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Getting Out of My Comfort Zone...WAY OUT

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy getting out of my comfort zone within reason (I’m not looking to break a hip at my age). In the past, there was that time I tried out for my college basketball team, never having played before, and made it. Then there was the post-baby endurance races that started with a 5K, included a few sprint triathlons, and concluded with a half-marathon. The half marathon put me on a hiatus from over-exerting myself to an extreme. The last three miles of the race were pure torture. I think I literally ran most of those three miles with my eyes closed -- and I have pictures to prove it. I finished that race because I worked so hard. The hard work included months of training, starting when my youngest son was only two months old. I couldn’t give up at mile 10 after all of that hard work and determination. However, it did me in for any future runs longer than eight miles.  

After that race I still exercised, but I avoided those intense long races. Although stopping racing was the right thing to do to protect my body, it left me feeling unsatisfied. I had enjoyed the preparation for the race and physically pushing myself to a new limit. I enjoyed working and tweaking for months, and then the finished product in the form of completing the race. Now that the racing process was over, I kept thinking, “what is next?” and then it fell right into my lap.  

Every year, my town has its big annual fundraiser to raise money for technology in our schools. The theme for that particular year was “Little Silver’s Got Talent.” I was asked to audition and wound up performing at the event in a three girl singing group called the “Mommadelles.” The end result was unlike a race in that everyone’s focus would be on me and the two other women in our group. Talk about pressure to perform. I had only ever done karaoke, and with karaoke it’s OK if you’re not great because....IT’S KARAOKE! The lead up to the performance was similar to the lead up to a race, only more thrilling. We prepared and tweaked and practiced our performance A LOT. Then there was the getting up in front of 350 people in our community to do our routine. WHOA! Talk about adrenaline. Although I am not a great singer, we pulled off a pretty good performance and had a ton of fun in the process. I set the bar higher than any race by doing this performance. Once again, I thought to myself “What is next!?!”

The following year, I helped with the auction for that same fundraiser. One of the stops I made to solicit a donation changed my life. And I mean that sincerely, because I really have never had so much fun as I push myself to new limits. I popped into a local dance studio called USA Ballroom. I met with the owner TJ and without a second thought he gave me a donation. That year, I also vowed to do more activities that I loved after a year of struggling to figure out “what is next?” now that all of my children were in school full-day. So, while I was at the dance studio, I signed up for their beginner dance program.  

I had taken salsa lessons in my twenties so when I started up again, I was RUS-TAY! It was terrible. Almost like I never took lessons and I had not an ounce of Latin blood (I have 50% to be exact!). I was also not very fit so that could have contributed to my flubbering feet on the dance floor. Luckily, I was paired with Andres, who is an excellent instructor at the studio and who has the patience of a saint. He slowly got me back into the groove (no pun intended) and I was on my way to becoming proficient in the language of salsa. Salsa is my favorite partner dance with it’s fast pace and fun beats.  

Andres knew that I had enjoyed performing in the fundraiser, so naturally he asked me to do a dance performance at their holiday ball (many students at the studio perform at their holiday ball). I couldn’t say no! Here was my opportunity to once again take a flying leap out of my comfort zone. I could feel the adrenaline pumping already. There was a catch though: I had to choose a dance other than my beloved salsa.  

So, a challenge was presented to me. I had to choose a dance other than the dance I had been practicing for the last seven months, and perform it in front of the other students at the dance studio. I was not entirely thrilled, but I knew that this would force me to grow. As the saying goes, “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.” Challenge accepted. I’d have to learn a brand new dance, plus choreography AND a lift in about 12 dance lessons. And the dance of choice was the lindy hop---the dance that presented me with the greatest difficulty up to that point. Once again, I was out of my comfort zone.    

A dance performance is different from a singing performance. With a singing performance, you focus heavily on your voice, but not so much on your body. Body-wise, you only have to work on a facial expression or add a little pep in your step (unless you’re Britney Spears, so no worries here). However, when you dance, you are focusing on five thousand body movements, all at the SAME time, in seemingly unnatural ways, while you look into the crowd (look up, up, up, as Andres is always reminding me). must smile, and look like you’re having fun as you focus on moving every body part, precisely, to the beat of fast music. Holy mother-of-loving five, six, seven, eight! I had no idea how far out of my comfort zone I was actually taking myself.  

In the end, I pulled it together and did a decent job. It was a great dance routine that was challenging, very cute, peppy and fun, which is totally my style. It satisfied my longing for the adrenaline and thrill you get when you perform and it pushed me physically. I even made my 13 year old son come to watch me get out of my comfort zone (which I think put him out of his comfort zone). Next, I was looking forward to working hard to take my salsa dancing to the next level. Little did I know that very soon after that performance, and to my surprise, I’d be getting even further out of my comfort zone with a salsa performance.

I had originally opted out of my next opportunity to perform at a party because it’s theme was “Broadway.” I wanted to get better at salsa and couldn’t think of any Broadway shows with salsa music. When TJ, the owner, found out I was not performing he quickly convinced me to perform. Andres knew of a Latin Broadway show with salsa music. I was happy to once again perform, and this time, my beloved salsa.

Every once and awhile, the dance studio has a professional/championship dancer come in and teach lessons to the staff and any students who are interested. Considering my upcoming performance, Andres and I thought it would be fun to have the professional/champion dancer create our dance routine with Kate, the female dance instructor at the studio. In 45 quick minutes he came up with a dance routine and we took video of the pair walking it through for us.  

As I watched Kate perform the choreography over and over on the video, excitedly, thoughts swirled through my head like, “wow she looks so awesome! I love the moves. I can’t wait to learn the dance. I want to really do a good job.” At my next dance lesson, I started to learn the choreography and that is when I realized how far out of my comfort zone this performance was going to take me. OH!!! EM!!! GEE!!!! When I saw Kate do the hip rolls she looked so elegant, and when I attempted them I felt like a cross between a stripper and a horse’s rear-end. How could I not have realized that all of this pelvic movement would make me feel incredibly awkward?!? I am not sure if the difference is that Kate is so petite and perfect and I am so NOT, or if it is just all in my head? It could also have to do with her many years of training and competing. She is, after all, the professional instructor! She owns every movement and I feel like I am trying to give it all away as I send my hips around and around as if they were orbiting some obscene planet.

Now the voice in my head says, “Ha! You wanted out of your comfort zone and you got it.” The good news is that the partner dancing section of the choreography is very tame and G-rated. If that part was not mild, I am sure I would have called the whole thing off. It would have been too far beyond, WAY OUT of my comfort zone. For now, I will stick to just way out of my comfort zone. I will laugh at myself the whole time and I might even come up with an alter ego to get over that hump of gawkiness that I feel with every hip roll. 

My advice to all of the moms out there: get out of your comfort zone! You are not really living unless you are out, sometimes even WAY out, of that comfort zone!

If you want to check out my first performance, the lindy hop, follow this link:

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