Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Confidence and vulnerability.

February 20, 2016 2 comments

Why is it scary to believe in yourself? Why is scary to tell yourself you can meet any challenge with commitment and grace? Why is it scary to imagine yourself getting what you want?

Perhaps I’m asking these questions for myself. Maybe very few people experience difficulty rallying confidence when facing change and opportunity, but I do. My confidence comes in waves. I wake up and tell myself I am in control of my life. I can do anything I want if I put the work in and stay open to learning. I can be great. Then a few hours later, one little thing tips the scale and I begin to wonder who I think I’m kidding. How did I fool others into believing in me? Maybe I don’t have it. Maybe I can’t do it. There I’ll be, staring at myself in some bathroom mirror at work, at home, at the gym, asking, “What are you so afraid of right now? Is failure? Or is it actually getting what you want?”

When I was kid, I was a terrible loser in sports. I had no sportsmanship. I had unreachable standards for myself in school as well. Nothing less than perfect was acceptable. Losing made me cry convulsively. Anything lower than an A- made me physically ill. In adulthood, I’ve worked on easing up on myself and finding the value in failure. Failure makes you look at yourself and see where you need to rise. Sometimes, it can show you what you did well even when everything fell apart. Failure can bury you, but ultimately it can allow you to re-focus and give yourself new purpose.

So that’s failure. What about success? What will I gain if I commit, focus, and have everything go my way? Sometimes when I think about success, whether it’s in my career or in martial arts, I feel this little jab of fear cut me in the ribs. Success comes with anticipation and expectation. Evidence predicts that you should be the best again. Stay at the top. Show it wasn’t a fluke. Show you earned it. Maybe that’s not so terrible. Maybe the scary thing is what I have to unleash in order to be successful. I have to let go of doubt and hesitancy. I have to show the side of myself who won’t compromise my instincts. I hold ferocity that I often try to suppress to make myself more palatable to others. But I have to let go of inhibition. Of course, this looks different in the world of social work than it does in grappling sports. I think it’s like a full assertion of your sense of self. It’s not hiding behind only the nice parts of yourself. It’s showing all of you at once.

I want a lot of things for myself. I have specific career goals that I am actively pursuing. I have a plan. I am dedicating this year to judo over jiu jitsu because I could feel myself shying away from judo since I’d run into some mental blocks. I want to bust through them. When you go after something you really want, you become vulnerable. That’s probably why failure hurts so much, because you made yourself vulnerable to the world and it didn’t work out. I think in order to show confidence, you have to embrace your vulnerability. Maybe vulnerability is the key to success.





April 13, 2014 7 comments

Yesterday, I competed in the IBJJF New York Open. This was the biggest jiu jitsu tournament I’ve competed in so far and my most unique tournament experience to date. It was one of those things where nothing went how I imagined it, even from five or six months ago when I silently committed to competing in this event.

Back in the November, I was in good shape from my summer and fall tournaments. My conditioning routine was very set and my diet was excellent. Since I wasn’t competing anytime soon, I eased up on the diet a little as we slid into the holidays. Then winter rolled around and not even the threat of death could get me out of bed early enough to do my morning workouts in the dark. I was still practicing four to six days a week, so I didn’t notice any significant changes in my body. I knew the New York Open was coming, but I kept telling myself, “I’ll get it together for February and March. That will give me time.” However, when February and March pulled up, I found myself getting sick constantly, and bad enough that I had to miss days of work. During those two months, I probably missed at least three weeks of practice. When I was on the mat, I felt slow and weak. I didn’t want to know what my scale had to say about all this. I tried to picture myself competing and felt like I would be setting myself up to fail. I didn’t want to do that for this tournament. In addition, my job was exploding in chaos and I wondered if I could handle the stress at work and prepare for a tournament at the same time. I wasn’t sure. So after some thought, I emailed my coaches and told them that I was not going to compete. They respected my decision and we left it at that.

Well, they left it at that, but a part of my brain couldn’t let it go. During practice, our drills and technique were geared toward competition. Our coaches talked to us about being good training partners for the people who were competing. I felt left out and jealous. I’m usually one of the people you’re supposed to help get ready for the tournament! One week, I had a few fun practices in a row. I felt like myself again. I wanted to fight. I told myself I should wait til the next one, but what the hell was I waiting for? I’m still a white belt. I’ve been improving over this past year and there is no better time for me to test myself than right now. So two and a half weeks before the tournament after consulting with my training buddies and coaches, I registered. It was done. Sigh of relief.

But no, no sigh of relief. If I know one thing about myself, it’s that I don’t like things to be easy. How did I make registering for a tournament hard? Well, I decided to go down a weight division. When I finally got brave enough and stepped on the scale, I was 131 (I normally hover around 125). This was a relief, since I was certain I was pushing 140 during my lazy/sick period. With my walking around weight, I would be in the light weight division. But feather weight went up to 129. I could get down to 129, no problem. Yet there was a problem because for IBJJF tournaments, you have to weight in with your gi, which could add anywhere from four to eight pounds. My gi added four. So for me to hit 129 with my gi, I’d have to get down to 125. Seven pounds in two and half weeks. In my head, that sounded easy. In my head, as soon as I started doing the extra workouts and went back to my training diet, all that weight that wasn’t supposed to be there would just fall off. Two and a half weeks seemed like plenty of time. The next day, I got on the scale. It said 132.


Despite cutting back my calories and adding my conditioning back in, I was stuck for a whole week at 129. I was so mad at myself. Why did I always have to make things harder? Who was I kidding? I can’t lose that much in two and half weeks. I have the slowest metabolism on the planet. I missed the deadline to switch my weight division. I started have a psychological melt down. I had wanted to test myself. I was feeling so good about where I was skill-wise and it seemed like the right time. The thought of getting disqualified for not making weight turned my stomach. That would be so humiliating–to lose before you even got on the mat. That wasn’t going to be me. I had to go hard. I was going to make weight. That was it.

On the Monday of tournament week, I weighed 127.6. I had to be at least 125, but ideally lighter since I didn’t know what the scale at the tournament would be like. Each day that week, I did kettle bell swings in the morning, trained at night, and did more swings when I got home. I lived off of bullet coffee, greek yogurt, and apples. I was certain this weight cut was going to make me angry, tired, and emotionally unstable. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. I felt clear. I was focused and alert. I was pumped to get up in the morning and start my workout. Each night on the bus after practice, I silently repeated the mantra to myself, “I am lighter.” I imagined myself shooting through outer space in my gi with bad pink and red energy waves bursting out of me. I was losing a pound a day. Yesterday morning, I was 122.8 without my gi and 127.0 in my gi. Two pounds under. I was so relieved. Even if the tournament scale was a little heavy, I’d be fine. I won the first fight. I happily scampered off to go meet my teammates so we could caravan to New York City and fight. I was excited. I was ready.

When I finally fought at 4:00 PM yesterday, all my excitement and confidence dissipated in an anti-climatic cross-choke. I was told the girl who beat me is an accomplished competitor and took gold in another IBJJF event the weekend before, but that doesn’t change my disappointment. I imagined myself fighting more matches–good matches where I could show my skill–but in less than five minutes, I was tapping out, walking off the mat, and not even trying to hold back my tears. I am still working out what the lessons are from my match, but one thing I am happy about is that I finally have some confidence going out there. I need to hang on to that.

Even though I lost, I have no regrets. I don’t regret the weight cut because it really made me feel like I can do anything. Yesterday was the right day for me to do the New York Open. My team had eight competitors, plus our coach and a new girl at our club who wanted to come and support us. I felt like I was rolling up with an army plus a family. It was also fantastic because some of the Philadelphia-area girls that I train with  where there, too, so we got to cheer each other on. This was the first tournament I went to since I was a little kid where I really felt like I was a part of something bigger. Yes, I went there to fight my own battle, but man-to-man combat is easier when you know you have back up. This year was the first year that my club had members of our women’s team compete in the New York Open. There were three of us, and while I had a sucky match, my teammates took home three medals between them. Overall, my team got ten medals for our eight competitors. I was the only one who didn’t medal yesterday, but I think that speaks well of our club. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of my team, and I know with certainty now from the work and the tears that I really do love jiu jitsu.


Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14

Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14. That’s me, second in on the left, with my girls.



Haikuesday 02.11.14

February 11, 2014 Leave a comment

There’s nothing harder

than taking my own advice.

Call my Hypocrite.

Talk about it.

February 3, 2014 1 comment
These are some questions I should ask myself as a clinician to help me talk about suicide.

These are some questions I should ask myself as a clinician to help me talk about suicide.

Mental health plays a massive part in both my personal and professional life. I’ve written a lot here about my mother’s struggle with borderline personality disorder, depression, and her eventual suicide.  I’ve done my best to share my own issues with anxiety, loss, and trauma. As a social worker, I am neck-deep in depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, and a variety of other emotional and behavioral issues. My work in mental health has taught me how profoundly alone people feel in their struggles. By providing psycho-education for my clients, I have the chance to normalize their experiences with pain, hopeless and isolation. I work with them so they can feel empowered to take charge of their well-being. We also try to come up with ways for them to share what they’ve learned with others. So often, the act of giving back serves as a powerful factor in a person’s coping and healing.

This Wednesday, I have a chance to do some giving back of my own. My friend, Brandi, is organizing a social media campaign to connect all of us out there who have been impacted by depression . The hope is to alleviate the taboo and stigma around mental illness. Brandi’s campaign, #DayOfLight, will take place this Wednesday, February 5th. I will support Brandi by sharing my professional knowledge on how individuals can seek mental health treatment, advocate for themselves, and participate in peer support. I’m so excited to be a part of this campaign because I’m tired of us treating our mental health and emotional struggles like inconveniences that should be kept secret. I don’t want to perpetuate cycles of shame and self-hate. So I’m going to be a part of the conversation.

If you want to learn more about the #DayOfLight, go here.


Haikuesday 01.28.14

January 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Stolen little laughs

are crucial when working hard.

Joy keeps you going.

Categories: Learning, Life, poetry Tags: , , ,

Risks and resolutions.

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve spent the first few days of 2014 stumbling between my bedroom and my living room, wrapped in a foggy cloud of  steam from my ginger tea and NyQuil-induced hallucinations.  While many people take the new year as the impetus to revitalize their lives, I’ve been fused to my couch, watching episode after episode of Breaking Bad. As I watched Walter White grow increasingly greedy, bullying, desperate, and manipulative, I increasingly felt empty and purposeless. How did I end up locked in the fetal position, entrenched in the fictional existence of morally-grey individuals? This is not how I should start 2014. I should be having some sort of celebratory brunch with friends, or getting in some good judo and jiu jitsu training. Or writing. Or cooking. Walking. Running. Something. Anything.

While fighting through my NyQuil hangover yesterday, I got a notice from Twitter. It said my judo/bjj coach mentioned me in a tweet, which read, “Finally the overall winner for attendance in December @LoriLatimer1 with a new student record of 37 classes in one month. #champ.”  I felt a flutter of accomplishment. Then it hit me. The reason why I was starting 2014 face down on my couch is because I worked my ass off in 2013.

I’m not going to lie; I wanted to get the most classes at my club in December. We have a friendly attendance competition and at the end of the year, the winners get prizes. I wanted the prize for overall attendance. It’s totally silly and trivial to so badly want the attendance award at your judo and jiu jitsu club, but I’ve wanted that award since we started doing the contest three years ago.  Grad school, illness, injuries, finances, and all that other junk got in the way of me being a real contender. This year, however, I couldn’t see anything blocking me from making as many classes as I could. For me, as scheduled and regimented as training can be, it is also freeing. It says that I chose to spend my time exactly as  I want. It says that each day, I have something meaningful to get excited for. In  2013, I actually did win the overall attendance award. Of course, I was a ridiculous trash-talker the last few months and took the whole thing a little too seriously, but winning affirmed that I got to do exactly what I wanted all year long, which is to train a lot.  Judo and jiu jitsu can cause me stress and misery, but overall, they keep me sane and joyful.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. This is because historically, I never kept any resolution I made on January 1. Instead, I make commitments to change as I recognize them. I didn’t like where I was last winter. I was about 20 pounds heavier than I ever have been, barely training, barely seeing friends, barely doing anything except ordering take-out. I was simply existing. That’s not me though and I couldn’t stand my own lethargy. So in the spring, I decided to re-engage in my life. I amped up my training and conditioning.  I went to all the doctor appointments I needed to go. I started looking around for therapists. Once I felt pretty steady taking care of myself, I decided I wanted to take chances. I wanted to scare myself a little bit. So in the last two thirds of 2013, I did a bunch of stuff I thought I’d never do. I went to the shooting range with my dad and shot a gun for the first time. I went surfing for the first time. I also completed in my first jiu jitsu tournament. In fact, I ended up competing in three BJJ tournaments between May and October despite telling myself when I first starting jiu jitsu that I would never compete in that sport. I participated in a Tough Mudder, facing my doubts about running and jumping. In each instance the fun and camaraderie outweighed my fear and insecurity. Although I continued to have my own internal battles about work and aspects of my personal life, I had a sense that there is always something to look forward to. There will always be an opportunity ahead, whether it’s a post-training drink with a potential new friend or a chance to travel to a place you’ve never been.

Who knows what little risks await me in 2014? I do know that I will foolishly gun for the 2014 overall attendance award winner, even if it means spending the first few days of 2015 on the couch. It’s a small consequence for spending the year doing what I love.




Haikuesday 12.24.13

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

He is an old dog,

but he teaches me new tricks.

My dad is awesome.

Categories: Learning, Life, poetry Tags: , , ,