Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Truth or Dare? (because Lie or Hesitate would be a boring game)

So I’ve skated my 2nd official bout now, and once again, I think I did surprisingly well.  I didn’t jam this time, because I told our bench coach that if we were behind in points, not to jam me unless our jammers were too tired and needed a break.  I don’t trust myself yet to not get a penalty and end up in the Sin Bin while the opposing jammer laps us like a rabid dog.

I'd like to thank the Academy...
Something happens to my brain in a public bout that hasn’t seemed to surface very often at practice.  Is it my inner Thespian?  The performance artist in me?  Am I simply a Ham?!

Whatever it is, it works.  But despite the fact that I was doing a bangup job blocking the opposing players (and even messing with their jammer a time or three), I ended up being put in the lineup only twice during the entire second half.  What gives?  Who am I supposed to be miffed at?  Our bench coach?  Our team captain?  Did someone actually say, “If our team is behind in points, don’t put Pippi out there at all.”  ??  Or perhaps I should have piped up and shrieked, “Hey, put me in!  I’m not tired!”  I thought about that, but the rude antagonist in my head advised me that since our point differential was so consistently close during that entire 2nd half, they were likely putting their best players out there so that we could gain the advantage and win the game.  Who am I to argue?  If I mess with their plan, says Rude Antagonist, we could end up losing by only a few points and it would be ALL MY FAULT, by cracky.  (We still lost by only a few points, but you just never know what is going to happen with the score in a roller derby bout.)

Well if that was indeed the case, I can truly only blame myself.  I’ve been spending nearly the entire last year telling everyone in various different and creative ways (including via this very blog) that I suck at this.  That I’m a weak player.  That I have trouble making the hit.  That I’m just not aggressive enough.  And you know what?  I’m really not as bad as I’ve been saying I am.  If I was, I wouldn’t have kept my cool in those walls, knocked that jammer out, or crushed that opposing blocker toward the inside, feeling that cool satisfying breeze of my own team’s jammer sailing by as a result.  Yeah, I know what I did.  I may be the only one who knows it, but I know.  Because I was watching me.

San Diego Derby Doll Bonnie D. Stroir has a great blog called “Puppy Talk” that describes how we all have an inner “puppy” that we “kick” when we’re not feeling that great about how we’re playing.  Everyone has one, and I bet even Suzy Hotrod kicks her puppy every now and then.  My puppy is black and blue and broken and nearly dead from constant abuse.  I’m so mean to myself that there’s no room left for self-assurance, and the criticisms start to flood my insides until they overflow and spill out of my mouth onto anyone within earshot.

So I came home from the bout complaining to my husband (who jam reffed that night) that I think I’ve been pigeonholed as a “weak” player, and that I felt like that’s probably why I’d been mostly benched for the entire second half of the game, despite the fact that I was kicking ass out there during the first half.  Obviously it’s going to be difficult for anyone to notice when I’m doing well, because no one is paying attention to MY skating… they’re only aware of themselves and how they’re doing (and likely kicking their own puppies when something goes wrong).  If I’d been skating like that at practice for the previous few weeks, things might have gone differently.  But how can I blame anyone for benching me during the 2nd half when I’m the one who has officially categorized myself as one of the weaker players?

I discussed this with ref-hubby Gary (my best girlfriend at times and often the Obi Wan in my life), who listened patiently, then responded with the big stinker:
“So you told everyone you suck, and now you’re upset that they believed you.”

Well I’ll be damned.  Score 1 for Obi Wan.

REALLY coming to terms with and facing this side of myself that I would like to change hasn’t been easy.  I do not LIKE this habit of beating myself up all the time.  I do not LIKE not knowing how to quickly cheer myself up and give myself a bloody chance, for once in my life.  Having to step back from the emotions and ego involved and really look at the situation I’ve gotten myself into – convincing everyone that I’m just never going to improve – is the reason that from now on, I’m no longer going to cut myself down before, during, or after practice.  Maybe I need to work on some things.  Maybe I could use some specific pointers every now and then.  Mayhap I would like to improve myself in this roller derby thing.

And anyway, WHO DOESN’T?! 

Get it?  It's a Tough Cookie.  Nevermind...
I mean, seriously.  No one in my entire league thinks there’s nothing they need to work on or could use some help with.  Maybe every now and then someone expresses frustration with themselves, but most of the time I think the girls keep it hidden, put on a tough cookie attitude, and fake their way through it until they finally get it.  There are a few particular skills and drills that I can do pretty well now – that even some of our most seasoned and respected skaters still have trouble with – but do I even give myself credit for the little things?  Perhaps I might for the moment, at least until the end of that drill, and then when another drill comes around that I have trouble with, all of a sudden “I Suck at Everything” again.  Everything. 

Roller derby has become, more than anything, the most therapeutic, rehabilitative, self-exploring activity I’ve ever joined in my life.  That’s why I keep coming around, even though lately there seem to be more days that I feel like I hate it than those rare days I can’t wait to go to practice.  It’s stuff like this that I know, deep down, will help teach me life skills that I simply didn’t acquire growing up.  Learning how to like myself, DESPITE my shortcomings and insecurities.  Figuring out that no one is trying to pick on me or humiliate me – this is NOT middle school, and I never have to go back to that awful place or age, ever ever ever again.  These are grown-ass women just trying to learn a sport, and I happen to be among them, doing the same thing.  And most of them like me, it seems, so if I tell them I suck at something, they’ll probably believe me because, well, they have no reason to call me a liar. 

I’ve seen several women come into the league with barely any skating skills at all.  This chick will automatically be categorized as Fresh Meat – and a weaker player, and within a few months she’ll blossom into a beautiful butterfly-on-wheels when all of a sudden we start noticing her knocking the crap out of us during practice, or catching lead jammer over one of our best jammers in the league.  I was one of those butterflies for a while; people kept approaching me and telling me how far my skating skills have come and how excited they were to see what I would do next.  And what did I do next?  Went around acting all down on myself and complaining that I suck.  So in a sense, I was calling them liars.  And belittling their compliments to me.  And completely negating any type of encouragement with “Thanks, but I suck at this.”

I don’t suck at this.  I know this for a fact now.  I can be awesome in a bout.  I can hold a jammer back, I can crush a wall to the inside, I can booty block as if I’m three lanes wide on the track.  I can even get lead and score points as a jammer.  I know this because I’ve seen myself do it.  I’ve noticed that one of my strongest (and most surprising) skills is the ability to take a solid hit from a skilled blocker and barely move from my position; the different-than-usual-looking bruises all up and down my right hip are proof of that. 

So no more telling lies – to myself or to my team.  And if I feel like I’m being benched during a game, it’s only because I haven’t earned the respect I deserve by proving myself in practice and keeping my chin up.

So put me in, coach.  I’m ready to play.