Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Month 2: To Train Or Not To Train

{Prologue, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4}
{Month 2, Month 3, Month 4, Month 5, Month 6, Month 7, Month 8, 2016 WSD, Month 11, Month 12, Month 18}

Whenever there's a thunderstorm, I get a migraine. The mass of angry water in the air beckons to the water in my body which, in its eagerness to ascend and join the throngs in the sky, crowds into my skull and tries to punch its way out through my eye socket.

That's my theory, anyway.

It has rained every day for weeks. Awesome for the drought, but not so much for my cranium (or the homes of anyone living near one of the bajillion creeks and rivers around here, but that's a different blog post). Marathon games of Dodge The Skull-Pain, which I don’t always win, tend to leave me narrow-eyed and growly, with a fast-burning fuse cut several inches too short. I’m generally unfit company for anyone who doesn’t love me enough to forgive my snarling. It’s best for all parties involved if I just find a cave to hibernate in till the weather improves.

Long story short (too late), I didn’t want to go to Kung Fu.

Hip-deep into my second month of training, and my momentum finally hit a speed bump. I’ve been going to training twice a week like clockwork, and working on my own at home every day. Sometimes it’s just Siu Nim Tao in my jammies, but that totally counts. Given my madcap immune system and natural tendency towards laziness, that pace is nothing short of epic. An excuse to slow down was bound to tempt me eventually, and this ice pick in my right eye was just the thing.

It was perfect. Nobody would judge me if I took a day off from training because the joints in my skull were creaking apart.

Except me. I would judge me. For skipping out on the thing that is most healthy for me (training) so that I can sit at home and wallow in that which is most unhealthy (agonized misanthropy). I would judge me so hard.

And … I did manage to handle my kids' after school wackiness without biting anyone's face off.
And … I did somehow finesse the perfect balance of coffee and medication to get myself mostly pain-free right around class time.
And ... just because Simo would totally understand if I called in sick didn't mean that I wouldn't know the truth, that I could have gone, I just didn't try very hard to make myself go.
And … I’ve met me, so I know that if I let myself skip training just because I kinda don't feel good, I'll never set foot in that school again, so okay FINE, look at me putting on my red shirt and scrambling for my car keys, I’m going to Kung Fu, are you HAPPY NOW, SELF?

There are days when I’m grateful that I have a twenty minute drive to class during which to fix any lingering attitude problems.

Fun fact: nothing grates on a migraine quite like sudden noise, bright lights, and ostentatiously pain-free people. If I had walked into that school and found chipper students doing loud things in spotlights, I would've crumbled into a frowny pile of hateful goo. But of course there was nothing like that. Not in the place with the warm lighting and the soothing plants and the Best Sign In The World:

I love this sign. It speaks to my soul. Quietly.

Turns out, when I’m a little hurty and a lot surly, I could do a lot worse than a quiet class run by people who are trained to be sensitive to the energies of others. Our women’s Tuesday night class all know each other, and our routine, well enough to just move into warm-ups without having to say much. I was left to my own devices to play through Siu Nim Tao. If I had wanted to just claim a corner of the room and do forms for the next two hours, nobody would’ve minded a bit. It would’ve been time well spent - there’s plenty to learn in forms, alone.

There is no pressure in this training. Just a sort of calm expectation. I’m never told to compete, or over-exert myself, or even interact with anyone. Which is precisely what makes me want to try harder, get stronger, and work with folks - because that’s what is being asked of me, not demanded of me. I’ve got a contrary streak a mile wide; if anyone tried to boss me into training, I'd balk like the ill-tempered mule that I am. Ving Tsun turns that streak around and makes it a positive motivator. That is some crazy reverse psychology shiznap right there.

Moving through the forms gave me a chance to concentrate on something other than my headache. Somewhere in the mathematics of tension and not-tension, balance and precision, I forgot to be mad at the weather. Growling at a thunderstorm for hurting your head is exactly as effective as it sounds (which is to say: not at all). I couldn’t do a thing about the sky, but I could do something about the rotation of my hands at the end of correctly placed wrists. I could either keep fussing, or I could sink into horse stance and try to figure out how to relax my torso.

After a few rounds of Siu Nim Tao, I was ready to return to the land of the civil. The first person I made eye contact with was Simo, who wandered over and measured off with me for Pak Sao. I don’t think she even said a word; we just fell into the rhythm of it.

“I know the drill” has a new, very literal, meaning for me nowadays.

After a few exchanges to wake each other up, she quietly urged me to work on Pak Dar. I have a completely irrational dislike for this drill. It’s just a quick smack-aside of a blow to create just enough space to fit my own fist through, an elegant and efficient little move, simple enough, and yet I still hesitate to throw that punch into the middle of the exchange. Which is just irritating enough to make me want to master it. And by “master” I might mean “destroy with fire”.

Had Pak Dar come along before all that Siu Nim Tao had flipped my negative switches back to positive, I would have been gnashing my teeth over every little stumble. As it was, I just sighed and tried to find that magical headspace where I’m concentrating without concentrating. It’s that half-step between thinking too hard and zoning out completely. For a chronic overthinker like me, achieving that state is like juggling jell-o in the dark. If I do manage to catch it, it’s by accident. But hey, gotta keep trying.

Class went on, as it is wont to do. I had some strangeness with my right leg - a weakness/numbness situation that sometimes comes part-n’-parcel with the migraine gig, since apparently all the nerves in the body are connected (who knew?) - that slowed me down a bit and kept me from training for the full two hours. But the important thing is that I wanted to keep training for the full two hours.

We were covering sensitivity in drills, the older students getting some insightful tips on how to test the balance and rhythms of younger students, all of which felt a little like getting a glimpse behind the sihing curtain. The older students were then testing those tips out on us redshirts, and I wanted to do my part to help them learn. I also wanted to do my drills so perfectly that they’d have nothing to test, but that’s just my contrary streak talking.

The subject matter was fascinating, and I had gone over an hour without thinking about my ridiculous headache. That adds up to a pretty good class. Sure, a wobbly leg was sending me home before I was ready to leave, but I wasn’t even mad about it. I walked out of that class a very different beast than I’d been when I walked in.

I walked out of that class looking forward to my next one.

So of course by Friday’s class, the callow punk of a microbe that was barely able to give my kids the sniffles found my sinuses to be a delightfully ill-protected home and threw a big damn party. I had caught a headcold that I knew for sure was contagious, which meant I would actually have to skip class. I have a strict policy of paying it forward on that whole keep-your-germs-to-yourself thing. 

All of that sturm and drang to haul my carcass into the Tuesday class, and by Friday I was too plague-ridden to go even though I wanted to. If I had given in to the migraine and let it keep me at home on Tuesday, a whole week of training would have been missed.

Let’s all give a slow handclap to the Irony Fairy for delivering that little lesson. Yes, yes, you’re very clever. I see what you did there. Now flutter away and let me train.