Not Telling differently

I finally got the protective head gear so I can spar.

My martial arts needs to go to the next level. I have to engage with a real fight. A real fight with lots of padding.

I was excited to try, but when I put on the bulky headgear, I saw that my nose is completely unprotected. That was sobering, but I was eager to do this!

So I got on the mat. The class had us all rotate through sparring everyone. And by the end, I had bruised ribs and I’d been punched in the nose twice

Twice.

It hurt a lot.
I was crying a little.
I had to think about this as I shuffled out to my car. Was this something I was willing to do again?

Why was I doing this?

Studying self-defense and martial arts was changing my world. I was learning that I was worth protecting—and how to do it.

I didn’t’ have to accept other people hurting, cornering or taking advantage of me. I could fight back and defend myself.

But this!

I was letting someone hurt me. Wasn’t that kinda the opposite of self-defense?

It felt a lot more real than the practice sessions. This was clearly a new level. I had to be willing to be hurt.

Which brings to mind a line from the Princess Bride

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something

Pain will come. And it is shocking.

What will I do with it? Avoiding it is a valid choice, but so is leaning into it.

Since the pain is coming, it would be good to have an awareness of what I could do with it.

As I held an icepack to my head, I realized I could learn to block those punches to my head.

But that meant I’d have to take a few more punches along the way.

But the difference was my sparring partner cared about me and we were practicing together.

That makes a lot of difference.

I can do a lot more when I push past what I thought my boundaries were.

Love and Life

She had been told she had 11 months to live. That lit everything in a new light.

I didn’t have time for being short with people, she said.

This woman was telling her story on YouTube, and she’d lived past the 11 months the doctor had given her. But she retained her understanding that it was not worth holding on to resentment.

There is no time for that.

I once saw a book, a story of a man walking with a monk. The two approached a stream where a rich woman expensively dressed and dripping with jewelry was standing. She demanded that the monk carry her across the stream.

“You can get across this stream as easily as we can!” the man said to her.

But the monk knelt and let the woman climb on his back. He carried her across the stream, putting her down on the other side.

They continued on their way, and the man kept talking with outrage at this presumptuous woman the whole day.

When dusk fell, the monk turned to him “I put that woman down hours ago, but you’ve been carrying her this whole time.”

That’s resentment. That load of how much wrong has been done to my precious self is too much to carry. Or even in this case, a wrong done to someone else.

In the Big Book of alcoholics anonymous, one of the twelve steps is to take inventory of your life. Bill W calls out resentment as particularly devastating. It is a poison not to be indulged in. The alcoholic will use it to justify drinking.

I’m not an alcoholic, but I am weak in many many many areas. I can’t see straight if I let resentment have room.

And it crowds out the love I want to feel, and to give, to the people around me.

When that 11-months-to-live woman brought up resentment for the second time this week, I too saw how I don’t have time for this addictive poison. That monk was right. I can put down the burden even if I take it up.

Life is too short. This small stuff deserves just enough attention to get past it, and it is serious enough not to ignore. I want to focus on love and life.

Small and Busy

They have a particular whirring-chirp sound. It’s humming bird season again, although they seem to be in my yard year-round.

These tiny miraculous bird hum and hover over the flowers I’ve planted, mingling with the bees and the other birds. They are seldom at rest and despite their extremely small size, they are ragingly fierce to one another. The male birds dive at each other in warning until one back off and finds another patch of flowers

Hummingbirds have to eat half their body weight everyday so they fly around a lot. They can’t stop

Their wings move so fast—up to 200 beats a second—it seems inconceivable.

Ever hear about how scientists determined that bumblebees can’t actually fly according to the laws of physics? The bee never did.

And nobody told the hummingbird babies to slow it down.

I’ve been feeling sluggish lately, and I’ve been kind slow in getting stuff done. Not ever hard stuff, just having trouble moving faster.

I heard an interview in which a man answered the question of how he succeeded in his career while raising his young children. “I had to do things very fast. See if you can cut it down to one tenth the time you think it will take.”

Reminded me of my hummingbirds. They are not flapping like the magpies. They have to get to those flowers and they have to get to the baby making.

No time to sit around on a tree branch.

Daylight’s burning.

Now these sparkling whizzing miracles have a new message for me. Wake up! I have stuff I need to get done.

I may think it’s too hard and it can’t be done. Those thought cross my mind regularly. Despair is always trying to find a way in.

But those baby hummingbirds get strong, and they learn how to be as fast as they need to be. They have 25 days in the nest to get strong enough to learn to beat their wing like they need to.

They see how it is done and they practice and imitate the big birds until they can do it too.

So I’m seeing the birds set an example for me too. I better figure it out. There’s work to be done and it’s up to me to find a way.

Talking about Books and more

At this time, in 1787, the constitutional convention was gathering in Philadelphia. In the history of America, this is a nearly mythological event. The men (alas, they were all men and white) got together to develop a more satisfactory document to be the foundation of this newly formed country.

They’d had the war of independence and won, to nearly everyone’s surprise. They’d been toddling along with some articles of confederacy, and that wasn’t working so well.

They came together to come up with a better plan.

That’s well-worn history. What’s interesting to me is what prep work, what reading they had done to get ready for this moment. Europeans came to America just slightly after the printing press has been invented. It could be considered that the USA was an afterbirth of the printing press is a very real way.

Americans read, and literacy was highly valued. Towns of any barely significant populace had a newspaper and they were widely read and shared.

But the books! The libraries that were shared!

I found this lovely article by Forrest McDonald

“As early as 1766 the New York Gazette and Mercury observed that “every lover of his country hath long observed with sacred pleasure, the rapid progress of knowledge in this once howling wilderness, occasioned by the vast importation of books; the many public and private libraries in all parts of the country; the great taste for reading which prevails among people of every rank.” The editorialist’s enthusiasm was well founded. By the time of the Revolution, nine sizable college libraries existed in British North America, and more than sixty subscription libraries (several of which, like Franklin’s Philadelphia Library Company, boasted that tradesmen and mechanics considerably outnumbered “gentlemen” among their users).”

Americans read. Then and now. And our culture believes in the benefit of reading, and the benefit of learning.

We do read even now. We ask questions to find out what the story is and what we should do about it.

Those signers of the constitution, they read a lot of the same books. But they had different opinions. I know they wrote to each other about their viewpoints and hashed them out in letters to one another and letters to the editors of those many newspapers. They had been chewing on these ideas for a long time.

Books are different now. Newspapers are different now. But that discourse is still going on.
Radio, then TV, and right now podcasts and YouTube are allowing news and opinion to be shared.

The conversations between experts, opinions from ordinary people, and any mix of either are going on all the time.

Books are still part of it, and so much more. We’re still discussing way to form a more perfect union.

The imperfections of Time

I’ve had to pay attention to time zone for most of my career. Coordinating meetings that include people from different time zones, I have to be careful to make sure that my systems are set to the right time. I also need to make sure that all the people are available at the time selected.

I have to remember that New York is earlier, and China and Japan are tomorrow.

There is a way to adjust the time zone- UTC. I thought it meant Universal time clock, but it actually means Universal Coordinated Time. They scrambled the order of the letters to UTC because of a bureaucratic compromise to make sure that NO one was perfectly happy. But the important part is the C stands for coordinated.

Time is coordinated? The time–which everyone all over the world references–is decided by committee?

How is that a thing?

I discovered it was a thing from reading Why Time Flies: A mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick.

The present is even more ephemeral than I understood. Designated clocks from around the world report in to the committee, and that committee aggregates the report to arrive at what the precise time was two weeks earlier.

Some of the clocks that report in are statistical outliers. Yet they are included. Everybody has their say.

I thought time and tides wait for no man.

I was wrong. Time will linger, and make room for lollygaggers in actuality.

There is room for my irregularities, as it happens. I am gladdened at this information. Things are more malleable than I had feared.

Since this is true, what else is true? Where else in my life is there more room for me? What other liberties might I take?

Some Shows Don’t Have to Go On

Show night! Dark stage, colored lights and booming microphones. Me and my daughter were both there to take the stage.

But unlike a theatrical event, we had already accomplished what we were there for. Six months ago, we had begun practicing our martial arts and today we were doing a show to end in receiving the next belt we had already earned.

We were still nervous to perform our pieces for the crowd, but the knowledge had already been embedded in our minds and expanded our muscles.

She’s been learning karate, which is more a structured and stylized art. I have been practicing Krav Maga, which is a brutally practical art developed for the Israeli army.

We talk about it: do what needs to be done to end the violence. There are devasting things I can do to an attacker’s body to end the attack.

I was not socialized to think that way. As a woman, my toolkit is smiles and distractions. Agreeable capitulation is encouraged—nay, expected. Typical female aggression is passive.

To my regret, aggression does come to me from time to time. Practicing martial arts has led me to consider how I would handle it. Capitulation is not the only option anymore.

I have practices moves that would cause an assailant to lose consciousness: Disable. That’s in my toolkit now.

We have practiced blocking a fist, closed or wielding a weapon, grabbing their wrist and placing the arm where it can’t harm us.

We’ve talked about deterrence. If a threatening person gets into my personal space, I can stand up and hold my arms out straight. I can yell “STAY AWAY FROM ME!!” to deter a potential attacker.

These are powerful tools. But my teacher sensei tell me—tells us all! —again and again the most powerful self-defense move.

What do you do when you know you are about to be attacked?

You ready?

Don’t be there.

Avoid is the best tactic. They call it practicing run jitsu. Get away. No shame, no cowardice is getting away.
Here’s my story: I went to class, and made a grocery list to do the family shopping after class. Drove over to the supermarket near the studio and walked up to the door in my black martial arts clothes. I noticed something funny was happening.

There was a police car right at the entrance. Office was in the SUV talking with two very serious store managers who were totally focused.

What is the situation here? I wanted to ask, but there was a gravity and intensity that made me hold off.

I felt the grocery list in my pocket. I looked at the store automatic doors sliding open and shut as the customers went in and out.

I looked back at the highly charged police car and all the somber people there.

That grocery story saw my back walking away. I do not need to involve myself in whatever police action is going on. 7 months ago, I would have gone right in, quelling any nerves with the judgement that I was a coward.

Nope. I have learned some serious facts. I am proud of my walk-away. It’s just fine to avoid a situation. Maybe it was nothing. I am fine with never knowing.

Discretion is famously the better part of valor.