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There is absolutely crying in derby

March 20, 2017

When I tell you I spent about 15 minutes of roller derby practice furiously brushing away frustrated tears and trying not to all-out sob on the sidelines while the rest of my fellow New Bruisers skated away in “pack formation” (clustered together, touching at least two other skaters) for the first time, you’d probably think I wasn’t enjoying myself.

You’d be wrong.

But to explain why, I need to tell you about the inner monologue that takes up about 90 percent of my thoughts at any given point. Derby is a departure for me, as most of my 7 readers will know (hi mom!). My traditional inner voice is constantly wondering “WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THIS DON’T YOU KNOW WE QUIT EVERYTHING?” before every practice.

Every time I lace up my skates I get this whiny message about how tired I am and how embarrassing it’s going to be when I’m the only person who doesn’t understand how to do this or that because of COURSE I’m not athletic and haven’t I known that my whole life? Better to just go quietly home and open a book. Come on. There’s a really good one on deck that we’ve only read 11 times so far.

I kinda hate that voice.

I much prefer the new one that has shown up the past few weeks. That voice tells me that the other one is full of shit, and how could I say I’m not an athlete when I’ve never tried it before? THAT voice is cheering loudly when I do something I’ve never done before, and says that sure, 90 minutes into practice my muscles may be a wobbly mess but DID YOU SEE what you almost did?! You’re a rock star!!

Try again, that voice says. It speaks up after practice, quietly and with certainty, when my weary bones are crackling and my muscles are giving way as they sink into the mattress and I’m considering how I can get 5 hours of sleep if I just drift off now.

“I wonder what you’ll be able to do next time?” it asks.

So yeah, the first time I skated in the middle of a pack, with no room to change course if I lost control and no control over others losing control themselves, I completely and utterly panicked. I think I remember shouting “Please no! Please no!” as the lead skater called for a stop, and I definitely remember immediately leaving the pack and going off to regroup, shaking and not so much crying as leaking hot, frustrated tears.

“You’re much harder on yourself than anyone out there is on you,” said a gal, kindly, as she stood with me on the sidelines.

“It’s overwhelming,” said a vet, who heard me ashamedly reference my freakout about the pack skating. “But you did it!”

One of the reasons I joined derby is to figure out who I am when that know-it-all first voice goes quiet. We tell ourselves who we are, and how we handle situations based on some character outline we’ve developed for ourselves over the years.

For instance, I’m not a crier (as long as I’m not watching “This Is Us”). I’m pretty laid back, non-competitive and emotionally on an even keel. Or at least, that’s what my character study would tell you.

But when it counts, when it’s real, when I have no time or energy to spare to prep a scripted reaction, it turns out that I cry.

And when I nail just the hint of what could become a complicated move, I smile.

And when I manage not to throw my arms out, or slam my hands down, during a practice fall, I laugh with glee, not self-deprecation; and mentally cheer myself on.

So yeah, there is crying in derby. And it’s kind of awesome.

Fresh Meat, Take 2

March 8, 2017

Sunday’s practice–my first derby practice ever–threw me off my game.

I didn’t realize how much until my boss mentioned it, and a coworker confirmed it. I’ve been quiet and reflective, trying to assimilate the knowledge that things don’t have to be fun to be good.

I know, I know. Probably something I should have learned about 25 years ago. But here we are. I like having fun and being good at things. I hate not having fun and being bad at things (just me, right?).

And so when this THING that I’ve been dreaming about for weeks on end turned out to be NOT FUN, I just sat with it. I expected to quit, and was already disappointed in myself.

But instead I talked to people about it, and got some great feedback. Not fun is normal, as it turns out! Practice and you’ll get better and THAT’S when it’ll be fun. Sure, sure.

Monday I was exhausted and subdued. Tuesday I was SORE, exhausted and subdued. But thanks to some great pep talks, I threw on a royal blue tank top, wrestled into my sports bra, and headed to my first team practice.

Team practices are a bit different, in that actual teams are actually practicing for actual bouts. There were a handful of us Fresh Meat who wanted to get in some skating time, and I was the freshest of them all. So once again, a few wonderful women tucked me right under their wings and helped me along.

Can’t find the right derby position (a solid squat with a loose upper body, tailbone tucked and eyes forward)? Try some plough stops (wide feet, push out with the heels). Not ready for plough stops? Try “watermelons” (skating without lifting skates by moving your feet in and out, wide to narrow). “Watermelons” a little too much? Maybe try holding the wall and finding your balance. Eureka!

I held a wall. I squatted and shifted my weight from right to left. I found my center and practiced moving through some watermelons while staying low and solid. I gripped the wall while carefully lifting my right foot, crossing it over the left and putting it down (all while not falling!).

Eventually–after about an hour and a half–I was able to say “Look at me!” to the vet and Fresh Meat who were helping me, and did a passable 1/8th track in derby stance and came to an almost-respectable plough stop.

And I grinned like an idiot all the way home. I may have been miles away from the group of women blocking, jamming and whipping around the center of the rink beside me; but I made progress. And I had fun.

Now off to do about 100 squats to build up these muscles so I can make at least one entire lap around the rink in proper derby stance!

 

 

 

Fresh Meat, Take 1

March 6, 2017

I’ve been talking about, researching, planning, guessing and daydreaming about roller derby since hitting up my first bout just about a month ago.

I was thrilled, I was enthused, I was positively brimming with untested confidence as I picked out a derby name, looked at some cute derby clothes, bought all my gear (black with pink accents, thankyouverymuch) and generally prepared to kick ass.

Last night, the proof hit the pudding. Last night was my first practice with the Dockyard Derby Dames New Bruisers, the league’s “Fresh Meat” program for new skaters.

I had was thrilled when 8 p.m. Sunday rolled around and it was go time!

I squashed my nerves in the car (thanks, Beastie Boys!) and strode in, geared up and then lined up for my first drills. We skated in derby position (think about skating while holding a squat) and I thought YES! THIS IS IT! I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS!

Then warm-up ended, I fell straight on my tailbone, and it got real. My expectation may have been to sail through practice with a huge grin and more than my fair share of natural ability, my goal was to make it through the practice–not to shine, or to be perfect–and I had no idea how hard that was going to be.

Half the moves we were taught, I couldn’t seem to grasp. The other seemed counterintuitive to staying upright and not breaking bones. Anything left and my tired, burning muscles screamed at me to STAND UP STRAIGHT AND GO REST ON THAT INVITING BENCH, NOW.

I swore. I forced back tears. I fell one more time, viciously twisting my ankle and knee. I sat down to rest aching feet.

But I got back up.

All night long, there was a crew of “vets,” those who had been skating at least a few weeks longer than I, surrounding us “Fresh Meat,” providing encouragement, helpful tips and just general moral support. Like the woman who tried to help me with my T-Stops (dragging a skate behind you to, well, stop) who saw my frustration before I even registered it was there.

“OK,” she said. “Stop. Breathe. Take a breath. It’s OK. You’re here, and that’s already more than everyone at home on the couch.”

Or the woman who saw that I was completely perplexed about how to stay still, in my skates, and do some toe-tapping and foot-moving drills. She held out her hands to me and patiently showed me the moves again, and again, and again.

Or the many who offered a tip, a word of encouragement or just solidarity and sympathy for the burning pain in my back and thighs that forced me to curse and grimace as I straightened up and stretched between drills.

Two hours later, I zombie-lurched out of practice and drove home in an overwhelmed but determined fugue state. I had myself a good cry, and got a pep talk about mental toughness/empathetic stories from experience from my incredible husband. And immediately after finally rolling myself out of bed this morning, I fired up the iPad to run through a series of squats/pushups recommended by Roller Derby Athletics.

My legs are jelly. My ankle aches and needs more ice. My gear stinks to high heaven. I am chastened by reality.

But I’m nowhere near done.

Lola Vavoom will ride again!

Before you’re ready

February 2, 2017

Last week I was listening to a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic,” among other wonderful books. She was speaking to Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery, and asked her to provide a benediction to all those looking to exercise their creative side.

“Show up before you’re ready,” Melton said. And my heart stopped.

I heard those words and thought about all the times I’d decided not to do something because I “wasn’t ready.” Submit my work for awards. Write a novel. Try a new activity.

Two days and one difficult conversation (it went well, not at all worth my concern) later, Matt took the family to a roller derby bout. It was the first for both of us, and we were quickly shouting and clapping along with the rest of the audience, shrieking whenever a skater took a particularly hard hit or fall, and cheering when a jammer made her way through a tough pack to score.

And I knew.

In my life, this is the second thing that has hit me like a bolt of lightning. The first was my first college journalism class. I took a single class and BOOM. Yes. It was what I had been waiting for.

Watching those women–many of whom were my age, and most were sturdily built. Not good for volleyball, maybe, but strong and fast and sure.

BOOM. Yes. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

So in March, I will join the Dockyard Derby Dames and explore a whole new world! A world of athleticism and team sports and competition. A world of inclusion and camaraderie and diversity. A world where I get to be a little bit badass.

I’m profoundly not ready, but I’m showing up.

Election Night 2016

November 9, 2016

It’s hard to know where to start.

Before election night, I believed, in my soul, that Hillary Clinton would win. I felt smug, ready to accept victory, glowing with pride in my democratic nation and alive with the spark of knowing that I had helped elect the first woman president.

It never entered my mind that one day I would be talking to my son about President Trump.

I went to bed early on election night, wanting to bypass the stress of watching the “too early to call” races be debated on CNN. I was a little upset to miss the historic victory speech, but figured I could stream it the next morning.

I woke up at 3 a.m., and thought about checking the results, but a little doubt crept in. What if it didn’t go the way I thought, I pondered, sleepily uneasy. Better to wait for the alarm.

At 5 a.m., I snagged my iPad and saw a news alert from Buzzfeed: Donald Trump elected President of the United States. Ha ha, I thought, and punched in the first news website I could think of: CNN.

The rest of the morning was a silent, solemn blur. It took me twice as long to get ready as I tried to understand. It made me twice as angry that my teen forgot to fold the laundry I’d asked him to. I felt twice as sorry for myself as I got ready for a meeting.

It’s not about the presidency, although I’m worried for our nation’s minorities, the gay community, the Black Lives Matter movement, the safety of Muslims in America, and what happens to women’s rights. We survived Nixon. We’ll survive this.

It’s about not knowing that it would happen. Not being able to see it. About half of our country being so afraid, so alienated from the change around them, that “grab them by the pussy” (emphasis on “grab,” not “pussy”) becomes no big deal. That they were willing to turn back the clock on civil rights, and turn their backs on civil discussion.

It’s about a media who overwhelmingly and (over) confidently predicted the opposite would happen. Who told story after story about civil rights and sexual assault, and how America would be better under President (Hillary) Clinton. How did they get it so wrong? What stories from middle America were going untold? Unheard?

It’s about the debate that never happened, giving us an opportunity to come together. How long have voices been silenced? And how do we start talking–and listening–while still moving forward with all the things that scared those individuals? How do we have an intelligent discussion about moving our country to the center–not the extreme right or left–while still saying we won’t stand for anything but equality for all of our citizens, and respect for our entire Constitution?

It’s about my aunt’s social media post, showing Hillary Clinton with a plastic bag superimposed over her face, captioned “Hillary supporters should try the plastic bag challenge.” It’s about my asking her if she wanted me to die, and her giving the bully’s defense: It was only a joke. And that I was putting words in her mouth “like a true Democrat,” and she would never apologize.

It’s about the word “queer” starting to show up in my sister’s social media feed. And how I’m having to pull back from thoughts of hatred, of black poison revenge, of anger and all the emotions I work hard not to act on.

It’s about not seeing the social media posts about how hopeful people are for the future under the candidate they elected.

It’s about not knowing exactly how to move forward and contribute to a positive future for my country.

Yet.

Tomorrow the alarm will go off, the sun will rise, and my life will go on. Millions of children will laugh, and the planet will spin on its axis.

And we’ll find a way forward. Together.

The Bat Story

October 25, 2016

My husband used to work nights. It was a long, sad time where I’d go days without seeing my favorite person, and spend my nights snuggling an old blanket instead of a warm body.

But you live, you learn, you cope. I started to get used to falling asleep on my own, dealing with issues on my own and basically reverting–somewhat–back to life as a singleton (with the benefit of seeing my guy a couple days a week).

However, some things you can never get used to. Or predict. One night, just before he switched back to days and returned to our lives, our pup Lulu started barking at around 11:30 p.m. She’s a good guard dog; she’ll bark if she’s disturbed. The routine is to remove the barricade keeping the dogs upstairs so that I could whisper, “Go get it!” She’ll run around downstairs, checking that nothing is there, and come back up to go back to sleep. Great system.

Except this night.

This particular night, a giant black shape flew at my face as I moved the barriers. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so all I could make out was the black blur.

It was a BAT. IN MY HOUSE. That’s how I learned that bats are cute outside, but TERRIFYING when they’re flapping around your house like a giant moth and you realize they’ve been flapping around like a giant moth for HOURS.

It didn’t take me long to understand that the whole time I’d been peacefully sleeping, probably snoring, mouth wide open, the bat had been flying–and maybe pooping–around my house. In any room. It could have landed on my head and crawled around my face for all I knew. (As they do. Probably. I dunno.)

So, yeah. Terror.

I did the only think I could do: I opened the front door and stood there. I couldn’t enter the house while the bat was in it, I couldn’t cross its flight path from the dining room to the TV room to open the giant sliding glass door (where it probably got in) and if I lost sight of it I’d probably have to burn the house down.

Luckily, the bat was equally having none of it, and after a few seconds flew right out the front door. Leaving me to run upstairs, turn on all the lights and sit cross-legged on my bed trembling for a half hour while I got up the courage to check for any more bats.

As it turns out, on warm summer nights baby bats can confuse the hot air coming out of an open window with a potential snack. They fly in, we close the windows and then they’re stuck.

Just flapping around.

Crawling on our faces.

(Probably.)

Don’t call it a comeback

October 17, 2016

I have a thing about plants. (Hear me out, this will relate to my 3+ year absence from blogging.)

I love plants. I love planting seeds, and watching them sprout. I love harvesting fruit and vegetables from my own garden, and planning meals with things I grew. I love meticulously caring for my plants, weeding and repotting, and otherwise being in the garden surrounded by nature.

Except that I don’t. Those of you who know me know that as soon as I got past the “planting seeds and watching them sprout” part of the previous paragraph, I was full of shit. Planting seeds? Yes. Caring for seedlings? Yes. The rest? Bunk, pure and simple.

Once a plant sprouts, I rarely know what to do for it. How much do I water it? Why is it drooping, yellow or spotty? Must need sun/water/serenading. WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME, PLANT? I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING!

So at that point, I decide to teach the plant a lesson. I ignore it. It gets droopier/yellower/spottier. I start to feel bad, which really kicks my “avoid the problem” instincts into high gear. Eventually, I’m avoiding the room that the plant is in altogether. I become selectively blind to my own household. And finally, I take the dried-out husk of a plant that I have ignored to death, and drop it in the trash.

Blogging became my plant. I dipped a toe in the world of social media and blogging, learned just enough to be dangerous, stopped doing it for fun and immediately hated every second of it. So I ignored it. I became selectively forgetful.

Then I got busy and became actually forgetful. Metaphorically, I dropped my blog in the trash.

Until recently, when, in a conversation with some coworkers, I remembered. I have a blog! With a weird name! From Gilmore Girls! So I read it and remembered: Hey, I can be funny on the internet (sometimes!) (so my friends tell me!)!

And then a friend did something truly inspirational: She had a health scare and committed herself to turning her life around. She started using her blog to share her accountability to losing weight and becoming healthier. It took me back to my first blog (not this one, sadly) and how I used it to chronicle my health and weight loss before my wedding. And I thought: I want to do that again.

And I realized: I can! (Maybe not the blogging about weight loss thing, but certainly blogging.)

So here I am, as sporadic, well-meaning and without intention as ever. Interwebs, this post is a new seed. Let’s see what happens.