“AH!! What are you doing??” I shrieked as I hopped backwards, narrowly missing a swipe from my chief instructor, who was holding a thin but painful-looking and very solid wooden bat. I was expecting an overhead strike, which I had just practiced defending against, but instead he had swung the bat from side to side.
“What do you mean?” he asked, laughing. “You don’t know what someone is going to do when they’re attacking you.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Life takes swings at us in expected and sometimes less expected ways. Illness, job loss, death, financial hardship, onions on your hamburger when you specifically stated, “No onions”–the unexpected slings and arrows shot at us can take us by surprise, leaving us feeling hurt, betrayed, and vulnerable. Sometimes we’re left in a state of limbo, not knowing whether things will turn out to be better than imagined or worse than expected.
I’m in that state of ambiguity right now, as are several other people in my life. Life took a swing at us, and while it wasn’t entirely unexpected (just as I knew my chief instructor was going to take a swing at me), the gravity of it shook us to our core. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I was angry, upset, and very worried about my future. I know I wasn’t the only one opening a bottle of wine after the news hit.
And then a funny thing happened–I got over it. I bounced back very quickly, which may very well be a case of denial, but I’d like to think it’s partially due to the “indomitable spirit” I’ve honed from practicing a martial art. Fall down seven times, get up eight. It wasn’t forced or a mindful choice. After a day or two of stewing I suddenly felt very calm and positive. Just as I kept my mind focused on testing for black belt last year in spite of a very painful injury, I’m keeping my mind focused on the very favorable outcomes that could come from this situation. I’m banking on things turning out better than I could have imagined…and if they don’t, well, I’ll get back up that eighth time.
Gallows humor helps too. No sooner than we were hit with our new reality, we all started finding the funny in the situation. It helps us bond during a difficult time and keeps us from getting too bogged down in the grim details. We laugh a lot in taekwondo class too, maybe more than we should in a disciplined martial art, but it lightens the mood, strengthens our bonds, and keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next, just as I didn’t know for sure how my chief instructor was going to attack me. All I know is I need to be prepared for anything, trust my instincts and my training, and not back down.