I am proud of myself.
Eight weeks ago I started a journey I knew was way beyond my ability and because of that, it terrified me. I have never taken on a physical challenge like this and it was completely un-chartered territory.
I’m used to doing things I’m good at. This time, however, I put myself directly in the middle of my uncomfort zone, taking on something I knew, initially, I’d suck at. But there’s something about purposefully making yourself uneasy when you know something else greater waits for you on the other side. It builds character – and this time in a way I’ve never experienced. It created an internal sense of confidence which, step-by-step, made my world get bigger, better.
There were times I wanted out. I wanted to quit. I was anxious. I was fearful to the point of hating what I was doing and not knowing why I was continuing to do it. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I felt like crap about myself for not performing well. I was mean to myself. Many times, I fell into the dark abyss of comparing my lacking ability to the better performance of others. There were times I was nearly throwing up during practice. There were times I was throwing up hours before practice. But, despite my doubts and pain, I continued on. Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate.
Then I started to hear a common thread emerge. I was reading a score of other fresh meat blogs. I was talking with my own (better performing) nugget compadres. And this thing I was feeling, the shadow side of my experience, was being echoed across the ethers. At first it confounded me to hear it coming from the mouths of those I deeply admire. From those who were inches away from making their endurance requirement of 25 laps in five minutes. From those who had beautiful crossovers. From those who skated wobble-free from the very first night of boot camp.
And then, within the cacophony of this newborn requiem, I recognized it. What I’ve rightly named as Nugget Syndrome: Whereby one’s sense of self confidence and self-esteem is rocked to the core by a new-found obsession which finds itself flying above the rooftops on a towering pedestal. The vastness between reality and the obsession is so great that only a psychic tantrum such as Nugget Syndrome can provide the fuel necessary to propel one’s self forward with enough vigor to reach toward the sky. Maybe van Gogh’s ear wasn’t simply the end of the line, yet the rocket juice he needed to reach a higher plane.
Once I realized this affliction, and its commonness, I got over myself in a big way. On the heels of Viva Violence, our team captain, telling me to STFU after an engulfing whine, I dropped the Syndrome in exchange for getting closer to my destiny. Don’t get me wrong, it served me well, as I imagine it does many others after the starting gun fires. But with all relationships, there comes a time to part ways and move forward with strength. I’m glad I recognized my moment when I did instead of choosing to get stuck with a partnership that had shot its wad. We all know those are only castles burning.
I chose to celebrate my accomplishments and pay homage from where I came. It doesn’t matter how small or big they are in comparison to others. They are mine. And they have given me entrée to a sense of self-respect I have not known before. I leave these eight weeks behind and open my arms to the next phase of my derby life. I will continue working toward passing my assessments and becoming a full-fledged, bouting member of our team.
Touching the stars, or even grasping for them, isn’t easy business or for the faint of heart. It’s a job for crazies, Amazons, warriors and badasses – like me.
I have to give it to our girls. What to do on a rainy day when your home rink is outside and there’s no warehouse willing (yet) to adopt you? Most teams (all sports) would easily call a rain day and that would be that.
But not our ever-adaptive Betties. They rally in the 9th hour (and truth be told, it’s probably why they win most of their bouts).
Dino found a large conference room at UCSB, Semper brought a projector and Viva furnished a strength training/plyo derby workout vid, “Roller Derby Workout with the Heart Attacks.”
I love how our Betties get stuff done! There doesn’t seem to be any problem they can’t resolve. From little stuff (rained out practice dates) to big stuff (throwing an absolutely successful outdoor fundraiser in the middle of December). To me, these things truly highlight how well they function as a team.
I often wonder what it’s like for them to be training a group of nuggets that are sure to change the tight team dynamic they’ve lovingly cultivated and achieved. This doesn’t mean it will change for the worse. But NO doubt, the team will be a different team with new members. Makes me think of the show Sister Wives (yeah, that’s right, I’m not too proud to admit watching weirdo polygamist reality TV).
In the last season of Sister Wives, there are three wives who have all been married to the same dude for like the last 16 years, and they are all about to accept a new wife into the clan. This is because their husband has decided to take on another one. They all believe and get behind this concept, but it doesn’t mean that it comes without its bumps. They believe, in the end, an additional wife will make them stronger, better, more capable, and yeah, one more set of hands can really help out with their enormous workload (three wives, two incomes, one husband and, like, a kazillion kids).
So, like the new Sister Wife who is about to get married into the clan, I want the Betties to like me. I want them to accept me. But I also feel protective of what they’ve managed to achieve before I, and all the other nuggets, arrived. I want to tread lightly and integrate at a natural pace. It’s weird because as tough and capable they are as individuals and as a team, there’s also this beautiful fragility amongst them. I so totally want to get to the point where I can be a full-fledged member of this team, and allthewhile, I want their bubble to stay protected. Does that make any sense?
Meanwhile, Back to our Rainy Day Workout . . .
The Heart Attack girls (from the Roller Derby Workout vid) were a little on the corny side (gotta love the coordinated neon bright leotard getups with matching skate wheels and laces), with their tagline for the video being, “You don’t have to be a roller derby girl to be a knockout, but it doesn’t hurt to train like one.” Alrighty, lol.
But big time props to them for producing it and getting it out there. The exercises were pretty standard, but definitely do the trick on a rainy day. And the music was actually pretty good for a low-budge production.
The workout is led by five derby girls: Shiv, Biodiesel, Go-Go, Estro Jen, and Punk N’ Da Trunk. All these gals reign from the Angel City Derby Girls in L.A., however, (except for Shiv) all of which seem not to be with the ACDG any longer.
My favorite was Punk because she was like a jacked up Barbie version of our own coach, Dita de los Muertos. I kept imagining she was really Dita in costume, sarcastically making fun of Barbie-type derby girls. As I was leg lunging, I was day-dreaming about Dita walking in on the set and kicking this girl’s ass. Is that terrible? I know derby girls are super supportive of one another, even after battling it out in a tense bout – all friends at the end. But my mind kept wandering off as I concocted some twisted derby version of Westside Story where MAK and Dita would skate in and physically/psychologically decimate the workout Barbie girls. Off the wall? It’s okay, I don’t deny it.
OMG! Tuesday night’s practice was magic. Not only did we get to practice whips and knocking girls on their ass, I had so much fun doing it that I wasn’t even focusing on the fact I was skating. I made it through nearly the entire practice without having to sit down. I missed the last 10 minutes (wall of Violence), but was entirely proud of getting through the one hour and fifty minutes that it didn’t matter.
This is a milestone in SO many ways that I cannot stop smiling. First of all, it means that all the strength training and repetition is paying off. I am getting strong. It means instead of skating around the outside doing my modified versions of the skills, I was in the pack! I don’t want to give any wrong impressions here. There were no Ellen Page moments where suddenly I went from not knowing how to skate to being a badass Jammer. However, I was “my own hero,” and badass enough for me. Especially since I had spent the entire day throwing up and in bed but I rallied and got myself to practice. 😀
Blocking and knocking down was so much fun that, as my girl PTS Dee says, “these hips were made for blocking.” How to describe the satisfaction of throwing a booty and shoulder into a girl and watch her fly off course? It’s waaaaaaaay better than bowling. Misfit and Hiss were awesome coaches and very patient with me. And the excitement of looking over my shoulder for another victim while hearing LOC yell, “Come on Stacy! Knock one down!” was awesome. I can see/feel how this is only the baby beginnings of an addiction, the tip of the iceberg.
My husband (Scott), son (Cousteau) and I met Storm and Dee down in Ventura at Skating Plus on Wednesday night. Dee and I showed Storm some of the whips and pushing exercises she missed Tuesday. Though, it was a much milder version (we were still sore from the night before). Cousteau even got in the mix and practiced whips with Dee.
Scott got on skates for the first time since he was eight and rocked it for his first time. When I first got back on skates, I clung to his arm for two weeks straight before I could even stand on my own. Not Scott, even though Frankensteining his way around, he was up and on his own cruising around the track for two hours. I give credit to his skateboarding for giving him a giant beginner’s bump. I’m thrilled that he wants to become a derby ref as well as start playing some hockey. We’re an all-urethane family now.
I’ve had to take my own path with Boot Camp. It’s been hard watching everyone progress so much faster than me. But I’ve decided not to feel bad about this. I decided this a while ago actually. It only makes me feel like crap and it does nothing to move me forward.
So what does this mean? I go to practice, I watch the instruction carefully – committing it to memory for later use, and then I find my own versions of practicing/learning those skills. Sometimes I stick to the wall. Sometimes I sit down while everyone else is still going strong. Sometimes I skate around the outside, singing in my head, “Buffalo gals go ‘round the outside.”
I often have to separate myself from the group to do these things. And I’ll admit, it unpacks some old baggage I have left from the time in my life where I had to watch life go by instead of being able to jump in and fully participate.
When I weighed 450 lbs., watching life go by was what I did all the time, and I did it with profound sadness. But I also did it with resolve and intent that nobody pitied me. I’m sure some pitied me anyway, but I never opened the door or invited it in.
However, in some ways, I still find myself there – feeling like I’m watching as life goes by; as radically different as my life and access to freedom is now. I’m sure a small amount of other nuggets feel a sense of pride because of me. By comparison, they can feel good about a day’s work because they tell themselves they pushed their limits and never sat out on the sidelines. They, in whatever small or big way, accomplished their newly assigned skill instead of watching it be accomplished.
When I catch wind of this happening, I fantasize about increasing some skinny bitch’s body size 2 ½ times and imagining how she would feel weighing 280 lbs., trying to accomplish what I’ve been accomplishing. I can tell you this much; When I get out there and do what I do for two hours, it’s fucking exhausting, no matter how little it looks like I’m doing in comparison to everyone else. And, then, compared to how my life used to be – it’s a breeze.
But from the ABSOLUTE vast majority of everybody, I feel sheeeeeeeer, overwhelming love and support. I can hear and feel my teammates all rooting for me – the Betties, the refs, the NSOs, the other nuggets. And it’s awesome. I can’t even tell you how much it means to me or how awesome it is.
So I keep showing up. I keep using everyday as a chance to build strength in one way or another. I keep getting on my skates and beating back the fear of maiming myself. I keep promising myself it will get better, that it will get easier and more freedom is right around the corner. And I dream, every single goddamn night – until I’m exhausted sometimes – about flying around the track like it’s in my blood.
Boot Camp tonight. The rink will be open early so I’m going to try and get some extra practice in. What we’ve learned so far:
- Butt Falls
- 1-Knee Falls
- 2-Knee Falls
- 1-Knee 180
- Baseball Slide
- Figure 4s
- Sticky Feet
- 1-Foot Glides
- T Stops
- Plow Stops
- Derby Step
- Derby Hop
- Cross Overs
I’ll be starting at the top and going over these skills one at a time until I get them right.
This won’t all happen tonight, obvi. But as I go forward, this is my list. Last night I did a plyometric exercise for about an hour and a half. This morning I braved the 40-degrees outside and went down to Los Banos for a swim. It was actually a beautiful morning – crisp and sunny, though cold as shit. One thing about swimming when it’s cold out; Getting in the normally very cold water, not so bad – a 25-degree improvement.
Strength, strength, strength. The more I can build, the better off I’ll be.
I had a couple of good falls last Saturday during our beach skate adventure. The first fall was textbook but still yielded a large ass bruising. The second fall was out of control and sent my knee bending in an akward and painful way. I’ve been paying for it ever since. I’d much rather deal with a bruised ass, than a weak-feeling ligment in my knee that sends sharp pains when I bend it the wrong way. So tonight’s practice: a knee brace plus butt falls, 1-knee falls and 2-knee falls.
Derby is my physical metaphor. I’m 45 and have some demons to beat down. Bring it.
I fucking suck.
I love that our Boot Camp is including cross training. Our past two practices have both been off-skates. Saturday was strength building and plyometric exercises. This is a main focus for me.
The other day I came home discouraged again at my (lacking) level of ability. My husband said something simple that put it in perspective. I love how men can do that. He told me that everything I’m doing is about building strength, not skills. He said that while everyone else may be skill building, I’m using these skills as a way to build strength. He also pointed out there’s no way that I can build skills until I first have the strength to do it. Duh.
I can will myself to complete these new skills all I want but for now it’s like telling someone to lie on a table and levitate. I can want it really badly, but it won’t come together until my body is capable of it. So I will try and get strong without damaging myself and keep body memory notes of these skills close to my chest, until I’m ready to pounce.
Last night we met in the windy cold at Elings park for our 7 p.m. practice. We reviewed derby rules then did tennis shoe derby drills. We have A LOT of nuggets and these are some die-hard gals. Freeway traffic was snarled due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the wind was blowing, it was butt-ass cold and the grass was still wet from rain an hour before. I was curious as to how many people were actually going to show up for practice. Amazingly, I think we had nearly 40 (of our approximately 50) nuggets there.
We formed two parallel lines then took turns moving down the line in small groups practicing blocking skills. Tough. A Bettie was usually placed in back as the Jammer and two nuggets had to move down the 50-foot line trying to prevent her from passing. Afterward, we practiced a solid 20 minutes of body checking. Slamming into a partner while keeping balance, or conversely, getting slammed while keeping balanced. At this point it makes my mind reel as to how to do this successfully on skates. One day at a time. Breathe.
Needless to say, I am bruised and sore today. I sucked at blocking down the line, but I’m pretty good at body checking. Doing the bump in my disco queen past helped out, just had to throw a little more force with that hip. My back feels fucked up today but it was fun. I was paired with Semper Fatale, who is probably half my size. That girl has some strength because she mostly managed to stay planted when I hip checked her.
I need to focus on core strength building and battling my self-esteem. This is where my work is.
P.S. The Betties have matched us up with our mentors and I’m STOKED!!!! My mentor is Lem. I love her.
I’m totally falling in love with my Betties. I admit, this might be Stockholm Syndrome setting in, but it doesn’t really matter. Every single one of these girls has an amazingly quick wit and they all like to play rough. I think I’ve found my tribe. No withering violets here. Thank God. I get so tired of feeling choked out by the ethos of political correctness and everyone being so nice all the time.
The Betties play such a good game of “You’re so Fat,” it makes normal “Your Mama” jokes look like toddler time. One of the milder examples from the other night – Dita to another Bettie: “You left your bra at my house so I’ve been using as a bag for my bowling balls.” =) But Miss One-Liner Dita has a depth of character simmering beneath the surface that some might miss unless they looked more closely. She’s funny as hell and the girlfriend you want to sit in the back of the class with, but know that whatever hasn’t killed her has made her stronger.
MAK, at the last Bettie bout of the season, got so pissed at the refs she led the crowd in an un-rhyming chant that only she could pull off, bringing people to their feet and shouting along to, “Get your dick out of her ass and read the fucking RU-LE book. Get your dick out of her ass and read the fucking RU-LE book.” 100% derby. There is a Bettie Code to keep games family-friendly, but shit slips out now and then. MAK is incredibly sharp, doesn’t miss a beat and what you see is what you get. No apologies. ♥
Viva – She looks like everything Gwen Stefani strives to be with the most beautiful face and fullest red lips. Humble and sweet with a FIERCE competitor inside and amazeballs of steal. She’s tiny and gets knocked around but is incredibly tough. Pair that with the fact she’s a doctoral candidate at UCSB in mechanical engineering. Quantum computing time travel shit. She’s my baby Einstein. ♥
Lem – All Betties, I’m learning, specialize in the concept of paradox. Lem is another fierce competitor but also has the soul of a baby kitten. Lem will be the one helping your great-grandmother across the street and bringing cookies when you’re down (albeit with an ulterior motive to get just a little more homemade matzo ball soup out of someone’s mom), while simultaneously fending off body checks with the ability to only spill a drop or two of coffee. She jokes about herself being like an awkward baby giraffe, but truth be told she’s a fluid example of grace rolled into beauty — mind, body and soul.
Kiki is a powerhouse, through and through, and looks like Gina Gershon only with a beautiful mane of red hair. My guess – she is one of the most loyal of friends you’ll ever meet. She stands for zero bullshit and is a multi-tasker extraordinaire. She is an amazing architect (literally) and runs her own business. She keeps her vulnerabilities close to her chest but has these incredible eyes that can’t hide her depth.
Stay tuned for more! Coming up in Girl Crush, Part Two – Roxie, Deuce, Booty, Danger, Vino, Loc & Hiss!
This evening marked the first night I’ve been at an indoor roller rink since I was 16. And another milestone for me tonight: skating in a large crowd. Even though it may not seem like a big deal – skating when you’re a rookie, surrounded by people, is not easy. It’s fucking nerve-wracking. Especially when I see a five-year-old who looks like he’s on skates for the first time cut me off and me, knowing full-well there’s not a thing I can do to prevent a crash disaster at my current skill level. “Live long and prosper, dude,” was seriously the only thought going through my mind.
But as the sk8 Gods would have it, tragedy was avoided several times throughout the night and it felt gooooood to be back in a roller rink with music pumping. Next time I bring the glitter lip gloss.
We ran into Miss Hiss and Kitten. It was comforting to see some familiar faces and know at least two people weren’t going to laugh (outwardly) at me for being the *only* person in full combat gear.
I still had trouble skating right at the beginning from the rush of adrenaline/fear. But that thankfully faded after a little bit. Getting over that, and adjusting to the dizzy factor strobe lighting can cause, I did okay.
Here are some video highlights. Drum roll please . . . . . . . . this is the first official video of me skating – ever. Video wasn’t the trend de rigeur when I was a teenager, so here’s history in the making. =)
Only had an hour to practice tonight but it was productive! My son has been coming Thursday nights and coaching me. He’s really good at it. When I hear his words of encouragement along with his tough “you can do this” attitude, I’m seeing myself mirrored back at me. I can see all the years of encouragement I’ve poured into him, pouring right back into me. An awesome circle of life.
Tonight he got me to attempt T-Stops again. I didn’t want to but he pushed it. In a very baby way, I am getting it! I can actually put my right skate behind my left at a 90 degree angle and skid myself to a stop – without breaking a leg. Yaaaaaay! No where near snow plows or tomahawks, though.
I also had my first not-on-purpose fall tonight. Skated right into some small metal screw (I can really understand that elephant/mouse fear thing), and that was it. Going down. At first I was all over the place, Gumby style. Then without even thinking about it, body memory took over and threw that left knee down into a deep lunge, skidding me to a (somewhat) graceful stop. Another small achievement!
I repeated the cross-over exercise I did with Kiki Tuesday night and practiced derby hops holding onto the wall (rest in a crouched position on toe stops, leap up, skates off the ground, landing again in a crouched position). I made sure to shock-absorb into a low crouch and maximize the strength building in my thighs (ouch).
It’s hard to comprehend that I’ve only been doing this for a week and a half. Wow. I’ve made it my life for right now and it seems like so much more than a week. Tonight I started seeing the first tiny results of strength building and how it’s beginning to work for me. =D.