get back into the studio and work towards the next event.  And, I guess that probably works for some people.  For me, the motivation lasted all of two lessons.  I’m now firmly in the grip of the event hangover.  There are other things going on which have kind of pushed me into a little valley of gloom and despair.  Dancing is usually my escape but, right now, dance is part of the problem.  So I’ll turn to this and see what happens.  I warn you right now that this has the potential to be nothing but rambling stream of consciousness stuff that may or may not make sense.
Did anyone else get a little sad at the end of Christmas?  Yeah, I know that might sound a little silly but hang on and I’ll try to make a point here.  I love the way things feel leading up to Christmas.  I grumble about the decorations coming up early (although I’ve got some out in my office already) but I absolutely love how the lights and decorations change the look of things.  It just makes everything feel more welcoming and festive and happy and that part I can’t get enough of.  Some of that is fantasy because the problems of the world don’t go away but it sometimes seems like you can push them farther out of your mind and just look at the pretty lights and imagine a world where we do achieve the peace and love that most Christmas songs speak of.  After a certain age, the presents really didn’t mean that much to me but the brightly wrapped boxes under the tree did.  You get to Christmas day and you open everything and then clean up the wrapping paper and the feel changes.  It is like the tree and decorations have done their job and are now just taking up space.  We leave them up for another week or so but it isn’t the same.  The fantasy falls away and your are left in the middle of a cold winter with all the problems that never went away and there are no more bright lights and pretty things to distract you.
Yeah, so a Showcase is like Christmas to me.  Well, not exactly like Christmas because there is a lot of work and frustration and nerves and stress that leads into a Showcase.  But, unlike random lessons and practices, there is a different feel towards preparing for an event like Showcase.  I get more focused because I’ve got something to work towards.  The event itself has become pure fantasy and escape.  Yes, it is still work and I’m still trying to focus on all the things I’m supposed to be focused on but, I really had no bouts of stress or nerves before this event.  Even those moments during the solos when I was walking onto the floor and hearing my name called over the speaker just brought me more to life.  This is why I was here.  I used those times to slide more into the character I was supposed to play.  It was so easy to suspend reality and just to try to live in the moment and just feel everything.  I can’t even describe how good the whole day felt.  I remember getting to a point where I was doing my next to last round of rhythm and I didn’t want it to end.
And then it ends.  And you get back into the studio and you go over your critiques and then it is back to work.  Maybe I just didn’t get enough time to absorb the critiques.  Well, the real truth is that I didn’t get enough validation.  I put a lot of myself out there that day and the part of me that craves deep and meaningful conversations wanted to have that with someone.  I wanted someone to look at those critiques with me and talk about how much went right.  Yes, there are things we can work on but can’t we just take a day and talk about how much went right.  Instead, I had to try to do that myself and try to share the meta messages here.  Not sure it had the same impact.  I know I can always improve but I felt great coming out of that event and a lot of the feedback validated that for me.  But I wanted someone like Kid T to acknowledge that and it kind of didn’t happen.  It was more “I’ve summarized everything and now let’s get back to work”.
I know there are always going to be things you can work on with dancing.  Dance is cruel and demanding at times.  It always wants more.  You can give all of yourself and it is not enough.  I know where my weaknesses are.  I know there are physical limitations.  I know all the ugly parts exist.  But at Showcase, they all got swept away.  It is like Christmas when a city hangs shiny decorations that hide the dirt and grime underneath.  Showcase was bright and shiny and sparkly and none of my limitations or shortcomings mattered.  They got papered over for one day when I could just feel like a truly great dancer.
But, like any high, the drug eventually wears off and you are left back in reality with all the flaws and issues.  And that’s where I currently reside.
Last night, I got to see the Mambo that OwnerGuy had put together.  My first thought was “meh”.  As Kid T said, I don’t do a lot except strike manly poses while she does a lot of craziness.  The funny thing is that I think Kid T said that to make me feel better.  After all, if I’m just standing there, it shouldn’t be that hard and I should like that.  I also know that as the man, I’m mostly there to show off the lady.  But, I’ve been doing this long enough that I need something that speaks to me.  If I’m going to spend the next several months drilling on a dance, then I need it to feed my heart and soul.  (OK, I know that sounds trite and hackneyed but it’s all I’ve got right now)  Like I’ve said before, I know I have to continue to work on technique and I know that will make the dances feel better and I know that will eventually pay dividends.  But I can’t just grind through that without something that is fun and uplifting.  Mambo has always been a fun dance and there is very little fun in this routine.  There are parts I do like and I can probably learn to live with it but it didn’t light me up.  And it really didn’t feel like a Mambo although I’ll admit I have a limited data base to work with so I may not fully understand what a Mambo should feel like.
As we were running through it, there were so many places where Kid T is telling me that I just need to stand there in some macho pose and look tall and strong.  I have no idea why that makes me feel awkward and self-conscious and insecure but it does.  I know I can pull out my Argentine Tango comment where the judge talked about me looking “confident” so I know I can do it but I have to get to a point where I’m just feeling and not thinking.  The minute I try to think about what tall and strong would look like, all the insecurities just run through my mind telling me to shrink and get small so people won’t look at me.  Practice vs real thing.  It is just hard to get into character when I’m practicing I guess.  Or it probably does come back to “Feel More, Think Less”.  Yes, I’ve gotten to a point where I can say that with a straight face.  I know that at Showcase, I’m really feeling a lot more than thinking and that comes out in the comments.  When I’m first learning something, I’m thinking and thinking and overthinking and then thinking some more and all the feeling just goes out the window.  I’m just focused on getting it right.  What do I need to do?  Where does my foot go?  Where am I supposed to be looking?  How do you want me to stand?  OK, to be fair, I only ask about half of those questions but they are all running through my mind.  The ones I don’t ask, I just make a best guess about and see what happens.  And all the thinking just brings out the insecurities because the more I think about it, the more I tell myself that I shouldn’t be dancing.  That I’m just not that good and that I’m really just wasting my time and that I’m never going to get it because I’m just too stupid or slow to move the way I need to.  The thinking just lets out my inner perfectionist that holds me to impossible standards and punishes me for not meeting them.  I hate that guy!   He mostly now goes away at events like Showcase where I can exist in the moment and just feel and move and it all comes more naturally and I learn to laugh off the inevitable bobbles and mistakes.
“Practice like you’ve never won.  Perform like you’ve never lost.”  I guess if I want to give myself some credit, I think I do embody this.  But I’m not convinced it is a good thing.  All the demons and insecurities come out to bite me during practice which does drive me to work harder but it is brutal and the hits to my esteem take a toll.  At Showcase, there were small moments of panic but, even before each solo, I just visualized how it was going to flow and was able to tell myself that I can do it and I actually believed myself then.  That probably contributes to why Showcase feels so good.  It is nice to be able to perform without being dragged down by doubts.  Funny that I’m saying this but I’m only now starting to realize how true it was.  I can’t remember any periods of real panic or doubt at Showcase.  I was basically in the zone most of the day and I think it showed in how I danced.  Just can’t seem to find a way to stay in that zone.
We hit a part in the Mambo where she’s supposed to stretch away from me while I’ve got her in a sweetheart hold.  I’m supposed to be back in my heels while pulling slightly away at the waist but not really bending over much because I need to keep the posture.  Somehow, I need to create separation and opposition but by moving only certain parts of my body.  This part of the lesson just seriously deflated me.  It is like what happens with TrainerGuy from time to time when he wants to isolate certain muscle groups and I can’t make my body do what he wants.  I can’t feel how it is supposed to be and I can’t translate the words I’m hearing to actions.  My mind and body don’t speak the same language.  And it is frustrating as hell when Kid T is trying to get me to do this and I have no freaking idea of how to make it happen.  She even brought Sunny over so I could watch but that was no help.  And then all the overthinking takes over.  I get afraid to try because I’m afraid I’ll do something stupid and look silly and I can’t deal with that.  (Flashback to being laughed at by Z – that just cuts way too deep)  So I get stubborn and defensive and just tell them all the reasons I can’t do it.  The more they try to explain the more I resist and then my body refuses to do anything.  And then I get to a point where I just want to run off the lesson and make it all stop.  We did finally move on and try to get through the rest of the routine and, like I said, there is one part that I do like.  But, I’ve got a huge block around this step and most of the rest of it is basically “meh”.  So that just helps to push me into the pit of despair.
I also know that everything is connected.  Dance is usually an escape for me but there are times when the problems and issues of the real world become too much and I can’t fully escape them.  That just amplifies the frustration and pain of trying to learn something new.  I shouldn’t feel like a failure or like I can’t do anything right when I just had an event that proves I’m clearly not a failure.  But that is the balance between logic and emotion and there are just times where I can’t keep them in balance and emotion wins out.
While I’m in the middle of a pity party, I know that other things influence how I feel about dancing.  And, right now, there are so many parts of me that ache and just don’t feel good.  My knee is acting up and it has laughed off the last round of cortisone which is problematic.  My shoulder keeps reminding me that I shouldn’t be making big, sweeping movement.  My feet object to all the abuse.  Dance can be tough and cruel and it is all part of the demands it makes on you.  And sometimes I get to a place where I just wonder if all the pain is really worth it.  That’s part of what I’m dealing with.
Oh, yeah, here’s another thing.  I found out that my lesson on Thursday was given to someone else.  Again, there was an explanation.  When you set up standing lessons, the computer only assigns a certain number.  Then, they drop off the calendar with no warning.  In that short interim, someone booked time with Kid T.  Now, I don’t know who booked the lesson but I’ve been coming on Thursdays at the same time forever so wouldn’t you have at least checked before booking?  It’s a mistake and I can’t get bent out of shape over it but now she wants to schedule a lesson on Friday and there is a big part of me that is saying why should I be inconvenienced because someone at the studio screwed up?  Yeah, I get that way from time to time.  Pretty much sure I’m just going to pass because I’m discovering that I need alone time which is what Friday provides.
And, let me just add one more log to the emotional fire.  This will likely sound silly but I never know what is going to strike a chord within me.  I take the dogs to what used to be a military base that was turned into a state park within our city limits.  The last two weekends, we’ve been greeted by a magnificent and beautify male deer.  He just looks at us for a minute and then eventually moves on.  One thing about deer in urban areas is that they can destroy the natural balance of a place because their only natural predator in the city is cars.  So, they do “deer reductions” which just means they kill a certain number to keep the population within limits.  This is something I can logically accept even though I hate that it has to happen.  I was actually carrying on a conversation with this deer and telling him that he needed to leave the park for a few days.  But since he really showed little fear of humans, I’m afraid he’s going to be an easy target.  I suspect I won’t ever see him again and that just makes me sad to think of this wonderful animal leaving the park strapped to someone’s hood.  Again, I know why they do these things but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
So I’m kind of like Cinderella. The clock struck midnight and the magic is gone and I’m back to the drudgery of life.   On second thought, a guy comparing himself to Cinderella may not be the visual I’m going for.
I never stay in these valleys for long.  But every now and then I need to come down here and look around.  Thanks for coming with me.

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