Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"We're all just a little in love with each other aren't we?"

What is 2.0?

We were all part of the 2nd group of vice quads. That's how we met, (except Mer and me, as she insisted at tryouts we had met before) but during after farm practice visits to Senators the five of us always seemed to shut the place down, and at some point we determined we liked each other enough to hang out outside of a bar and at all times of the day not just at midnight.

Then we met Nick. He seemed to be the dinner party/random road trip/kid birthday party/top secret and stealth (or not so stealth when an unknowing husband catches the mission and causes said bombers to yell run and dart back to the car in a crude serpentine fashion, the dog is barking, bombee is alseep at a time suitable only for smaller children, and misses the cooler packed with ice and ice cream on their front porch until morning, neighbors start to worry and stare,  or the novice bombers drive their vehicle directly up to the bombee's garage while they are opening the door and they don't recognize you or your vehicle, begin having palpatations and consider calling the police)  bombing in dark of night kind of person and we all just clicked. Originally he was 2.0.2 but that just didn't roll off the tongue the same way and was going to cost extra to put on a T-shirt.

When I was in grade school I had a pretty rough time of it. I was painfully shy, timid and one of a very few Catholic school kids, uniformed in green plaid and forced to ride the school bus with all public school kids. I vividly remember climbing on the bus then going from seat to seat, being bounced around as the bus drove and asking if I could sit down, being rejected over and over by those jerks. At one point in winter I snuck a garbage bag out of the house to sit on so I could avoid the embarassment of it and sit on the floor without getting my uniform covered in slush. After that the driver assigned seats which of course made me super popular with the public school kids.

I dreaded going to birthday parties. I was always so nervous about what to do or talk about. I usually ended up sitting somewhere by myself. I distinctly remember my eighth grade teacher finding me alone on the porch at my class' graduation pool party saying something like "Sometimes the loneliest place is in a crowd." I didn't really get what she meant then, but as I grew older it really made sense.

My entire life I've been on a quest for closeness, for real honest heartfelt and lasting companionship. For people who accept and get me. In my 42 years I've met some truly amazing, lasting friends but mostly I've felt like an nerdy outsider, uncomfortable, self-conscious and struggling to fit in.

2.0 is for me, that tribe I've been longing for. Perhaps it's the mutual love of derby that solidifies all of us drastically unique individuals. Maybe it's the shared experience, the shared sweat and tears that bond us, the working together towards a unified goal. The fact that our individual improvement betters the group as a whole and that we care for and support each other totally, nonjudgementally. The fact that we are willing to drive to each other's homes just because and bomb them unexpectedly with balloons, delicious food or care packages. Or work in cahoots with your husband and leave tupperware full of the best banana and nilla wafer pudding you will ever eat in your car while you are at work. Whatever timing that happened for us all to arrive at the same tryout and begin our derby experience together is truly a little bit of magic. 

My derby experiences intertwine with my life experiences. And these extraordinary individuals have become and will continue to be part of me.  

Killy asked me to write an end of the season recap, perhaps explaining the idea of 2.0.  In a facebook chat I figured I'd ask all the others for their input. And I guess we really are just a little bit in love with each other.....

The brilliant Mz. Killy Loveless:
I can't remember where the original quote came from (the Mayor of TCDG maybe?), but I believe it was: "We're all just a little bit in love with each other, aren't we?"
Being a 2.0 means I know who I'm growing old with. These are the people my kids are going to have to explain are not really their aunt/uncle, they just call them aunt/uncle. It also means I will drop stuff on your front porch or car window when you are having a bad day. Or go get pancakes with you to make things better when nothing else can. I will always have 2.0 backs (unless it's bout day and you are in red - sorry wifey and buster). 

My mom still talks to people she went to high school and college with - her 'forever friends.' I'm only 30, and I don't really feel like I had a ton of people in my life that I've known forever and will know for a lifetime. And how do you get that in adulthood? I just figured I wasn't going to have those type of lifelong relationships like she has had. And then I met you guys and it's like, yep, I'll know this group til the end. Every single one of them. And I will love them through everything.

The powerful and all knowing Mayor, O GWrath:
In what world would we have ever become friends with each other? Until try-outs I had never met any of you, though odds are in such a small town I probably walked past you in a grocery store or flicked you off in traffic at some point. If we hadn't been brought together by derby we would have had no good reason to become acquainted, so clearly part of what it means to be a 2.0 is derby, our love for it, our occasional hate for it, gear swaps, cheering for each other regardless of team, convincing each other we aren't terrible, encouraging each other to keep going when our bodies tell us no, a knowing glance when one of us steps off for a second to catch our breath or stretch a sore muscle that says "hey dude, that sucks, take a minute then get your ass back out here."

That said, 2.0 goes beyond derby. It's about phone calls and text messages in the middle of the day, or the middle of the night. It's hospital visits. Care packages. Dinner parties...oooh yes, the dinner parties. Road trips. Birthday parties. Kids. Pets. All of that good stuff. It's about love. And yes, we are all kind of a little bit in love with each other and all of our differences.

The lovely and gypsy juice brewing ninny N Tara Gator:
When I think of being a 2.0, the first thing that comes to mind is a stable group of amazing friends. Although we all come from different walks of life, we share the same passions which have made us such a tightly knit group. I feel tightly bonded with this group as I know I can rely on them and never doubt their loyalty or trust. 

I believe that it's not too often in adulthood where this type of kinship
is found. What a rare vein it is, at this point in life, to meet with these wonderful people and laugh like we were kids, while sharing both triumphs and defeats. I feel this group knows,  and respects my heart.
The thought of our friendship is  like a warm hug.  Since being connected with the 2.0's I find them crossing my mind rather frequently.  I am softly reminded of how grateful I am that our paths have crossed and we have maintained such an amazing camaraderie.   Life would certainly be different otherwise, lacking in color, light, and love.

And our newest recruit, Buster:
Being the newest member to the 2.0s it is hard to put into words all that encompass the meaning of the 2.0.  For me, I first go to computer and software, since I'm a total geek, and think about what version 2.0 means.  Now, version 1.0 of any software is always exciting, it is a new and great idea that is pushed through programming with a lot of effort and late nights.  Once version 1.0 is released, people are usually intrigued by the idea, start to use the program, and then come up with millions of ways that it could be better which is where version 2.0 comes in.  So, in relation to our league, the 1.0s are the ones that pushed from the start, who had the great idea, who paved the way for there to even be a 2.0.  Without the 1.0s creating the space and the structure, there never could have been the 2.0s.

But, that is the technical and non-emotional side of what being a 2.0 means.  For me, I think back to my friendships in high school and college and those were certainly version 1.0 relationships, people who were friends for a time in my life but not necessarily someone who I keep in touch with anymore.  Now, I've moved onto the 2.0 version of friendship which means so much more: surprises left just to pick someone's day up, knowing that no matter the time I can always reach out to another 2.0 and they will be there for me, wonderful and encouraging words/texts/conversations that build up who we are when we are at our lowest, highest, or anywhere in between, realizing that this is not a friendship just for the here and now but until that last spark leaves me, lots of cuddles and shows of true affection that just feel like home, and, of course, sharing our laughs, tears, and delicious foodstuffs.  

The feeling that I get when I think about being a 2.0 reminds me of being a child on Christmas Eve, trying to force myself asleep because I was so excited for the next day, finally passing out around 3am, then awakening full of energy by 6am and getting everything I had asked for and more.

The amazing Dame Sangre, giver of whips and partner in skillfully choreographed tandem mohawks:
A 2.0 is that unexpected lift you never expect but is always there. When others fail you or you fail yourself they rise to the occasion. It's not like we sit around and pick each others brains and delve into our pasts, there's no need. We inherently know without knowing. We came into this as perfect strangers and no matter what happens in between we will leave as friends. We will know each other forever. We won't always be in close proximity, it'll happen sooner than we want or want to accept ...but in the end we'll still have this love, this camaraderie. We are from all different walks of life, all ages and points in life but it works. We just get each other and we accept each other just as the wonderful and genuine people we are. We listen, we care, we offer advice where we can but we don't ever dare try to change one another. We are a family in the truest sense. At least what I believe a family should be.

Something New

May 27, 2013

One thing I love most about derby is its ability to help me develop, show me something new about myself.

This past Saturday that something new was monumental. Seriously life altering for me. On that day I hurdled a road block to both my personal and derby growth.

This past Saturday at scrimmage was the first time in my derby career that without a shred of hesitation I willingly and with a huge smile repeatedly took the jammer panty and slammed it on my helmet. Truth is I wanted to have it more, but because I'm just starting to learn how to jam I was shy about asking for it when there were so many skilled jammers on my team.

A few times I got through and got lead jammer. Other times I got through the pack and wasn't lead but holy freaking shit I made it through and that in itself is a huge success to me. I even scored points. Wow.

All of this is good news and a huge amount of growth for me but what interests me even more is my reaction the time I got stuck in the pack with 4 incredibly strong blockers holding me there, knocking me around, out of bounds and to my knees like a pinball. I was exhausted, my heart pounding in my chest and starting to feel wobbly. What's new about my experience is that this time I attempted jamming I was determined to get through. To my surprise I laughed a couple times when I got smacked with a huge hit. I let out a big grunt and then I actually laughed. I might have even said something out loud like "Holy shit that was really hard."  But I never gave up. At one point I looked at the ref who was following me and gasped "I just can't do this anymore..." But then I internally shook myself by the arms, said snap out of it, popped onto my toe stops from the floor and charged back in for more abuse from those 4 powerful ladies.

In those two minutes I found some space to ponder whether this would be what it's like under the waters of the ocean if I was able to surf and was riding some big waves and got knocked off my board. Yep, in between getting can opened, hip checked, falling down and feeling like my chest would explode I had the space to wonder about that. I was so enjoying every moment, talking to myself and apparently out loud as well because later one of the opposing blockers commented on how much I was cracking her up with my commentary and string of expletives. At one point I may have said out loud "Well damn what the hell am I supposed to do in this situation??" Several times while hearing myself grunt with another shoulder in my ribs or having to run back and re-enter behind whoever knocked me out of bounds I'm certain I exclaimed "Well fuck a duck in the ass."

What's best for me about all this is that as I was at the gym today I found myself going over the whole scrimmage, seeing things I should have tried differently. I wasn't yelling at myself or discouraged. I was ready to get back out there, get my chance with the star panty and try again.

One of the most challenging things I've encountered when jamming was when I wasn't lead jammer and the opposing jammer was sent to the box for a minute. It turned into what's referred to as a power jam and I was left to fight through the pack repeatedly then skate a very fast, sprinty lap around the track, reenter the pack and attempt to fight through again to score points. If you're lead jammer you have the ability to call off the jam at any time. Not being lead I was stuck skating the full minute she was in the box, against very strong defense from the opposing blockers and down one blocker from my team. It was seriously one of the longer minutes of my life. I think I may have had 3 scoring laps in that power jam and it felt like I was about to hyperventilate or puke.

But after that minute was up I took a jam off in my team's corner to focus on slowing my breath and releasing any leftover tension and then I happily took the panty when it was handed to me, ready to dive into the ocean and go all over again.

July 1, 2013

To improve on this I have been going to the gym on non derby days that I don't work at the restaurant (about 3 days a week) to use weights and also doing the elliptical trainer with no hands and varying my stride to work on balance and also in derby stance with all my leg joints bent for about half an hour on a high level that challenges my breath. What I've discovered is that after a minute or so I level my breathing out, slow it down and it becomes much more easeful. I also remembered that when I was in that power jam situation in scrimmage I was definitely panicking a bit after being knocked around and out so much.

I've been working on this for the past month. Considering my breath and the pace of my inhales and exhales as I do heavy endurance practices or get thrown around by the pack or skate off the track after an especially active jam. I've also been challenging myself to get down and do sit-ups or pushups when we have a break from hot laps (seeing how many laps you can skate in a set period of time), just to keep my heart rate up and notice what I'm doing with my breath.

What I've ultimately discovered is that for me it really is all about my breath and the tremendous effect it has on my skating and ability to function efficiently and calmly. Potentially I have a lot of control over it, and if I'm not conscious of it it can get very short which results in feelings of panic, muscular fatigue and very unclear thinking. Not allowing my full breath also results in lower back tension for me. Once I slow it down and allow it to enter and exit my lungs more slowly and three dimensionally, in a more controlled manner the rest of my body, my lower back, legs, and my reactions follow along.

Flash forward about a month after the first time I ever put the jammer panty on willingly and without internal turmoil in my two seasons of derby. It's about 2 weeks to our Championship bout and the coach asks me if I want to be a pinch jammer, to fill in when the much more experienced jammers are in need of a break. I find myself answering calmly, without hesitation and lacking my habitual fear of the position "Yes. Absolutely. If you and the captains think I'm ready."

My history of accepting the jammer panty is a huge source of disappointment to me. The one thing within this whole experience that has really been awful and made me seriously and repeatedly  consider quitting is the turmoil and paralyzing fear that came up for me each time I was offered the panty. Talk about shortened breath. The fear of failing and not getting through the pack was unbearable, paralyzing. I'd leave practice defeated and angry with myself for being such a coward. I avoided it at all costs. And in doing so I limited myself, my ability to improve,  to learn something new.

So dear readers, I am proud to report that on June 30, 2013 in the Championship bout I did something entirely new. I leapt into the ocean, put the jammer panty on, felt my heart and breathing race as I took the line and gasped "Oh holy shit what is happening??" Then I slowed my breathing down and skated once as a jammer. I got through the pack. And I lived. And more importantly I loved it as intensely as I do the rest of derby.

This was a goal I had silently set for myself this season. To confront and smite my fear of and refusal to attempt jamming. To stop limiting myself. l had committed to studying, understanding and embracing all the ballsy, powerful, fearless, loud and bull headed qualities of the wee viking that make me nuts and channel them into my derby practice. I plastered a shiny viking helmet onto my helmet, as a tribute to both Maude Lebowski and Oona. What I never actually realized is that wee viking is a strikingly accurate mini version of me. So many of the things about her that can be bang- your-head-against-the-wall-and-watch- your-hair-turn-greyer-and-fall-out- devastatingly-frustrating-but-also- simultaneously-heartwarming-and- fabulously-funny (depending on what mindset I'm receiving her in) are shockingly similar to me.

I have spent so much time attempting to channel her and her boldness in my efforts this season to improve my derby game. In the end, and no matter how difficult it is for me to believe I have found these desirable and also maddening qualities have been present in me all along. With that discovery begins my journey to own them. Is it the new season yet??

Friday, May 17, 2013

What I'm made of

"Having kids is guaranteed to make you feel like an idiot or a tyrant at least half of the time." Alan Joyce, my husband in his infinite wisdom and wittiness.

The past month and a half has been just a blur of illness, passed back and forth between the whole family. Somewhere in the muddle we also had to make a huge decision that was a long time and several thousand dollars worth of car repairs in the coming. We had to part ways with our beloved Honda CRV. After much deliberation we decided to replace it with a newer Subaru Forester, the day before Aldo turned 4. We said goodbye to the CRV and drove the Subaru home the day before the first bout of my new derby season, which was on Aldo's 4th birthday.

We all have had achy muscles, runny noses and nasty coughs for a few weeks back and forth. Then my lingering cough somehow developed into walking pneumonia in the middle of the car deliberations. Which I had for the first bout. Then Oona puked in the new car four days after we got it and had explosive diarrhea for 3 days. Then on Alan's birthday, en route to his birthday dinner out, one week after the bout and Aldo's birthday the poor boy puked what can only be described as copious amounts in the car. And continued to do so for about 2 and a half days. At the patient advisory nurse's instruction we kept him home as he was still peeing. At the end of the third day of vomit he woke screeching that his hands and feet felt funny so Alan rushed him to the emergency room and he was admitted to the hospital with severe dehydration, the result of what they thought was norovirus. He stayed there for a few nights. 

Add to Alan's previous, spot on description of parenthood the feeling of overwhelming helplessness and despair when your child is unable to keep water down, wincing in pain as you attempt to stroke his hair to get him to rest, unable to stand to walk to the bathroom. The emotions that wash over you as you witness him struggle and scream as they attempt and fail to get an IV not in one but both hands, finally needing to put it in his arm instead. Rest your head for a moment on the hard couch in his hospital room as he fitfully drifts in and out of sleep, listening to all the machinery he's hooked up to, jumping every time you think he missed a breath. The worry that consumes you when you see him lying limp and hooked up to a bunch of machinery in a hospital bed, with none of the usual sparkle in his eyes you realize you often take for granted. The sadness you feel when each time a different doctor or nurse comes into his room and he turns his head, asking quietly whether or not they are going to poke him again.

It is indeed these moments you see "what you're made of." 

But here's my question. At which moment during this ordeal do I judge myself and my strength and "See what I'm made of?" 

Is it when I'm exhausted, starving, with a blinding migraine and way past frustrated, dizzy from the stress and and questioning why I had kids with the wee viking, drastically away from her usual schedule, confused and shrieking at a gut wrenching level non stop at me from 6:00 when I leave the hospital all the way down the hall, in the crowded elevator, echoing in the parking garage, as we drive home, make dinner, eat dinner, as she uses the toilet, as I am fighting to brush her teeth, during her entire bath till 8:00 when she has her pajamas on and we collapse into each others arms on her couch and read? 

Or the utter despair that brings me to uncontrollable sobbing after I've gotten the wee viking to sleep and am faced with what seems to be the overwhelming task of deciding on something to make myself to eat? Or perhaps I take a snapshot and judge myself and what I'm made of in my moments of anger at the brand new car being barfed in twice in the week we've had it? At which point is "what I'm made of" to be measured?

When I'm having a rough time, an especially challenging moment, feeling useless or incompetent I just imagine my skates on my feet. The instantaneous feeling of power and freedom that comes along with wearing them. A feeling that stretches all the way back to the first time I ever skated on my fifth birthday to the present, 37 years later as I have been gifted the amazing opportunity to experience participation on a derby team and continue to learn the game.

This moment. Not all the extra minutes you wish you had every day. Not all the stuff from yesterday you're still thinking about. Not all the what ifs in the future you're worrying about. This moment. Right now. When I have my skates on they deliver me firmly to the present moment and allow me to glide through it, facing challenges with the boldness I strive for in my daily life. 

It's me and my breath, the intoxicating feeling of flight that skating provides me.  For a little while I'm not helpless or an idiot. I am kinesthetically blissed out, empowered and I'm able to glimpse my essence, see "what I'm made of." It's my time to be a superhero, the fuel that gets me through the challenging kid stuff or long weekends at work.

I choose to judge myself here, in the billionth lap of a Satan's mattress drill, holding yet another plank position with my damn elbow pads slipping on and chaffing my sweaty elbows. Or working with a partner, alternating pushing and pulling each other continuously for 10 minutes, heart pounding in my chest, challenging myself to work harder and experiencing my body in such a complete way, followed by seeing how many laps we can do in 5 minutes, which I am extremely proud to report is 31. Derby has taught me that in spite of all the unexpected obstacles daily life can potentially deliver that this is what I'm made of.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Don't Give Up

I have learned something the past few weeks that, in spite of its simplicity, is a startlingly huge game changer for me.

I don't have to fall down every time someone hits me.

By fall I don't mean only in the obvious, most literal way. Falling for me also describes the drastic plummet in my belief, my confidence, my very will to remain upright that happened the majority of last season each time I was hit or failed to effectively block someone. My experience, until the last bout of the season, was a string of self-doubt and self-flagellation, of giving up over and over again. In scrimmage I would refuse the jammer helmet panty with such vehemence my teammates just stopped offering it to me. If that damn panty came near me I'd sense my breath way up in my neck, feel nauseous and be unable to swallow. The idea of failing, of never getting through the pack and being stuck behind and knocked around by the opposing blockers was absolutely stifling.

My goals for this season are as follows:
  1. Become more aggressive.
  2. Be bold and never refuse the jammer panty.
  3. Stretch my existing limits and become skilled at that position as well as learning to be a more effective blocker, both offensively and defensively.
To my habitually self-doubting and hypercritical mind it sounds completely ridiculous to say, but if I could achieve anything this season, it's this: I want to work my ass off both at practice and the gym, confront fear of failure and become a double threat on the track. At the very least, be able to decently play all positions without harshly judging myself and stifling my growth as a skater.

Ah, to be limitless in my view of myself and my abilities as a skater. As a parent, a person. Now that is a tremendous goal. What would that mean for me? No mental interferences, just belief in the concept that if I work my butt off, fail and then reboot over and over I can achieve success.

As a dear friend recently pointed out to me, this is the framework we utilize for raising the kids. What I see in them, especially the boy is often frustration and turmoil because he's got all these complex, intricate plans and his coordination and fine motor skills are so close but sometimes just not there yet. Frequently he has tantrums and expresses his strong desire to be "bigger like daddy" so he can do more, have bigger hands and longer arms and legs.

The few times I attempted jamming last season in scrimmage I would get to a place where I was stuck behind the pack, had no idea how to get through, and to be honest had no desire to even try. I gave up, over and over, and that was accompanied by such an intense sense of failure that I rendered myself unable to even move, just waiting for the jam to be over. It sucked. I caught myself asking "What's the point??" when I found myself stuck back there, a human pinball controlled by the opposing blockers. It was no fun, I was miserable and often left practice feeling defeated and useless.

After a few months off after last season and a loooooong break from Aldo's school with the kids for the holidays I had a very clear reminder of how frustration (with a toddler's lack of impulse control) can manifest. I was pretty much doing what he does very externally to myself, but keeping it all inside. When he's in that state, I hear myself calmly reminding him over and over "You can do it. Don't give up." I hold him tight to me sometimes when he is in tears and ask him to notice my big, deep breaths and to try and let his breath be like mine. I have made him a couple signs for strategic places in the house. One is embellished with shiny stars. They all say "DON'T GIVE UP!"

In a fleeting moment of clarity in the pandemonium that is life with two insanely energetic and curious toddlers, it occurred to me that perhaps I should extend this encouragement to myself. How can I guide them to be confident explorers, dreamers and fighters if my example is so incredibly lacking? It's not that they witness my mental flagellation firsthand when I struggle in scrimmage but it is omnipresent in the way I view myself, the tone I use to speak to myself. The only way to set an example I am proud of is to recognize and inhibit those negative reactions and opinions of myself.

So there it was. Recognize and eliminate the "What's the points?" and instead replace them with "Sure. Why not? I can give it a try. Keep pushing. Try another approach." Find my drive to fight hard, to be unyielding in my efforts and never give up no matter how challenging or exhausting the situation is.

The first scrimmage of the season someone tossed me the jammer helmet panty and I caught it. I also caught myself saying, "I hate this. I suck at it. What's the point?" I paused for a second and with the mild intervention of another dear friend removed that from my thinking. Then I slid it onto my helmet and took my place behind the jammer line. In that split second I made the decision that I had multiple options besides falling down or giving up when impacted or my path was blocked.  I could try bending my knees, using my hydraulic leg system to meet the impact. I could adjust the angle of my pelvis as the hit came to meet me. I could take a step or two. I could hit the blocker coming at me first. I could simply be stubborn and decide I wasn't going to fall.

"Tweeeet!!!" goes the jam start whistle.  And I'm off. Just a wall of bodies in front of me. I gravitate toward the bodies with the same color jersey as me. Then a tiny little break in the wall of opposing blockers. Keeping my elbows in somehow I nudge my way through. I get body checked by someone but remain upright and inbounds. Someone else checks me. I go out of bounds, turn into a quick tomahawk stop then dart back in behind the person who knocked me out. Still I stay upright. A third person hits me, I remember to turn my pelvis into the hit and give them my butt. To my surprise they fall. I kind of step over them, aim myself at a skater with my jersey color and hip whip off of her, bending low and sort of swerving around 2 opposing blockers. I have made it through the pack! "Tweet tweeeeet!" goes the whistle, signalling me as lead jammer. I allow myself a moment of "Holy shit! I did it!!!"

Then it's just me and the sound of my skates, slowing my breath, releasing my leg joints, lengthening my spine as I skate around the track, swinging my arms and crossing over, hugging the corner as I come to it. Eyes wide open as I near the back of the pack to start my first scoring pass ever. I see one of my team's blockers back there, watching for my approach. We make eye contact and she's right there, working with me to clear a hole, occupy a tough opposing blocker. I get around them, and another blocker. Then I get hit by someone, stay up and in bounds. I look and see another of my blockers watching for me, near the outside line. She's leaning on an opposing blocker, her right hand extended for a whip. I skate towards her. Just as I'm about to grab her forearm for the whip the blocker she's been leaning on knocks her down. I manage to step over her and get around. The same opposing blocker that got her sprints out to me trying to knock me out. I lift my outside foot so as not to go out of bounds and refuse to fall. I stay upright and in bounds, take several running steps forward as she chases me and I am through the pack.

It's at that moment I receive the answer to my "What's the point?" query. Because it is absolutely freaking unbelieveably AWESOME and worth every ounce of struggle when you pick up your feet, sprint away from that last blocker chasing you and get through a scoring pass.

As with all derby discoveries, this has an immediate and profound effect on my life. My pedestrian, off-skates life. I have located my will to fight through the more exhausting and rougher patches of balancing momming, work, sleep deprivation, grueling moments of toddler tears,  dramatic frustration and all the other stuff life throws my way. I've found more calm, confidence, the ability to stay standing and a greater sense of humor with the challenges. Once again this sport has positively influenced me on a deep personal level, strengthened me, made me better and remains one of the best life choices I've ever made.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Derby Season

Rejoice! It is the dawn of a new derby season!

New season, new helmet. After much deliberation I opted for a purple one, with a very sparkly silver name and number. Then I made myself a sparkly gold viking helmet to stick to the front. In honor of my wee viking and Maude Lebowski in the hilarious "Gutterballs" dream sequence in the Big Lebowski.

The wee viking is my inspiration. Words cannot express the power in her the moments she allows me to hold her close with my head against her tiny chest, feeling and hearing her heartbeat or "heart beep" as she calls it. She often lays a big, wet miniature mastiff kiss on my chest and informs me she is "kissing my heart." I am attempting to channel her fearless, joyful, good natured scrappiness, effervescent energy, determination, and daring as I strive to improve my skills this season.

As of this morning we are beginning to wonder if she is perhaps some sort of Maori warrior/viking hybrid. She has taken to standing in an extremely low stance, feet turned out and knees over her toes, thighs parallel to the ground. Then she sort of twists her arms around and occasionally hits at her chest, all the while sticking her tongue out, waggling it and sort of grunting and occasionally stomping her feet. She has also on numerous occasions forgone the paper we provide her with and instead taken her Crayola markers to her face and arms, informing me that one day she will have tattoos all over.

Ahhhhh. How giddy I am to be back at practice with all these fantastic ladies. I put on my skates and gear and I find myself. I love all the drills, the endurance and footwork, skating in a tight pack, shifting places like a murmuration of birds.

I would have to say that sprinting a few laps and baseball sliding into a plank position is pretty much my new favorite thing. This is not required, but I just can't help myself. All we need to do is skate the laps, then back to our place and get ourselves into a plank. But the slippery floor just calls to the choreographer/latent superhero in me, and there I am, picking up momentum, sliding on my side then onto my stomach and up into a plank. All in one move. The further I am able to slide prior to the plank the better. I am such a dork.

As far as favorite things this maneuver is rivaled by skating a few laps, sliding 360° on my knees (also not at all required) for an extra ridiculous flourish and to make myself or anyone watching laugh and then dropping to a military crawl, pushups or sit ups. Last practice I was actually attempting to pick up enough momentum that I could make it around twice on my knees prior to the sit ups, crawl, or pushups. And "attempt" really is the only description suitable for the less than graceful, wild moves this jackass was performing. But alas, dare to dream.....

At first this particular endurance drill is the most excellent fun but by the end I find myself thinking about the big finale sequence in basically every Terminator/horror/sci fi movie where the protagonist believes the attacker to be dead and then there he is, back on his feet and coming for them. To get myself through those last few minutes this is where my wacky mind goes. I become the Terminator, my red laser eye aimed at finishing the drill, and of course laughing manically as I go.

Over our break I went to an open skate. I was playing with GWrath on skating sideways. Working on the footwork off the rink while holding wrists and rotating in a circle. We went back out to skate. This lady comes up to me and asks if I would do her a favor and teach her daughter how to do the spin GWrath and I were doing. So I skate off the rink, find her daughter and show her how. She's a bit wobbly so I tell her to bend more in her hips and then she gets it. She seems shocked she got it and looks at me with saucer eyes sparkling, almost teary and says reverently, "You're my hero." I ask her name and age and she says Kaylee, and that she's 8. I tell her my name is Kate and still with those huge eyes, she exclaims "Wow. That's a lot like my name." Then she gives me a high five and repeats again that I am her hero.

Although excellent for my ego, this statement is laughable. If you know me you are well aware that I am harshly self critical, so thinking of myself as someone's hero is automatically ridiculous to me. My first reaction when given any sort of compliment is to try and argue the point, make light of it and joke my way out. Being someone's hero is a huge responsibility to live up to, and in all honesty I spend an enormous amount of time in both my pedestrian and derby lives doubting myself and my abilities.

The greatest gift training to be and becoming an Alexander Technique teacher has given me is the opportunity to recognize and suspend unconscious and/or automatic habits like this. We all have them, be it physical or mental. In my experience it's the mental ones that pose the greater challenge to choosing a new way of responding.

So I catch myself, and instead of snorting with laughter in this sweet little kid's face I pause for a moment, then choose a different, non habitual response. I tell her thanks so much, return her high five and smile. Enjoy the moment. However goofy and bumbling I view myself, in this moment I am this kid's hero and that is extraordinary.