Dance

US Open of Swing Recap

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As I sit here watching Sunday football on a cold afternoon, it’s hard to believe that just over a week ago, Andy and I were primping and stretching in preparation for our US Open debut. It’s crazy how quickly months of prep can go into just 2.5 minutes of performing. I’m sure anyone who’s ever planned a wedding or a big event has felt the same way… so much thought goes into executing every detail—only to have it all end in one day.

That said, I’ve loved using this week to really reflect on the experience and glean as much learning as I can from it. I’m sure, though, that the lessons from this will continue to roll in as time moves forward.

The morning of the big performance…

We’d practiced together the night before, and had finally gotten the chance to rehearse for the first time on the big floor only just that morning.

For all the worrying, stressing, and ruminating I’d done the weeks and months prior, I was happy to find that on the day of the actual performance, I was calm and excited to get out on the floor. After our early morning rehearsal, I had spent the remainder of the morning pressing our costumes, gluing on more rhinestones (there’s no such thing as too many), getting my thought ready for the day, and even taking a nap before I beginning the primping process.

We had to report to the green room at 2:10pm, even though our position as 15th in the lineup made us perform closer to 4pm. In that back room, there was a piece of ballroom floor about 10 feet by 8 feet for all 22 couples to use to warm up (aka NOT a lot of space). But we made due.

Andy and I took our turn on the floor to run our routine, and for me personally, it wasn’t going so well. We kept running into the other couple on the floor, my spins weren’t coming out cleanly, and at one point I stepped off the edge of the floor and my shoe twisted off—causing my heel a lot of discomfort. All this within minutes of going out to perform. Grrreat.

I thought to myself, “This is the moment where mental training is key.” I knew that I was perfectly capable of dancing though the pain—but I also knew that if Andy and I weren’t connecting well here, it would show up in our performance. And at that moment, things weren’t looking too good. Right then, we were called to get “on deck,” meaning we were up next.

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Oh dang. That’s us. It’s now. It’s really happening.

I knew I had to shift my thought and get into game mode. As any athlete, speaker, or performer knows…it’s so much more about the mental game than the actual physical game. Get the mind right, and the rest falls in place. And, confession, “getting into game mode” for both of us looked more like some bad dancing from the “shake it off” music video. Once we’d gotten that out of our systems, I took Andy’s arm and we walked up the stairs to make our entrance. We decided to really enjoy the next 3 minutes, focusing on soaking in as much of the experience as possible. The music ended from the couple before us, and before we knew it, it was our turn. We took a deep breath together and stepped out onto the floor.

Time seemed to move so slowly out there, and as we hit our final pose, I felt nothing but satisfaction for the performance we’d just given. Because of our diligence in practicing, I felt like it was another practice run—except that we got to share it with all our friends that day. And I realized only later, that I hadn't felt any pain while dancing either. 

Earlier that morning, I’d found this stanza in a poem by Richard C. Trench to be quite helpful: “For we must share, if we would keep that blessing from above; they cease to have who cease to give: such is the law of love.” I knew that ultimately, this couldn’t be a selfish endeavor for it to be truly successful. I’ve learned that the secret to living is giving—and what a better way than to share a gift than to dance it out?

Once backstage again, hugs from friends and texts and messages started coming in right away from friends who were watching online from all over… it was incredible to feel so much support from our community (and a shout out to all those who have sent texts, messages, comments, or emails over the last week—it’s been such fun to share this journey with you!).

Post-performance emotions:

— Exhausted: after not sleeping well for over a week before the Open, I’m definitely grateful for the time to just breathe again. I’m also enjoying the fact that I now have about 50% more space available in my mental hard drive, now that it’s no longer occupied with ruminating over the US Open prep. Which also means that I can also focus on all my upcoming projects! So many fun things(and books) to come…this is only the beginning. :)

— Deep satisfaction with our performance: with only one minor error, I’m still so proud of us for holding ourselves well out there (and not choking under the pressure), and for beating the fear that tried to impede our progress and following through with this big goal. I can hardly describe how rewarding it is to take a vision like we had, and to have worked hard to make it happen. It truly was a victory over fear and the resistance that came up so strongly throughout the process.

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— Humble and inspired: I’ve shared with a few people that this experience was like playing in a D1 game as a D3 player. And while we were as prepared as we could’ve been, we knew that this would be more about the opportunity to “play” with the D1’s in the Classic Division. And although we didn’t make it into the Finals, it was equally enjoyable to cheer on our friends who did make it—and it was an incredible show of talent and hard work that evening.

Results: We received 22nd place out of 22nd couples. However, what I love about the entire experience is that the placement hasn’t affected how I feel about our performance at all! I felt (and still feel) honored and humbled to be out on the same floor as our fellow competitors that day. Sure, I’ve been tempted to feel embarrassed or ashamed of getting “last place,” hesitant to share that with people when they ask. But when I go back to the root of the experience—we knew that we’d be going up against some of the best west coast swing dancers in the world. We knew from the get go that it was more about envisioning and going after a goal that would push us into becoming better dancers and more resilient people in general. I keep going back to the fact that this experience was largely a practice in taking a vision, figuring out a way to make it a reality, and then working our butts off to make it happen. And we did! That, right there, is the victory. And thankfully, getting last place hasn’t overshadowed that fact. And ultimately, I know that this is just the first step of many in continuing to take ideas and bring them to fruition throughout my life and in my life’s work as well.

Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and interest as we’ve gone through this experience. And cheers to all of us, Living our Dance this year! Onward!

The US Open Swing Dance Championships: a training ground for the mind

After a full week of being completely immersed in the fear and anxiety of anticipation for this week’s US Open Swing Dance Championships… I’ve come to realize that this state of mind will not help me in any fashion. This entire week, I’ve felt so scared, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to do well, feeling already disappointed in myself for not losing enough weight for this event, feeling hopeless, and silly for even thinking that I could belong on the floor with the likes of my fellow amazingly talented competitors—even to the point of not wanting to go compete at all anymore; fearful that this will define me; fearful that it won’t—and it’ll be just another one of those things that I did once… even crying while gluing on rhinestones to our costumes yesterday (note to self: tears obstruct view for detailed costume work. I do not recommend this.).

But tonight, I meekly turn towards gratitude. During lunch yesterday, a good friend of mine reminded me that this performance/competition is actually all about love: love of the dance, love of expression, love for the audience, and sharing this gift with them.

Another friend of mine brought up the idea that this isn’t even about what “place” we get. “There is no place to attain,” he said. How is that even possible, I wondered? Because, he explained, it’s all about expressing this love for and through the dance.

As I sit here tonight journaling out my gratitude, I’m overwhelmed with how much there truly is to be thankful for:

  •  I’m grateful to be able to go out there well-practiced and well-dressed.
  • I’d much rather be the “man in the arena,” than the man on the sidelines—no matter how the results turn out: unlike so many others, at least I’m doing it…starting somewhere—as low as I may feel on the totem pole.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to dance out on the US Open floor, for my talented partner, for the support from all my family and friends along the way, for the means to travel and do this in the first place, for a body that functions and with which I can rejoice and express my exploding joy for life and this dance.
  • I’m also grateful for the (almost-debilitating) fear that has been trying to stop me all week: for the chance to see (1) how much I really do care about this, (2) for the chance to overcome it, move through it, and to continue on despite its attempts to impede my progress, (3) for the growth it’s caused in me, (4) for the chance it’s allowed me in sharing my fears, to become vulnerable and ask for support, (5) and to feel ALIVE!! I see now that the fear, sadness, and frustration are all the dark moments that make those stars of good moments shine even brighter.

the_man_in_the_arenaI have no idea how this weekend will pan out. None of us do. But instead of worrying so much about how I’ll do competitively, I’m deciding now to flood my heart, my intentions, and my week ahead with gratitude, and to celebrate this amazing event that I’ve looked forward to and been preparing directly and indirectly for, over the last five years.

My commitment to myself for this next week is that whenever I feel the fear or anxiety of anticipation seeping in… to stop. Take a deep breath. And reconnect with this solid state of gratitude.

Gratitude is a muscle. And this event—or any chance I have to travel outside my comfort zone—is just another opportunity to build up my mental fortitude. And I have a feeling that I’ll get a good mental workout this upcoming week. :) I’ve learned that a mind filled with gratitude can’t also dwell simultaneously in fear. So I get to choose now. Do I choose fear or gratitude?

And a closing note to my fellow competitors this weekend: My vision is that we go out there as cheerleaders for each other—each of us bringing our best game in order to call out a higher level of excellence in each other. As John Wooden says,

We don’t have to be superstars or win championships…All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it.

And then, as we each leave the floor after our event(s), we can individually know that we’ve already “won,” not by the placement we do or do not receive. But by the knowledge that we “left it all out on the field.” And that’s truly all any of us can hope to accomplish out there.

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Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. -John Wooden _______________________________________________________________________

 

All the best to each of us! May our every step on that floor be infused with the fruits of our labor, our joy, and our love for the dance. Cheers to a truly successful weekend at the US Open!

"Wakin' up is the hardest part..."

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Tonight I'm performing a piece at Wild Wild Westie (a dance event in Dallas, TX) that means a lot to me. It's about my mom, and specifically--about that moment when I found out that she had passed on. 

Personally, this has been a stretch to not only choreograph and perform my first solo piece, but to also open up and connect with anyone else who's lost someone close--and to use dance as a vehicle to express that feeling, when words sometimes can't do it justice (and we all know how much I love the written word...  ) mom-and-molly At some point, we'll all have to confront that moment (or perhaps we already have, and some of us have faced that moment many times--myself included), and this is a piece to touch that moment: the morning after, as I woke up and tried to remember if it was just a dream... Only to realize that it was real. And that moment that I feared most actually. did. happen.

"...and waking up is the hardest part... For the moment, you can hardly breathe...wonderin' was she really here? ...no she's not, cause she's gone gone gone gone gone.." (-John Mayer, and words from the song I'll be performing to)

But ultimately, the piece is designed to remind us that at some point, as we all have or will have that moment--we can remember that we're not alone. We're never truly alone, even though it can feel like it. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, or taking someone's hand and looking them in the eye to tell them that you love them, or even a hug--just to let them know that it's going to be ok...

So as nervous as I am to go out there tonight, I'm reminding myself to just focus on BEING. It's not actually about me at all. It's about conveying an experience, a moment...and no, it doesn't have to be pretty, and no it doesn't have to be perfect. It's about taking off the mask, connecting, and letting others in--cause that's where the real healing takes place.

Thank you mom for the inspiration, and for allowing me to see how much I care for you by how much it hurt to see you go. I'm grateful to know that our relationship continues to this day, and will continue to grow as I become increasingly grateful for the foundation you've laid in my life. I love you mom!

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Update:

I just finished putting my "mom" piece on the floor for the first time tonight. I was "in it" and genuinely cried at the end. Barely remember it, actually--just the feeling of being out there and afterwards. And I must say, I'm so grateful for my Dallas family for their encouragement and support. I wouldn't want to perform it in front of any other group first. Tears all around, lots of "I love you's." I'm feeling so grateful, peaceful, and filled up full. Thank you guys from the bottom of my tear-streaked heart.

 

Kickstarter Update: Chuggin Along...

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Hey team!

So, it’s been just over two weeks since the project was officially funded, and I’ve already competed in Kansas City, spent some time with my dance partner in Seattle, competed in Oregon, and am now on an island off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, working as head cook for a couple weeks at a beautiful summer camp. The campers just arrived today (little girls, ages 7-12), and they couldn’t be cuter. :)

With my crazy schedule recently, and being under the weather for a good part of that time, I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a challenge to keep up with all that needs to be done here. I acknowledge that I haven’t been as communicative as I would’ve liked, post-funding. But please know that regardless of the circumstances, I’ll be sending out weekly updates along the way, so y’all will be in the loop.

What to look forward to:

  • Personal thank yous will be sent to those who donated more than $35 (look for a survey asking for your addresses soon!)
  • Updates from working on our routine with my Seattle-ite dance partner, Andy
  • Video of my debut performance of my solo piece about my mom, to be performed at the Wild Wild Westie event in Dallas over 4th of July weekend (super nervous-excited!!)
  • Video from more upcoming competitions
  • And the online release of my first book, Don’t Settle: Start Living a Life You Love (to those who donated more than $5)... estimated delivery--July 2014!!

So, let’s just say there’s no lack of things to do between the menu planning/cooking, thank you note writing, choreographing, and book editing. ;) #IthinkIcanIthinkIcan!

And there’ve been many times this week where I’ve found myself exhausted from being in the kitchen 10+ hours a day, looking over my insanely long to-do list, and feeling very separated from real life, without a chance to sit and catch my breath--wondering if I’ll be able to actually do what I’ve set out to do here.

But sometimes I feel that exact same way when looking at the clock with only 90 minutes until dinner, and 50 mouths to feed--wondering if I’ll be able to pull it all together in time...and we always do! So thankfully, each day I’m reminded of what’s possible when I have support and when I just keep chugging along towards the vision.

That said, I should hit the hay myself--I’ll be up before I know it to crack eggs and get the bacon sizzlin for the girls tomorrow.

Thank you again for all your support along this journey!

Lots of love,

 Molly

P.S. Go Team USA!!!

Live Your Dance

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photo 1 It was my first night of our family vacation. Amazing dinner with my brothers, sister, niece and nephew, grilling out on the beach. Fresh air, waves in the distance, stars above, Christmas music playing, and all of us reaching around the table for the salsa and the guac, as only good friends or families can. LOVED that dinner, so much.

I had a long chat with my brother and his wife afterwards about a leadership/emotional intelligence course I had just finished, debriefing all my insights and new ways of being that I am committed to. What also came up was this idea that my sister shared--that maybe it’s time to “put my book (that I’m writing) down...” and demonstrate what I’m writing about first...aka pursue my love of dance first, then publish my book from the standpoint of having lived what I’ve been studying for so many years.

I went to bed that night, ruminating on all we’d discussed. But out of it all stuck that idea that perhaps I should put my book on hold. This is the book that I’ve been writing since I quit my corporate job back in 2012, sold everything, and started my 17,700-mile solo road trip around the country for six months: the same book that I had planned on helping finance my passion-projects and pursuits for 2014, and also serve as a springboard for other opportunities.

And now, here I was being asked to put that all aside. To do what? Dance. Yeahhhhhh, ok. Riiiiight.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal that night, after tossing and turning about this proposed new path (It’s 1/2 spill-my-guts onto the page, and 1/2 self-coaching, talking myself through limiting beliefs and what I can choose to believe):

 

I’m so scared to actually consider this. It’s not that I don’t think I’m talented or at least coachable--I know I am to some extent, but I still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn, too. But it scares me to put away the metrics with which I measure myself and the world around me (job, status, clients, etc.)...and go after what my soul truly aches for...and not know the outcome.

I honestly have no idea how I’m going to make this work right now. Money, training, lessons, comps, politics, travel... But I keep going back to this idea to just pursue it first. Put that intention out there, live it honestly, and the work/money/creativity will coalesce to make it happen. And I’ll get to say Yes to opportunities along the way.

I also wonder...Is this just a selfish pursuit? Well...is it selfish to come into my fullest self, or to continue living as only 1/2 of me in a dead end job?

I have a feeling I could contribute a lot to the dance with my unique perspective and style, just as I see everyone else’s expression and flavor come alive in the dance. Why is my expression any less valued than anyone else’s? (maybe because it’s not, mol...) 

This really is my time to go after it...if not now, I know I will wish I had later on. I know it. I’m so scared to actually go after it. But I know I need to, for my soul’s sake.

What about my publishing my book (which is all about not settling for a job that’s just “meh”)?

This is what living it first will look like. This is living my dance. How will I pay for comps, training, routines, costumes, travel...??? I don’t know, but I can already feel my heart opening up in this idea (cue *tears*), like when I hadn’t danced for a while when I was living in Santa Barbara, CA. And I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I was so unhappy underneath it all... I was missing dance. My dance. and Me, my full Self.

I can foresee my writing opening up and coming from such a deeper place when it starts from this place. It’s ALL heart here. It’s me here.

What I do know for sure, is that I come alive on the dance floor. It’s where I’m my most happy. Where I’m my soul’s best and fullest self. Time disappears, food doesn’t matter, sleep doesn’t matter. On the floor, I can be all shades of me: playful, sexy, sorrowful, passionate, cute, sharp, intense... I’m proud of the woman out there, and would love anyone and everyone to see her, meet her, and get to know who she is, as she is out there. As long as I’m dancing, I’m happy. I’ve always joked that someone could ask me for a dance, and even if I were in a deep sleep, I’d still wake up immediately to accept.

It’s challenging, it’s rewarding, I’ve already loved it for five solid years already, and everyone but me (apparently) can see the light in my eyes when I talk about it. It seriously feels like I’m in love. Dance has helped me come into my own and deepen who I am. I’ve made incredible friends because of this community, and now feel like I have a piece of “home” wherever I travel and find a dance. And in every lesson I take, I learn more not just about dance, but it serves as an incredible metaphor for so many life lessons too.

My heart is pounding so hard right now. short breaths. ugh...I think I might turn my life inside out this year...and it scares me to no end. But I suppose I’ll figure it out somehow...