How to Cope with Loss – Part 3: Steps Back Toward Normal

I’m working through this ordeal a little faster than anticipated. I think I have my personal growth on my ballroom journey thus far to thank. And the fact that I am not going through it alone. Teacher is proving himself to be a true partner. Not that I had doubts, but I’m not comfortable depending on others. I am currently in a state of fluctuation, fine one hour, depressed the next. Hopefully, my see-sawing moods didn’t affect the readability of this post too much.

Read the whole How to Cope with Loss series here.

Wednesday was a weird day. A full week since that fateful phone call. I thought I would be in Florida. I thought I would be competing for national titles in bronze and silver smooth. I thought I would be celebrating my performances with a steak dinner. I hung a picture on the wall of my bedroom instead. And I vacuumed. I finished writing a book review. And I ate a sandwich for dinner.

As Wednesday came to an end, I found myself feeling new sadness. I officially missed it. My USDC events were over; someone else claimed the title. I’ve known for a week that it was going to pass by without me. But actually watching it pass by was a little different.

There was a silver lining though. A consolation prize, so to speak.

I normally have a standing lesson on Wednesdays. And since we weren’t in Florida, Teacher said we were on for our usual time. So even though we weren’t geographically where I thought we would be, Teacher and I still got to dance. Together! I figured it would be a lesson of solo dancing, me going through routines or technique drills on my own while Teacher watched and guided. I don’t mind. It isn’t as fun as when I actually get to dance with him, but I always feel better when I can show that I can dance the routine on my own.

But after I went through our silver waltz routine piece by piece on my own, Teacher said ok, now I’m going to dance it with you!

And how is that going to work?, I asked. He still had a cast past his elbow which meant his right arm was in a fixed bent position. But Teacher made it work! He turned it into an exercise for me to stay aware of my left side because even if his right arm was held behind me, it wasn’t going to hold me. The whole time, I was paranoid about stumbling and falling back on that right arm. We made it through without any additional injuries.

Teacher clearly isn’t going to let a silly thing like a broken bone keep him from working with his students. Of course, if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. The anxious part of me wrings its hands while hoping he won’t overdo it, that he will allow his body the rest it needs to heal. But at the same time, I am grateful to him for showing such a strong character in light of what happened. At least in my presence. He could be a basket case at home, who knows. But with me, he took responsibility and as soon as possible, took action (i.e., booked our first lesson back) so we could move forward. I really respect and appreciate that level of professionalism and maturity. So another shout-out to Teacher!

Even though this whole ordeal still makes me sad and I’m cautious about investing in the next goal (still Ohio according to Teacher), Wednesday’s lesson was a good step back to “normal.” I had started my steps the day before. It was while I was having trouble thinking of a reason to not stay in bed on Tuesday that I felt it was time.

I originally had this whole week off for the competition. Monday was a holiday anyway and I decided to still take Tuesday and Wednesday off to give myself the freedom to stay in bed if I needed to or at least not have to act “normal” before I was ready. I don’t think I quite realized how much I had symbolically connected to USDC until it was taken away. It wasn’t just another comp, and next year will be no substitute. It’s difficult to explain to people, especially when they don’t see it as anything but a big disappointment. So I valued having the extra time to be able to stay at home and not feel obligated or pressured to explain anything to anyone.

USDC wasn’t happening, but that didn’t mean my dancing was over. It sounds obvious, but I had to work to get to the point where I felt comfortable believing that. So Tuesday afternoon, I decided to go to the studio to practice. And then I actually got out of bed and went. Baby steps.

No one was there teaching except Teacher (others’ plans didn’t change, so they were in Florida). I went through my bronze and my silver, and I tried to remember the last technique focuses Teacher had given me. It had been over a week since I had put my dance shoes on (it felt longer), but it was a decent practice. After, I went shopping for desperately needed groceries. Getting back to normal.

Wednesday’s lesson was another step. I couldn’t decide how I felt driving to the studio. I focused on ignoring what time it was and not adding three hours to know what time it was in Florida, to know what event I should be dancing in at that moment. During the lesson, I actually made progress with my silver waltz and the contra body movement and contra body movement positions (CBM and CBMP) that are so much more prominent in the silver level. It felt good to focus on what was really important in all this – the dancing!

Thursday, I took the biggest step back toward normal – I returned to work. It was hard to get out of bed and into my usual morning routine. I worked on this post and contemplated the consequences of staying home another day. But I went.

Some steps back to normal are a lot harder than others, particularly the ones that really force you to rejoin the world that never stopped moving. It’s one thing to run into a store to buy food because you’re out of, well, everything. It’s a short return to normal, but you can quickly retreat back to the safety of your isolated space where you can stare at the ceiling and not need to find the energy to carry on daily “normal” life. A step like returning to work though, where you’re stepping back into the world full time, that is more of a challenge. Sometimes it can be perceived as the end of your mourning period, that you’re fine now, so everyone can go about their business. But you’re not necessarily all better, it was just time to take that step.

I’m not all better, but I’m getting there. One step at a time.

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