Every parent’s worst nightmare became my reality at Christmas time in 2011 when I suffered the tragic loss of my middle son, Brett. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, nothing in life prepares a parent for the loss of a child. So, naturally I did what countless others have done before me. I spent the first several months grieving, feeling sorry for myself, and crying; lots and lots of crying.
I had a husband and 2 other sons depending on me. As much as I wanted to, I could not just shut the world out and become a recluse. I had to find a way to work thru my grief as well as comfort and help my family through theirs. As a motivational speaker and role model for others I knew I needed to step up to the plate. Only problem was when your world is turned upside down and inside out, it’s often difficult to find the plate when you’re looking through a sea of tears.
In March 2012 I could feel something inside me nudging me forward and onward but toward what, I didn’t know. What I did know was after losing Brett I lost interest in so many things that were once very important to me including participating in the fitness programs I had done for over 17 years. I felt compelled to let it go, expand my horizons and try something different.
I was invited to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio in March to work for the ANSI Supplement company. As I looked around the exposition hall I remember that back in 1990, when I first started coming to this event, there were only 2 participating sports, Body Building and Fitness. Now this event featured 42 different sports.
As I reviewed the list for a new sport I could try, I noticed the list included archery, fencing, marathon running (in the dead of winter in Ohio, I don’t think so) and numerous other sports, none of which I was drawn to. Just then an old acquaintance approached me and asked why I looked so perplexed. I told him I was committed to selecting a sport that would be challenging, exhilarating, fun and allow me to be able to compete in the 2013 Arnold Classic Event. He suggested, with my athletic ability in gymnastics combined with my strength in fitness I would be a natural in Theater Arts Ballroom Dancing which requires lifting and acrobatic moves similar to Cirque du Soleil.
When I returned home I realized I was at a major turning point in my life. I could either allow my grief to consume me or I could transform this energy into something positive. I knew I had the ability and believed if I could dig deep enough, I would find the courage to make the change. After several days of soul searching I made my decision. I would dance; yes dance my way into the next stage of my life. Now, all I needed was a partner.
I contacted a friend who just happened to be a ballroom dancer and asked her for suggestions in finding a partner. She said “Look for a partner the same way you would look for a date.” “Post an ad on professional Ballroom dancing and Cirque du Soleil type websites. Be very clear that you are looking for a committed partner to take this journey with you. Include exactly what you’re looking for; the characteristics you want; the criteria they need to have and exactly what you expect of them on various levels to find the right match.”
In less than a week I posted my ad and immediately started getting responses. I scheduled appointments to meet and interview each potential partner. Just a few days later I was having dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. I was excitedly (and apparently loudly) telling her about my new adventure and my search for a committed partner. Suddenly a very handsome young gentleman stopped by our table. He introduced himself, indicating he was a professional ballroom dancer and happened to overhear our conversation.
As it turned out he had been going through some of life’s difficulties on his own. He was in a bit of a rut, searching for a new purpose and direction for his life. Perhaps this could be what he had been searching for. He decided to dive right in and invited me to his studio for a trial lesson.
In April 2012 we began training. Little did we know how hard and grueling this would be physically and emotionally. It’s been said that “patience is a virtue.” Unfortunately, it was one we both were in need of!
Despite his dance background and my fitness training we quickly realized this type of dance would require forms of exercise and training we hadn’t previously learned. We had to hire acrobatic, theater arts and ballroom dance coaches as well as physical trainers to whip us into shape. Developing the strength and learning to perform a variety of acrobatics tricks and lifts while remaining perfectly coifed and gracefully gliding across a dance floor is no easy task. All this for a “3 minute” routine! In addition to all the physical bruises our egos suffered a few bruises of their own.
Finally, after 7 months training together, our hard work started paying off. In October, 2012 my partner Ivan and I had a guest appearance at the Lou Zwick Fitness America California Show. A few days later we competed in our first theater arts ballroom dance competition at the Hollywood Dance Classic held in Hollywood, California. This was immediately followed by the Swing World Championships held in November in Burbank, California. Then in December we performed our routine at the LonDance Showcase and completed the year in Las Vegas where we competed at the Holiday Dancesport Classic.
My journey so far has been all that I hoped for and more. I found that “Dance” was a great way to relieve stress and the emotional pain and grief I was carrying. I found that:
When my soul is hurting, Dance makes me feel better;
When I am overwhelmed, Dance helps me forget for a while;
When I face struggles, Dance inspires me to keep going;
When I lose confidence, Dance gives it back to me.
As it turned out, the worst time of my life became a catalyst for a wonderful new adventure. When I dared to let go of my sorrow and tears, I opened my arms and was given one of the greatest gifts in the world…..DANCE!!!
Our goals and journey for 2013 is the Pro/AM Theater Arts ballroom dance USA's in September in Orlando Florida at Disney world and the World Championships for Theater Arts Ballroom dance in Columbus Ohio in November 2013.
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