Friday, February 24, 2017

Proud Jack-of-All-Trades

The last entry prompted a memory that led me to writing the below.

Back when I met the guy who was to become my husband, I was a proud Jack-of-all-trades. Said guy teased me incessantly for it, especially highlighting, as had been described in a roleplaying game book that it also meant "master-in-none." And, for a while, it didn't bug me... and then it sort of did... and, eventually, I found myself really focusing on one thing: belly dance. Now, it's not a bad thing and I don't regret it as it certainly served its purpose and has made me the person that I am today. 

Interestingly, though, since the divorce, I've been rekindling this pride in being a Jack-of-all-trades. I like my life a little eclectic. I like to knit, crochet, sew, play piano, run, dance, cook, etc. I may not be extremely talented in any of these things but I do enjoy doing them. And that's okay.

I do believe that this culture and society is a little too focused on success or else why even bother trying? Or more like why even bother trying b/c it will take you a long time to even have a modicum of talent/skill in one area.

But do you need even that modicum if you're enjoying "the thing" (whatever it may be)? No, you don't.

Now, granted, perhaps it is foolhardy to think that you can make a living doing art if all you can do is stick figures... but then again I've seen a bunch of memes and satires using stick figures so maybe even that is doable. (Don't know if they're getting paid or not.) But if you enjoy drawing, even if it's awful, why not draw? Chances are, you'll actually get better at it. 

Again, I think that we are too focused on a certain threshold of success that you should have with things for them to be considered valuable. And I do believe that this is how art in general and appreciation of art is falling by the wayside: we don't invest in ourselves, in what makes our souls feel good, b/c it is considered futile unless you're the next (Insert Famous Person's Name). You don't need to be. It's okay. Or try it, if you've never tried it before. Enjoy what you like. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What if you aren't who you think you are?

I know... it's a total click-bait title. ;) But it's also been reflective of something that I've been pondering on for about a month so I am unapologetically using it.

It all started with my first meeting back at Weight Watchers, when the leader explained to me the program and I mentioned at some point that, when I first lost weight several years ago, I was teaching belly dance 3 nights a week and now I run 3 days a week, am preparing for the Hot Chocolate 15k race, and still do some belly dancing. The lady said that I didn't need to worry about my exercise points (yay!) as it was clear that being active is important to me.

Say what?

I had a knee-jerk reaction to deny her assertion but stopped myself short b/c I AM running 3 times a week... and then, as I thought more about it, I remembered that what led to me running in the first place was a desire to be active. It was an aha moment that, you know what, yes, actually it IS important to me to be active. That was mind blowing b/c I had never EVER seen myself that way... even when I was teaching belly dance. (Though it was easy to dismiss that given that it's dance and not another form of physical activity.)

I mulled that over for a while and marveled about what else there might be that I've had a misalignment with.

One of the things that has been brewing for a number of years, actually, is the whole artistic side. For some reason, people view me as artistic when I shrug it off b/c I don't feel artistic myself. It's like people view me as an artist who happens to also do science whereas I feel I'm a scientist who happens to also sometimes do some artistic stuff. Now I will say that I do believe that scientists view people as being artistic if they can pair colors that don't clash too much (i.e., the threshold isn't really high) but still... what if I actually have more of an artistic side to me than I give myself credit for?

And that was probably the origin of challenging who I think I am: through artistry in belly dance. That was something that I aspired to do but I didn't know if I could pull it off or not... but I sure was going to try. For whatever reason, a certain lady who goes by the name Tempest must have seen something in me (at least in my writings on then and was encouraging me. And I started including more and more artistry in my dance, to the point where I could say that, at least when it came to dance, I am an artist. (Though I still struggled with typing it and not feeling like a fraud.)

Like a lot of people, I do have impostor syndrome. But beside the impostor syndrome, I do believe that something else is at play: a script that was written out during childhood... which has never been updated since.

See, when I was growing up, my parents really focused me towards doing science. I was told that it was okay not to be good at sports/physical stuff b/c I was good at science. It was okay not to be artistic b/c I was good at science. It somehow also bred a reluctance to even try b/c I was going to fail. Sadly, my marriage was plagued with a similar dissuasion of trying things b/c I just might fail but more importantly b/c it's not my strength.

What if none of that were true? What if I wasn't just good at science? What if I actually enjoy other things and it's okay not to excel at them but just enjoy them? And what if I can actually excel in some other things? What if I have changed over time? What if the script wasn't true? What if I'm no longer the person that the script applied to? What if there was no script?

The whole point of this blog is really to prompt an assessment of whether you've been running on an old script that isn't reflective of who you are today. If you try to remove that preconceived notion of who you are and were to write a new script or description of yourself as you are today, what would it be? And how different would it be from what you think you know about yourself?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Week 1 at Weight Watchers

Well, the first week wasn't too too bad, actually. I was afraid that I might feel deprived as that had been my experience when I tried again a few times but, nope, it went pretty well, actually.

I did a few things differently than I had done in the past like really measuring the milk that I put in my coffee instead of guesstimating how much it was. I even changed some eating habits that I had from when I was losing weight. The 3rd day was hardest but, otherwise, it wasn't too hard.

Interestingly, I ended up having some good habits that just spontaneously came back. For example, we went out to dinner at a restaurant with friends on Monday and, when my food came, I ended up eating about half of it, assessed my fullness and found that I was full enough, and just forgot about the food until they asked if I wanted a box. I used to do that: mentally split the dish in half (sometimes even physically) and not touch that other half. I was just surprised when it happened without me actively thinking about it. I also went out to lunch with a friend and coworker and thought about where to go and pre-tracked the food so I knew how much it'd be.

My exercising hiccuped a little compared to what it'd be on a normal week thanks to some meetings and the weather. I have to get back on my bandwagon for that or else that 15k in March will be very painful. ;)

I made some surprising discoveries on either side of the "oh cool" and "oh no". For example, discovering how big 3 oz of awesome carnitas that James had made really was (that made for 2 big tacos) or that my beloved cider was 9 points for a regular bottle (I'll pass). Overall, I did not feel like I had to drastically change my eating habits. It felt more like tweaking. So that was good.

I also re-learned to cut myself some slack. For example, my dinner ended up being a good number of points last night but I was still within my points range (more on that in a second) and I hadn't used nearly all my weekly allowance points so it was totally fine but, when thinking about it more, I realized where I could have tweaked things to use fewer points while still having an awesome meal. I started kicking myself for that but thought that, no, this is week 1 and I'm re-learning to do this. I had a good week overall and this one meal won't make a huge difference. And I'm in it for the long haul so it's okay.

Just before I quit last year, I did have an explanation of the new points system but one thing that they tweaked since then is that now you have a points range that is considered your "healthy eating zone". So, before, you had a target daily point and you couldn't eat below that as that would not be enough food for you. Back then (and the points were calculated differently), it was 26 points. With the new points calculations, the daily target is now 30... but... they have deemed that you should really eat between 27 and 37 points to be in that healthy eating zone. They explained that, as long as you stay within that range, you should technically see a weight loss. Now the super cool thing about that is that it's not so spot on: you don't have to hit a number super precisely. In truth, it was the same before as well, but that range had never been spelled out so I always felt like you needed to be as spot on as possible. It helps my perfectionist brain. In the app version of the tracking tool, you see these solid blue dots over the days when you've stayed within your range, which is a quick visual to assess how you've been doing.

The result? I lost 3.4 lbs! I'm super happy about that! I know full well that I may not lose as much next week and that's okay.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weight Watchers... We Meet Again

Yesterday (Thursday), I went back to Weight Watchers after about a year off. Those following this blog have seen me blast here something that was said in my last meeting, though I knew that it was an outlier event.

I didn't exactly go back to lose weight, though that will happen, I'm sure. I'm going back because I want to stop this weight creep that's been going on in the past year. I've tried being just mindful of my food and tracking calories in other ways but still the weight kept piling on. In talking with my partner on Wednesday night, our struggle was knowing how much I should eat given how much I exercise and all that and I kind of offhandedly said that that was actually all calculated for you or at least easier to figure out with Weight Watchers and then it seemed like a good idea to go back.

One key thing is similar as when I first started on Weight Watchers: I come with exercise already built into my schedule and routine. If the last 3 years have been any indication, it's that it's absolutely crucial for me to separate being active/exercising from losing weight, otherwise I just don't do it and it becomes a chore. So it used to be teaching 3 nights a week (and practicing once or twice more during the week) and now it's running and some dancing still. When I talked to the Weight Watchers leader, she said not to worry about my exercising because I'm likely doing enough in a week as it is.

Interestingly, when I talked to the leader and was saying how I used to teach belly dance and now I run, she said "It sounds like being active is something important to you." It was sort of a shock to hear that because I've never thought of myself like that. My perception of myself is quite the opposite thanks to many things throughout all my life. But also, oftentimes, these things are said more in terms of fitness or being fit and I just don't like that term at all... but is being active important to me? I guess that it is! lol

Looking back at last year when I stopped doing Weight Watchers, it's clear that it wasn't the right time for me. I had to move in a matter of weeks. I had to purge/pack/unpack. I had to get used to a new living space, new city, new job. But probably the most crucial thing was that my typical go-to foods for Weight Watchers when I was back in Indy were not as readily available (well, really, I needed to find new things and I knew that, but it felt frustrating at the time). And then they changed the plan and, honestly, I just couldn't deal; that was too many changes in a short time. I was maxed out. And then there was an outlier meeting that threw me off but also echoed where I was at so it felt pointless and I stopped.

The leader yesterday asked me what was going well, what I liked about the plan when I was losing weight the first time around and my answer was that I had a good flow going: I knew what to eat, how much to eat, had a routine, things were just going. It wasn't exactly easy but it just was flowing. That's what it felt like. And now I do feel like I have my own flow going on in this new environment and it also feels okay to tweak a few things to stop this weight creep.

I also actually think that the program having changed and having been a year not doing it at all was a good sort of washout period. I developed bad habits from when I was going through my divorce where I could eat pretty much what I wanted and not gain weight and I never really recovered from that, despite trying to correct course a few times. I think that trying to correct the course and not succeeding despite feeling like I was doing things like I was before was extremely frustrating and lead me to have issues following the program again. Now, it's similar enough yet different enough that it feels like I can use some of the principles that I used to do yet won't necessarily fall for the trap of thinking that I know what I'm doing, i.e., I'll pay more attention to things vs. trying to recreate something from the past, which I think is also where the time distance helps.

One of the other issues that I ran into last year right after moving was getting to the meeting. It felt odd to go over lunchtime... and I was getting the hang of going out during the day at work... and I was also getting the hang of all this walking... and it just seemed like there would be a work crisis that would inevitably happen on Thursdays or a work meeting would be slapped onto the Weight Watchers meeting time slot (at the last minute, of course). So it was hard for me to have consistency there. After I got back from the meeting yesterday, I blocked my calendar at work for the time around the Weight Watchers meeting from next week until indefinitely. I of course will be able to change things if we do need to meet at work over that time but it felt like fully committing by doing that. And I know that people here would be very supportive of me doing something important for my health.

And lo and behold, it actually felt good to be back at a meeting yesterday. And I had forgotten how much I liked that leader on Thursdays. I dreaded the weigh in but the result wasn't exactly as terrible as I was afraid it'd be.

I'm not sure yet how much I'll be "vocal" about my weigh loss endeavors in the future but felt like sharing the above for now.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Looking to 2017...

So this is a companion piece obviously to yesterday's year in review post. :)

As a bit of additional information from yesterday, in dancing in more shows than I originally had planned to and with the healing process regarding dance, I ended up recycling a bunch of pieces that I had done before. And, yes, since these pieces had never been performed here, they were essentially new for the area. They were okay but didn't feel as satisfying as I would have expected them to be. Or, in some cases, it was hard to reproduce the piece as it had originally been intended, which wasn't a big deal since I'm an improvisational dancer but was a disconnect from the enjoyment that I had had on some of those pieces before. And this is important b/c it leads to a bunch of goals for next year. :)

Goal: Work on more pieces
Since I had so few new pieces this year, one of the goals for 2017 is to work on new pieces to have them ready at the drop of a hat should I need to fill in at the last minute for a show. I used to have a paradigm where I knew when the big events were and I'd get ready for those and map that out way ahead of time. I don't have such a blueprint to go by now and while I do have some performances planned already for 2017, it's not within the context of (insert ominous voice) big event so something to adjust to.

Goal: Redefine what practice is/Rekindle practicing
For a number of reasons that I won't get into, I'm taking some distance from the style and term of "tribal fusion", which is also having a rippling effect on my goals for next year. One of the very immediate thought that popped to mind and that I've been wrestling with this past year is how to practice because, as part of that distancing, I don't want to drill as much as I used to.

When I was trying to practice in the last year, it felt so off! Like I had no point of reference anymore and like what I was doing was wrong. It wasn't. The context was different and I ignored that. It dawned on me recently that my whole context around dancing has changed so drastically in the last few years but I've been semi ignoring that and trying to do the same version of practice... which is nonsensical. I don't have a studio anymore, I don't have a troupe or students to lead through drills, I'm not even in the same city, etc. And I'm not going to drill as much.

So time to thoroughly revamp and redefine what practice is, how to construct a practice session, etc. I'm also thinking of not being so all or nothing with practice in that it doesn't have to be long sessions. I just need to do it more and find out what works for me now.

Goal: Redefine who I am as a dancer
One thing that I realized in the last couple of weeks is that the main reason why those previous pieces didn't feel "right" was because I am no longer that dancer nor even that person anymore. They were a snapshot in time and represented a period in my life, sometimes even whispering messages to me (i.e., my subconscious speaking to me) but these aren't as relevant anymore. So who am I now as a dancer? What feels right? Where do I want to take this? I don't have answers right now... and that's okay. I can surely figure that out over time. I'm not going to let that introspection get in the way of actually doing things, though. But I'm hoping that, through the experimentation that I'll do in my practice and performances, I'll explore these questions and hopefully come up with some answers (which will of course change over time).

I have a few other goals that are evolving and I may work on for 2017 as well but this is a good list to start with, especially since some are bigger goals in the grand scheme of things. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Belly dance year in review

I used to do this on a regular basis and then stopped when I closed the studio and really wasn't dancing as much anymore. But I somehow feel compelled to do it again this year.

I was in denial over it but, actually, I did a lot more dancing than I expected to. I danced about once a month nearly every month. Say what? How did that happen? Well, I had signed up for some shows ahead of time and then I volunteered at the last minute for a few things.

In the last couple of years, I had taken some distance from belly dance while still dabbling in it as it was something that I was still interested in but, with the closure of the studio, the dance troupe being on hiatus, and not needing dance as a source of escape and validation in my life, it felt off. I wasn't sure whether I would keep dancing but knew that, to do so, I'd need to do some healing and change my perspective on dance, redefine it and all that.

I knew that, moving here and living close to my beloved friend and mentor Tempest, it'd have an effect and I'd keep dancing but, on top of that, this year also brought that shift in focus and healing that I needed to keep moving forward. Although it feels like that hasn't fully hit until the last few weeks, it's actually been some gradual shift this year that culminated in dance feeling better. Like for the first time in many years, I'm actually excited about dancing again and am actually formulating goals for 2017.

Another interesting thing this year in dance is that I FINALLY got to take regular classes again! I often forget about it (and I'm sure most people do too) but I was essentially self taught. I did take 5 years of classes back in Quebec and then a bout 8 months of classes in Indy before being put in the role of co-director for our troupe and needing to figure out how to do this improvisational tribal style (ITS) through videos. I developed my own personal style through my background and workshops and some experimentation. And a whole lot of teaching. So it's nice to be a student again. And, omg, it's pretty awesome to essentially take a workshop with Tempest each week. :) I feel that my dance has grown more in the last year and in the previous few years and I haven't even put much time in practicing... but I'm planning on changing that in 2017. Anyway, I always have at least one revelation or aha moment a week. It's pretty awesome!

I've also been lucky to be part of the Tempest's students troupe and dancing with awesome women. It was a change to learn choreographies again. lol I was also privileged to essentially get my cake and eat it too and be able to lead Tempest's students troupe for one performance while Tempest was out of town. It felt good to be back in that role temporarily.

I got to teach at Waking Persephone yet again and thoroughly enjoyed the workshop material that I shared. I do love teaching workshops and hope that I get to do it still in the future.

As I've mentioned above, I have some goals that I'm developing for 2017 and it feels wonderful to have that inclination.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The audience doesn't care...

... about your thoughts, frame of mind, insecurities, etc.

(Yes, this is somewhat of a click bait... have been reading too many of these, I suppose. lol)

This post really stems from recent comments I've heard or that have been relayed to me on my confidence on stage, which has been increasing lately.

Ever since I heard Tempest say that, come performance time, you do the best you can given the circumstances you've got, I've pretty much always embraced that philosophy. "Circumstances" can encompass a variety of things but, for me, it might be my level of readiness for the performance, amount of sleep, stress in my life in general, etc. And, of course, very much involves whatever weight I'm at. The thing is that, even if I wished really really really hard that I still had my slimmer body, it just won't happen overnight. *This* is what I've got to work with today. There's no amount of wishing that can change that.

I do think that seeing these amazingly sexy bountiful performers in the Strip Strip Hooray show this past April also helped me gain confidence in my own bountifulness... along with my partner's regular compliments and encouragements. So I've been slowly making peace with my current body shape and that it, too, can move beautifully... not just my thinner self. And I've mentioned before that I realized a few months ago that, while I was feeling self conscious about my size prior to a performance, once the music started, I was lost in the moment and my size was instantly forgotten.

I think that the combination of all of the above is what made me realize recently that, actually, the audience doesn't care at all about how I feel about my body size. What they do care about is being entertained and having a different experience than their everyday life. And that is true for any other negative thing you might be feeling. The audience doesn't care that you have all these issues going on in your life and running through your mind. It doesn't care that you have all these insecurities. It doesn't care about any of this. It WILL notice if you go out there and show any of that b/c it will affect your performance quality. You need to go out there and just do your thing because that's what they want to see.

I know firsthand that it's easier said than done but you have to shut down these negative thoughts about yourself and appear confident in yourself and in your art. I promise that, the more you perform, the easier this gets to do. But you may also need to remind yourself that all these thoughts will likely go away as soon as the music hits. And just remember that all that the audience cares about is you doing your best: the rest is in your head.