If Only The Shins Were Just A Band

So this past Thursday was a unique day in my practice history, because I just utterly lost.my.shit.

It’s not like I’ve never been frustrated before; this is derby, after all, and I am an irritable bastard. Frustration is part of the package. Usually, though, I get frustrated (almost universally with myself), and then I’m like

and then I get back to doing something. Anything. Even if it’s barely a thing at all, even if it’s sitting on the couch, even if it’s trying to massage my shins into submission and accidentally exploding a tube of Bengay on myself, I don’t give up: I change course.

Thursday, “changing course” meant “getting the fuck out of dodge and crying in the parking lot like a slapped schoolchild.”

Huh. I’ve been skating for nearly two years, but that’s never happened before. Why Thursday?

–Because since I got back on the track three weeks ago, I’ve had days where my shins did not act up at all, and I’ve had uncomfortable-but-work-through-able shin days, and I’ve had days where my shins were all  you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.

–Because that thing I just described? That has left me feeling bugshit crazy. Like, “GURL, we talked about this, you were gonna stop smokin that crack” crazy. That is not a fun way to feel, particularly when you are on roller skates around a bunch of other people and it feels like someone is trying to rip your shins apart from the inside.

–Because Morty was coaching, and I heart Morty, and I wanted to be all “look Morty look how hard I worked on getting better look I can cross over all the way around the track now LOOOOOOK,” because apparently I am a two-year-old who just wants someone I admire to be proud of me, but instead my shins went “YOU WILL NOT GO TO SPACE TODAY” and I fell way short of my best–or even mediocrest–performance.

–Because I feel like I should be a better skater by now, even when I’m at my best, and I was so miserably far from even that modest level. Ugh.

–Because I started dealing with this shin stuff in June and it’s January of THE NEXT YEAR and it’s still pwning my ass.

So, TL;DR: I HAVE TOO MANY FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS.

However, as my dad used to tell me when I had small-child meltdowns in public, “Nobody came here to hear you cry.” The real question here is, Now What? Certainly the least stressful option would be to quit derby, but that isn’t an option any more than robotic shins are an option (COME ON PEOPLE THIS IS THE FUTURE WHERE ARE MY ROBOTIC SHINS).

I think I’m going to put together a list of soothing things to focus on when the injury frustration gets to be too much. I may do this while on the couch at practice today. First item: there is no shame in watching practice instead of skating. No, really. There’s not. Stop hating yourself. (Anyone else having flashbacks to siblings grabbing your hand and smacking you upside the head with it while chanting, “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself?” No? Okay. Just one of those grew-up-in-the-sticks Midwestern things, then.)

In conclusion,

Nothing Fails Like Success

I am in a crap headspace with derby lately. You ever get there? That space where you’re like “oh God what am I doing, this thing is eating my time and walloping my body and let’s not mention what my gearhead ways have done to my bank account,” and you (a hypothetical “you”) stay home and read fanfic (a hypothetical fanfic that I am DEFINITELY NOT CONFESSING TO READING) instead of driving up to Lynnwood to skate because you’re afraid that everyone will judge you for how out of shape you are and that you’ll somehow fail (?)

And you’re crushingly aware that staying home on the couch is the only real way to fail, which is exactly what you’ve done, so you’re like “oh fuck it, I fail, what’s the point,” and you walk to MarketTime at 10:30 at night to get cheese and pepperoni and crackers so you can have a fat-and-sodium-studded self-loathing party complete with that “modestly priced” Merlot you found at Wine World, and… you know we’re still talking only in hypotheticals, right? Right??

*sigh* Look, I’m lying out my bruised ass, okay? I just got back from MarketTime, there is an utterly inexcusable quantity of pepperoni and smoked Gouda waiting to be slapped onto an utterly inexcusable quantity of crackers, and I read the hell out of fanfic. DEAL.

But you know, the thing is, I am being totally predictable. This crap headspace? It comes up in every aspect of my life, and it comes up when things start to go well.

What?

You heard me: nothing derails me like failing to fail.

See, even with the hot mess that is my body from the hips down, my derby life has been going pretty well lately. I’m in PT. I’m blocking better. My pack and track awareness is way, way higher. I’m faster than ever. I’ve finally got my gear sorted and I feel completely satisfied with every component of my skates. I became eligible to submit my derby name/s to Two Evils. I’ve bonded with my leaguemates and delight in spending time with them. I’m at the beginning of a three-month “get in more better shape for December Rat tryouts” effort with one of them. Everything’s comin’ up Jess, yo.

Which is SCARY.

Because there’s Actual Potential there, and therefore there’s the potential for me to screw things up utterly, and if I give it my whole effort and still screw up, that will hurt so.bad. It’s easier to screw it up on purpose, thereby protecting myself from the pain of screwing it up on accident: enter couch-and-pepperoni times.

You may be thinking, “Jess, you are kind of an idiot.” Fear not, Dear Reader, you will get no argument from me. I would like to point out, however, that I am aware that I am an idiot, and that is a not-insignificant step towards perhaps being less of one. Just sayin’.

I’m still hitting the fanfic tonight, though. Chapter 28 ain’t gonna read itself.

No Crumpets

Yesterday evening, a few PFMers and I dropped in at a Rainier Roller Girls practice. I’d scrimmaged with them during our PFM/Rainier faceoff, but had never gone to one of their practices.

It was good times! Supportive ladies, lots of stretching/working out after warm-ups, and I got a chance to practice one-knee taps on my “less awesome” knee (verdict: still not awesome, but more awesome than it was!) When we partnered up for drills, I got paired with Orpheus, which was boss as hell; she’s a scary-good skater who actually likes to teach (WIN), and I dig her personality. Victory dance after breaking through a wall? Yes please!

During warm-ups, we were in a pace line (natch) doing Swedish miles. I kinda love to hate those things–or hate to love them–something. :p Anyway, when my turn came, my slow ass finally caught up to the pace line. I was huffing and puffing and generally feeling like my body was a poorly-riveted steampunk aeroship that was going to explode in a shower of plate metal and rusty bolts, and I noticed that the dude-I-suck-so-much-why-waste-my-time-pretending-I-will-ever-be-good-at-this thought litany started up, and then…

… then I had an epiphany. Just, boom, out of nowhere. And it went as follows: “Jess. You think ALL. DAY. All the time. And practice? It’s your chance to stop. It’s a gift, so for the love of God, stop thinking and skate.

And, holy-Christmas-miracle-Batman, I did.

Fast-forward to the jam-against-a-three-wall drill. I’m jamming. I’ve got Jammer Brain on, which means I know no fear (good) and fear no penalty (hurrrp less good but I’m working on it). I have one lap to get past this wall, and as we come out of Turn Four, I try to take the inside line. A blocker comes to push me out, and for once, my immediate reaction is not “oh crumpets out I go”, it is “OH HELL NAH”. I hip-check her without thinking about it, she falls, and I skate past the wall.

OMIGOD THAT HAPPENED. It did. It’s only one “hooray” and that’s only a beginning, but it comes after countless times of being stuck behind a wall with no idea of how to get out, of wiping myself out when I tried to step through holes, of getting shoved out without being able to push back, of getting shoved out without pushing back even occurring to me, of falling on my ass because I left myself open to getting nailed. So making a hole for myself and getting through it? Huge, huge progress.

I think this calls for a victory dance.

The Bacon, She Is Made

I finished Bacon with perfect attendance. Scrimmage was addictive. Learning was happened. (Grammar, apparently, not so much.) Now what? My goal is that when I attend Bacon next year, I will be:
  • physically capable of completing all of the warm-ups and assisting struggling skaters from day one;
  • mentally alert with high pack awareness and thorough understanding of the rules;
  • emotionally confident and focused on positive outcomes;
  • socially proactive and highly encouraging of every skater and vocally grateful for the coaches;
  • able to skate an entire Rat City tryout by the time camp is over.
And, to break down what it will concretely take to achieve these goals…
  • To meet my physical goals, I need more endurance and more strength. I also need to improve my crossovers so that I can maintain the speed necessary to complete the warm-ups; more than anything else, I need to improve my stops so that I can safely decrease said speed. Actions: I will do Carmen Getsome’s plyometric workout at least once a week, practice stops at Lynnwood and PFM, and go to Team Lightning weekly practices when they resume.
  • To meet my mental goals, I need more time on skates. More comfortable on skates = less mental energy devoted to what my body is doing = more mental energy devoted to what is going on around me and what I can legally do in response. Actions: I will join PFM Core and continue session skating; I will also continue to study the WFTDA ruleset.
  • To meet my emotional goals, I need to increase my confidence until I genuinely believe that I am a future rollergirl. Actions: I will remind myself of stories like Dee Cap’s, Finny’s, and Slutnik’s at least once a day to reinforce that improvement does happen over time as long as you keep working. I will say to myself at least once a day, “I am a future rollergirl”, and I will visualize myself as a leagued skater.
  • To meet my social goals, I need to keep up my current practices, as I am strong in this dimension of derby-ness. Actions: I will praise at least one skater at or after every practice and thank at least one coach at or after every practice.
  • To meet my Rat City tryout goal, I need to act like I’m on a mission from Gahd. Actions: I will meet all of the action items above, plus pray to Nasal Midwestern Gahd to use some clout and get me through. 😉

There you have it: the roadmap to Bacon 2013. It’s gonna be sweet. 😀

Careless Talk

So I haven’t written in a while. Does that mean that not much has happened? Pff! Dear Reader, you misunderestimate me. Allow me to recap:

–For most of March, I skated with the lovely and kind ladies at One World Roller Derby. They taught me beaucoup, evaluated me, and offered me a spot on one of their four new teams. I was all “yay!” and then all “omgwtfbbq I already am sleep-deprived on an unteamed practice schedule what am I thinking?” So I decided to be a drop-in skater instead, which is cool, because I can enjoy their awesomeness when I’m up for it, and I can stay home and sleep when I’m up for that, and do either without affecting team unity. Is suave! 
–Then I got sick. Then I got well, and then I got sick again, and then I got well, and then I got sick again, only this time I threw up for a solid ninety minutes and ended up in the hospital hooked up to an IV. It may surprise you, but I did not do a hell of a lot of skating throughout that process.
–I went to the doctor, and was referred to a chiropractor, and learned that I was on the sickercoaster because my back was utterly janked (in part from falling down the stairs in March and faceplanting into a wall, AWESOME) and as a result my immune system was hamstrung. Very cool, in the “very uncool” sense. Started treatment for that and am slowly feeling better.
–As part of an “I’ll do it if you do it” pact with a fabulous derbyfriend, I signed up for Bacon. Definitely feelin’ the old Impostor Syndrome kicking in (“oh no I shouldn’t have signed up for Novice Derby level I haven’t even scrimmaged I’ll suck and they’ll hate me for wasting their time aah“), but dammit, I’ve been skating for over a year. I’m not great. Some days, I’m not even meh. But I can make it through a regular PFM practice without dropping out of any drills, I don’t take criticism personally and I try new things even when they scare me–if that ain’t enough, they can bump me down to Beginning Skater, no hard feelings.
–I realized that I am incredibly hard on myself. See, I’ve barely skated since the sick stuff started. From this fact, I concluded that I was No Longer A Skater and Totally Washed Up. Even though I am currently WEARING MY SKATES, this afternoon’s inner dialogue went like so:

NiceJess: Man, it’s so nice to be on skates again. Thanks for letting me skate around the office on Fridays, Employer!
MeanJess: You skated down a carpeted hallway at a crawl.  
NiceJess: … but I skated!
MeanJess: Yeah, that makes three times on skates in the last two weeks. Real badass. Watch out, Carmen Getsome, Li’l Miss Hallway here is comin’ for you.
NiceJess: I’ve been sick.
MeanJess: With the lazy.
NiceJess: I thought that was called “recovery”.
MeanJess: “Recovery” is what you do after a workout. Did you work out? No? Then you weren’t recovering. Real skaters skate, period.
NiceJess: *crawls under the desk and tries not to choke on her self-loathing*

Why am I such a schmuck to myself? I don’t talk to other people like that. I don’t talk about other people like that. It’s hurtful and discompassionate and small, and I strive not to be any of those things. So why is it okay for me to cut myself down?

Short answer is, it’s not. As I ease back into skating (hi Lynnwood!), I’m going to focus on one thing: positive self-talk. I have total faith that I will pick up all things skating and derby by attending practices, especially the crucible that is Bacon, but I gotta teach myself to cheerlead… myself.

What’s your self-talk like? Are you content with it? Does it help you? What does a “good” self-talk day look like for you?

Impostor Syndrome

You’re at practice. The coach blows her whistle, the drill rattles to a halt, and the coach’s finger points straight at you: “You!”, she yells. “You with the shallow crossovers and the lousy stance! You don’t belong. Get outta here!” Dejected, you shuck off your gear and drag yourself back to your car, listening to the sounds of the real skaters finishing their drill as the stench of defeat–or possibly of wrist guards–shoves its unpleasant way into your nose.

Have you ever worried that this scenario might happen to you? If so, you may have a wee touch of impostor syndrome. According to the ‘Pedia, impostor syndrome “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” Unable to internalize my accomplishments? Moi? Okay, you got me: I struggle with that. Hard.

For me, this struggle has tremendous implications for learning derby. Successfully crossing over in the clockwise direction? Y’know, the wheels/trucks/floor surface/song/crowd happened to gel. I’m lucky that all the variables lined up, that’s all. When I can’t learn a new move as fast as everyone else, though? That has nothing to do with variables: I just suck.

Feeling like a derby fake also affects my sense of belonging at any given practice. To the eternal credit of the leagues in the area, I have never, ever been made to feel unwelcome at practice. Each league’s skaters have been friendly, helpful, and willing to meet newbies where they are. I’ve even crashed folks’ practices at Lynnwood–hey, if I’m there, and you’re there, I’m gonna say hi! When they recognize compulsive befriending syndrome, I’ll be their poster child. :p Never once in the year (!) that I have been skating has anyone been derisive to or dismissive of me.

Yet for all that, I have a chronic inner sense that I don’t really belong here. I feel like there’s some Seekrit Password only given out to Real Skaters, and I don’t have it, because I’m not one.

That’s bunk, of course. There is no password, and even if there was, I’m plenty real. I schlep my behind to practices and session skates. I do plyos at stoplights. I lace up at my workplace and skate through the halls. My wrists have gear funk no matter how diligently I scrub them, for God’s sake: I think I’ve established that I’m not in this for the fishnets.

So why don’t I feel legit? Self-image. At the rink, other skaters come up to me and ask which league I skate with. In my head, I’m still the girl who can’t stand herself up to try on her skates. I still feel scared and clumsy and green. I’d like to update my self-concept to reflect what I am currently capable of, and to focus on the horizon because I am capable of so.much.more as long I keep skating.

That’s my advice for all of us who feel like impostors, I guess: keep skating. Keep rubbing your nose in how far you’ve come, in how much you can do. One day, you’ll feel as legit as you are.

Abject Adoration

So today I went to regular PFM practice for the second time. I found that I spent less of it thinking, “Oh God, why did they pass me out of New Skater, I’m going to die or kill someone O HAI FLOOR,” and more of it just skating without thinking a whole lot of anything, so that was cool.

I fell down a bunch today. Seekrit hint for any worried newbies out there: it is not a big deal. No one gives a shit. You fall, you get up, you keep skating. Our gear is pretty awesome, and it for srsly does not hurt to wipe out onto your knees and elbows.

Skated in a pack for the first time, did my first worm, first time of grazing other skaters and having them graze me (I hesitate to call it “contact” as we were only doing positional blocking). It turns out that this is Fun. I thought it would be Fucking Scary, and was soil-my-trousers scared of it, but I was wrong.

I only found out that I was wrong because the skaters at PFM are the best freaking people anywhere. I was skating around the rink during the Worm drills, working on skating (and particularly turning) on one (and particularly my left) foot instead of doing the Worm. I thought there was no frickin’ way I would be able to do the drill, that my stepping wasn’t good enough yet, that my control wasn’t good enough yet, that my whatever-it-is-I-lack-that-everyone-else-has would endanger someone.

When the other skaters started in on the slight-contact round of the drill, a skater named Stormy asked why I was skating around the rink instead of participating in the drill. Because I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m shitscared and I’m going to fucking cry any second, I thought.

I’m not terribly smart, but even I was able to put together that bursting into tears was not the thing to do, so I murmured something about being new to skating and new to PFM and not wanting to fuck up the drill with my epic suck.

“Okay,” Stormy said, “but here’s the thing. It would be really fucking cool if you stepped in and did this drill right now, ’cause when you get to the front of that line, you are going to feel better than you have ever felt. C’mon. Let’s work on some stuff over here.”

And she blocked me, and had me take the inside line around her, and the outside line, and skated around me so I’d know what it was like to have someone skate right-the-fuck in front of me. Then she had me join the drill. The line slowed down for me and cheered me on, and holy shit, I made it through eventually.

Not gonna lie, I feel like crying like a slapped schoolchild. Thank you, skaters of PFM, for your grace, and your kindness, and your patience. Thank you for extending your awesomeness to me, and thereby teaching me how to do the same for others. Stormy, any time you need someone to kneel at your skates and gaze at you adoringly (or, y’know, do more useful stuff, but I’m still gonna look like a puppy who would follow you to the end of the earth), holler.