Monday, April 23, 2012

Death in the family

A week ago today I woke up to find my pet parrot, Paradyse, dead in her cage. She was almost 7 years old, when she should have lived to be at least 15. I don't deal with death very often. I've only been to one funeral that I can remember, and I wasn't close to the person who died (who was not a relative). I also have never had a pet that was not a fish. One with a real personality and a place in my life.

I spent the day cleaning. My apartment is now cleaner than it's been since Adam and I moved our stuff into it. It could have been worse.

I try to find the good in all things and this is no exception. Even though I am devastated that my birdie will not be around to watch my kids grow up like I planned, I feel like I have gained perspective. 

I have a better idea of what is important to me. I am tired of spending so much time worrying about things when I could be doing more to help the people I love.

I am less afraid. Everything could change in one freak accident or one tragic illness. Against that, why should I be so afraid of anything that doesn't kill me? Hell, I'm afraid of things that don't even matter. Things like interviews. It doesn't even make sense anymore. 

I want my bird back. I know that's impossible.

Life goes on. There's so much to deal with right now.

I miss you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Now that I'm sane again...

I can talk about what really happened at the tournament.

First, before I get so worked up about going backwards I should instead consider that maybe I simply wasn't as far along as I thought. And either way, the way forward is clear enough.

Looking back, I see that I was way more afraid of competing than I realized. This makes sense. I've never competed in any kind of sports before, ever. My childhood was spent avoiding the humiliation of sports at all costs and since that's impossible I have a lot of bad memories. I thought I was passed all that. It's been years! WHY NOW?

Anyway, I have finally found a place where it is actually safe to fail, where I won't be made fun of for being slow or weak as long as I keep working hard. It's incredibly valuable, but it can't undo a lifetime of fear in one day.

I was prepared to face my fear of competing. What I wasn't prepared for was the lifetime of childhood fears that ambushed me after my matches were over. The fear of being judged, of never fitting in, of feeling so alone. Feelings I had buried for years completely overwhelmed me.

It took about a day for me to recover enough to breathe properly. I wish I could say that those fears belong to different person, a younger me that no longer exists, but I can't. I will just have to work past these fears like I do all the others.

So, my first BJJ tournament ever was a disaster. I was completely terrified and I didn't even know it until after I had a match, when I had a complete emotional meltdown. Good times.

I'm better now. I have a chance to heal a few childhood scars and become a better person. So what if it now looks like more work than I thought?

Here's a list of some things to work on that actually matter to jiu-jitsu (this is not a complete list, I have a gazillion things to work on, these just stand out after Saturday):
  1. I really need to figure out how to get into deep half-guard. Seriously, it just confuses me, every bloody time, even when I manage it.
  2. Takedowns. Suck. They suck enough when you have a vague idea what you're doing but when your mind blanks out on you because you're SCARED OUT OF YOUR MIND it sucks worse.
  3. Sweeps. I don't get these. Pretty much any of them. I suppose I'll pick one or two and drill them until the weight distribution/timing thing starts to click. And then drill them some more.
  4. OMFG guillotines. First, I need to not stick my neck out like an idiot and second, if I fail at that I need to set up the defense faster. Its not like its hard.
  5. Knee-on-belly. This is a side project. Its not high priority, but its fun to try to set up and one day I might actually get it. I'm optimistic.
Well, that's weeks and weeks of work on its own, so I'll stop there. :D

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why am I writing about this?

I don't think I should be talking about this. I think I should just go take a nap and in a few hours the whole world will look different. Or I could wait a few days. Time. Time would let me distill my feelings into something I could look at and learn from. It was my first BJJ tournament ever, it has to fit in somewhere.

But part of me is furious. I am furious with that voice in my head that is capable of being so cruel. I am not even capable of being so mean to someone else, but I can do it to myself.

Would I really do this? Would I really put down in a public blog the kinds of things I say to myself? Am I trying to shame myself into being a nicer person? Am I just trying to get these feelings that I can't handle out of me? Have I figured out nothing since I was an overemotional teenager?

No... I'm writing this down so I can come back here later. Maybe in a year. Maybe 5 years. However long it takes for me to be able to look at this again.

This is what I have to deal with inside my own head; this is my problem:
"You know, if you keep this up they'll eventually just tell you to always pull guard, because takedowns are just not your thing."

"He had that. I don't know how you got out of that, he must have just gone easy on you again."

"You have gotten better, but everyone else gets better too. You will always be the weakest link on the team."

Just right here, I have some serious insecurities. Why am I so convinced I'm an object of pity? Why can't I believe that I can do better than this?

I don't know. I signed up for the tournament to challenge myself. To see how I handled the pressure. The answer: badly. I expected to be able to say, "Look - I was afraid of this but next time I will be less afraid". Instead I feel like I'm afraid of things I wasn't afraid of before, like I've gone backwards.

I'll take that nap now and see how the world looks in a few hours.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three questions for the end of the day

Back in my angry, bitter, post-undergrad days I was really tired of being surrounded by people who couldn't keep their shit together. Seriously, this life is not that hard. Step 1: Get some skills in something and get a job. Step 2: Try to show up and not fail at your job and you should have enough money to do something fun after hours. Step 3: Don't be an asshole (maybe this should be step 1.)

So many people fail at these easy steps... but I'm over it now.

Somewhere in my journey I realized that this philosophy was doing me great harm. It would be great if the world was so simple: Show up to life, work hard, and be rewarded or don't and be a failure. Too bad nothing is that simple.

People have their own challenges. Now when I look at other people I don't give a damn how their paychecks compare to mine or how big their houses are or how well they measure up to my old standards of success. Instead, I look at how they deal with little things. Do they treat others with dignity? Do they pause to appreciate beauty in the world? Do they learn from failure or make excuses?

This has made me a much nicer person. Until I realize I still beat myself up over my old standards of success.

Now at the end of the day, I ask myself those same questions. 
Did I treat others with dignity? 
Did I pause to appreciate what was beautiful? 
Did I learn from failure or did I make excuses?

Before I wrote this, I was sinking into a bad mood. Late at night its so easy to feel alone and weak. Its so easy to trivialize the day's work as I look ahead and see how far away my goals still are. But on this day I did not fail my three questions.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today's takedown thoughts

I'm starting to feel better about these takedown classes. I'm so bad at them that its very easy to see any kind of improvement.

A few examples: 
  • Sure, he knocked me over, but I managed to pull guard instead of ending up in side control.
  • Ok, so maybe the nice blue belt let me set up whatever takedown I wanted, but my timing was much better this time, I could feel it.
  • I actually took a second to stop and breathe instead of my usual hyper tense state of near panic
Now that we've defined some positive space, its time for me to take a serious look at a couple of things for next time.

First, whatever I did that landed me in the receiving end of a piledriver was not good. I don't know what was worse - that I didn't take any action to avoid it or that once caught I had a couple of scary seconds to contemplate if I knew how to not get dropped on my head and the only thing I could come up with was "trust my training partner not to drop me on my head". Though true, it was also completely useless. Funny, though.

Second, I seriously need to work on my endurance outside of training. Sure, I would like to be stronger too, but I can deal with being weaker by applying better technique and timing, but I need to survive longer. (Note: I know better technique helps here too, but I'm going to attack this problem from multiple directions) I am really starting to hate the feeling that an opportunity opened up and I missed it because I have reached a level of exhaustion that makes every movement - hell, even every thought - like trying to walk through water.
EDIT: I forgot to mention it, but I need to remember it to motivate me later. Someone said I looked like a whipped puppy towards the end of class. In my imagination, that's pretty close to how I felt. This is not a good feeling. This is why I need more endurance.

This will require better time management on my part. Story of my life. Time to set some goals.

1. I want to add to my schedule (somehow) one session at the gym and two long jogs a week.
2. EAT. SOMETHING. Really, this is getting ridiculous. I don't care so much if I try to live on egg whites, fresh fruit, almond milk and bread as long as I eat enough of it to keep going.

Thought I would end this rambling mess with another random thought I had today. I was trying to show a friend this really cool armbar to triangle transition and I had it WRONG. FAIL. Yet it only took us about a minute to figure out the one step I had backwards and then we practiced it right. I think its a small step in the right direction that we could look at a technique and figure out what was off about it. At least we didn't just try and do it wrong over and over. That said, I'll try and know what I'm talking about in the future. Promise.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two (very minor) BJJ victories

Really, I should have better things to do at 2AM. Things like sleeping. But here I am, rambling away.

For my own record, I am going to celebrate two BJJ victories from this week. People should celebrate progress more often. Rest assured that I am beating myself up about my failures outside of this blog, but I like to keep this space positive whenever possible.

Today I had a drills class that was based on mount. Given my size, weight, and skill level, that meant I spent most of my time in class trying to escape. Maybe at some point I'll get into stories about what worked and what didn't work technique-wise, but for now I'm focusing on mindset. The victory for me here is that I kept trying. Its so easy to just pause for a minute when I'm tired, even when that's the worst thing I can do. So I said I wasn't going to do that, I would keep fighting until something worked and I didn't care if that meant suffering through an entire 5 minute round barely able to breathe as I fought off every submission attempt. It was fun, but ow. I needed a 3 hour nap after class before I could move again. However, I'm tougher than I thought. I will try to do that all the time now.

Second victory was Thursday. The normal class is focused on takedowns for the next month or whatever. It was time to confront that fear of falling that follows me around making me all tense and disturbing my aura of somewhat calm. I survived. Not the most glamorous victory, but I'll take it. Kudos to fellow white-belt Scott for being very patient and helpful and for being just nice enough that I learned a ton and just mean enough that I had to face my fear. Seriously, its hard to explain striking that kind of balance, but I know what it feels like and I respect the training partners that can do it that much more.

On a related note I have extra special leg bruises - see! I'm thinking about going as a leopard for Halloween.