To untangle a knot
do not make the thread
tell you where she’s been.
and be gentle
when you pull.
Have patience, and do not hesitate.
When you act, act with certainty. If you are not certain, do not act. Or make yourself certain of this: You will fail. You will fail many times.
Failure does not cost as much as inaction.
Inaction is itself failure.
But even that failure can never be complete. For even in inaction, we have consciousness. And it is the nature of consciousness to try. It is the nature of life to try. To live. To grow.
As long as you are alive, some part of you still knows that it is the energy of potential. Some part of you has caught a whiff of the infinite possibilities beyond your current state of being, and as long as you are alive, that light in you will seek its source.
If you learn to trust the light within you that seeks its source, you will be lead to wisdom. You will find within yourself deep wells of compassion and rich reserves of kindness. In this, you will find joy.
Humble yourself to the inevitability of failure, and resolve to learn your lessons, but come back daily to the spark within you and the well of inner resource. And when right action becomes clear, step forward with the calm certainty of one who has failed before and is not afraid.
I sat down to write this morning before work, and this is what happened.
The date stops me. I planned on writing about something else.
Someone made up a story about who the enemy was and why bad things happen to us, and we directed all our fear into rage and vindictiveness.
“Tears are bullets when they harden,” a line from a Stanley Kunitz poem, turns out to be true (poets always knew).
We have committed the terrible crime of dehumanization. In our own hearts and minds, we have replaced the faces of our neighbors with the cartoonish masks of enemies. We project our worst fears on them because it’s easier to hate an imaginary enemy than to face ourselves. And we imagine enemies everywhere. And where we imagine them they become real, if only to us, the terrified and deluded.
Let’s pray for our own souls.
Lord save me from my own delusion. Teach me to sit my ego down and look it in the eye. Let me see my neighbor’s true face. I will be brave, and I will act with love. Let us heal this wound.
When I was a child, they told us in Catholic school that the word “amen” meant, “I don’t understand, but I believe.”
I don’t understand how we will heal this wound, but I believe that we can and we must. There are 16-year-old children now who were born after 9/11. They have only known a world in which we are at war and are steeped in a culture that believes enemies are everywhere. How do we teach them not to live in fear? I don’t know, but I still believe in trying.
I was thinking about writing a novel about roller derby using The Lord of the Flies for a structural model because I had made the half-joke more than once that the derby community is sometimes like an all female LotF. I decided to listen to the audio book and take copious notes to understand what made it tick. But it turns out that Lord of the Flies is far too simplistic to do justice to an organization as complex and powerful as a roller derby league. Maybe it’s because LotF is about a bunch of little boys stranded on a desert island and hoping daddy will save them whereas roller derby is an island of women who reach out to one another and give each other shelter in a sea that offers them no rescue. Either way, someone has decided to make a new LotF movie with an all female cast, since re-casting things with women is kindof a trend right now. That’s cool, I guess. A bunch of people are predictably mad about it, but so what? People can be mad about anything, and some things just aren’t worth the energy. It turns out, after re-experiencing the novel as an adult, I find the original to be … unoriginal? Look, I guess Golding was the first to do what he did, so it was original then, but the story isn’t actually that great. It’s annoying, honestly? Like, I am a grown ass lady, listening to 12-year-old boys argue their ego shit for pages upon pages while everyone is needlessly mean to the one boy with a goddamned brain, who also happens to be a clear stand-in for the women who are otherwise missing. Furthermore, Golding’s boys live in an ego/fear-based society. That is, their conflicts are primarily ego driven, and their decisions are rooted in fear. That kind of society is more or less what the majority of modern Western society is already doing, and it’s not working out so well for us. On the other hand, roller derby as a community is pretty different. It’s connection/overcoming-oriented. People don’t just play roller derby. They join a community and they overcome fears and other limitations to achieve something on both a personal and a communal level. Or maybe that’s just me. That’s more interesting to me than the old model of schoolboys on an island, so I guess it’s not an exact match. I’ll have to retire that joke.
May 10, 2014. About a month after I joined my local roller derby league, I posted the above photo on Instagram. “It’s easiest to write when you have done something worth writing about. If you’re stuck, go outside.” Looking at it now, the message still rings true, although I can’t believe it took me more than three years to notice the missing apostrophe.
I had noticed in myself a lot of circular thoughts, and a certain amount of boredom with myself, my way of thinking and living. I needed to get outside myself, outside my comfort zone, beyond my current knowledge and experience. I needed to live a little, but I had no idea how much I was about to live.
When you play roller derby, every year feels like three. Home season, travel season, and off-season are each jam-packed with a year’s worth of living. Especially off-season, which seemed to be the only time I could check in with the rest of the world, reconnect with non-derby friends, visit my family, and catch up on sleep. Maybe that’s why I feel so much older now, only a few years later. I did a lot, and I learned a lot. I intended to write about it all along the way, but living the adventure and processing in real-time left little brain space for translating my experience into readable material worthy of the effort required to post on the internet. And aside from that, my anxiety disorder was in full swing during much of that time, so to post anything that might make me feel to vulnerable didn’t seem wise. Somewhat unwittingly, I forced myself to follow my own advice above, as well as some other thoughts I kept pinned to my wall.
Slow down. Edit. You’ll know when it’s ready.
There’s a lot of pressure in writing a letter on good paper.
In other words, don’t rush, and don’t be precious.
The intervening three years have been an exercise in observation of the self under extreme pressure. In the yoga world, we talk about tapas, the fire in which karma is burned, the drive that fuels our practice. For three years, roller derby became my yoga. I made it my intention to be as fully present to the experience as possible. Every hit, every lap, every victory and defeat, every after party and every heartbreak — that was my tapas. When I fell on my ass during All Star tryouts, my coach asked if I was OK, and I told him the only thing that was hurt was my ego. I dedicated that year to Kali, the goddess tattooed on my right arm, the ego killer. And boy did my ego get killed in the most spectacular ways.
I thought I might write about it all after retirement, but I’m not sure how. There’s so much. And of course, there are other people involved, people who I sometimes loved and sometimes resented, who have flaws and hearts just like my own, and it would be impossible to tell my own story without touching the pulse of a few of theirs.
So while I figure that out (assuming I will eventually figure *something* out, even if that something is that this story isn’t the one I came here to tell) I guess I’ll be reviving and reclaiming this dusty little corner of the internet. As always, I make no promises. My plan is to keep following my own advice, to allow myself the luxury of time to process and write, and to indulge in the simple joy of expression.
Oh, and not to bury the lede or anything, but there’s a podcast coming. I started talking about it on Twitter a while back, about half joking, but then I decided to do it for real. So that’ll be up eventually … when I figure it out. Again, I’m slowing things down and not trying to rush through the creative process anymore. As it turns out, it’s the process itself that interests me more than the sharing/posting/publishing part. So I’m taking my time to create it and do it well, and I’ll share when it’s ready. 😉