Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Yin and Yank of the Derby Brain

Well it’s been a while now since I’ve blogged, and a lot has happened… and not happened… and reading back through my previous entries, one might say, gosh Pippi, you sure are stubborn.  Or stupid.  Or just completely weird.  I guess when it comes to giving myself credit, I’m a slow learner. 

But I catch on.  Here’s the thing:

So I’ve been going through that whole “I should just quit; I’m never going to get to a point where I’m satisfied with my skills/endurance/gameplay. -- I don’t know why I’m doing this particular sport. --  This is sport is too expensive. -- This sport causes time conflicts with my new job. – Wouldn’t I rather be sleeping/watching TV/reading/playing with the dogs/basket weaving/doing ANYTHING but derby 3-4 days/week? -- WHY AM I STILL HERE?”

Reason #1 for staying in this sport:  Women of Awesome.

Example:  At an away bout not too long ago, a couple of us were standing outside the track while members of the opposing team began to file in before the bout.  One player in particular strutted by in high heels, fishnets, and booty shorts that would make the Terminator himself fall to his knees and cry like a little boy.  She looked fantastic.  However, I braced myself to overhear some kind of snotty, under-the-breath remark from one of my league mates – NOT because I expect that of anyone in particular, but because of years of conditioning in grammar, middle, and high school (and yes, even college and beyond) that sets a precedent for women to hate other women, especially if they look particularly sexy.  What did I hear instead?

“Could she BE any hotter?”

I was so relieved.  No, in fact, she could not, I think I replied.  It was already scorching outside, and if she HAD been any hotter, Hell itself would have frozen over by comparison.  And isn’t she is fabulous?  And isn’t it great that we can openly admire her for not being afraid to just be Herself, in all of her feminine, amazing, goddessy glory?  !!!

Another thing I’ve been struggling with is the fact that roller derby goes completely against my nature.  Don’t get me wrong – my competitive streak is strong.  Challenge me on a written essay about anything – the air-speed velocity of the unladen swallow, for instance, and I will not only research your ass straight into the ground, I will humiliate you in front of your own mother by answering for both the African and European variety.  If you get a bunch of C’s and D’s on the tests throughout the semester in the same class that I’m taking while I get straight A’s, and by the end of the semester we both end up with an A in the class, you might still be my friend, but the instructor of that class will end up on my shit list for the rest of eternity (yes, this really happened, and I’m still bitter).  See the pattern here?  I’m not proud of it… it’s just as bad as the worst steroid-intoxicated meathead trying to pick a fight with Chuck Norris.  But my point is that I am highly, morbidly, obscenely competitive.  Just not so much in sports.

Now you may ask, gee whiz Pippi, if roller derby goes completely against your nature, WHY are you still doing it?

Reason #2 for staying in this sport:  Roller derby goes completely against my nature.

Moving on…
It's also against my nature to be attracted to short men.
And then there's Al Pacino.

Over the last few weeks, going to practice has been very confusing for me.  I’m reaching a new stage in my derby life:  The one where my brain doesn’t actually get to tell my body what to do anymore.   No, really – this is GOOD.  Lemme ‘splain:

In the past, my biggest struggle has been with psyching myself out during a scrimmage practice, or getting frustrated with a drill, or feeling like everyone’s annoyed with me.  That last part, the “everyone’s annoyed with me” thing, well, that was really easy to nip in the bud.  One day at practice when I started feeling this way, I stepped back for a minute and looked around.  I gazed at each and every single person there.  Is she annoyed with me?  No.  How about her?  Nope.  Hmmm… she could be, but do I honestly really care?  Well, maybe… but should I care?  Nope.  And on down the line, until I came to one person, and the answer was “YES.  SHE is absolutely, most definitely annoyed with me.”  That person, of course, was me. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) 

Talk about projecting your feelings.  Since I was annoyed with myself, I decided that everyone else was, too.  Because, you know, Pippi is that prolific in everyone's heads at any given moment in time...

Narcissus ain't just a river in Egypt.  Wait, that's not right...
The getting frustrated part has been subsiding all by itself, oddly enough, during skills practices when I watch our coaches demonstrate something, and my brain goes, gosh Pippi, that looks really advanced, you’ll probably have to just fake it until they move on to the next drill.  But instead of faking it, I actually do it, and do it right.  And get complimented by the coach.  Drill frustration struggle conquered.  That was easy…
Totally nailed that drill, no sweat.  Holla.

Now let’s talk about the psyching myself out part.  This mostly happens to me during scrimmage practice, because the pressure is on and the danger is high and the place is saturated with estrogen-enhanced adrenaline (a potentially deadly combination, if you ask me).  For the past year or so, my head goes all wonkadoodle and I start shaking from adrenaline overload (or imbalance, I can’t decide which), and I start telling myself that I should just watch for a while, you know, so that I can see what’s going on, when really, I’m just too freaked out to get back in there.  Wonkadoodle brain has been very effective at convincing my body to do things that really screw it up in there if I DO go back in.  Losing my balance, skating too far ahead of the pack, hesitating when I see an opening, etc.  Lately, however, here’s the dialogue that’s been happening in Pippi’s head:

“Okay, I’ll go in.  Oh god I’m going to screw this up so bad (I just hit that bitch solid), I’m going to end up “the goat” (look at that, I instantly got out of it) crap, now I’m going to mess it up for my jammer (I just helped her through)."

Next jam.
"OH GOD WHY DID I ACCEPT THE JAMMER PANTY I’m going to make an ass of myself (I just got through) Oh NO!  There’s no way I can make it through THAT wall of players (I just scored points on every one of them) I’m bound to screw something up now (I called off the jam at exactly the right time)."

Brain:  0

Body:  10

Brain no longer dictates what body does.  Psyched out or not, the body gets in there, and (more or less) does what it's been training over the past 18 months to do.  This is my new stage I was telling you about.  Isn't it great?!  I've apparently crossed over to a new realm where my body does not believe the boo-pucky that my brain is saying because, well, I guess it knows better.  And it's been, like, trained to do stuff.  Or something.

Finally, I’ll let you in on something embarrassing.  For a while at practice, you know, before the body-over-brain thing kicked in, I was telling myself that I should just take time off from practice and spend more time buffing up and getting into REALLY good shape, and THEN I can start coming to practice again and, you know, REALLY KICK ASS, of course. 

Because getting all buffed up is definitely going to teach me how to laterally move through the pack, how to make split second decisions when my jammer needs to get through, how to stay aware of my team position on the track and…

(I can hear all you derby player readers out there roaring with laughter.  That’s okay.  I’ll wait ‘til you catch your breath.)

. . .

. . . . .  .  .  .

Well geez, don't hurt yourselves.