Friday, January 31, 2014

Quitting Belly Dance

I have a confession to a make: I almost quit belly dancing last year. I had hit a point where I was discouraged and burnout, and the two emotions together fueled a major rut.  For a period of almost six months, I said no to every single private gig inquiry. While I was still doing my regularly monthly restaurant gig, a handful of other shows, and teaching with the Experimental College, these were all activities that I had previously committed to prior to sinking into my slump. I had dropped any new goals or ambitions. Despite my authoring a book on regularly practicing and setting goals, I was barely practicing myself. In short, I was being a major hypocrite.

I had hinted at my feelings mildly in this post from last summer, but I wasn’t being entirely honest. I had down-played how extensively I was feeling this. There was a combination of factors that were contributing to my condition. As the post had discussed, I had been pretty discouraged by the lengthy negative feedback I had received during a belly dance competition. And in the second competition, while my feedback and scores were mainly positive and high, I still felt that I had let myself down. That I had more inside me that I could have brought to the stage, but that in the competition and in my other shows, I just for some reason couldn’t access it. It was stuck. 

I was stuck. 

I was feeling that I had plateaued.  I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore and it was all starting to feel like a chore.   Additionally, with moving, changing jobs, and getting married in a nine month time-span, I was just generally exhausted. Put all together, I was dealing with major burnout.  I flat-out just didn’t care if I continued to dance or not.

Thus, I did the only solution I could do: I stopped.  As mentioned, I still fulfilled prior commitments that I had, but I didn’t reach out for new things. Instead, I turned inward.  I need time to nurture myself.  I relaxed, read books, watched TV, and sat on the couch instead of popping in a practice DVD. I took things off my to-do list and released my need to reach certain milestones by certain deadlines. I listened to my body and in the process something magical began to happen.

I started to care again, but in a different sense.  By releasing all the expectations I had built over the years, I got back to why I started to belly dance in the first place: because it brings me inner joy and peace. Because it’s beautiful and it expresses a sacred part of who I am. And because, gosh darn it, I love wearing sequins.  I began to dance more for myself and care much less about what my audience and fellow dancers thought of me. Will I never, ever care about what others think of me? No, that would be unrealistic.  But I’m moving in the right direction.  I also began experimenting more with music that spoke directly to me, music completely outside of the standard belly dance genre. Music that is more authentic to me and my performance.  And I would also add that my students helped me. Just as students learn from their teachers, teachers also learn from their students. By seeing the novelty and wonder that is belly dancer reflected back at me through the eyes of my students, I was helped to see it that way again as well.  While I’m now starting to revisit my goals, I’m no longer frantically attached to a checklist.

Yes, by giving myself the time and space to heal and rest, by literally doing nothing, I got to the next phase in the journey.

So why am I sharing this? Because I want you to know that if you are experiencing a low point, whether in belly dance or something else, you are okay. You are perfectly fine where you are.  Everyone goes through low points, failures, and detours where they want to give up. So if you are experiencing this, just go with it.  Let the ebb and flow of life happen.  Take care of yourself and do what you need to do. You can’t force inspiration or motivation to happen.  As the ebb rises again you will emerge reinvigorated, maybe on the same path you were on before. Or maybe on a new one. Let yourself be a beginner again, starting fresh. Listen to what your soul says you need and nourish the experiences that are authentically you. Not because someone else thinks you should.  Sometimes to achieve something, we have to let it go. Sometimes we have to step out of our own way.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Triple G: Grit, Gratitude, and Giving

Last year is one for the books. It's been released and bid adieu to, and now I am ready to open my arms to 2014.  I always like to share a little preview of my goals for the year ahead, as I think declaring your intentions and aspirations to the Universe is a very powerful first step to seeing them fulfilled.

My goal-setting process always begins by picking a theme for the year. My theme for 2014 is Triple G, with the "G" standing for grit, gratitude and giving.

Due to reflecting on gratitude back in November for this post, I really got inspired to work on my gratitude skills and thus gratitude has become a pillar for my 2014.  I've started a daily gratitude journal, where each night I jot down a few sentences about what I'm thankful for that day. Already this practice is helping me to focus on gratitude all day long, as I throughout the day I start thinking ahead about what I'm going to write down that evening.

And because I'm feeling so much gratitude for life right now, I want to expand that and pay it forward by focusing more on community service.  This service is manifesting in my life in a couple of different ways. Due to my credentials as a CPA, I've been asked to serve on the Board of Directors and Finance Committee for Humanities Washington, which is Washington State's non-profit humanities chapter. I'm very honored to have been asked and have accepted.  Additionally, I've applied to be a Girls on the Run coach for their spring program. Growing up, I played a lot of sports, including swimming, gymnastics, running, and to a lesser extent diving and tennis. In addition to being active and boosting my health, sports taught me many great life skills: how to work as a member of a team, self-confidence and positive body image, perseverance when times are tough, determination to succeed, and the ability to push yourself to your edge.  I want to help pass these skills onto other young girls. I should receive my coaching assignment in about a month!

And finally grit. I'm going to do something this year I said I would never do: run a half-marathon. In addition to dance, I'm very active each week, doing a mix of running, interval training, barre, and indoor cycling. And I'm ready to take my physical stamina to the next level by running (and finishing!) the Lululemon Seawheeze half marathon in August. Additionally, I've also already signed up to do the Warrior Dash in July, which is an obstacle-coursed based 5k run.  This will be another great test of grit.

Those are my big focuses for the year, but of course, I always have a slew of smaller fun goals in mind as well. These include getting back into ballet, which I quit just about a decade ago after just starting pointe. Playing my violin in a community orchestra again. I played regularly through high school, and since then it's been a bit more hit and miss, but lately my soul is just itching to make music again. I also think this is the year I finally get a tattoo. I've wanted one for almost 20 years now, but have had a hard time deciding what I wanted. Now that I've finally wanted the same design for a number of years now, I think it's time to make it permanent.  Time and money allowing, I always try to take an annual international vacation.  After so much time spent recently around the Mediterranean, I think it's time to switch things up a bit and head somewhere tropical. A Costa Rica vacation with surfing and scuba diving is currently topping the list. And lastly, I believe I've caught the Katniss / Merida / elves from the Hobbit craze, because I put down taking an archery class on my list for the year as well.

And finally I have a rollover goal from last year: to write a book on pursuing your passions while working a 9-to-5. I've already started writing this and am pleased as punch to say the words are just flowing from me. 

So that's my vision for the year ahead. It will be definitely be busy, but I'm feeling jazzed and energized about it. The ball is already rolling on a number of these and I'm excited to see how the year plays out. To bring it all together, I made the vision board pictured above as a daily reminder of what I want to embody for the year.

Your turn. What big, life-affirming goals do you have planned for the year? I'd love to hear all about it!