Still Learning

There are so many things that I am still learning in life, and so many that will be a lifetime pursuit. I think that’s really the case for all of us – each day brings and endless opportunities to learn. And knowledge is infinite…

One of the harder lessons, however, is one that I struggle with daily – learning to be more gentle with myself. While I know that staying in the present moment is THE way to be (for so many reasons!), that the conversation I have with myself is crucial to my well-being, that I have SO much to be thankful for (and I am!) and that “I should be’s” are never appropriate…I STILL have a hard time.

Today is one of those days where I feel like I am beating myself up…ad infinitum! I don’t really deserve it, but it’s always the way that our habitual “hard-on-ourselves” attitudes are one of the most challenging to uproot.

Fortunately, I’m committed to the long haul – reflecting on my behaviors not only that affect those around me, but also myself, is something I do every day. I’ll be a “work in progress” for a lifetime but…that’s okay. I’m thankful for all that I have, and for all that my mind, body, and soul have – successfully – carried me through.

Here’s to being a little bit kinder to ourselves instead of carrying around unnecessary blame and hurt…

 

 

Learning About Life Through Another Lens, And How Blessed We All Really Are…

Some weeks ago I started an ASL (American Sign Language) course online – I regularly volunteer with children with disabilities and had asked a mom (whose four year-old boy both has autism and is deaf) for some ASL resources. Her son additionally suffers from a little bit of separation anxiety, which isn’t horribly uncommon with autism – when he comes to our volunteer play sessions, there are times that he begins to cry and it’s terribly tricky to discern what will make him feel more comfortable. While I was already interested in learning ASL (up to 50% of autistic individuals are non-verbal), this little guy was enough to get me on the road to finding a class…as soon as possible.

The awesome news is that I also volunteer with Special Olympics-driven skating sessions once a week that includes a number of children who are either hard of hearing or completely deaf. There’s nothing quite like being able to communicate with them – being able to sign even a single word is exciting! (I definitely have a way to go!)

A couple of days ago, though, I came down with a cold of some kind – as a result of contagiously coughing, I lost my voice – and I mean completely. Talk about being in someone else’s shoes…

Horribly uncomfortable a “bug” is for any of us, it’s nothing compared to what some children and adults have to deal with on a regular, and life-long basis. In a strange way, I feel thankful that I can’t speak because it’s an exercise in understanding what it *might* be like – while I consider myself to be one of the most empathetic people I know, it is impossible to fully understand anyone’s experience without being in their skin.

I have lost my voice on one other occasion – remarkably, I was 16 spending a month in France, with very little French under my belt. I guess life likes to test my ability to communicate (which – as is clear – is NOT always done with speech.)

In any case, it’s as the saying goes – you don’t always realize what you have until you lose it. I’d never anticipate not having the ability to speak was an easy road…but it is a welcome experience. (Now I’m not exactly encouraging anyone to go out to a concert and scream at the top of his or her lungs to deliberately subdue the vocal chords…I’m just saying, there is good to everything. Yes, including getting sick and losing a primary means of communication.)

Now my husband has a little bit of a challenge playing the guessing game as far as “what is my wife trying to say now?” He’s doing a remarkable job of deciphering, decoding, and understanding what I am trying to say, and that’s not easy to do! So I’m very fortunate to have the support and patience.

Going to the store is also an enlightening experience – I can’t say “thank you,” or “excuse me” as I normally would, nor can I respond vocally to others. That leaves me feeling a little bit awkward as reciprocal speech is one of the key forms of communication many of us learned from infancy. When I indicate with gesture and my lips that I have lost my voice, people either immediately begin to whisper or act altogether more gently – it’s incredibly interesting! (I actually can’t even whisper, as that puts more stress on the vocal chords than speaking does!)

The other side of it is that I’m derailed from my activities – in part I simply don’t feel up to them physically. The pain and discomfort though. . .I think about all the children with autism suffering from sensory sensitivities without the ability to say “those lights are hurting my eyes,” “this fabric makes my skin burn,” “my chest hurts….” What is life like for them? Many “behavioral issues” are a result of such a scenario – they don’t have a means to say what they are feeling.

For the children who are deaf or hard of hearing, thankfully they do have words at their disposal (albeit non-speech, hand / facial /body gestures.) I learned “sick,” “feel,” “bathroom,” and “okay?” as quickly as I could. Fortunately I’m learning many other words too…but knowing that it will take time, it’s important I know some basics.

Even if I was feeling better, my usual day-to-day would still be a substantial challenge – I can’t make a singe phone call, for one. I can’t ask for help locating a medicine at the store. If I were in an office, I’d have to type everything out (doable, but less efficient.) I certainly can’t breakdown a Ninjutsu technique the way I could by asking questions in class, and I definitely can’t teach or volunteer. I have to rely on gestures to talk to others I might run into in my own apartment building because I am utterly devoid of my usual method of communication…

So it’s been a remarkable few days…

While I’m sure it’s not fun to be around me while I’m loudly coughing, slower-moving, and unable to answer even the easiest question, I feel truly thankful for the experience. In fact, I’m taking the opportunity to review videos from the ASL course modules that I’ve already completed – I will hopefully be seeing the Special Olympics kids on Wednesday to skate and I know a few happy ones who use ASL exclusively. ūüôā¬†

There’s An App For That

Ever stood in line longer than necessary because a younger cashier is struggling with basic math functions? ¬†It isn’t a matter of being rude…it’s a little bit frightening! ¬†So much is done for people¬†by way of apps in daily life¬†that they are beginning to lose the ability to function without a device. . .

SCARY, don’t you think?!

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Wearing With Pride

Little things make me so happy…like the victory my school won in getting a sweatshirt with their name on it. ¬†The overarching brand generally doesn’t allow it, but I think we – the students – asked enough collectively that our instructor was finally heard by the powers that be.

We all have a sense of pride surrounding the quality of training, instruction, and of students who attend, so in a way this is like a show of support to sport the hoodie. ¬†For a Martial Arts school, you always hope that’s the case – the friendships forged there are meaningful because you are in the thick of it together. ¬†Even if you don’t hang out with everyone all the time, you know you can count on mutual respect and feedback when in the dojo. ¬†Since it isn’t ALWAYS the case, it’s a special thing to find that kind of environment. ¬†And as a result…wearing our name out an about puts a huge smile on my face. ūüôā

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

More Martial Arts fun!

Martial Arts Humor – Injuries And The White Belt

It’s funny…but not. ¬†Especially because it isn’t so much the white belt who ends up hurt, but the training partner.

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(C) Cartoonstock Jcen624

We all start somewhere, no question about it – accidents ARE going to happen, it’s Martial Arts, for crying out loud. ¬†BUT…

But…

It’s absolutely vital that newer students are not only encouraged to slow down, but ASKED to. ¬†The first nose fracture I sustained a few months ago wasn’t from a white belt – it was a tough technique, a few parts went awry between us…it happens.

But this time it was more the result of over-excitedness, and lack of body control – common to newer students.

I went slowly. ¬†I made a point to say “because this is designed to break the arm and damage the joints, it’s really important to go slowly. ¬†It’s easy to go too far before your partner has a chance to tap…” ¬†

The message has to come from all of us, though Рit has to be engrained from the get-go, because many of our techniques (self defense-based, as much as offensively-based) are designed to injure.  Even when a technique is meant only to control, there is room for an accident mindfulness makes a HUGE difference in lessening the potential for injury on the mat.  

After I took a heel to the face, re-fracturing my nose, a fellow student took the time to say (to my distressed training partner)¬†“you really need to go slower. ¬†You have a high energy – that’s great¬†-but in here, we really have to go slow…and slower still. ¬†We go slow for a LONG time.”

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I think there’s a misconception that going slowly is a bad thing – it ISN’T. ¬†As the saying goes, slow is fast, fast is slow… Being deliberate in the movements builds – first of all – the proper muscle memory. Bad habits are a NIGHTMARE to fix¬†–¬†you want to be drilling the correct mechanics of the technique so, when it matters, that’s how you respond. ¬†

The other part of that is…you actually CAN hurt the person you are working with. ¬†It isn’t a stretch because that is precisely what you are learning to do. ¬†If you are more senior, you don’t have to be overbearing – but it is partially your responsibility to guide others when you notice they aren’t as in control as they need to be. ¬†Sometimes even then…accidents occur. ¬†So back up your peers if you need to – my friend stepping in was appreciated because while my partner won’t forget she fractured my nose…she was given¬†extra reinforcement from the messages given to her afterwards.