Sunday, September 30, 2012

Time of My Life

Two elite students crashed my first Cha-Cha class. My instructor was struggling juggling teaching Beginner and Intermediate & I was simply struggling. The female took over the Beginners while the male took pity on me and gave me a near-private lesson. For one particular move, he told me to pretend like I was walking. I did as he commanded and then he chastised me, “you wouldn’t walk like that!” My response was simple, “I do. But, this could be why I trip on my own feet.”  This remark actually worked well and made me much more conscious of how I walk! 

With my dance experience with my Guatemalan-ex, Salsa was relatively easy. My  biggest struggle came on a Thursday when I worked a 12-hour day earlier that week. Despite having my prism glasses to help keep the double vision at bay, the further we got into the warm-up, the worse the vision. I sat down until it subsided. Still feeling crummy, I had to excuse myself and go home. According to an article published by Johns Hopkins, double vision is a common problem among children and adults who have diseases that also affect balance.

 For some later Cha-Cha classes, Nadia Eftedal herself was our instructor.  She saw I still couldn’t put everything together and she broke it down to bite size pieces that I could digest and hopefully remember. My dancing skills are not for lack of trying, I simply couldn’t get it. Growing up in a remote area of CT, dance classes weren’t prevalent, so I couldn’t build on something I learned when I was younger. YouTube wasn’t helpful; after showing the basic step once, instructors went on to more sophisticated moves. The best I could find were Dancing With the Stars videos but even without the benefit of having an instructor there to guide you, you were lost.

Which brings me to the title of the piece— I have a lot of favorite films, & “Dirty Dancing” is one of them.  Around the time of my lumbar puncture when “brain cancer” was what we weren’t talking about, I had to have what would become one in a series of MRIs. An MRI tech offered to pump music into the machine for me to help the time pass. This particular day was on the heals of Patrick Swayze’s death. “Time of my Life” came on. In the MRI I remembered I was supposed to stay still. I managed to put a cork in my emotions, but I have never before or since been filled with so much rage. Rage at what I had (at that point was mid-grade cancer) and rage that Patrick Swayze had an amazing career and here I was cut short from doing what I was designed to do. It took me a long time to get over this. I’d change the dial when the song came on. I hadn’t even watched the movie since the surgery. AND here, struggling with the Cha-Cha, the only place I knew I could turn to with specific dance moves was “Dirty Dancing.”  I cued the DVD up to the exact scene where I knew I could find Baby, Johnny, and Penny. I saw the rhythm and what their frames looked like… since the story wasn’t going for instructional dance video and it was about them, the camera didn’t focus on their feet, but I felt it. I watched other scenes and saw different styles of dance, THAT I WAS LEARNING being incorporated into the now iconic dances that Baby was doing!

I still have not watched the film in its entirety since surgery and/or enrolling in dance classes. I haven’t heard Time of My Life in its entirety. But, just taking classes has helped in my daily life with balance and posture. I have a different kind of confidence.  I don’t intended to become a professional dancer, but having this new skill is fun and I intend on building on it. Now that I have another thing crossed off my “To Do List,” what can I add to help me continue to grow?

Friday, September 28, 2012


When you have to undergo emergency brain surgery at the tender age of 30, friends and neighbors share surprising things about themselves; health secrets that are hidden from anybody outside immediate family are suddenly revealed. I felt privileged to be allowed into this area of their lives. Now, we are members of a club where we stared death in the eye and/or beat the odds to come out cleaner on the other side. The surgeries we had and the maladies we suffer are not important. What I found interesting, although not surprising, is, now, we have lists. Many call their list a bucket list, made extra popular by the Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson film of the same name. As much as I love and respect those two actors, I refuse to call my list a Bucket List. I am not dying any more than the next person. I have friends that call their list a “Leap List.” That does not ring true to my core either because I don’t feel like I’m taking a leap of faith to do anything on the list. I simply want TO DO. And for me, that is simply the most true name. It is “Life’s To Do List.” I always had a list running in the back of my mind like an unobtrusive program on your computer (or breathing). You don’t think about it. It’s simply there. But, shortly after my surgery, I set forth to create a list, and do it well. I researched the types of life lists people do and what they put on them. These items jogged my memory of what I wanted to do and then sparked my inner desires, and I elaborated. Soon, I had a spreadsheet. The list has been taking shape over the last year and a half.  My “to do” now has a date next to the left when the idea was conceived & a date to the right when I complete the activity or adventure.

One thing on my To DO List is to be a better dancer. I had several styles of dance on the list. When one of the Daily Deals on Living Social was ONE MONTH OF UNLIMITED DANCE CLASSES AT NADIA’S RHYTHM ROOM I jumped on it. I purchased my deal & this month, I was finally able to cash it in.

Let’s remember, I have limited rhythm. The limited rhythm I do have is thanks in part to an ex-boyfriend who was Guatemalan and a gay college friend who taught me foundational moves of club dancing. Fast forward to December 2010- I must have surgery to remove a cerebella tumor.  Since the cerebellum is the root of movement and balance, having it disturbed from tumor and surgery presented balance and coordination challenges.

I wanted to sink my teeth in and go all out, but after over-indulging in Victoria, I quickly decided if I danced every day, I might have a small breakdown, so I decided to keep it “easy.” My first day in class was the Cha-Cha. Here too, I saw a challenge I didn’t anticipate… double vision while dancing. Not knowing what to expect, I was glad I brought my prism glasses. While most take glasses off for physical activity, I ran to my bag and put on my glasses to prevent excessive double vision. I knew this next month would present a unique challenge, but I wasn’t going to back down.