Change is literally the only constant in life. Seasons change. Situations change. People change.
And would you believe it, relationships change too.
I’m celebrating an anniversary this summer. As you know, I’ve spent many years growing compassion for myself and my body. But it’s been exactly one year since I made the decision to be my own catalyst in the biggest transformation on those relationships.
It’s a great example of embracing a natural shift to the next level. And a beautiful way in which I’m also allowing the relationship to my Self develop naturally and without any kind of agenda or any judgment.
Sometimes learning to embrace change is challenging. It can be scary. It can be painful. But it can be exciting too. Sometimes change can result in new experiences that you never even fathomed. Like traveling to Buenos Aires for two weeks just to dance the Argentine Tango (more about that next week).
But change can also be a refreshing, natural transition into more fulfilling experiences.
I was always an athlete. Growing up, I played basketball, softball and soccer. I played Division 2 basketball through college and on women’s basketball leagues for years in San Fran and NYC. It was how I stayed fit, how I stayed healthy and how I nurtured my body. As I got older, it naturally shifted to working out more in the gym. I took aerobics classes, learned yoga, lifted weights and practiced Pilates. My favorite part of going to the gym when I lived in NYC was taking dance classes from some of the coolest hip-hop and Broadway choreographers in Manhattan.
Once back in California, I was resigned to going to gyms with sucky classes that truly bored me to tears and often agitated me. Where was the fun and interesting ways of moving my body that I longed for? Nowhere that I could find when I looked in the fitness arena of my community.
As I was desperately seeking a way out of the torture of the 2 hours per morning at the most boring (but least boring gym) workout experience, my cousin McKensie had gotten into running and encouraged me to run a half marathon with her. Actually, she manipulated me into it by pushing my ego buttons. “Of all the people that can run a marathon, I’d expect you to be able to do it.” That was it. I was in and when I’m in, everyone that knows me knows that ‘I’m all in.’
So, she and I spent a couple of years bonding by running races and enjoying the half marathon circuit. As is the “Thomas way,” we both needed to up the ante. And so the quest to run a full marathon began. I reluctantly said yes knowing that I had an easy time with the half marathons and thought they were pretty much child’s play. It was time to conquer a long-term fear I had of running a marathon. I had always thought that the pain around mile 18 was something I could live without, so I avoided the dreaded marathon for years (even though I secretly wanted to be someone who could conquer such a feat). So I became someone who ran marathons, which I liked the sound of, but it was clear that I never needed to experience mile 20-26 again. No thanks. I’m good.
I was still running a bit, but I began feeling burnt out. I decided that yoga was what felt right. It felt good and I knew my body and my Self needed compassion and gentleness and not any more pushing and intensity. I found an incredible bond with Pam Maldonado, a wonderful teacher at Renew Yoga, who I’d been taking classes with intermittently for years, and then, I was “all in” to yoga now.
After several months, I found myself again having to force my Self to go to yoga classes and I was always going back and forth with whether to run or go to yoga. More often than once, both options were a yes; and, so I realized I was still in pain over this What-to-do-with-My-Body-to-be-Healthy-and-Fit dilemma. This was a daily battle that started each morning and it made every day of my life filled with angst from the moment I opened my eyes. What I really wanted was to ease into the morning, have a cup of tea and to awaken into the day over a couple hours of, well, awakening. I didn’t want taking care of my Self to feel like such a burden and have this whole workout thing to be work. I didn’t want life to be work; I just wanted to experience it.
Getting up and pushing my body in the morning was the opposite of what felt healthy; it was no longer my truth.
It was a painful obligation to workout. And honestly, who wants to work when it’s so much more enjoyable to just experience applying yourself to something that also happens to be good for your body? I wanted to do something that I loved, not something that felt like an obligation or a burden. I just didn’t want my life to be about work.
I had always been a fan of Dancing with the Stars, but it wasn’t until I had a revelation about the show that it became a huge jumping off point.
I joined the millions that watched these people go on a real journey of self-discovery. And I was riveted. I felt an emotional connection to their transformative experiences. I longed for the same kind of elation and the radical change that happened not only to their bodies, but their mentality.
DWTS is a huge phenomenon. HUGE. One of the most watched programs of the last decade. And then it hit me. The reason so many people, including me, are drawn to the show is because they’re watching these dancers find their own truths and overcoming their own judgments. Somebody who never took a ballet class in their life is suddenly, somehow accessing the undiscovered artist within themselves.
And finally, after years of wanting that same experience I found myself saying, “Now that’s what I need.” So, I started my own journey to discover the dancer within myself. And exactly one year ago this month, I began learning ballroom dance with my amazing teacher John Ross at The Ballroom (more on our relationship and why I consider him one of the loves of my life later).
I loved applying myself to become a dancer.
I loved encouraging my body to learn the moves.
I loved feeling connected to what my body needed.
I loved the bond that beautifully formed between my partner and me.
I just loved the experience and embraced this new level of staying active. I didn’t need to be this fitness fanatic. I could be healthy and still enjoy it. And the relationship to my body benefited. It wasn’t painful and it wasn’t work. More accurately, it was a form of self-expression that I loved for years, but hadn’t realized I could have more of it in my life.
Too often we find ourselves in a painful cycle that we don’t even realize is an option. We don’t really have to workout. We don’t really have to be this person. We don’t really have to work to be a person. But we do have a choice!
Some of you may recall many times I was on the dance floor in SF, NYC, The Hamptons, South Beach, and Vegas. Clearly I loved dancing my whole life and rarely got off the dance floor when I was in the heyday of my clubbing days. So dancing was just so obvious when I look back, but I just couldn’t see it then.
I want you to see what might be there right before your eyes, but well hidden from you because you think everything has to be work or it’s not valuable. After all the years of dancing until dawn, I was now dancing as a regular part of my life and it was just a natural shift to a better way of caring for me.
It seems that sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to really discover what works for us and our bodies. We stop listening to who we are, what we need and what we’re drawn to; and don’t embrace the next level of our relationship to our bodies.
I invite you to really discover what your own truth is and what your relationship to your body needs. Whether that truth is a dancer, an athlete or even a person who wants to sit in your living room enjoying a cup of tea, it’s okay.
When you nourish the relationship you have with your body, you’re really nourishing the relationship to your Self. They’re interchangeable, symbiotic and one in the same.
Your body knows what your Self needs, isn’t it time to embrace whatever that may be?