How One Gets Called “Dirt”

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Here is a silly thing I am anxious about. My name… Miss Dirt… the one I chose, not the one I was given. I’ve been called some variation of “dirt” for the past 12 years, it’s part of who I am, and I love it. I also use that name for my blog which is just a silly digital thing I’m very attached to. However, I also decided to use the same name for derby, and I worry that it’s weird and confusing to people who don’t know me from my gaming and early blogging days. Am I just thinking too hard? Very likely.

In the event that I’m not, let me tell you where the name Miss Dirt came from so you will understand. Even if it doesn’t make you think I’m any less crazy, maybe you’ll get my brand of crazy and just, you know … not judge too harshly.

Or not. Whatever.

Once upon a time, there was a thing called Quakecon. Actually, it still exists, but it’s really different now. Quakecon was a video game convention for fans of the game Quake and really, anything Id Software made. It was held in Mesquite, TX (later in Grapevine and Dallas, and probably some other towns since I last attended). It was held in August every year, and it was free to attend. I was part of the Quakecon family for five years while I lived in Texas. I started as a general attendee, quickly saw the value of volunteering, and eventually wound up as part of the media staff, although I never felt that I accomplished much in that role. Anyway, everyone at Quakecon went by their gamer handles, and everyone took a certain amount of pride in their handle. Some were funny, some were faux intimidating, and some were just weird. I chose the name dirt (always with a small “d” back then) because I thought it was funny. I liked that people couldn’t tell my gender by the name I chose, so I got treated better by the community than if I’d had a recognizably feminine name. That was 2002, and I’ve been known as “dirt” to my best friends ever since then. When I first started dating my husband, his family even called me dirt to avoid confusing me with another Mary he dated before.

Over time, the name has come to mean something to me. I like the name dirt because it’s earthy and a weird mix of cocky and humble. It takes a joyful combination of nerve and stupidity to call yourself dirt and expect people to be cool with it. At the same time, dirt is as low as it gets without switching to less family friendly language. And yet, where would we be without dirt? Dirt, to me, is pretty much what life is made of. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust … in other words, we’re all made of dirt. I like the absurdity of the name because I think life is absurd and this helps me remember not to take anything too seriously.

As for adding the word Miss to it and using capital letters, I guess you could say I felt like growing up, but not enough to give up the name. My husband and I ran gaming events together for years and, as a result, found ourselves at the center of a pretty amazing little gaming community. However, when you hang out with gamers, who are mostly male and younger than me, sometimes it’s necessary to remind them who the grownup in the room is. However, MsDirt was taken on Twitter, and I loathe the abbreviation Mrs. as well as what it stands for (let’s save that explanation for another day). So, despite being married and as grown up as I’ll ever get, I became Miss Dirt.

When I started playing derby, I thought long and hard about what to call myself. Should I pick a new name? Should I invent some new variation on the old one? Would it be weird if I kept blogging as Miss Dirt? Would it confuse people? Is the name derby enough? In the end, I never reached a satisfactory answer for any of that, but I decided that I really don’t want to have a new name. Some skaters use their given names on the track, presumably because they like what they’re called and don’t really want to be anyone but themselves. Personally, I never really identified with my given name (Mary), but I feel like the name Dirt somehow describes the person I’ve chosen to be.

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Yoga Sutra 1.4: Keep Your Head On

Big Beautiful Face Statue in Tenerife

VRTTI SĀRŪPYAM ITARATRA
At other times [the self appears to] assume the forms of the mental modifications.

Ok, so we know that yoga means union and that (theoretically), when we quiet the mind, we access the pure, unchanging, eternal self. If you’ve meditated a little bit, maybe you’ve begun to have glimpses of that. In that meditative state, our physical boundaries feel like they melt away as we let go of all those false identities and changeable factors. We begin to feel that we truly are all one. Hooray, yoga! We’ve reached enlightenment, and now we can stop meditating and go about our life as actualized beings, right?

Maybe not quite. For most of us, the moment we rejoin the world, we’re brought back into a game of rules and boundaries. It would be foolish not to recognize the separation between ourselves and others. One of the dangers yogis face (and fail to acknowledge too often) is thinking that because we’ve had a few glimpses of something bigger than ourselves that we are now enlightened. Sometimes, yogis are just like evangelicals, going around spouting off about their experience as though it applies to everyone. After all, if we’re all one, then I should be able to understand and speak for anyone, right? Wrong again.

On a grand scale, yes, we’re all one, all made of the same stuff, all the same energy, all from the same source — no matter what name you assign to that source. But in our day-to-day lives, we all have different experiences. We have different lives, histories, knowledge and understandings. Think of it like a card game — I can’t see your cards and you can’t see mine. If I make an incorrect assumption about the cards in your hand, I lose the game. Sure, all the cards come from the same deck, but it’s a pretty extensive deck, and there’s just no way for us to know all the cards in play.

In other words, try to keep a sane perspective. Know in your heart that you are indeed connected to everyone and everything in the universe, but keep your head on and your eyes open.

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I Am Not My Work

Art by Benjamin Gabriel

Not too long ago, I wrote about how being a writer is meaningless. I’ve continued to think about that idea, and today I just want to share some thoughts about it.

I used to want to be a famous writer. Actually, I had a very specific goal — to have my works included in literary text books for high school and college students. I wanted my writing to be considered definitive of an era. After all, anyone can write a book, but in order to feel that I was really a good writer, I needed to be the best writer.

My entire identity and self-worth was wrapped up in this idea of being a great writer, and if you’ve any idea of what the publishing industry looks like right now, you can probably imagine how this is a problem. No one wants to publish your book? Probably because you’re worthless as a human being. That was pretty much my internal dialogue for a few years.

The prospect of earning a living as a writer was terrifying. I loved writing because it was literally my main tool for navigating the world. I trusted no one but my own writing, and I was completely wrapped up in my own inner world, which is why I had no close friends for a really long time. To turn that into a source of income made me feel too vulnerable, and I was unwilling to do any writing I didn’t really love.

At the same time, my yoga practice was starting to teach me, “You are not your job. You are not your belongings. You are not your social status.” I still struggled with the idea that I needed to be something more, something better. I needed to be great but couldn’t wrap my mind around what that meant.

Only when I started teaching yoga did that change. When I’m teaching a class, I don’t want to be famous, to prove myself, or to impress anyone. All I want is to do a good job for the people in front of me. When they visibly improve from one class to the next and say “thank you” to me at the end of the day, I have the most amazing feeling of success I’ve ever had.

I no longer feel that need to prove myself as a great writer. I write because I love it and because it’s a good tool for me. Writing is now part of my yoga, part of how I understand the world, but it’s no longer my identity.

After all these years, I realize:

I am not a writer.
I am a me.
Writing is something I do.
My writing does not define me.
I do.

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Weekly Assignment: Describe Yourself in 140 Words or More

shape of a hoper

If you came of age in the era of internet profiles, you’ve probably spent a little too much time filling in boxes labeled, “Describe yourself briefly.” I get profile rage because I can’t describe myself briefly and get it right. Currently, my Twitter profile says, “Yoga teacher, writer, feminist, smartass.” If you get to know me, you’ll find all those things basically true, yet you can’t really tell anything about me by that. It doesn’t say, “I’m awkward and make inappropriate jokes when meeting new people,” because that’s not something I like to brag about. I chose characteristics I like about myself for the profile because that’s what I want you to see in me, obviously. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to be real and let you see my shortcomings, which is why I ramble on so much here!

This week, be bigger than 140 characters. Describe yourself in 140 words or more. No one has to read it, but if you do decide to share it, I think you’ll be surprised by the interest you get from others. People want to know you in a sincere, multi-faceted way, not just as an avatar that scrolls by on their various digital timelines. Be three-dimensional.Be imperfect, thoughtful, damaged, needy even. Write at least one paragraph that’s really true about yourself. What’s the most important thing in your life right now? How do you feel about your own face?

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