Challenge

The past two days have been a mix of challenges, but in that good way.

Last night I attended my first milonga: a tango social dance. I felt like it was too soon to go to one, but I received an invite from one of the instructors of the Tampa Tango in the Park lessons. She said that if we didn’t feel comfortable dancing that we could still learn a lot from watching others. I didn’t have any set plans, so I decided to give it a go. I’m really glad I went, and yes, I did dance. Even though I’m a super beginner in tango, the gentlemen who asked me to dance were extremely patient. They were also excellent teachers. There were a few things that were explained or shown to me a bit differently than they were in the classes I’ve been taking that helped me.

The physicality of tango is beginning to remind me of yoga. You have to stay fully engaged with each movement, and each movement is mindful and expressive. You also have to remember to breathe, which I actively had to do a few times throughout the night both while dancing and while watching the others dance. There’s something about the energy of the tango that is exhilarating, but I can’t quite place why yet…

It also occurred to me that tango seems to be an outlet where I can examine life lessons both on and off the dance floor. Or perhaps I’m just thinking about it too much. (Entirely possible.) Still, the fact that I invest energy into avoiding the embrace on the dance floor does seem to jive with my difficulties making connections with people in the real world. And my difficulties letting my partner lead me seems to mimic my stubbornness in some of my relationships. I’ve had the pleasant realization that I can learn tango without a lot of frustration though, which is a change from how I once was and nice to know. What did my grandpa say? “Be cool. Let life happen.” I’ve made some progress with this in recent years, but I think tango will help me do that just a little bit more.

So I’m enjoying the challenge of learning something new. Tango is already teaching me more about myself on and off the dance floor. This is, of course, the primary reason I love to challenge myself with new activities when they call to me. Smile

But today I participated in another sort of challenge. I ran the Miles for Moffitt 5k. I have been known to run races regardless of the cause it supports (if it supports one at all), solely because I wanted to run a race around that time. This race wasn’t like that. I wasn’t going to run the race at all, but then my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time (read more here).  When that happened I had to run the race. I was angry, scared, upset. I still am. But running this race today felt like I was doing something to help. I raised $365 for cancer research by adding to the below costume every time another $50 was donated to my efforts (below-it’s not quite as outlandish as I imagined it would be), and Team Judy raised over $1,000. The entire event raised approximately $550,000, and every single cent goes to cancer research.

Prerace

While running I couldn’t help but think of my aunt and my dad. I thought of Steph’s mom, Judy, who our team was named after and who lost her life to breast cancer. I thought of family friends who died from cancer over the years. As I ran through the crowd I saw so many survivor shirts, and I couldn’t help but be inspired. It’s sad to think of those we’ve lost too soon, but inspiring to know what we can overcome. There are a lot of pieces that go into preventing and fighting cancer, but the more we know about it the less we’ll have to lose the people we love too soon. Today approximately 7,000 people came together to raise money to support research that can lead to the understanding that could ultimately save lives.

Today was physically challenging because of the race, but also emotionally challenging. After the race, I went back to sleep. I’d been out dancing until midnight the night before, and then I had to be up at 6:00, so this isn’t too surprising. Yet, I slept much longer that I would have expected. The race took a lot out of me, even though it is the same distance I normally run throughout the week.

I’m thankful for the challenges in my life, and that I’m better able to accept them with grace. Once-upon-a-time tango would have been a negative experience for me, and I would have quickly quit out of frustration. That’s not me anymore. Once-upon-a-time I would bury my anger and resentment about my aunt’s situation, but today I put that energy to a better use. I’m changing my bad habits. I’m creating better ones, and the positive influence is starting to show up in other areas of my life.

I love that realization, and I will continue to challenge myself.

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