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Haikuesday 10.29.13

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Haiku is structure.

My structure changed, and I

forgot my haiku.

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Categories: poetry Tags: , , ,

Dedication.

October 27, 2013 3 comments

Yesterday, October 26th, was my brother’s birthday. Since he was killed by a drunk driver in December of 1998,I try to actively remember my brother in a way that feels OK to me with each passing birthday. My brother was a fun, giving, intelligent, loyal, hard-working kid and I want my actions to honor who he was. When I learned over the summer that there was a local jiu jitsu tournament on my brother’s birthday, my first reaction when my teammates expressed interested in competing was to tell them no. I felt afraid that I might have a mental break thinking of my brother that day and ruin my shot at winning. Then I thought about it. I decided that competing in a tournament would be a pretty great way to celebrate my brother’s birthday. He practiced judo when we were kids, but he also played soccer and ran track and cross country. As an engineering student, my brother was frequently entering academic contests. While he was not outwardly competitive like I am, my brother definitely liked to test himself. I felt a tiny surge of courage shoot through me when I mentally committed to competing on October 26, 2013. I felt even better when my dad agreed to come watch me fight that day.

In the few weeks leading up to the tournament, I was the calmest I’ve ever been before competing. I normally fret incessantly over whether or not I’m training enough, training too much, if my weight’s OK, if my strategies will work, etc., etc. I’m not sure what changed though. I felt good for once. I felt strong. The night before the tournament, I even slept a full night’s sleep. I was relaxed during the car ride. Once we got the the tournament, the nervous energy hit me and I felt all light and floaty and antsy. I wanted to get out there. I actually felt confident despite the tension I carried in my shoulders and the shakiness in my stomach. I wanted this.

I didn’t get what I wanted though. I had two matches and I lost both. The first match was kind of a joke and I didn’t last very long. The second match though, that was my match. I wanted that win. I know I fought hard, but I still came up short. For the first time since I was kid, I nearly cried when I walked off the mat. I’ve lost a lot of matches since I returned to training as an adult. I’ve probably lost three times as much as I won, but none of those loses hurt me like yesterdays’ did. I’m still pretty upset today. I haven’t even watched my matches yet. It still stings. I told myself when I returned to training as an adult that I would not be a sore loser, but I’m sore today.

For me, losing isn’t about the other person. I’m not sore at the girls who beat me. Since the women’s grappling community is small, we’re pretty friendly with each other once we’re done fighting. The girl I lost my second match to introduced herself to me afterwards. She told me she wanted to let me know how strong I was, and asked if we could exchange contact information to keep each other informed of any good training opportunities. She was great. I’m just sore at myself. In the past when I’ve lost, I thought maybe it was because I didn’t want it badly enough. I wasn’t confident enough or believed winning was in my reach. But I thought those things yesterday and it didn’t work out. Of course, I have to get technically better. That will never change as long as I practice judo and jiu jitsu. But something is missing. I don’t know what it is yet, but I want to find out.

I know that a big part of me wanted to win gold for my brother. I wanted to win gold with my dad by my side on this day that is sometimes so sad for us. I wanted to make my brother proud. But as I take stock of where I am right now in my life and in training, I still feel confident when I see how much love and support surrounds me. My girls that I train with–we push each other, we cheer other on, and tease each other when necessary. One of our girls who wasn’t fighting even made us fresh vegetable juice for the morning of the tournament. One of the guys I train with volunteered to adjust his game this week to be more like a small girl to help get me ready. At the tournament, our childhood friend texted me to wish me luck. When my coach put his hands on my shoulders, he made me feel ready. And best of all, my dad was there. I lost two matches yesterday, but maybe that’s all I lost.

So yesterday was for my brother. When I went back to jiu jitsu practice this morning instead of sulking, that was for him, too. Latimers get mad, but they don’t give up.

Me with my ace teammate/superfriend and me with my pops.

Me with my superfriend/superteammate and me with my pops

Haikuesday 10.22.13

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

My pull-up bar fell.
Twice. On my nose. Each jump up
still scares me a bit.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , , ,

Balance.

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

My life is cluttered. I could front and say my life is “full” or “I’m really busy”, but I don’t think saying those things would be true or accurate. My life is cluttered. I work a regular schedule, but the nature of my work is pretty heavy. I use judo an jiu jitsu as an outlet for that stress, but I then I forget to make time for my family and non-grappling friends. I find myself squeezing in coffee and dinners and birthday parties only to realize that my apartment is a mess, I still haven’t renewed my NASW membership, and I have a stack of two weeks’ untouched mail on my dusty, streaky coffee table.

I like everything in my life. I love my job. I love training. I have an incredible family and outstanding friends. However, I leave almost no time for me to just chill out and be lazy. Then I have no motivation to use the time that I am at home to do the little manageable things, like clean my coffee table and open my mail. It seems too hard. Then I look at my apartment and realize how stretched I feel. In those moments, it seems like all my structure and scheduling creates a false sense of control over my life. I run from one commitment to the next, never fully present since I’m thinking about when I have to leave to do the next thing. I wonder how much I’m enjoying all the enjoyable things I’ve incorporated into my life.

When I think about slowing down, my biggest challenge is always my training schedule. I love judo. I love jiu jitsu. In my head, I envision myself doing both classes six days a week. That makes me feel happy. In reality, I could do that four days a week, and then get in one or two other training days. The thought of training six days a week makes me happy. However, that is not my reality. The reality is that I physically cannot do that. After a certain point, my endurance stops building and I start breaking down. I have a chronic autoimmune condition, which for me means I get sick more easily and more frequently than most other people. It also means I run myself down easily, and when I’m really being careless, I wind up in the hospital. Since I learned I had this condition, I’ve consistently been in denial. I want to do everything all the time. And I try and try, which leads me to disappointment in myself. I hate limitations. I think they are stupid. I don’t want to have any and there is still a big part of me that can’t accept that I do have limitations. I’ve scaled my judo training way, way, way back since I found myself unable to recover from the late class time.  It’s broken my heart, honestly. A part of me can’t accept that I can’t handle an 8:00 – 10:00 PM practice like other people can. I know we aren’t supposed to say, “I can’t”, but I can’t, at least not without consequences.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I want to make healthier decisions. I am horrible at taking care of myself.  About two weeks ago, I decided to cut weight for my jiu jitsu tournament next weekend. For some people, cutting weight is hard, but not impossible. For me, cutting weight is just about the dumbest choice I could make. Cutting weight means I have to reduce my calorie intake, run more, etc., etc. That would be OK for a lot of people who train. But I’m a girl who is already susceptible to fatigue, dizziness, dehydration, and bunch of other stuff even without cutting weight. So I was doing a great a job losing the weight, but I was walking around like a tispy zombie and sleeping 10 hours a night and not feeling rested. Yesterday morning, my lips were so pale that they were almost the same color as the rest of my face. So this morning, I decided to just fight the weight I am. My wins and losses are not going to be determined by my weight, and I want to fight strong. I have plenty of other things to get stressed out about right now without adding a weight cut.

A few weeks ago, I went back to therapy because I’m sick of the clutter. I know I’ll always feel some degree of stress, but I want to get better at setting realistic expectations for myself and just taking good care of myself. It was hard to follow through to get back to therapy because I knew I’d have to cut out a training day.  I found a therapist I thought would be a good fit, but her only available time slot is during my favorite jiu jitsu class. I almost backed out. It took a lot for me to rationalize that my mental health and well-being is worth a few months missed Tuesday night jiu jitsu. I am still not 100% convinced, but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Haikuesday 10.15.13

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

I needed a break

to get some inspiration.

I’m ready again.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , ,

I said yes.

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday, I participated in the Tri-State Tough Mudder. For those of you unfamiliar with the Tough Muddder obstacle challenge, it is basically a 10-12 mile run merged with a very muddy, cold, dangerous incarnation of Sesame Place for physically-fit adults.  The obstacles are inspired by those implemented in military training, so they are designed to test phobias and mental endurance surrounding frigid temperatures, small spaces, fire, electrocution, and heights, among other things. So why did I do this? I did this because someone asked me to, and I said yes.

Sure, I was asked to participate in the Tough Mudder team through a Facebook invite along with about 25 other people. I could have ignored the request, thinking, “Well, I wasn’t PERSONALLY asked so my response doesn’t matter.  They’ll get enough people.” I also could have used anyone of my ongoing injuries as excuses. However, I decided that 2013 is the year I say yes to all opportunities presented to me. I have never done a race, not even a 5K. I had never run more than maybe four miles.  I was intimidated by the nature of the obstacles. But if I said “no”, I would be saying “no” to a new experience. I don’t like to turn down experiences. I feel like I’m cheating myself if I do that. So I replied “yes” to the invite and paid my registration fee so I wouldn’t chicken out.

With less than two months until the event, I took inventory of the things I was afraid of so I could plan my fear-facing strategies:

Fear #1: Running.

I am not a runner. I am slow. My left knee hurts sometimes. My hips hurt sometimes. Other times, I just get bored. I used to run about 2.25 miles as fast as I could a few times a week to build my cardio for judo and jiu jitsu, but I gave that up in favor of kettle bells. I hadn’t run since March, and it was impossible for me to imagine myself running, or even lightly jogging, 10-12 miles mixed in with physically challenging obstacles.

My strategy was just to run at least three times a week to get back into the meditative mindset needed for running. My goal was to work up to five miles. To keep myself motivated and accountable, I used an app on my phone to track my time and miles, as well as to get encouragement from others. I recruited a buddy to join my for one run a week. My plan worked. I logged my first run on September 3, 20013. I ran 2.12 miles.  On October 2, 2013, I ran 5.28 miles. Then on October 5, 2013, I ran 6.11 miles. I never, ever thought in my life that I could run five miles, let alone six, given my track record. I felt good about running. I started like it. Actually, I might keep two runs in a week as a part of my conditioning, just for fun.

Fear #2: Jumping.

Like running, I am not a natural jumper. When we do box jumps, jump squats, or any other plyometric exercise during training warm-ups, I feel like an elephant plus a turtle. I can’t seem to get my knees up very high, nor can I pull off more than a few reps with a single bounce instead of a double. I do them, but not with competence or confidence. I knew I was going to have to jump over things during the Tough Mudder. And since I am stubborn and proud, I did not want to go around obstacles I’d have to jump over.

Coincidentally, leading up to the Tough Mudder, we did more jumping warm-ups in class than we usually do. This gave me some chances to push myself and think about what muscles I really have to engage. It also made me more comfortable with how uncomfortable I am with jumping. My main strategy, however, was to remind myself over and over again that it does not matter if I make some messy, awkward jump attempts, since this was supposed to be fun. There’s no prize in the Tough Mudder except for a sweatband. I just have to try.

Fear #3 Electrocution.

I am not afraid of heights. I don’t care about being cold. I am not claustrophobic, and I’m a good swimmer. But I am really freaked out by electrocution. My mother had serious mental health problems throughout her life. As an adult, she was in and out of treatment and was hospitalized a few times. I know that at least during one hospitalization of hers when I was in my twenties, my mom underwent electro-shock treatment. I have always been disturbed by electro-shock treatment for mental health and it upsets me still to think of my mom going through that, I’ve fast-forwarded images of it in TV shows and walked out of my mental health diagnostics class in grad school during a lecture which covered electro-shock therapy (or the friendly term for it: electroconvulsive therapy). The thought of physically experiencing that to any degree, even out of context, terrified me. I was worried that when I faced those obstacles, I’d have some huge crying and hyperventilating fit, or just freeze and become catatonic. What then?

I had no strategy to face this fear. My strategy was to stay in denial and remain avoidant. Yesterday, I think the second obstacle was the “Electric Eel”, where you have to army crawl through mud under a low ceiling of electric wires. If you touch a wire, you get shocked. I saw the obstacle and just though, “So what? This doesn’t mean anything if I don’t let it mean anything.” I slid in and shimmied through. I got shocked three times. That was all.

Fear #4: Strangers!

I was invited to join a Tough Mudder team by a woman I met from another jiu jitsu school in the area. She and I hung out maybe twice and had become friends on Facebook. I think she’s awesome and I feel comfortable around her. However, the other team members were students at her gym and I didn’t know any of them. I was worried about being an outsider. People who train together get pretty close. You get to know when someone is hitting their wall and what’s the best way to encourage them. You know each others’ strengths and challenges. You see one another at your absolute best and absolute worst. It’s a very unique bond. How would I fit in with them? What if they are all stronger, faster, smarter, and braver than I am? What if I’m the weak link?

When I was thinking about my fear of being on a team with strangers, I reminded myself that most martial artists are pretty awesome people. Yes, there are a lot of arrogant, self-centered jerks in the martial arts world, but the majority of people I’ve met have been open, fun, and encouraging. My Tough Mudder teammates were exactly that way. I trusted them immediately and felt 100% safe with them. Our captain told me that the team’s motto were, “Slow and Steady!” and “No Man Left Behind!” Our captain, who volunteered the day before, recruited another volunteer to join our team. The recruit was a Navy vet and cancer survivor in her late 40s. In the last year, she committed to regaining control of her health and well-being. The day was definitely challenging for her, but we were in it together. We pushed her when she needed a push, and let her go at her own pace when she needed a rest. Our captain made sure she was always in sight.

I had an amazing day yesterday. I was weighed down with mud. I was so cold I could barely move my fingers to untie my shoes at the end. My tendonitis in my left knee was bothering me. But I was ecstatic. I love teamwork and camaraderie. At the starting line, the MC emphasized that the Tough Mudder is about teamwork. If you see someone struggling, even if they are not on your team, you help them. Carry them if you must. I got offered hands from strangers countless times. I offered a boost to a guy who was struggling to get over a mud trench near the end. He looked at me and my 5′ frame quizzically and asked, “Really?” “Sure,” I replied. I give him a leg up and he hoisted himself over. Then one of my teammates gave me a boost. At one point, our Navy vet got a pretty bad leg cramp. She sat down so she could stretch it out when a man trotted over to us to see what was going on. When our teammate said she had a cramp, the man whipped out two salt packets from his Camelback, ripped them open, and poured them in her mouth. He gave her a drink of water. He advised her to eat a banana at the next food stop, explaining that her muscles need potassium and salt. Then he trotted away as quickly as he appeared. Near the last four miles, our captain re-hurt an old knee injury and she was forced to limp. So we walked the rest of the race together. Even though she was in pain, our captain rallied so we could run through the finish line together. It was incredible.

I’m so glad I said yes.

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Me, at 5:00 AM putting on my Mudder face.1402168_10151925954655926_1771079214_o(1)

Our nice, clean team before the start

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And after.

A thin film of dust.

October 6, 2013 Leave a comment

After the run,

there was a thin film of dust

and grit from the street

on my face and arms.

I didn’t wash it off right away.