Archive for October, 2014

Haikuesday 10.28.14

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Burritos and friends

on a Tuesday after class

is a welcome change.


All for me and all for him.

October 26, 2014 5 comments

Today is my brother’s birthday. If he were still alive, he’d turn 35 today. No matter how I’ve tried during the 16 years since he died, this time of year still crushes me. I never consciously anticipate how I’ll feel. Something happens around the third week of October. I’m suddenly crying for no reason. I break my routine. I’m distracted. I can’t figure out why I feel so out of control.Then I’ll remember. Scott’s birthday is coming, then my birthday, then the anniversary of his death, and another new year where I don’t have my brother. I think about how he won’t be there if I ever get married and have kids. I think about how he didn’t get to be there for his best friends when they got married and had kids. Now, I’m thinking about how Scott wasn’t at my dad’s wedding, and he should have been, and it’s stupid that he wasn’t there. It’s all selfish thinking. I don’t want the memories. I want to see him, face to face, and talk, and be idiots together.

In my field of social work, we are always talking about re-framing, narratives, and meaning-making–ways you can take your difficult experiences and transform them into something empowering and healing. For the last few years, I have tried to do this each time October comes and I find myself crumbling. I don’t want to kid myself and jump over the sadness I feel, but I don’t want to get lost there. That terrifies me. So I have been trying on October 26th to make the day in the spirit of my brother. Last year, I competed into a jiu jitsu tournament on October 26th, and my dad was there. It was a hard but good day. It felt right. But nothing special was supposed to happen on October 26th this year. There was no built-in purpose.

My brother always did exactly what he wanted to do. Yes, he could follow orders. No, he was not selfish. If you were his friend, he’d do anything and everything for you. But Scott put a lot of focus on the things he loved (physics, engineering, cross country, track) and couldn’t get distracted or pulled away from that effort. His days were exactly as he wanted them to be so he could do all the stuff he loved. So today, I’m doing a Scott day. I’m only doing things I want to do and things that I love. So this morning, I did laundry and made almond butter before judo because I wanted to. Then I rode my bike underneath a perfect sky and over the Gray’s Ferry Bridge to judo practice. I loved every moment. Later, I will make my breakfast and lunch for the week and I’ll find joy in the method and routine of preparation. I”ll do a bunch of squats to rehab my hip flexors. I’ll go to the gentle yoga class I love at 6:00 PM for restoration. As I write this, I am listening to Nirvana. We used to sit at the dining room table, both engrossed in our school work, not talking, but feeling each other’s presence. He always picked the music, since he was older and asserted that right. It was usually Nirvana or Wu Tang. Sometimes Radiohead. Sometimes Marilyn Mason, which I will not listen to today because I hate Marilyn Manson and I don’t want to.

All for me and all for him.


Our faces pretty much stayed the same.

Haikuesday 10.21.14

October 21, 2014 1 comment

This month is so hard,

and I don’t want it to win.

Give me time. I’ll change.

Categories: poetry Tags: ,

All these losses.

October 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Our jiu jitsu team, competitors, coaches, and cheerleaders.

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.


Me and Courtney, friendly fighters.


Me and Courtney, fighting friends.

Haikuesday 10.14.14

October 14, 2014 1 comment

When I make changes,

I want it to come from love

and not out of fear.

Categories: Uncategorized

Where it’s small and quiet.

October 8, 2014 Leave a comment

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,

and mistakes,

and acceptance.

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.

Categories: poetry Tags: , ,

Haikuesday 10.07.14

October 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Once, I was afraid

to ride my bike through Philly,

and now I need it.