Getting Some Sense Knocked Into Me (Literally)


Last Tuesday my home was struck by lightning. I don’t mean there was a power surge during a thunderstorm. I mean the building was HIT directly by a giant, bright, crackling bolt I saw as I was driving home. Whenever I see distant lightning strikes or smoke from a fire I think, “Gee, I hope that wasn’t my place, hee hee ho ho,” and nonchalantly go back to my day.

This time it was my place.

Thankfully I got home just at the right time to (1) not be electrocuted myself (let’s say I’d been home earlier and had the misfortune of plugging something in at just the wrong time) and (2) call the fire department in time to catch an exterior smoking outlet that sent scorch marks all the way up to my attic. Here I was thinking the main problem was a bathroom outlet that burst into flames after a breaker was flipped. Turns out the damn building was on fire…kinda.

My dishwasher and internet router are dead, but other than that everything is fine. The electrical problems have already been fixed courtesy of my condo HOA.

I knew something messed up like this was going to happen. I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety and anger and resentment and distrust and worry since the beginning of the year. Everything was a crisis, and every action from someone else was a slight against me. I wanted desperately to stop caring so much, to really try hard and keep to my “zero f*cks by forty” mantra. But that proverbial stick was pretty far up there if you catch my drift. A great deal of my stress was relieved when I quit my taekwondo school last month, but apparently I was still in such an emotional tizzy that I needed a literal shock from the universe.

In a real crisis I’m pretty calm. Outlet on fire? Oh, let’s just smash a towel over that. My heart was pounding when I called 911, but panicking and screaming would do no good in this situation. I sat primly on my couch while fire fighters tramped all over my hallway, attic, and back porch.

I will say that experience made me much more relaxed for some personal matters I had to deal with the next few days. Life is pretty good when you’re not homeless.

My problem is that I panic during the pseudo-crises, which we all seem to drum up in our fast-paced, overly connected, in-your-face society. I could do with a bit less of all that right now.

Real life has settled in again although I’m not sure how or to whom to express my deep gratitude for being so lucky. I try not to get pulled into the spiral of “what could have been” thinking because it’s too scary. I’m back at work. I bought tickets to a play. I was a little on edge the first time I ran my dryer and heater in case some little lightning goblin had holed up for a few days and was waiting to wreak havoc at just the right time–everything was fine.

If I’m not careful and mindful the lesson I’ve learned from this will evaporate quickly. Very rarely is anything a true crisis. The house fires, the heart attacks, the all too many mass shootings, the car chases, the financial ruin–the real times of peril are crises. Nothing else is that big of a deal, and I say that just as much for myself as I do for others. Work stuff–not life-threatening and as a bonus they help pay for my nice home that didn’t burn to the ground. All the drama and stress and unhappiness around Taekwondo this year–it’s OVER and I’m free to enjoy my time off and pursue other ventures. Even personal relationships–all the little stuff doesn’t matter.

I said in my last post that I’d have to keep trying to let go and not care as much and just enjoy and be thankful for what I have, and damnit I’m going to keep trying. Hopefully it won’t take another bolt of lightning to keep me on the right path to emotional and mental freedom.


My New Goal: Give Zero F*cks By Forty

relax on beach

I am celebrating my 39th birthday this week. While I won’t be eating complimentary cake in my dobok with my other black  belts and taekwondo students like I did last year, I’ve enjoyed some extended time off and have a few fun things planned. The biggest thing I plan on doing is embarking on a year-long quest to take me into the next decade of life with a smile: I want to give zero f*cks by forty.

Many people start improvement plans on their way to forty: some do a “Fit by Forty” exercise regime, which I don’t need because I already am. Some people get their financial act together, which I don’t need to do because it already is…Hmm, I suppose I could embark on a year of humility, but…nah!

So why the “Give Zero F*cks by Forty” program? Frankly, I have spent most of my life sweating the small stuff—and the big stuff that turns out to be relatively small in the big scheme of things. Work, school, what other people think of me, what other people say to me, my body, what I do or say, the worries and limiting beliefs and troubling thoughts that take up real estate in my mind–ENOUGH! I’m exhausted!

Giving zero f*cks about the  things that really don’t matter (which is most of “the things”) sounds like a dream. I would be calmer, more relaxed, more open-minded, and more accepting of the shifts and tides of my life.

It won’t be perfect from the beginning, and I know I will have many setbacks and have to re-commit myself many times between now and next July. I’m a control freak in many aspects of my life. It’s served me well academically, career-wise, and financially, but it’s left me pretty tightly-wound too. Letting go of my hatred for a particular body part will be hard. I’ve been failing at that since I was 13. Not being pulled into senseless panic over things at work that don’t matter can be difficult to resist if everyone else is doing it (although working alongside true lifesavers in the healthcare industry has given me a pretty good perspective on what is truly important and what isn’t). The political landscape and division in the United States is a nightmare. Social media is a tempting time drain. Sometimes I daydream about rude, hurtful things people have said or done to me in the past, and it can be a chore to yank myself away from those runaway thoughts and move forward. Letting go of the things I want the most out of life and trusting that they will come to me in due time and without desperate attempts is a huge act of faith.

Does this mean I won’t care about anyone or anything anymore? No, it doesn’t. My new mindset doesn’t mean I’ll stop loving people who are important to me (but it will mean I won’t waste thoughts on people who aren’t) or not put in a good effort at my job (but it will mean I’ll stop taking myself and all the corporate-ness so seriously) or stop trying in taekwondo class (but it will mean I’ll loosen it from my heart strings just a little; holding onto taekwondo too tightly is hurting me this year). What this really means is I’ll stop needlessly worrying about all the stupid petty crap that makes me miserable. We all get pulled into senseless worrying depending on what’s going on in our lives. It sounds so easy and so inviting to let it all go, but sadly we’re programmed to hang on tightly to the very things that make us unhappy.

I’m glad I’m giving myself a whole year.

…but I can do it. If anything I have that black belt stubbornness that makes me continue to challenge and motivate myself.

Join me. Sit back, relax, give zero f*cks, and let yourself finally enjoy the people, things, and experiences in life that truly matter to you and bring you joy.

Zero F*cks by Forty begins in three…two…one…

Saying Goodbye to the Parasites in Our Lives

This is Plankton. He’s my intestinal parasite.


…it’s not REALLY Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants, but this is how I picture the recently diagnosed parasitic infection in my digestive system–a tiny little bastard who’s always scheming to pull one over on everybody. He’s a dick, and I’m tired of the way he’s been treating me, but I’m also a little afraid to say goodbye to him.

I’ve hinted at my digestive-problems-of-mysterious origin in a few posts before. I’ve always had some food sensitivities since at least high school, but they got noticeably worse right after Christmas last year. I lost a total of 14 pounds in about 2-3 months, which on my 5’3″ petite frame was a lot. I’ve gained back about 6 pounds, and this is hard to admit…I’m not entirely happy about it.

Plankton’s taking up residence in my body was apparently one last f–k you from 2016, a year I think we can all agree was just awful for everyone. He made me sick, he ruined my appetite (and sometimes my entire day), and he was a constant unpleasant presence in my life.

He was also my enabler. I LOVED losing weight. I LOVED seeing the numbers get lower and lower on the scale every morning. I LOVED that sometimes all I ate for dinner was very carefully counted out Saltines and a little bit of hummus because I was too sick to eat anything else. Plankton tapped into my almost-but-not-quite-yet resolved issues around body image and disordered eating. He knew just what buttons to push to make me want to hang onto him a little longer.

Plankton knew I was having a pretty glum start to 2017 (job instability and a dark bout of loneliness), so he made himself a point of focus that I could cling to. Other parts of my life were unhappy, so if I could control and monitor my weight, at least I had some tiny bit of stability. (Yes, I recognize the irony in that statement) Sometimes even without the symptoms I restricted what I ate to see if I could get the numbers even lower. I wanted someone to notice my weight loss and ask if something was wrong. No one noticed other than my parents, who only see me every few months. I kept my secrets to myself.

So Plankton and I learned to live with each other. I tried to avoid foods that would trigger his wrath, but later in the year I let myself indulge and kind of enjoyed the fact that some “problem” was letting me eat whatever I wanted while keeping the weight off. We were a team, albeit dysfunctional. I waited nine months until seeking help from a doctor.

I knew I had a problem that was beyond just “food sensitivity” for months, but the seriousness of it finally hit me during a brief conversation with my mother. She told me how “drawn” I looked earlier in the year when I was at my lowest weight.

“So you’re saying I looked…thin?” I responded, half-jokingly but secretly, shamefully pleased. But seriously, what if this was worse than just lactose intolerance? What if I had IBS? Hell, what if I had colon cancer? Next thing I knew I was crying in the shower thinking about how as a self-loathing teenager I’d wished for a serious illness that would make me lose weight. It was a relief (and admittedly, kind of cool) to find out my problem was treatable.

Now it’s time to say goodbye to Plankton in the form of antibiotics. My original food sensitivities won’t go away, but if all goes as planned I won’t have the constant issues my clingy friend brought to the table, no pun intended. I’ll kind of miss him. He kept me skinny. He helped me fit into a cute little black skirt that I was going to get rid of because it was at one time too tight. I don’t want to go back to my pre-Christmas weight. What will I do without him?

Do you have parasites in your life you need to get rid of? They could be other people, habits, activities, perhaps even your own thought patterns. We can be in parasitic relationships that we know are making us sick, but we’re having a hard time seeking help. Are your parasites enabling you to stay stuck in a mental or physical place you don’t want to be but fear you can’t leave? Are they telling you that you must accept an unpleasant situation because you don’t deserve better? What is draining your energy and sapping your soul? Who (or what) do you need to let go of for good?

It’s time to let go of what no longer serves us and be brave enough to face the world alone. It’s time to be free.

What’s Your Span of Control? The Answer May Surprise You!


A few days ago I was meeting with one of my coaching clients, a nurse manager at a mid-size hospital. We were joined by a nursing student who was shadowing my client for a business class. My client mentioned a thought provoking question her student had asked:
“What’s your span of control?” My client’s even more thought-provoking answer made me pause.

“I thought about it,” she said with a chuckle, remembering her conversation, “And I said…Nothing! Nothing is really in my control!” She relies on her employees, her boss, physicians, the budget, the executives, the larger healthcare system. She recognized that she didn’t work in a vacuum. I thought that was a very poignant and self-aware answer to a seemingly innocuous question.

“Isn’t that refreshing?” I said with a smile. “You’re only in control of your emotions, your reactions and actions, your thoughts.”

I thought about her response as I walked through my neighborhood this evening, enjoying the cool autumn air and still-warm Texas sun as I strolled along the winding side streets. Nothing matters, not really, not in the big scheme of life, at least not most of the things we worry about. Nothing is permanent, and as George Harrison said, “All things must pass,” which is a relief and a little heartbreaking too. The more pressure we put on ourselves to control the outcomes and be perfect, the more disappointed we end up being. We must let go.

Nothing mattered to me at the moment but the breeze against my face and the setting sun on my back. I had no worries, no obligations, no regrets, no control except putting one foot in front of the other. And then I got back home…

It’s easy to forget that nothing matters–not really–when worry creeps in. I’m fairly detached from what society would guess would be my larger worries (job insecurity, lack of relationships) and instead am haunted by all those little things: guilt over seemingly insignificant actions, secret regret over what I let go of too quickly and what I held onto for too long, the itching scars of old grudges and deep wounds, angst over things I did and things I didn’t do, the relapse of body image struggles, loneliness I refuse to acknowledge, and a lurking feeling of listlessness and dread. Those are the things that slither into my brain when I have crawled into bed and am no longer protected by all my superficial methods of occupying my mind.

Of course as I’ve said many times before, the best place for me to clear my mind, focus on what’s important, and let go of needless and damaging attachments is in the dojang. Taekwondo gives me a quiet and mindful outlook. Even as I am practicing what has become the most important and fulfilling piece of my life, I feel a sense of lightness I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. The only thing I’m in control of is me: my emotions, my thoughts, my body to an extent although lately it has overridden some of the things my brain wants it to do…and hitting shit seems to make my endorphins soar, so maybe that’s part of it.

When you realize your span of control isn’t as grand as you thought it’s somewhat freeing. You don’t have to shoulder your burdens alone, and when you put them down for a moment you may even realize that you don’t need to put certain burdens on your back anymore. You are simultaneously surrendering and being more powerful than you ever were when you held on (too) tightly to things you thought would make you happy or solve your problems. Things always seem to work out when you back off a bit and when you stop beating yourself up over every misstep.

I really want to get to that point of being one of those old broads with “zero f*cks left to give.”

Nothing matters–not really, not in the grand scheme of things. Everything is impermanent. Our span of control is not what we think it is. We are not responsible for solving everyone’s problems. The worry, guilt, regret, and anger that gnaws at us will pass if we don’t hold onto it as tightly as it tries to hold onto us. The more we worry about everything the more we miss out on the beautiful parts of life.  I can’t beat myself up for mistakes I’ve made in the past anymore than I can worry about disappointing my instructors with a crummy jump spin kick or a hesitant self-defense technique. None of it matters–not really, not even taekwondo. And once I recognize that I can actually start to enjoy everything. If I have to remind myself of that every day I will.

A New Normal


What do we do when our reality is traded for a new one? How do we let go of what we can’t control, influence what we can, and embrace our new normal?

I can’t seem to jump very well anymore. For a while my strength was improving, but recently it seems that I haven’t so much hit a plateau as much as my body has decided to take a different path. I first noticed it when I had to exert a lot more effort to spring myself into the air for box jumps in physical therapy. (At least I can do them. About this time last year when my physical therapist tried to introduce them I was in tears with anxiety.)

I’m noticing it quite a bit in taekwondo. It’s harder to get off the ground, hike my knees up, and heaven forbid if I have to add a kick (or even worse, a twist) at the apex of that jump. It’s exhausting, and I feel like my legs are made of lead. My thoughts alternate between, “Come on, Black Belt, you’ve got this!” and “What’s wrong with you, Black Belt? Kids can do this. Maybe you don’t deserve your belt.” I feel like I should apologize to my instructors for being a disappointment.

I suppose I am entering a phase of a new normal. Maybe I just haven’t quite accepted the fact that I am not the kickass gazelle bouncing around that I see in my head when I’m in taekwondo class. I’m almost 40 years old, and in reality I’m lamely spazzing around in a too-big uniform that feels like a soaking wet king size bedsheet when I sweat. Despite my brain yelling “GO! GO! GO!” I’m slow in sparring matches and am finding the more gravity-defying aspects of my martial art increasingly difficult.

It’s frustrating that when I’ve reached the age, maturity level, and belt rank to understand the nuanced mechanics of taekwondo, my body can’t do them either at all or not very well. Although I sincerely believe I had to leave taekwondo as a child and go through a bunch of stupid shit for the next 20 years to find myself and find my way back to the dojang, it makes me wonder. Had I continued taekwondo into my teens or even stopped and taken it up again in my twenties rather than my thirties, would my muscles, nerves, bones, and brain would be more finely tuned to and more adeptly able to execute the movements that are becoming harder and harder for me to pull off?

Perhaps I’m not as hopeless as I think. Perhaps this is a new “normal” state of fitness for me: I easily swam for an hour this morning. Despite having to really haul ass in physical therapy to do my exercises, my jumps were pretty good today (I DID get my knees up and clear my boxes and land softly like a kitty ninja), my balance had improved, and I did nearly 9 continuous minutes of holding planks. And y’all, I can do a form like nobody’s business. Not bad, Black Belt.

Plus, I’ve noticed improvement in the more advanced aspects of taekwondo, notably around self-defense. In the end that’s rather what I’d be good at anyway. I can probably go my whole life without ever needing to do a 540 kick–good because I can’t do it anyway. Some of my kicks–the ones on the ground anyway–have become more solid and make more of an impact, which serves me better in a fight than more complicated kicks.

For my fellow martial artists reading this, I’m not discounting more complicated airborne kicks. This is not sour grapes because I can’t do them. Many people not only do them beautifully but do them effectively . When you’ve been whomped in the chest by someone slamming into you with a 360 roundhouse you appreciate that kick very much.

On the upside I’ve gotten pretty good at teaching and coaching. I might not be able to do a jump spin kick or a 360 roundhouse, but I can help someone else do them, and that is honestly more satisfying than being able to do them myself. If I can be one of those aging ladies who punches wood, slams guys on the floor, and inspires students to work hard and believe in themselves then I’m good. If this is my new normal I’m okay with that…but it’s hard to let go and it’s hard to embrace my new normal.

So how does this translate to “real life?” As I hinted at in my last post, my reality has been shaken up quite a bit. A new reality is being presented to me, and I have to choose how I will interact with it. Will I spend all my time mourning what I can no longer do and what I have to give up? Will I fight myself into a futile corner? Or will I take advantage of the opportunities lining the new path in front of me? Will I embrace a new reality and a new identity? I think I know what I will do.

Eat, Practice, Love

arm heart

I spent the final week of May indulging in home-cooked Italian food and fine dark chocolate and to no surprise gained a few pounds.

In my defense I was nearing the end of a very sad, painful, drawn-out situation in my personal life. Usually I stop eating when things get really bad, but this time I seemed to stress eat, albeit good quality food rather than chips and cheap candy bars, as if that makes any difference. Then whenever I start to feel better I “happy eat,” so I can’t freaking win.

I did exercise and attend taekwondo class as usual, so my very slight weight gain was only noticeable to me. Then again, I’ve been fat-shamed at 116 pounds and told I looked better when I was “skinnier,” i.e., miserable and haggard and subsisting on whiskey for dinner (yes, really), so everyone’s perspective is a little different.

It’s starting to sink in that my black belt test is around the corner, so that’s as good a reason as any to clean up my act and stay motivated. I’ve already been off alcohol for two months and feel much better–stay tuned for a blog post about that in a few weeks. Why not, as my yoga teacher would say, let go of other things that no longer serve me?

I didn’t even enjoy my Netflix movie marathons or heavy food towards the end of my mourning period/indulgent exile. It was time to let go. So last Sunday morning I hit the gym and the juicer and have deflated back down to, well, 116 pounds. I even feel confident enough to prance around my condo complex’s pool this afternoon.

Besides chocolate, pasta, Netflix, and sleeping in, I’d also been indulging in an emotion that tastes good at first but makes you feel crappy later: anger. Bitter, searing, hateful anger that was finally unleashed after about six months of pent up stress and frustration. I was surprised at the grinding resentment I felt for someone who once held a very important place in my life.

And then I heard my taekwondo instructor’s voice in my head say, “Don’t let it escalate.”

A long time ago I’d jotted down a quick “gratitude list” about this person, probably when I was annoyed with them, ha ha. I’ve always kept it in my desk at work, so Monday morning I dug it out and read it again. It calmed my anger and reminded me that this person is more than just a culmination of our most recent encounters and is hurting just as much as I am. It reminded me of how much I once loved this person.

If you’ve been regularly following my blog you know I’ve been dealing with this “situation” for the last several months. I think we’re all tired of talking about it, and I’m tired of clinging to it as justification for being cranky, eating poorly, and until two months ago, drinking heavily. The anger and hatred are no longer serving me. It’s not motivating me to move forward and make bold decisions anymore.

I won’t forget and am not ready to fully forgive, but like the junk food and sleeping in and movie marathons, I can at least let the anger go. The bitterness and anger and hatred are making me just as unhealthy as the salami and chocolate were. If I let it escalate then I am responsible for the consequences. How can I possibly love myself if I’m so wrapped up in hating somebody else?

Learning to love myself has been a very long arduous learning process. My yoga practice and especially my taekwondo practice have been instrumental in helping me turn the corner. Much of it has involved learning to let go—of impossible expectations, of doubt, of fears, of hatred and anger. Do you know how many years I’ve wasted hating myself for being “fat” (as in, to the point of being suicidal) even though I’ve never weighed more than about 125 pounds? Do you know how many times I’ve silently chided myself for being stupid, boring, ugly, and a failure? How could I possibly love myself if I was so wrapped up in hating myself?

I’ve learned that I have to let go of those same feelings toward other people—the expectations, the fear, the anger when they make mistakes or when they hurt me. I have learned to let myself be a perfectly imperfect human being, and I suppose I should extend that same gesture to others who cross my path.  The weight of the negative feelings is much heavier than a few stress eating pounds (or happy eating), but easier to lose if you give it a try.

So what will I do on this new bright path?  Keep taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, keep practicing taekwondo, keep learning from mistakes and triumphs, keep growing, keep loving.

Anger Management

mad kitty

“Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon! Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!” – Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

You gotta love a great villain, especially one with deliciously quotable lines like Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars series. (Besides, that overused Yoda quote “Do or not do, there is no try” is a bunch of smarmy self-righteous crap.) Palpatine’s taunting statement made me think about anger, how we express it, when to use it to our advantage, and when to let it go.

Last night in sparring class a teenage green belt and I were minding our own business, snapping kicks and punches and chasing each other around the ring when we heard an eruption of anger from the other side of the room.

“I’M DONE! I DON’T NEED YOUR BS!” screamed a teenage black belt who has a history of mouthing off and losing his temper. For whatever reason he started shouting at our instructor during their sparring match. He stalked out of the room, leaving my partner and I to continue our fight under our instructor’s watchful eye. I felt a little bit like I did those times my brother got in trouble and I was left alone at the dinner table saying things like “Uh…this corn is good!” and trying to please my parents any way I could. There is an anger in this kid that is threatening to be unleashed. I know from experience that that type of anger will only destroy him while the rest of us look on unscathed.

Sparring can either bring out the best in us or unlock our demons. Most of the time I’m positive, curious, ready to work hard, and even jovial. I got hit in the face last night and just laughed it off, taking it as instant feedback that I needed to block and dodge faster (and I was really really thankful I always wear a mouthguard). But I can’t claim total innocence as I’ve lost my cool a few times during sparring class—no screaming eruptions like my classmate, but a I’ve thrown a few glares and muttered nasty comments under my breath. Those few times I did lose it had nothing to do with my partners or instructors or even anything to do with taekwondo. I was angry at things in my personal life and angry at myself. My hatred was poisoning me and taking me closer and closer to the dark side, whatever that means for you.

I have felt a lot of anger and hatred lately in my personal life. It ebbs and flows, reaches a boiling point and then simmers down until the next trigger is pulled. I feel intense boiling hatred for someone I’ve never met, someone who interfered in an important part of my personal life and indirectly led to the end result. This person’s interference and tricks pulled behind my back humiliated me, and I have my moments of wanting revenge. I feel my hatred toward that person much more acutely than the anger I’ve felt towards the person directly involved in my situation (I’m trying to keep this anonymous; ya’ll’ve figured out there are two people I’m talking about, right?).

I’ve been able to gain closure and do whatever forgiving I can with the person directly involved.  But it’s still easy and in a way comforting to hate this other person I’ve never met, the one who interfered in my personal life when they had no business doings so. They exist only as an idea, an effigy, a target on which I can pin all my frustrations and blame. The poison of this hatred feels good, like a hit of a dangerous drug. I’m not quite ready to let it go.

This teenage black belt and I share some of the same demons, although I’ve never disclosed that to him. The demons are not an excuse for certain behavior; they simply serve as an explanation. At this point I’m not sure sharing my story would help him. I don’t think he’s ready to be helped or to take responsibility for his own feelings and actions.

While he was aggravated and explosive, sparring class actually quieted my own anger and stress. By the end of class I wondered what all the fuss in my head was about. Taekwondo usually has a way to twist and work my mind and body to the point that my frustrations, worries, and fears are obliterated, like stamping out a burning cigarette. They’re gone with a quiet hiss. Unfortunately for my teenage classmate, I think his demons and anger are far too strong for him to, as my yoga teacher says, “rest and receive his practice.”

There are some people I can’t forgive. A particularly abusive ex-boyfriend from many years ago, a toxic former friend, this person whom I’ve never met who contributed to a very painful situation in my personal life. I know I am giving them too much lease space in my head, and I know I will never be free if I continue to hate them. But I like the anger, and I like the way the bile and bitterness feels in my veins. I rarely think of the former two people any more, but I’ve never forgotten how they treated me. My anger and intense hatred towards the third person are still raw, and I haven’t yet figured out how to put it all behind me (don’t tell me to forgive; that’s not happening).

If there’s anything positive to gain from it it’s the sense that I now have a better understanding of human nature. Some people simply can’t be trusted, and some people are snakes in the grass, waiting to strike. Anger doesn’t necessarily need to be squelched. It can be a healthy emotion that keeps us from being abused and taken advantage of. Anger can been a feedback tool to show us our own insecurities, and I’ll admit that some of my current anger and hatred stems from my own insecurity even though that other person still is a triflin’ no good dirty bi–never mind.

Uncontrolled anger turns itself back on the one feeling that emotion. It’s the old adage of swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies. They don’t tell you that the poison tastes like Coca-cola and cupcakes at first. When you discover how disgusting it is it’s too late.

I can hear my instructor saying in my head, “Don’t let it escalate,” so maybe that’s the best thing to do at this point. You can walk away from a bully or a snake. You can still be angry at them and they’ll still exist, but you’re not wasting your sight or breathing space on them anymore. It doesn’t kill them, but it keeps your fear and anger from killing you.

Sometimes just acknowledging that you feel anger and figuring out the reason why you feel it can help lessen its power.
Ahh, I feel better already.

It’s Hard to Be Depressed When You’re Doing Duckwalks…

This is what I want to do after duck walks.

…or fighting two 6’3″ guys at once…or coaching a tired, frustrated second grader…or cramming five forms into ten minutes.

Last week I didn’t go to taekwondo class at all. There was a major upheaval in my life that I saw coming, but the aftershocks are still rumbling through my quiet home and uneasy heart.  All the meditation and law-of-attraction reading and mental pep talks helped, but they didn’t stop me from sinking into a micro-depression and spening most of the weekend curled up on the couch watching Netflix. I know it’s leading to something good for everyone, but the cards haven’t been fully played yet. Who knew the best remedy would be a good healthy distraction?

I was a little worried about going back to class on Monday, or as we call it, “cardio night.” Could my weakened body handle it? I haven’t exercised much lately nor have I eaten much, so I’m whittling down to the haggard weight I was when I started taekwondo as a very troubled soul with a drinking problem and a rattled sense of self. But…I’m slowly getting my groove back. Saturday I went to an invigorating yoga class with my favorite teacher. Sunday I swam laps and my muscles sang with joy.  I haven’t cried in three days, which is  a welcome change. My mind wants to shut down and hide, but my body knows it’s time to get back in the game.

Monday was great! We had a large class, which meant lots of fast-paced drills and WAY too many giggles for a martial arts class. I needed those laughs though. I was asked to lead the warmups, and at first I hesitated since my mind and heart were still twisting and turning around recent events, but it helped me refocus. My specialty is yoga and Pilates, so I took the opportunity to take my victims–I mean, my students!–through some of my favorite poses and exercises. I came back for a double tonight–sparring and advanced red and black belt class. Surprisingly my lungs, heart, and legs (although still sore from Monday’s duck walks) kept up. I felt relaxed and at ease for the first time in a few weeks.

The dojang is the only place where I am truly and utterly present. It is such a perfect yoking of mind and body that it rivals yoga. “It’s moving meditation,” I said to my classmates in a singsongy voice when the instructor asked if we wanted to run through a few forms and they groaned in response. And it is. I didn’t realize how much I need taekwondo or my classmates and instructors until tonight.

Grandmaster cornered me before class and encouraged me not to give up. He must have noticed my absence over the past month or two, but I haven’t told him why. He noted that many people quit around red belt since they don’t see rapid progress. “Be patient,” he said, “It’s not like this,” shooting his arm straight up into the air. “It’s more like this.” He wiggled his hand to indicate tiny stair steps. One step at a time, one day at a time, one class at a time it will all work out.

Chop Wood, Carry Water (Even better if you chop with a knife-hand strike)

Axe on chopping block

Today my life changed in a significant way and leaves me to make significant choices. I have cried, fretted, raged, and analyzed more in the past two months than I have in the past year, and I am mentally exhausted. About a week ago I finally relaxed, stopped resisting, and felt amazingly light and “at rest” in my emotions. For those of you playing the Law of Attraction home game, I significantly (dare I say quantum leaped) up the emotional/vibrational ladder.
The only thing I need to do right now is stay healthy, strong, and fabulous and make it one moment at a time. A very significant person in my life shared a Zen proverb with me a few months ago:
“Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”

Life continues moment by moment, and if I can remind myself that I don’t have to “live” in my future (i.e., agonize over it) or ruminate over the past (i.e., you know the drill) then I can make it. That takes a load off my shoulder. Chop wood, carry water. Okay, I’ve got this.

What the old me would want to do is crumble. Old Me would want to lie motionless on my couch for three days straight and watch Netflix. Old Me would want to become addicted to my sleeping medication again and bonus points for washing it down with whiskey (Which is why I started taekwondo in the first place.)  Old Me would want to alternate between dulling my brain with gooey sweets and gleefully hearing my starving stomach rumble day after day. Old Me would want to flirt with dark thoughts that will thankfully never see the light of day.
Old Me would want to control the only things I have left. Old Me want to punish myself for my supposed mistakes.

You can guess by now that I am not Old Me anymore although once in a while she tries to stage a comeback tour. So far I’ve been screening her calls.

I know I’ll go on a clutter purge of my home and go on my summer detox diet, Christmas cocktails and a few goodies notwithstanding. I might have a few couch/Netflix hibernations, but I was no stranger to those already. Those dark thoughts will flirt with me but will dissolve just was quickly as they appeared. What was once so intimately familiar now seems so strange and foreign. I will have moments of loneliness and maybe even a little resentment of my current situation. I will most definitely want more than anything to escape the pain that may surge up unexpectedly. I’ve been given the advice to “sit with the discomfort” many times, but this will be the test to see if I can actually do it.

I will be challenged to actually be (and rest) in those seemingly mundane moments of metaphorically chopping wood and carrying water. I will be lost and then I will find myself again. Guided by the indomitable taekwondo spirit I will get up yet another time.

[Note: if I have completely gotten the meaning of the Zen quote wrong and you are just itching to point out what an idiot I am—save it. It means what it means to me and I will Kick. Your. Ass. Just save it.]

So what will I do? This situation has kept me out of the dojang more days than I have liked in the past month. This week I haven’t been able to go at all. It’s time to go home. I will return to taekwondo class and enjoy the camaraderie, the energy, the focus, and the love and support of that environment. And if I’m lucky I’ll tear my right rotator cuff so I have a matching set, hooray!

I will also to be listening to a LOT of Biggie and Dr. Dre for a while. That’s my power music!
Chop wood, carry water, b*tches!