This month is so hard,
and I don’t want it to win.
Give me time. I’ll change.
Yesterday, I competed in the 2014 Diamond State Games, a jiu jitsu tournament in Newark, Delaware. As I sit down to write this little post, I find my eyes welling with tears as I reflect on my performance. I cried yesterday after my matches and I thought I was done with that. I guess not.
Let me clarify: Yesterday was not a bad day. In a lot of way, yesterday was an awesome day and one I will remember. My team had seven competitors and at least as many others with us to coach and support. That’s a great feeling. For some of my teammates, it was their first tournament and they killed it. It was really incredible to be there and watch them realize that their work is paying off. However, I found myself at another tournament where I walked off the mat feeling lost.
I was looking forward to this tournament. For the first time that I can ever remember, this tournament was serving as stress relief. That never happens for me. Usually, tournaments are something I worry incessantly over and run circles through fear and doubt. But for the last couple of months, I can’t even let myself fully process what’s going on with me. I am struggling with work to an extent that deeply worries me. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking about my step-mom as she copes with breast cancer. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking about my dad and how he’s holding up. I can’t seem to let myself stop and feel all of these things. I’m fighting not to let myself crumble. So I just throw my focus and nervous energy into the gym, into yoga, into riding my bike, and of course, getting ready for the tournament. I wanted that day to just be with my buddies, cheer them on, and then have my time to give everything in my mind and body to that mat.
I felt so calm leading up to yesterday. I even felt calm in the car and at weigh-ins. It was so unique and a relief to feel that way. I got excited watching my teammates destroy their opponents. It was looking like a great day for us. As the clock inched closer to the start of the women’s blue belt division, my muscles started to tense and my focus was set. I wanted my matches. I looked around at the other women, trying to figure out who might be in my division, but also wanting to be surprised. Soon, my buddy, who was also competing in women’s blue belt, but in a different weight class, told me that there were only three of us lighter weight women, so they put us together. So now it was me, my buddy, and a stranger. Normally, I would have been upset to have to fight a friend, but yesterday, I welcomed it. I knew we were both going to fight hard, and we both wanted to win. I also knew nothing that happened on that mat could damage to the bond we already have.
My buddy and the other woman fought first. My buddy lost, and my heart sunk. She had already done two no gi divisions and was having a rough day. I wanted something good for her. Then it was my turn to go against the other woman. She was tall and lanky, especially compared to my short and stocky, but I didn’t want to get psyched out by the body type difference. I struggled though. Man, I really struggled. I don’t think I’ve worked so hard in any match in recent memory. I hung in there the whole six minutes, but I know she killed me on points. There was no time to get caught up in the loss though. My buddy and I still had to fight in less than 10 minutes. My buddy is small, fast, and agile. I had to be a step ahead of her. We were called to the mat and I felt ready. But again, I struggled in a way that I never have before. It seemed like every time I made some progress, I got knocked back light years. We fought the whole six minutes and finished with an exhausted, relieved hug. The ref held my buddy’s hand in the air, indicated her win. I was happy for her. I was. But I was so frustrated with myself. What am I missing? What am I doing wrong? All these losses.
All these losses.
My coach says I’m not really doing anything wrong. Are things I need to improve? Yes. Some missed opportunities? Yes. But he says I’m on the right track. He offered some perspective, noting that I’m a new blue belt, and the other women I fought have the advantage of time and experience. I am trying to let his words settle in. There’s just something in me that knows I can win, and I keep trying to figure out what has to change. Is it something in me? Is is mental? Do I not believe in myself enough? Was I too calm? Was I not taking it seriously enough? What is it? What am I missing?
All these losses.
I felt alone, but I was not alone. One of our teammates showed up with a bag from Wawa and he had some water and dark chocolate waiting for me. My dad couldn’t make it to the tournament, but by chance, my first sensei from when I practiced judo as a kid was there. It was the next best thing, as he makes a great Mr. Latimer stand-in.There was a point where I needed to sit by myself and relax after my matches, and one of our long-time club members came over to talk with me, checking in on how I was feeling. We’ve never really had a talk like that. I appreciated his presence. I gathered myself up and went to sit matside by our white belt girls who were competing. As I sat and watched, I found myself getting lost in my head again and the tears started falling. My soul sister, Joy, sat down beside me, patted my back, and listened. It is a small moment that I will hold in my heart.
These sports, these silly sports. They mean so much to me. Judo and jiu jitsu keep teaching me things about myself–things I don’t like and things I do like. Competition works so well for revealing these parts of ourselves, which is why I do it. The test is important to me. Sometimes I leave the mat feeling crushed, but I know I’ll step back on again since I owe the mat too much.
When I make changes,
I want it to come from love
and not out of fear.
It’s not that I believe in nothing.
Please, don’t misunderstand.
It’s just that what I believe is small and quiet,
without need for a public setting,
or a face,
or a voice.
It’s something I can feel,
a pulse beneath the sidewalk,
and the space between each leaf
where the light glares through.
It is not this or that.
It rings with choice,
It’s not nothing,
just because it doesn’t have a face
or a voice.
It’s what’s underneath,
and in between,
where it’s small and quiet.
That’s what I believe.
Once, I was afraid
to ride my bike through Philly,
and now I need it.
“Not this, and not that,”
“Neti Neti,” she told us.
I will try the grey.