vito baby
Seriously, what happened to September? Baby Vito Corleone wants answers.

I swear it was just yesterday that I wrote about August coming to a close. How is it that I now have only (counting today) 23 days until I test for my black belt?

Maybe it doesn’t feel like it’s that late in the year because it’s still 90 degrees most days here in Texas, and I’m still wearing flip flops everywhere I can. Maybe it’s because my work schedule suddenly became much busier, so I haven’t had time to notice that the weeks have flown by in a blur. But isn’t that how we always approach the passage of time? In a flash, the time is gone, and yet we’re constantly surprised by it.

So yeah, I’m testing for black belt at the end of this month. October didn’t start off that great. I was awakened at 4 AM this morning by a short but stressful dream. It was the day of my black belt test, and somehow I was in my parents’ old house—the one I grew up in back in my West Texas hometown. The fact that I was 250 miles away from my current city (and place of my current dojang) wasn’t the issue. The issue was that I couldn’t concentrate. The living room was stuffed full of oversized furniture, and a giant TV was blaring as I was trying in vain to practice a form in whatever bits of space I could find. I was doing Palgwe Yuk Jang, the sixth form learned at blue belt/red tip and one I might have to do during my test, but I couldn’t remember anything past the very beginning.

Great, the first dream I’ve ever had about taekwondo had to be a nightmare. The only thing pleasant about the dream was that my dad had this cute little wooden porcupine with sticky notes and a pen attached to its back. He was using it to write down the address of my (current) dojang so he could drive there to watch my test. I mean it, the porcupine was really cute.

I have weird dreams.

I’m trying to figure out what could have triggered that dream. Last night in class I was leading a group of kids through the seventh form Palgwe Chil Jang, which is learned at red belt, but I mixed up the ending with Palgwe Yuk Jang. I left out the final punch at the end of Chil Jang, and my little charges were all quick to remind me of that. Maybe that was it. It could have been that I was still having a little trouble nailing the finale for my board breaking sequence: the flying snap kick, which means I’ll take a running start, leap into the air, and smack a board in two with the top of my foot. Getting the right distance for this break has been tricky. Or maybe it was just the final vestiges of some waning anxiety that has been troubling me for the last few months (about random stuff, not just taekwondo), and it desperately trying to keep its tentacles wedged squarely into my brain. Gross.

After I consoled myself with some very early morning television and oatmeal I thought that perhaps the dream was presenting me with an opportunity rather than a problem. Physically, I’m doing just fine. I’ve not only been training for my black belt for the past six months, but really, I’ve been training for it for the past few years. I know—or my body knows—everything I need to do, including those two forms I mentioned earlier. My strength, stamina, and speed have improved quite a bit, although like everyone I have my off days (case in point: spin kicks are always a crapshoot). With the help (and torture) of my physical therapist, my hip is healing nicely, and my weak right side is gaining strength and balance. I haven’t sat on an ice pack or wept during a car ride in almost two months, and after all these squats, dead lifts, and jumps from therapy are over I’m going to look SMOKING in skinny jeans.

The only foreseeable problem is my own mind tripping me up, and it gave me a solid warning very early this morning. I’ve changed a lot since I’ve started taekwondo—I’m much more sure of myself than I was a few years ago, and I’m even nicer…well, that last one’s a stretch, but I know I’m more confident. Just as I can control the way my body moves, I can also control the way my mind reacts. I’m going to be testing at my own dojang (unlike other students) with my own instructors as judges (also unlike other students) who know me very well and who have seen me at my best and my worst. I’ll have the home team advantage.

Sometimes old habits of doubt and anxiety and fear are hard to break, but for the last few years I’ve been steadily chipping away at them. I’m going to break the hell out of those habits just like I’m going to break the hell out of a board at the test with that tricky flying snap kick.

No worries. I’ve got this.

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