Sometimes, in order to move forward, you need to step back

I had arrived late at my flamenco class and then I left early. It seemed like an eternity until I got changed in the locker room, pulling on my dance outfit, a long and fluid skirt with ruffles, a T-shirt depicting a dancer gracefully holding a red fan and red shoes with laces and metallic heels and toes that make a sound when you walk. Before entering the dance studio, I had to have a short stop at the toilet. Then I had to go to the locker room again. I was cold and needed a scarf and a cardigan. By the time I finally joined my classmates, half an hour had passed. I was ready to face the consequences of being late. And anyway, I knew that under those current circumstances, all I could do was my best.

During the lesson I realised that even my mind seemed to be “late”. It worked in slow motion which meant that I was always lagging behind, that I couldn’t coordinate my movements, and that I was quickly forgetting the movements I had learned earlier. Although I had repeated a sequence of dance steps several times, after three minutes of repeating other movements, if I was returning to the original dance step sequence, my mind was behaving as if I had not repeated anything at all, as if I were learning those movements for the first time. At one point my head started to ache and despite the rosemary and mint essential oils that I inhaled to help me concentrate, and despite the yoga breathing exercises I did during some breaks that I allowed myself to take while the other colleagues continued to dance, well, my mind and body did not work as I would have liked. In the dance room next door, an intense workshop of flamenco dance and singing, with live music, was takig place. I longed to take part in it. But in the condition I was in, taking into account my scarce internal resources, I couldn’t. I couldn’t, not because I didn’t want to, I couldn’t, not because I didn’t have the will, but simply because I was not in the possession of all my capabilities. And yes, compared to others, I could do much less.

There were about 15 minutes left of the second class, when I realised that there was no point in me staying until the end of the class.

Being in the classroom had become a torture.

I had to retreat.

I couldn’t concentrate anymore, and the effort I had to put in had become far too great for the satisfaction I would have received in return. I knew that if I pushed myself to continue, as I used to do it in the past, I would end up even more disappointed with my poor performance. My self esteem would decrease and I would become even more exhausted, discouraged and depressed. And I would risk having a negative, critical inner speech that would eventually push me to want to completely give up.

I knew the risks, I knew my patterns. That’s why I said “STOP!”. I closed my eyes and wondered:

“What exactly is going on here? What do I need? What would help me?”

I knew I was tired when I entered the studio, but I didn’t know how tired I was. I was coming after two intense days of coaching training, days that had required a lot of intellectual and emotional engagement. I had also had two consecutive nights of insomnia, and this had weakened my energy level and my cognitive abilities. No wonder I was slow. No wonder I was extremely tired, limp in motion, disorientated, and unable to keep up with the other girls in the class. There was no point in putting futher pressure on myself. It would not have been constructive. I didn’t need that. So I picked up my water bottle from the floor and the cardigan I had taken off after getting warm during the dance practice and announced that I was leaving. I was tired, even the teacher had noticed.

On the way out, I passed through the neighboring room where the intensive flamenco workshop was taking place. Sat on the floor, the dancers were singing. They were learning how to sing the song which they would later dance to. The guitar chords resonated throughout the room, enticing my desire to join them. I wanted to be among them. I longed to be capable of being among them. It’s just that the time wasn’t right. There was no point in blaming myself for not being able to do it. Although I had blamed myself for years that I was no longer able to do so many things. Only those who have experienced severe burnout can understand this. Only those who have lost indefinitely most of the abilities and skills that defined them can understand this.

But I learned my lesson. I winked at the teacher, as a sign of greeting, because my smile could not be seen from under the mask. I waved my hand towards some girls I knew from other flamenco workshops and I headed to the exit. I was no longer ashamed that I was giving up, while others continued. I knew I wasn’t giving up for good. It was just a delay that I needed. I needed rest. When I got home, after a hot soup with ginger, carrots and pumpkin, I felt completely and utterly exhausted. An avalanche of drowsiness took over me. I had to sleep. So I went to sleep. Yes, I gave myself the luxury of sleeping during the day. And when I woke up, with recharged energy levels, I realised that I was feeling ABLE and CAPABLE again.

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