Sunday, May 7, 2017

“The first thing I ever learned in roller derby is to fall, and in the author world I believe that same rule applies.”

There's a common phrase in the derby community, "Roller Derby saved my soul."  Women in derby often find themselves in the sport when they need it most.  It's empowering--it takes strength and courage, dedication.  I will have been skating for 2 years this September and have never blogged my soul-saving story.  Probably because it's ongoing.  It doesn't have a clear, Happily Ever After yet because I'm still struggling and pushing towards my derby goals.

For my 30th birthday, I went to a local roller derby bout and it was the most amazing sport I've ever witnessed.  The endurance and agility displayed is unparalleled.  Watching these women, of all sizes and backgrounds, run with skates on their feet and push with their whole bodies to break through the pack?  It was life altering, literally.  I immediately said, "I HAVE to do this."

Something clicked.  I had felt so lost in my marriage and raising 3 kids.  This was on the tail end of my symptomatic stroke and I had never been so anxious and confused as to day-to-day, much less my purpose in life.  I was dying inside from feeling so alone and unimportant--so much so, that my brain convinced my body that I was suffering from some unknown neurological disease.  I was displaying symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, but with no evidence of it on my brain.  I had such bad anxiety and sleep deprivation that my body was rebelling.  Something needed to change.  I wanted to find out what I was made of, who I really was and not what my husband and children made me into.  I loved being a mom, but there had to be more to me than what others needed of me.

I started doing Pinterest workouts geared toward derby players.  I studied the fresh meat websites to know what to expect.  And in late August, a pair of sparkly laced, white, artistic skates landed in lap.  They were leftover from the church rummage sale so they were free and they fit.  It was divine intervention because the following week was tryouts.  Showing up with soft, volleyball pads and a bike helmet and was given a spare set derby acceptable gear to borrow for the night.

The last time I had been on skates was briefly in the gravelly parking lot of my kids' gymnastics studio two days before and before that, middle school.  But I walked through the door of the rink with my stomach in my throat and laced up.  I wanted to faint, or barf, or barf then faint, or even faint then barf unconsciously all over the blue floor.  Instead, I faked the biggest sense of confidence I could muster and actually skated all the skills...except for one.  I had no clue how to stop.

Instead, I just slowly spun in a spiral until I slowed down and hoped nobody noticed I had no clue what I was doing.  It worked.  I was commended for my courage to try all the skills with no prior experience and invited to start derby bootcamp in the following weeks.  Since then, I've assessed out of fresh meat and passed the next level of skills...except one.  This time, I know how to stop but I can't seem to skate fast enough to pass my time trial.  Around the 25ft. track for 27 laps in 5 minutes or less?  What. the. fuck?  Really.  

I've attempted multiple times over the last year and half and I'm still, at least, 20 seconds away. To be honest?  It's about 90% mental by this point.  I've got such fear of the damn thing that I get anxious and my legs won't cooperate.  Once, I fell 5 times during an attempt.  It's like I couldn't feel my legs underneath me any long and down I'd plop with a loud smack on the hard floor.  At least I've trained myself to get back up when I fall.  For a while, I'd quit after the first or second slip.  It's a guaranteed non-pass when you don't even finish.  But, in some way, I was exercising control of the situation.  I only did that poorly because I chose to stop, right?  It's silly, but doing well in derby is so important to me that my stupid, anxious brain pulls crap like that.

Now, I'm jumping rope twice a day, practicing with the team 6 hours a week, and mentally prepping myself every chance I get.  My next chance to get rostered is a month away and I want it so badly I can taste it in the back of my throat, a bitter taste of jealousy against my teammates who have already begun bouting.  When I started skating, I was fearless.  I had nothing to lose and just beat the shit out of myself to do my best.  Now?  I've lost that confidence and it's showing.  I've plateaued instead of climbing the last 30 feet to the top of that derby mountain.

So, what can I do to get out of my head?  What do you all do to overcome mental blocks, if you have any?  I'm desperate to push past this feeling of inadequacy.

Today's subject line quotes is from Elizabeth J. Kolodziej

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