Darkest Before Dawn

light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel “I’m sorry! I’ve lost my mojo!” I wailed as I clumped and teetered through a series of spin kicks. We had set up what I will now refer to as The Gauntlet: five or six holders stood in a line holding focus pads as each student whirled past, hitting each pad with a spin kick. I thought I was going to get off easy since it was getting late, and we had a large class. I sighed as I was asked to switch pads with another student and was glumly thankful that at least I only had to do the kick on my right side.

I can’t fully describe how awful it was. I kept falling forward, my leg either stayed in a cramped chamber position or flopped out ineffectively. My foot limply tapped the pad or missed it completely. Of course the more upset I became the worse I got. The advice my instructors shouted at me made perfect sense, but my brain and body refused to communicate. Grandmaster gave me such a disappointed and frustrated look that my heart nearly broke.

This should not still be happening. I have been doing spin kick since I was a white belt; I should have it down by now. I have no problem slinging my body upside down in a yoga pose or throwing a powerful every-other-kick-but-spin kick in taekwondo class. Why all of a sudden am I nearly immobilized when asked to do this somewhat basic kick? What the hell is going on??

“Cut yourself some slack,” said a soothing voice in my head. That’s the enlightened part of me that is the calm inside the storm. It’s been growing larger and more powerful over the years, but it has a lot of crap it has to fight through. “How many other thirty-six year old women can do what you do?” it continued. “Look at you, you’re keeping up with the kids like it’s nothing! It’s probably just PMS. That makes you bloated and dizzy. Go home, pout a little, and eat some chocolate. You’ll feel better.” (And to my guy friends who got tricked into reading this far: HA! Made ya blush!)

“Yeah, you’re thirty-six!” said another much more sarcastic voice. This was my ego, the judge who ruled my life for a very long time. I never encountered mean girls in school, but the Queen Bee is alive and well in my head. She’s gotten weaker over time, but she’s still a bitch. “Grow up and stop embarrassing yourself even more by whining and complaining! You’re such a drama queen! Shut up and quit holding up the line!”

I’ve learned that the more tightly you cling to something the faster it will crumble in your fingers, whether it’s money, a relationship, or something else that you feel must have otherwise you can’t be happy. I’ve never cared as deeply about academics or career as I do relationships or other interests, and yet those are the areas where I’ve had the stupid good fortune to succeed. I wasn’t forcing it. I let go of the outcome and let good things come to me.

I think in a similar way I might be clinging a little too tightly to taekwondo. It helped me get out of a serious pit of depression and break some damaging emotional habits, but I have to remember that I’d be OK without it too. I’ve invested so much of my heart in it though that any disappointment sends me into a panic. My instructors have been nothing but kind and infinitely patient with me. They don’t think any less of me because I didn’t do a good job tonight. The only harsh critic I have is myself. Plateaus or even the proverbial two steps back are just that: a pause in time. They eventually pass. This will too.

I do have to give myself some props though. As I drove home I thought, “Wow, even though I got upset and frustrated I didn’t start bashing myself for being ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ or ‘worthless.’ I’m growing up after all!” I was frustrated and upset, but for once I didn’t turn the anger in on myself. You guys don’t know how much of a change that is. While I may have hit a plateau in training it seems I’ve moved up in other areas. Yay!

Leave it to my chief instructor to bring me back down to earth. At the end of class as we were all shaking hands I sighed and fretted about my poor performance. “Oh, I don’t know what to do, I seem to be getting worse and worse! I’m letting everybody down!” I moaned.

“It’s just one day,” he said, shaking a kid’s hand and giving me a pointed look. “If you are really good at everything and don’t have anything to work on then you become stale and arrogant. You need a challenge.” In that moment I really appreciated his level-headedness and emotional maturity that seemed like it belonged to a much older man. If I’d had that same confidence and big picture mindset at twenty-three that he does then…well….for starters I probably wouldn’t be falling apart over a crappy spin kick….and I probably wouldn’t have sent all those long psychotic emails to ex-boyfriends…or changed my college major five times….and….well, you get the picture.

I admired him for it and kinda hated him too.

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3 thoughts on “Darkest Before Dawn

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways Martial Arts Can Benefit Women | Little Black Belt

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