Rekindled.

I have no idea how to say this, so I’ll just say it:

I’m in love with judo.

Again.

In the past year and half, jiu jitsu took precedent over judo. This wasn’t because I loved judo less. Our relationship was changing. Scheduling and failing body parts were factors, but I won’t use them as an excuse.I lost some great training partners. I let my motivation drift awy and I hit a plateau. Jiu jitsu fit in my life a little better and there seemed an abundance of enthusiastic mat buddies each practice. So I jumped in and it felt really good. I missed judo, but I didn’t believe I could break through that plateau. I was still going to practice once a week, but I wasn’t giving judo the risk and focus it deserved.

Briefly, I found another great training partner, and with her she brought the motivation I let go. During September 2013 through March 2014, we had a visiting teammate at our club. Charlotte is from Switzerland and was going to be in Philadelphia for just six months. She trains in jiu jitsu, but is a judo black belt. She’s also a mat rat. As a teammate, Charlotte demonstrates commitment and focus, but is relaxed and always fun. On top of her many fantastic qualities, Charlotte is a patient teacher. She taught me technique and by introducing new ideas, she made judo fun again. I didn’t feel self-conscious about all my judo problem areas; rather, I wanted to work through them. But Charlotte couldn’t stay in the US forever, no matter how badly my club wanted her to. After Charlotte left, I felt alone on the judo mat. I still went to practice of course, but the electricity of training crackled and fell away.

Over the past few months, something has changed in the atmosphere at our judo club. I can feel the electricity in the room again. I noticed that a lot of the folks who were finishing the fundamentals program were going to judo class. There are men and women close to my size. The mat is full. The energy makes me feel eager and brave. In January, my little six year-old cousin started coming to the kids’ judo program regularly. Since he is there, I started helping out class. While a room of 6-10 years-olds can be overwhelming for me, it’s so much fun. We have a great bunch of kids, really. While they may turn into space cadets at times or fall victim giggling spells, they are kind to each other. The big kids watch out for the little kids, and little kids watch out for the littler little kids. Helping them has centered me in a lot of ways. As we teach the kids basic judo principles, it both refreshes my memory and gives me way to articulate what feels like second nature. More than anything, it’s been so important to me to share judo with my little cousin. Families can bond in all sorts of ways, and I love that he and I can experience judo together.

These days, I walk around with my head up. I feel confident and strong. I want challenges. This is why I need judo in my life. Just as it shows me the parts of myself I don’t like, it always offers me the chance to change. I know judo makes me a better person. It’s given me more than it’s ever taken. That’s why I’ll love judo forever.

Haikuesday 02.24.15

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

There are certain days

when all I think about

is when I’ll eat dinner.

Haikuesday 02.17.15

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

I believe that pho

is the only fail-safe cure

for the common cold.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , ,

Ideas and Inspiration.

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

As you may know, I’ve written a book called The Art of Service: A Haiku Collection, which will be officially released on May 2nd. My friend, Dennis, wrote this beautiful post on his blog about art, writing, friendship, inspiration, and community movements to help promote the book. I hope you will read his words, not just because of my book, but because it’s one of the most lovely, genuine pieces of writing I’ve read lately.

Here it is.

Haikuesday 02.10.15

February 10, 2015 Leave a comment

I’d like to be great

at everything I try to do.

But is that too much?

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , ,

#DayOfLight: Something wasn’t right.

February 4, 2015 Leave a comment

This post is in alliance with the 2nd Annual #DayOfLight, a day organized by my friend, Brandi Riley, from the lifestyle blog, Mama Knows It All. Brandi started the #DayOfLight to build support and awareness for those affected by depression. Check out Brandi’s #DayOfLight story here.

#DayOfLight

#DayOfLight

“I feel that something is wrong with my mind.”

Strongly disagree. Disagree. Agree. Strongly Agree. On a scale of 1-5.

During my second year of grad school, I attended therapy at my school’s student counseling services for about six months. At the time, I felt completely out of control of my life. My family was kind of mess. My grandmom died. My academic and professional work kept punching me in the face with all my past loss, past helplessness, and past fear. I had panic attacks. I cried whenever I was waiting for the next train on the El platform, going from home to work, from work to school. I couldn’t sleep, but all I wanted to do was sleep. If someone asked me what was wrong, I wouldn’t have been able to open my mouth. I didn’t have an answer; I just knew something wasn’t right.

Each week when I checked in to my therapy appointment, I had to complete a depression assessment. This was not an easy little 10 question assessment. I think there were close to 40 questions. I’d step out of the elevator, push through the glass doors, and rush over to one of the computer kiosks to complete my pre-session assessment (I was always running late, I think unconsciously because I didn’t want to face that kiosk).

“I feel that something is wrong with my mind.”

The questions asked me about sleep, anger, sex drive, sadness, and interpersonal relationships. Most of the time, I felt  impatient as I clicked my one through fives, strongly disagreeing to strongly agreeing. I hated answering the same questions week after week. I loved my therapist that year. He was calm, empathetic and warm. He really helped me learn some great coping techniques that I continue to practice. That assessment though. I vividly recall how awful it made me feel, but I only remember one question:

“I feel that something is wrong with my mind.”

That question. That question. It always made me choke and fight terrified, angry tears. That question felt like a witch’s cruel, sharp, curved finger nail slowly stabbing me through the chest. I did think something was wrong with my mind. I did. I couldn’t understand why I always felt so sad, so anxious, and so out of control. I have a fantastic family. I have the most wonderful friends on the planet. I have had the privilege to travel and pursue my education. I have enough money. All my basic needs are met and then some. I should be happy. I should feel better than this.

There must be something wrong with my mind.

With time coupled with the patience of that amazing therapist, the five on my scale for that question eased into about a three. That was a big deal to me. During those six months, we focused a lot on acceptance–acceptance of my feelings, of my self-perceived failures, and of myself. He helped me see my strengths while reminding me that I don’t always have to be strong. Sometimes I’ll feel depressed. Sometimes I’ll feel like I can’t breath. But that’s all OK. That’s who I am in that moment. The most important lesson I learned was to ask for help. I can’t change everything on my own. When we’re depressed, we can’t imagine feeling any other way. We think we can’t change it. So we ask for help, and take small steps, and learn to accept those horrible times. We know the horrible times will always be there, but when we ask for help, we get the chance to feel something different.

Haikuesday 02.03.15

February 3, 2015 Leave a comment

I handle crises,

and think I have nothing left

’til I’m on the mat.

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