The Assault

I almost didn’t go.

He threw punches hard – right at my face.  I kept my hands up to protect myself, but it took all my strength to stop the blows.  I focused every ounce of my attention on blocking his fists as they came barreling towards me.  He hit hard – he was the same height as me, but at least 50 pounds heavier – all muscle.  And I was still weak, recovering from the recent birth.

I wasn’t ready. The roast chicken was just finished and straight out of the oven.  The kids weren’t even fed yet and Husband was still at work.  There was no way I could go, even if I wanted to.   My phone buzzed – A message from Husband: Are you going?  I’ll meet you there to pick up the kids… Don’t worry, I’ll feed them later… I don’t want you to miss it because of me.

It was my turn now.  I finally got my opportunity to hit him.  I used all my strength, but there wasn’t much.  I wasn’t very coordinated either: punching someone’s face is just not something that comes naturally.  Left fist jab, right fist power… those were the instructions, I remembered.  All my power was barely enough to make him flinch.  He took them though. He let me hit him and I gained confidence in my ability.  I didn’t stop for a full minute.

I rushed up the stairs to change, leaving the golden chicken, half carved on the cutting board.  I yelled down the stairs for the kids to get ready to leave.  I packed up the baby and into the van we piled.  I was going to be late, but that’s better than missing it entirely.

I’ve met him before; a polite, older gentleman… it seemed.  He used to come with his son, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the teenage kid.  We’ve exchanged polite pleasantries in the past, but we’ve never really spoken more than that.  Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was strong and that I would never stand a chance.

Husband arrived shortly after I did.  He ushered the kids out and left me there for my class, alone.  It was glorious to finally have my time to myself.  After a day of hashing out work issues and my recent discriminatory evaluation, I was deflated, exhausted, and feeling defeated.  I wasn’t really in the mood for conditioning, but I figured the physical activity would be good for me.

After I finished my round of punches, he started at me again.  This time he added in the elbow strike to the face.  Here was my chance!  He was stronger than me, but in his older age, he lacked the coordination to properly execute the move.  He was slowing down with each change of motion.  The blows were not as hard.  If I wanted to, I could have overpowered him in this weakness. But I didn’t.  I let him finish.

The conditioning circuit was a challenge, even after being back for almost two months.  Fifteen stations, one minute each, with a fifteen second break in between.  My heart was racing but I was starting to feel better.  I’m glad Husband forced me to go… this is what I needed.

Another minute was over.  I had gained confidence after seeing my opponent’s weakness.  It was my turn.  The elbow strike to the face was challenging, but I adapted quickly.  Now it was him who almost couldn’t keep up with me.  Left jab, right power, left elbow to the face.  Harder and Harder each time.  More speed.  More power.  I didn’t even see my opponent anymore.  Instead, I imagined hitting the face of the person responsible for all the stress and anguish I’ve been through.  It felt good… No, it felt exhilarating!  One minute was not long enough.

When the circuit was over, it was time for some partner work.  My usual partner is another woman similar in age to me.  We met up to start the drill.  However, we were separated because she was much shorter than me.  For this drill we needed to be similar heights. I was matched up with the older gentleman.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to match his strength well.   The instructor then handed out the hand pads and explained the drill.

One last drill: him first, then me.  Left fist jab, right fist power, left elbow to the face, right elbow straight up under the chin.  Yes!  One more power blow to really drive it home.  I held the pads for my opponent while he struggled with the coordination of the drill.  I spoke the moves aloud to help him with his concentration.  I wasn’t vulnerable anymore.  I had the power.  I gave him the pads after his minute was over.  Now it was my turn.  With each successive drill I gained power and confidence.  That jerk, with that smug, “I have power over you” look on his face stood no chance.  With each impact my body made with the pads I imagined him struggling and reeling in pain.  YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.  I AM STRONGER THAN YOU.  My minute was over.  My fists were sore, my elbows raw.  But in my head I saw his face, dejected, battered, and bruised.  I had won the fight.

The punching drills were challenging, leaving my arms tired and sore by the end.  Regardless, I felt great.  I dropped the pads to the floor and faced my older, male partner.  We shook hands and bowed towards each other.  I thanked him, and him me.  “You’ve got quite the power and coordination,” he said to me.  “Great Job.”  I felt a small amount of guilt imagining beating someone else to the ground, but I quickly shook it off. He deserves it, even if it’s only in my imagination.  I was thankful that I scrambled to come to class.

And in my victory, I went home to eat my cold roast chicken.  It was delicious.

“This is Happy” – Book Review

It has been a long time since I’ve started and completed a book in less than 4 days.  This is Happy by Camilla Gibb is one book that had me captivated from the first few pages right until the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

I don’t know where to start with my review of this book, except to say that it is simple yet profound all at the same time.  In 270 odd pages she manages to tell the story of her entire life, from her early childhood to her current life. It seems like a short amount of space to dedicate to almost 40 years of a person’s life.  However, she manages to capture everything that is meaningful, powerful, emotional, and human while succinctly conveying the struggles and triumphs of her life.

I feel like the biggest reason I was so captivated by the simple and straightforward writing in this book was because sometimes I felt like she was describing the exact same emotional and mental struggles that I, myself have had throughout my life.  Camilla Gibb shamelessly recounts her multiple struggles with depression, including her hospitalizations.  She discusses the mental health struggles of her family members, the rise and fall of her relationship and marriage to her wife, her sudden and unpredictable desire to have a child, her failed pregnancy, and then her successful pregnancy… all that and more.

What I found most profound was her struggles with pregnancy and parenthood; specifically, how she felt so drawn towards having a child and then spent her entire pregnancy wondering how she was going to love and care for her child.  After the birth of her daughter, she continues this emotional journey and expresses her fear of having to “be alone” with her daughter – like she doesn’t know if her version of parenthood and the emotions she feels towards to role are proper and acceptable.  Yet, she feels compelled to try again for another child.

For the first time I feel I have finally read an expression of parenthood that is similar to how I can feel at various moments in my life.  Instead of the overwhelming “Mommy Wars” that I see happening everywhere around me, I have found someone who expresses their fears, uncertainties, and truths associated with parenting: Am I doing this right?  Am I doing it for the right reasons? And, is it okay to feel like I’m not doing it right?

Camilla Gibb’s recollection of her struggles with parenthood is only one of the moments that seemed to parallel my life.  It seems most pronounced now, given my recently new pregnancy and all the uncertainty I feel around a decision that I thought I was happy to make.  Some other important parallels I found including the sudden and somewhat unexplained loss of an important relationship in her life.  While she desribes the rise and fall of her relationship with her wife, I can claim a similar emotional experience in the rise and fall of my relationship with my old friend and mentor, Kay.  Another area that is overwhelmingly familiar: the constant struggle from an early age with the dark and unpredictable tendrils of depression.  Camilla’s rendition of her multiple struggles with depression throughout her life seemed to echo strongly inside of me.

And yet, with all of this difficult times written out on paper and shared with the harsh and unforgiving world, she made the decision to title her book, “This is Happy.”  This is Happy: struggles with depression, anxieties and uncertainties around parenthood, loss of relationships, mental illness… But there is also the beauty of her life that shines though: Her Daughter.  Those unexpected relationships that she formed in her life and became the most meaningful and influential.  Her success in life, academically and as a writer.  She is someone who made her life what she wanted it to be, despite everything that she struggled to overcome.

This book resonated with me in ways that I am still discovering, even as I write this review.  Life is messy, unforgiving, full of struggle and heartache.  Despite all of that, however, life is beautiful, meaningful, rewarding… and Happy.

From the Beginning

Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.

—Plato, The Republic
Today I start from the beginning.  But where is that. you ask?
The beginning is really only where the previous end left off, in much the same way that Plato’s bewilderment comes from either coming or going into the light.  Or, maybe it has more to do with seeing from the mind’s eye instead of the body’s eye.
Recently, I have come in from the light (or did I go out into the ligh?  I still don’t really know).  What I have learned, though, is that nothing is ever as it seems: it is never as straightforward, fair, decent, understanding, or utopian as you might have ever believed it to be.
Perhaps this misunderstanding – or incongruent understanding of the human condition – comes from using the wrong eye to look at the world.  I want to believe that to be the case.  And so, as I start off on this new adventure in the world of blogging I will do my best to look forward with the eye of my mind rather than that of my body.
I have said good-bye to a previous blogging adventure, and with nothing shallower than a lake of tears.  With this new path I hope to take what I’ve learned and grow more in my attempts to live honestly, wholeheartedly, and entrenched in authenticity.  I hope to bring elements from the past back to lighten my journey.  Yet, this is also an opportunity for me to close a chapter (or two, or two hundred) in my life that no longer needs to be open.
Perhaps that is exactly what this whole “Living with Authenticity” is meant to be: knowing when to hold on, knowing when to let go, and doing everything in between with strength, integrity, and honesty.