It was November 2012, and I was in Jerez.  My exotic pets had all gone home, except for one that is.  And I kept getting messages, important messages... November 7, 2012

I started getting them about a week ago, the messages.  Or that's when I started hearing them.

They were sent on various occasions.

But always during class.

And they were all more or less the same.

Occasion #1  |  Monday morning at the peña

Things changed in bulerías this week.

"Laura ahora que se han ido tus chicas te vamos a poner algo un poquito más difícil."  

This is the first thing Ani said to me when I stepped into class.  She wanted to give me something more difficult now that the others had gone home.

bu"No hace falta.  That won't be necessary," I told her.

But that was just the way it was going to be.

So Carmen showed me some new moves.  They were completely irresistible, all of them.

Vale, adelante entonces.  

And that set the tone for this week,

Do harder things.

The coolest, and trickiest, move was the very first one.

Even Juan was challenged by it.  Take the first image that pops into your head when you think 'male flamenco dancer.'  That's Juan.  Flashy footwork, precision, the whole deal.  Oooos and Ahhhhs are what you hear in the room after Juan does his thing.

So when it was his turn to dance Ani told him to do the new salida.  And to that Juan said this,

"Ani es que no lo tengo muy claro todavía."

I don't have it yet, Ani.

"Pero, Juan, si las niñas lo pueden hacer," signaling to me, Patri, and Rocío, "tú también puedes hacerlo."

If the girls can do it, you can do it.  That's what Ani told him.  And we all laughed.

I guess Juan didn't want to eat a green banana, but, as I mentioned, the tone for the week had been set.

Occasion #2  |  Tuesday in class with Mercedes

The other day in class with Mercedes I noticed that I so often want to do what is easy because I want to look and feel beautiful.  Guapa.  Not awkward, out of sorts, and confused.

As we marked across the floor I noticed myself wishing we were doing a different step, as this one felt just plain wrong in every possible way.  I fought.  I struggled.  I yearned to feel anything else.  Por favor.  Anything but this unlovely awkwardness.

But Mercedes had us keep going.  She watched.  She analyzed.  She gave tips.  I wanted to stop.  I wanted to run away.  I felt SO FRUSTRATED.

And that's precisely when I heard the message,

Take the challenge already.

That was it.  It was big and loud, and I heard it.  And then something changed.

I still felt uncomfortable.  I still felt uneasy.  And I still felt far from beautiful.  But it was okay.  I knew it wasn't going to last forever.  I knew that this was where I needed to be right now.

Time to step it up.  Okay, I got it.

Occasion #3  |  Wednesday in San Telmo with Manuela

Then today I went to class with Manuela Carpio.  FINALLY.

I thought I was going to deepen my understanding of bulerías, in a general sense that is.  Tie up some loose ends perhaps.  But, no, that wasn't what happened.  Well, that happened, but that was only part of it.

Apparently Manuela was in on it with the others.  Because she told me I needed to do much more.

Apparently she was worried that I hadn't gotten the previous messages.  Because she told me explicitly and continually that I was capable of much more.  Just like Ricardo always says.

Do more.

It really wasn't  what I wanted to hear.  But she refused to let up.

One, two, three

One week.  Three occasions.  One message.

It was time to hang out in the unlovely awkwardness.  It was time to challenge myself.

So, that's how it went those last few days in Jerez.

And I'm glad.  Because sometimes I need a dose of difficulty.

And flamenco seems to keep reminding me of that.

p.s. Getting snuggly with the unlovely awkwardness is in no way easy for me, so more on that to come...

Your challenges

How about you?  How do you relate to challenge?  Do you look for it?  Do you hide from it?  Or does it just depend?  Let me know.  You can leave a comment here.

And perhaps you'd like to get in on some of this

Bulerías.  You want to learn more about it.  You don't want to eat green bananas.  The Ins & Outs happen in February.

Challenge.  If you're looking for some, any flamenco class will do really.

Jerez.  Above I spoke of Spain.  May trip dates coming will be out within days.  Click here to get on the list.