Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Suzy Notrod" - or - "Backdraft: Burn them. Burn them ALL."

I guess the fact that I haven’t blogged about derby in a while is one really good reason to blog.  I’ve reached an impasse.  Or so it seems.  (Depends on whether I’ve taken the red pill or the blue pill…)

We have a bout coming up on June 30th.  The first one of our league that includes everyone in the league, depending on whether you want to sign up to play, help out as a Referee or NSO (Non-Skating Official), or volunteer to help organize and run the event.  We also have a travel team now, in addition to the upcoming bout.  Both of which, all league members were invited to sign up and be considered for.

Having only skated derby-style for about 4 months, I considered both, but settled on a new mantra:  “I’m not going to compete until I feel ready.”  Simple enough, yes?

So I’m going along with this mantra in my head, attending all practices, keeping up my enthusiasm, trying to learn something new every time I skate, and feeling very proud to be one of the original members of High Altitude Roller Derby, even if I won’t be skating in the first official league bout.  I’m happy to be here, and happy for the girls who feel ready to take on another team from another league.  You go, girls.  Thumbs way up!

Every month, we hold a league meeting at someone’s house, where people bring refreshments – usually consisting of various types of wine.  Being the adventuresome, quirky type, and since the husband, who has now joined us as a league Referee (and usually says “I never drink… vine…”), actually drove us to the meeting, I decided to partake in the vino.  It’s only the polite thing to do.

The list starts going around to sign up for the bout on June 30th.   I hold fast and true to my mantra:  “I’m not going to compete until I feel ready.”  As the list comes my way, I smile sweetly and pass it to the person next to me.  Another glass of wine, please.

The meeting lasts for a while, many things are discussed, it’s a lively conversation among my favorite people in this entire town.  I’m enjoying the company, and celebrating my contentment with… another glass of wine.  The bout is discussed with great enthusiasm, I feel a tiny pang of envy, but remember my mantra:  “I’m not going to compete until I feel ready.”  Pour another glasss…

The meeting breaks, and I see the list come around again as I’m standing next to Hubby Ref.  I shee he has written his name on the lisst – to Referee, of course.  I’m sso proud of him.  Thumbss waaay up, babe!  I take amother sip ov my newly-poured glasss of vine and schtruggle to remember zeh mantra.  Ish it… schomething like…  “I’m going to compete I feel ready”…?  Uhh… yep, I zchink that’s it.  Yeah, that sounds aboot right… I shign my name to the lissst.

"Dahling, put Zsa Zsa on ze list, vatever it's for.  Zsa Zsa doesn't like to veel left out."
Three hours and one godless headache later, I realize what I’ve done.  For the next week or so, I’m actually pretty excited and proud of myself.  Going the extra mile.  Stepping not only out of the comfort zone, but directly into the fire!  Good for me!

Then we have another league practice, and I’m feeling kinda yucky, not much energy, and I’m thinking, maybe I need to get my name taken off that list – what if this is how I feel on bout day?  That’s not fair to the other girls here who don’t EVER feel yucky or sometimes don't feel like going to practice, because it’s just me who feels that way every now and then.  (I know – but sometimes I get in these moods, you see…)

About an hour into practice, I’m still feeling yucky but found I’ve managed to get lead jammer 3 out of 4 times, so that cheers me up some.  And then something crappy happens while I’m a blocker during a jam, and I manage to trip and nearly kill the jammer for my own team.  Everything closes in on me, and all of a sudden I’m “that girl” again – the one in High School P.E. who everyone rolls their eyes at and doesn’t want on their team.  I turn my disappointment inward, and my entire night is ruined.

The issue here is that I’ve still not found that “way out” of my own self-destructive thinking.  Most girls join roller derby because that’s innately who they are.  They’re outgoing, boisterous, Type A personalities who don’t take shit from anyone and can take their aggressions out on a sport – on each other – and go have a beer afterward and feel much better about themselves, their teammates, and their lives.  A lot of these girls are health care workers, with RN and ER and EMT attached to their profiles, or law enforcement, or crime scene analysts – and you just know these chicks need something like this to keep their sanity.  Derby also attracts those girls who were always the team captains and can’t even fathom wanting to ditch P.E., and girls who are generally athletic, tough, and take no prisoners. 

I joined derby because I’m none of these things – I’ve NEVER been that way, but if there’s one thing I love about myself, it’s that I’m one helluvan adventurer, and I’ll try anything if it looks exciting, or simply because I’ve never done it before.  That has gotten me into a little bit of trouble in the past, so I’ve learned how to pick and choose those things that look dangerous and exciting but won’t cause me to pick little invisible bugs out of the carpet or think my wall heater is harboring the voices of evil spirits. 

But the other reason I joined roller derby is because I can see the OUTWARD anger in these girls.  Something pissed them off at work that day, or they’re still upset about something that happened in their childhood, or they’re just generally in a donotmesswithmetoday kind of mood, and I can see ALL of this smoldering behind their eyes when they swoop up and solidly HIT another girl out.  I can still see it in their eyes when they get knocked nearly into next week, get right the hell up, and charge back into the pack, hearts black with vengeance and pumping blood-red with self-confidence.  It’s both admirable and awe-inspiring, and I want to learn from these girls how to turn my anger into something acceptably destructive and – haha – “sporty” – rather than let all of that inner fury eat away at my insides and cause me to think and do things that only hurt myself.

My realization that I’m simply not where I want to be in this game on a mental level also made me consider that I will not, CANNOT, learn to properly hit and take hits until I stop turning on myself and letting everything that has ever upset me continue to decay into depression and self-loathing.  They say anger is depression turned outward – not for me, nope.  I turn it all right back on myself, regardless of whether I deserve it or not.  Since I can remember, every time I felt slighted, or messed with, or picked on, or bullied either at home or at school, I’d get angry and then do or say something to make things worse rather than go deal with the source, and I’ve been doing that ever since.  Damn it, THIS is why I joined derby in the first place.  To uncover that secret – to get that fire behind MY eyes that says, don’t even TRY your obnoxious on me, I will pommel you.

The secret is in the hitting.  I can do the other skill stuff pretty well by now.  I’ve even gotten lighter on my skates and can juke around and find that jammer opening and blast through it; I can skate backwards and whip my jammer through; I can positional block two girls behind me at the same time with my ass and my long legs and not give either one of them a prayer of getting past me.  But the hitting… that’s personal.  There is something holding me back, and it’s not physical, because I know how to do it, by God.  They’ve gone over it and over it at practice, and I’ve tried and tried to do exactly what they tell me, but the FIRE is not in my eyes yet.  It’s still deep down in the pit of my stomach, burning up my insides and eating up all of my oxygen, and it hasn’t broken through a window yet.  I’m looking forward to the backdraft. 
Pretend this is a silhouette of a derby girl...
So I considered all of this and decided, I really am not ready to bout yet.  Not until I can light that fire exactly where I want it.  I remembered that I’m a filmmaker – and we’re having the first bout of our league.  This is a special thing for us, a memorable event.  It should be documented.  Besides, we need a promo video to get more sponsors.  Perfect.  That’s what I’ll do for the bout.  I’ll be Suzy Filmmaker instead of Suzy Hotrod Wannabe.

Okay, back to the hitting stuff.  A couple of people have actually approached me and told me that they’ve seen my improvement and they can’t wait to see what happens when I finally unleash that mental block that keeps me from making those solid hits.  Yeah, I’m kind of looking forward to it myself.  The very fact that my eyes well up with tears when I think about it tells me that this is NOT just about getting good at a sport.  I have to – I MUST learn to hit effectively.  I will, however, give myself credit for getting up after taking a good solid hit that rocks my world (and my spinal cord) and getting on with the jam – that’s a start. 

But I don’t have that fire behind my eyes yet.  In fact, it gets a little cold inside when I get slammed down hard, and I am in the habit of blaming myself rather than remembering that this is simply the Game.  You’ll get knocked down – sometimes harder than you think is necessary.  But you get the crap back up, catch up to the pack, and start knocking around with the girls again, because it’s hit or be hit, block or be blocked, lead jam or get lapped; besides, it’s just a game we call roller derby. 

Or is it?