One Step Forward – Two Steps Back

Three weeks ago, my sister sent me this picture. At the time I thought, “That’s cute.” I filed it with my other inspiring quotes and that was pretty much it. But this week, I’m hanging onto the message for dear life. Have you ever had one of those weeks when it seems like every part of your life is going along swimmingly, and then suddenly things take a giant leap backwards? That’s pretty much how it went.

It began when I asked my dance coach’s wife, L, to give me some pointers on how I could improve certain parts of my dancing (yes, I invited the criticism). We spent a half hour together and she proceeded to point out some pretty major issues with my positioning and posture. I was a little devastated because we weren’t talking about minor changes here; we were talking about some fundamental flaws that were going to require a lot of work to remedy.

Problem: I was beginning to think I was actually improving and becoming a pretty good ballroom dancer. I’ve been taking two-three hours of lessons a week and have just begun competing. Now, I hear that I’m breaking in the lower back in my picture figures, letting my feet toe out on my straight lines and becoming too back weighted in my rotational figures. Although these terms might not mean much to you, they translate into, “almost everything I’m doing is wrong!” At least that’s how I heard it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the feedback and Lisa and I will definitely be working together on a regular basis to further identify my “weaknesses” and find alternative solutions, but I know the road ahead will be laced with humbling moments as I accept going back to the basics.

On top of that enlightening news, I finally heard back from the HR department of a company I interviewed with for a permanent position (which I really wanted!) I had worked there previously as a contract employee and liked the people and the work I did. Turns out, they really wanted me too! I was excited about going back. That is until the HR person spelled out their offer, which was about $3000 less than I’m making in my current contract position! Ugh!

For the past year, my salary has increased steadily from $18 to $46 to $58,000 per year. I thought I was on a roll. As far as I was concerned, it could only get better. The idea of dropping to $55,000 threw me off. I didn’t see it coming. But then again, I never asked during the interview. I just assumed the offer would be more. heck, I’d just committed to helping my son with $8,000 a year in college expenses, something entirely doable for me at a salary of $58,000 a year (or better). So even though I was excited about moving into a full time permanent position (with benefits), a deep disappointment began choking me.

So I had a talk with myself first, about fears, about trust, about the unknown, about faith, about the perfection of things I cannot see, etc. Then turned to people who I knew would help me see the positive in the situation. We talked about all of the good things that could come from changing jobs, the added freedom of the option to work from home when needed, the end-of-year bonus, the paid time off (holidays and personal days), the onsite fitness center for midday workouts, the opportunity to work for a great boss (who I already knew) and liked. I sat down and did the math. At $50 dollars a week, the benefits clearly outweighed the small setback. Consciously choosing to engage in positive thinking helped me replace the disappointment with gratitude.

When I was thinking more about how L’s years of dance experience and how her advice will improve my dancing in the long run, I decided that I’m willing to be a beginner again if it will help move me to the next level. Suddenly, I remembered a quote from Shunryu Suzuki from his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Taking a step back, although it can sometimes feel frustrating can also be a great gift (if you accept it). Backing up allows us to view our life and situations from new and wider perspectives. Do you ever get so close while creating something that you have to take a few steps back to see the bigger picture, the entirety of what you’ve been working on? When we live life with a creative mindset, as co-creators with the Universe, it makes sense to step back on occasion. If we can look at these “frustrating, disappointing” moments as opportunities to evaluate our course and make adjustments, we can move forward again with more confidence.

I realize that what I’m calling setbacks are NOTHING compared to what others might be facing daily – difficult challenges, like illness, job loss and divorce. I don’t mean to minimize those circumstances at all. I realize that life throws us curve balls all the time. But we have to use our tools and resources to make a good attempt at swinging back. And we can only learn to use these tools through practicing, by going back to basics when we are called to, in the everyday moments of life when success seems to move in fits and starts. The more we let go of our placement (where we think we “should be”) and allow life to move us like the tide, the more it feels like a dance and less like a fight.

And me, I prefer dancing rather than fighting, what about you?

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