Sometimes Progress Hurts

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Last Wednesday was my first time jamming during a scrimmage, and more than 24 hours later, I was still on an energy high. I didn’t score any points, and I got a few penalties, but the fact that I finally did it meant something to me. That and hearing someone cheering for me from the bench … the other team’s bench … that was a good moment. I love how the vets are so supportive. When they see you making progress they cheer for you so damn hard. Probably because they remember what it felt like when they had that moment — first assessment, first scrimmage, first jam, first time making it out of the pack. It just feels so damn good.

I don’t remember most of scrimmage. It’s always a blur so far in my experience, but it took on an extra special “what the fuck is going on” quality the moment Roxy asked whose turn it was to jam and Cash grinned and pointed at me. I think I actually made the Tina Belcher noise.

The good news is, I don’t remember anything hurting. The bad news is, I feel like my upper rib cage has been in a vice, and I actually have boob bruises. I did go to the box on a couple of track cuts and an illegal star pass (I was desperate to get it out of my hands, and I tossed it instead of handing it off properly). Oh, and I crashed into a referee. Again. It happened once before. I hope this is common for new skaters and I am not just uniquely stupid.

There were a few sharp moments in the blur, such as the realization that I had escaped the pack somehow, followed by the realization that I now must skate around the track as quickly as possible and do that again. To be clear, in my first jam, Pain was my pivot and Murda was one of the blockers. Do you know how many skaters would love to be able to say that? With those two on your side, anyone could get through the pack. Ok, and let’s be honest, the defense probably felt a little bad for the newbie openly admitting, “I’m so scared right now,” on the jam line.

There’s no deep message to this post. Just, “Wow, that happened!” I’m in a weird kind of happy pain. I wanna do it again, and I’m scared of saying that out loud because I’m terrified of doing it again. So you know, about normal for me.

I got home that night absolutely glowing and fully prepared to declare my unending love for every last member of CCRG, even the ref who caught me on that poorly thought out star pass. I know they say there will be good days and bad days in derby, and days when I wonder why I do it at all. I hope when those days come I can remember this.

Aches and Pains, Breaks and Sprains

We keep playing despite the risk of injury. Maybe the real problem is here.

We keep playing despite the risk of injury. Maybe the real problem is here.

This week, one of my favorite skaters fell hard during a drill. She’s just coming back from a long illness, and I know it’s discouraging to take a fall like that just as you’re getting your strength back. There was an audible pop as she went down, and she seemed to be in a lot of pain, but after some rest, she was able to get out on the track again. I was glad she came back out, yet worried about her safety. This got me wondering about pain, how we deal with it in derby and elsewhere in life.

“No pain, no gain” was a major reason I avoided the gym and any form of strenuous exercise for most of my life up to this point. Yoga was the first form of exercise I encountered where the motto was, “No pain? Great!” I believe pain is your body’s alarm system, a way of telling you where your limits are. If you learn to respect those boundaries and work with them gradually, you end up with a rich practice and a healthy relationship with your body. That’s why I prefer a slow and mindful practice and also why yogis emphasize the importance of good alignment to avoid potentially painful situations.

But it’s not quite the same in sports, especially derby. We talk a lot about safety, wear pads and helmets, and learn how to fall safely. Still, every time we put skates on, we take a pretty big risk. Great skaters fall all the time, and despite all their conditioning, good form, and constant practice, sometimes injury is a matter of chance. But we keep taking that chance practice after practice, game after game, because we gain something from the sport that outweighs our fear of pain.

On the other hand, there are the everyday pains of derby. Personally, my feet hurt. My low back and hips are sore pretty much all the time. My hamstrings are tight, and even my neck and shoulders get cranky sometimes. I’m trying to improve this situation by (a) skating better, (b) practicing more, and (c) doing at least a little yoga every day. I think this pain is temporary, and if I treat it right, it’s just a stepping stone on my derby journey. Again, I gain something from the sport that outweighs not just the threat of pain but the reality of it.

And finally, there are the bruises. If you’ve ever hung out with derby players, you’ve probably taken part in a conversation about bruises. There’s always a bit of pride involved, and usually a story about how we acquired said bruise. I currently have a nasty one on my shoulder from my first scrimmage. It’s two weeks old and still makes people ask, “Holy cow, what did you do to yourself?” Getting it hurt, but I’m proud of it because it’s proof that I went out and did something scary and survived.

I still don’t like pain, but I no longer believe it’s to be avoided at all costs. A certain amount of pain on a day-to-day basis is acceptable to me as long as I feel I’m gaining something from it. As for those unpredictable injuries, broken bones, dislocated joints, and even concussions are risks I accept while simply hoping I can dodge them. It’s hard for me to say why I’m willing to take those risks for derby. I still don’t believe in the “no pain, no gain” slogan, but I’m starting to understand that without a certain amount of risk involved, life just isn’t nearly as fun.

The End of Wanting

by margaretglin

Photo by margaretglin

Everyone has their Jordan Catalano. Mine was Kurt. I was in the 6th grade, he was in the 8th, but he had been held back a year, I think. We met at a youth group lock-in at church. He went to public school. I went to Catholic school. It was bad news.

That was the summer I wore wind shorts. Everyone wore wind shorts, except the girls who wore jean shorts, and I didn’t like those girls for reasons only sixth graders understand. One of them could put on perfect lip liner without using a mirror. I heard she hung out with Kurt, and I asked her about him. She said, “Ugh, you can have him.”

There were two lock-ins that summer. My best friend went with me to the first one and kept me out of trouble. I admired him from afar and wished he would talk to me. At the second one, my best friend wasn’t there. I made friends with this awkward girl who the jeans short girls didn’t seem to like. There was a dance, and I made out with Kurt while slow dancing right in front of the youth group leader. That night, while everyone was lying on the floor sleeping or surreptitiously fooling around under their sleeping bags, he tried to finger me. We were barely even covered, and I didn’t quite understand what he was doing, so I drew back.

In a bitter moment months later, I told my dad Kurt spent the whole night trying to get his hands in my pants — in reality, he’d spent maybe 20 minutes actually trying, microscopically inching along my leg to see how close his hands could get to my panties. It was bad enough I’d kissed him in front of everyone, and I knew my reputation was about to take a big hit, but if we got caught messing around on the floor at a church lock-in, I might as well die.

On the other hand, I really liked him. You have no idea how cute he was. What I knew about him was just a handful of dubious facts. His parents were divorced. He lived with his grandfather or an uncle. He was troubled. He had a bad reputation. He was probably just misunderstood. Of course. But after I pulled away from him, he didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night, didn’t ask for my phone number, and didn’t acknowledge me again until the day my dad nearly kicked his ass in the church parking lot.

We had a total of five conversations, including the one after choir practice the year we were in Christmas choir. We were standing outside the church waiting for rides home when he repeated some gossip he’d heard about me from someone I never met. I told him his friend was a liar and that he’d hurt me with the way he acted before. I don’t think he got it. We didn’t talk again for a long time. That year at Christmas Mass, he had a solo in “We Three Kings,” and his voice cracked badly. My older brother made fun of him on the car ride home, but I still liked him so I felt bad about it.

One day, after I’d stopped waiting for him to like me, maybe 8th or 9th grade, he called and asked me to be his girlfriend. I told him I needed to think about it, and he said, “Just don’t call your friends and ask them what you should do. Girls always do that, and I don’t wanna date someone like that.” Of course, I called my best friend, and together we determined that he was too much of a gamble and I could do better, even if he was really cute and I still sorta liked him.

In high school, I heard he had sex with a girl from my class in a movie theater. There were gory details I still won’t repeat. Once, they showed up at the house where my friends and I would hang out after school. I knew he was coming, and I made a point to be there for reasons only high school girls understand. When they arrived, he was uninteresting. He acted tough but was too out of place to be convincing. We nodded like old divorcees. She had on too much mascara. Her bangs were too heavy. She avoided eye contact and smiled weakly. That was the last day I wanted him.

Skate Fast and Jump High

rollerderby-112223_640Photo by Greyerbaby

Last night at practice we practiced jumping the apex, which looks like this:

For every cut track, we had to do 5 pushups. I did a lot of pushups.

This is the first time in my life I’ve been so very bad at something yet loved it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been terrible at a lot of things including but not limited to baking, housekeeping, dating, trigonometry, paying bills on time, scheduling, hyphenating, activism, and pretending to like people. But for most of my life, the things I’ve been bad at are the things I’ve avoided. Why is derby different?

Last night, as I watched the other skaters jump the apex (some successfully, some not), I pondered how we all ended up here, and how this sport is not at all what I expected. I knew the league would be a bunch of incredible, strong, driven women. I also thought there would be more fishnets, but what we lack in fishnets and tutus we make up for in dedication and tattoos. But what I really wasn’t prepared for is how the challenge of derby makes me want to be stronger. The funny names and crazy outfits are fun, but the real reason we stick around is that the challenge is intoxicating. I have never pushed myself this way before, and I love it.

You know why I can’t jump the apex yet? Because I’m scared of jumping with wheels on my feet. This seems like a reasonable thing to be afraid of, yet I want to not be afraid of it. I have hope because I saw people do it last night, people who couldn’t always do it, people who were afraid before and overcame their fear.

When I set this “letting go of fear” goal for myself this year, I had no idea what I was getting into. But for some reason, the gods of roller derby smiled on me and gave me the chance of a lifetime. Just go fast and jump, right?

love humans

Where_is_the_love by Tatoli ba Kultura -- CC-BY-SA

I want to tell you to love yourself, but I also want to tell you to love other people. And I don’t mean like putting others first in all things because that becomes painful very quickly.
But practice seeing the good in other people. And beyond that, see that they are vulnerable. See that their anger comes from fear, and love them. See that their bad behavior comes from ignorance, and teach them.

Don’t make yourself their victim. Be prepared to walk away. And yes, you’re allowed to walk away from people you love. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It just means you can’t save them. But if you can stand to give some compassion without killing yourself, do it. Look another human being in the eyes and accept them for who they are. Don’t try to be better than them; everyone else is already doing that. Realize that they are as good and worthy as you are and that the most important gifts you’ve been given — food, shelter, education — were largely granted to you based on no merit of your own. Realize that if you deserve that kind of goodness in your life (and you do), then they deserve goodness, too. Now treat them that way.

However, if you can’t believe that you deserve goodness in your life, you’re going to find it very difficult to extend that generosity to others. When you catch yourself judging others, ask what it says about you that you are so irritated by someone else’s imperfections. Are you bothered being around people who don’t meet your specific standards for beauty, intelligence, morality, or social status? If they aren’t hurting you, there’s a good chance your feelings about them stem from your own anxiety and insecurity. But if you start to say, “Ok, it’s fine for that person to be the way they are, even if it’s not what I would want for myself. They still deserve to be happy,” that starts to change the way you view yourself. Eventually, you’ll realize that because you’re a human just like the other guy, you probably deserve to be happy, too.

In other words: Loving other people teaches you to love yourself, and loving yourself makes it easier to love other people.

I have this crazy fantasy in which everyone in the world learns to do yoga or meditate or practice seva. Everyone in the world decides, “I’m not perfect, but I really want to live in a more peaceful world, so I’m going to try really hard to love other people and to accept them and myself as we are.” And things get a lot better. It starts out small. Grocery stores are less stressful. Traffic jams still happen, but people honk less. Gradually, gridlock eases thanks to increased carpooling. There are environmental and financial benefits all around. People stop buying products whose advertising tells them they’re not good enough, and as a result, we spend more money on things that actually make us happy. There is a major economic shift toward positive industries — scientific research, environmental repair, health and wellness — and organizations such as nonprofits to alleviate homelessness experience a surge in funding as people realize it really sucks to let some people live in poverty while others have all the fun.

And in this fantasy, we’re still not perfect. We still fuck up. But when we do, we say we’re sorry, and we do our best to make it better, because that’s what you do when you love somebody.