Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lull in the Life of Luxury

Howdy, folks. Long time, no write – I know. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you probably already know that I find it difficult to write in the midst of depressed periods in my life. It’s not that I have writers block or can’t write – it’s more that anything I do write is completely and utterly negative and pessimistic; I can’t seem to find the good in things, and I really don’t want to subject you to that sort of pessimism, since this blog is all about the polar opposite – finding the good in things, finding the strength to push on, and finding that thing inside yourself that allows you to do anything you want to do.

The truth is, I’m tired. Really tired. This past year I led a project at work atypical to my regular job duties, because it had to be done. This meant long days (and sometimes nights), two postponed vacations, and several extra bottles of Ibuprofen for the headaches in addition to the usual derby aches and pains. Speaking of derby aches and pains, as you know, I injured myself idiotically twice in a row at the end of last season. The first injury, a herniated disc in my neck, caused me to have to pull myself off the roster for Regionals two days before the tournament, and the second injury, a severely sprained ankle, immediately followed, as it occurred the very first time I was able to run after I injured my neck. Needless to say, I kept one physical therapist in high demand for over 3 months – good for her.

Looking back on it, I think missing Regionals started this downward spiral. My time off for injuries faded into our short offseason, and for the past 4 months I’ve felt like a failure. After all the pain, all the hard work, all the struggle to get rostered and stay rostered, I watched my end goal for the season slip through my fingers, and there was nothing I could do about it. Then, just when I needed some inspiration, I found it at Nationals, which I decided to attend last-minute. I had a wonderful and inspiring time with my teammates, even though we weren’t skating in the tournament (and it was also nice to be told by some that we should have been), and it was great as always to see my friends from around the country. I was finally on an upswing. Around Thanksgiving, with a stiff but stable ankle, I resumed skating and was thrilled to be doing so. Then came another blow – an indirect blow, but a blow nonetheless. The severity of several family members’ conditions became better known and seemingly more urgent, and from out of nowhere and with no warning, my dog – my best friend and Zen-inspiring running buddy – lost use of his back legs. Although the news about the family members upset me, watching my usually spry and playful dog appear terrified and confused as to why he couldn’t stand broke me into pieces. To make matters worse, in the middle of all this chaos was the due date for making our 2010 intentions known to our captains. Not knowing in what direction I was (am) going to be needed, I had to make the difficult decision to start 2010 as an unrostered skater for both the All Stars and my home team, Speed Regime. I take being on a team seriously, and I don’t want to put my teammates in a position where I’m not completely there physically or mentally. It was like pulling myself off the roster for Regionals all over again.

For the past month I’ve been consumed with panic, worry, anxiety, depression, and guilt. I tried to write about Christmas several nights ago and changed the course of the blog entry three different times, because every road I took pointed to despair; from not being able to get into the Christmas spirit to a cynical view of suburban Christmas celebrations to compromising the trust and beliefs of children and how I think being lied to about Santa may have contributed to my becoming an atheist. I did feel a tiny bit better when J told me there has been a pattern of me becoming depressed and then freaking out just before the holidays each year since my dad passed away. On one hand, I was somewhat relieved. On the other hand I thought, “Great, I’m still suppressing something.”

Yesterday they announced the Q1 All Star charter tryout date, which I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to, because I’m not finished meeting the requirements of my “return from injury” plan. That pretty much sealed the deal – stripped away the last thread of hope that all would soon return to normal. Enter fear and panic that my not being on the Q1 charter will impact my placement on the Q2 charter and future rosters. The funny thing is, I speak about this as if I’m ready to return to derby now, and I’m not. On one hand, I feel like a little extra time off – a derby nap, if you will – would do me some good. On the other hand, I’m motivated by fear to possibly abandon my family sooner than I should just to make that list of 14 – that all-consuming number 14, the BANE OF MY EXISTANCE.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being so torn up about the things going on in my life right now, when I know many, many people have things much, much worse than I do, but this is MY life and these are the people and pets I care about. I deserve to be upset when shit happens to them. Last week I was all but ready to consider taking a year off or retirement. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad at the prospect of either decision, but I was also comforted knowing I wouldn’t be in month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter limbo, which is all I need to improve the anxiety I already have normally. Then I got an email from my home team captain, Terror Izher (a former women’s football player and great skater with natural athletic ability), and she said she and our co-captain had decided to keep me on the roster anyhow, and I was welcome back whenever I was ready. They gave up a top draft pick to keep me on the team, even if I couldn’t skate with them at the beginning (or middle) of the season. I realized then that I wasn’t done for a year or for good. Hearing that very unexpected news lifted my spirits. I had gotten so used to the fierce (and often-times cold) competition for a roster spot on the All Stars that I was surprised at this. It was the first time in a long time that I feel like someone actually stopped and extended a hand.

Where does this leave me now? I’m struggling to remain calm with “I’m not sure”. Over the past week I’ve been dealing with recognizing a need for balance in my life. When shit hit the fan around Thanksgiving my first inclination was to immediately drop everything and throw myself into caretaking. Now, almost a month later, family members’ conditions, while inevitable, have stabilized, and my dog can gingerly walk on all four legs again (for now, at least). He quickly grew used to my coming home from work and immediately staying by his side until I left for work the next morning, so beginning to detach a bit and resume even a semi-normal life has been difficult. A small victory: I did go out and get groceries for the first time since Thanksgiving two nights ago.

My hope is that I can get my shit together – my thoughts, my responsibilities, my routine, and my time – by mid-January so that I can resume strapping on eight wheels and spandex booty shorts and doing that thing that I’m driven to do and that I love so much: skate. (I did wonder what the fuck I was going to do will all my booty shorts and gold lame if I did retire…) My other hope is that I will remain flexible in case I find out more of my time is needed with my family. I want to be happy at home and on the rink. My goal for 2010 is to have fun. I just wanna have fun.

The barrage of obstacles is something I can overcome, but it’s going to take me a bit. Blog posts may be fewer and farther between, but the frequency with which I write will hopefully return to normal as well. Thanks to those of you who sent me notes or chastised me for not updating my blog on Facebook. In the gloomier times I can feel like writing here doesn’t really matter at all, but it’s nice to hear that I’m wrong and that the posts are missed. I had all these notes and plans to write a rollergirl gift guide entry, and then life happened. Is it too late to post something like that? Fuck it even if it is. Look for that entry soon! I love you guys.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid-derby Identity Crisis

Hearing a lot of buzz about the Oly Rollers this past season, I was looking forward to seeing them skate this past weekend at Nationals, but nothing prepared me for the actual outcome of Nationals and how that would affect our community of skaters and leagues after the last bout on Sunday.

Two jams into the Oly/Gotham game, I turned to my teammate Holly Gohardley and said, “Should we just get up and head to the Marriott gym now? Cause I don’t know if we have enough time to prepare to play Oly in April.” Like everyone else in Philly or watching from home, we were stunned and astounded by Oly’s sheer athleticism.

I don’t claim to know much about the Oly Rollers as a league, but I’ve gathered from their website and from other people in the derby community who claim to know what’s what that they are a small league comprised of two traveling teams – an A team and a B team – whose home base is a roller rink in Olympia, Washington. It makes me think back to CCRG’s days at Skateland. The disconnect that arises in my thought process next is that I, for one, had always made the assumption that we would not rise to become a national contender until we had a larger/better venue. It sounds silly now having just typed that out. Why would the size, location, or facilities of the venue where we held bouts even matter when it comes to game play? Along those same lines, what does a high-quality website, sponsors, a professionally-designed program, or a vast media outreach have to do with becoming better skaters? Maybe it doesn’t – but is that still derby?

Like many leagues out there, Charm City faced a crossroads of sorts several years ago when we decided to align ourselves and our goals with becoming a more athletically-minded league – a more competitive league. The decision angered and greatly discouraged some of our skaters who were more in love with the idea of being a group of rollergirls (with the names, the uniforms, and the WWF-mentality) than our league’s idea of being a group of athletes who just-so-happened to be rollergirls. We spent years reconditioning the media in and around Baltimore to stop writing so many “Librarian by day” stories and write more stories about derby as a sport. We focused more on building our Charm City All Stars. We completely redesigned our skater training program. So you might see from this description of our metamorphosis to become athletes that I was rather taken back when a league mate of mine who claimed to know the bare-bones, nothing fancy, just-there-for-the skating mentality of Oly told me that “that’s not roller derby.”

All the while we were growing our skaters back in Charm City, we were also improving our league’s operations as a whole. We moved to a new amazing venue, we landed strategic sponsors, we crafted better merch, and we developed the now exceptionally-high standard we have set for anything artistic that represents our league (website, posters, programs). We’re all really proud of this, like many other leagues who have also worked hard to grow these elements in their leagues that have absolutely nothing to do with athleticism. Or do they?

Modern-day roller derby remains an institution that although we are committed to the idea of “by the skaters, for the skaters”, we are also committed to using the structure that we’ve built to keep the sport going, to grow the sport, and to hopefully finally leave a respectable legacy of derby for generations to come. The structure I’m referring to is all that other stuff that “has nothing to do with athleticism” but that puts butts in seats. By keeping fans coming back, we can finance our dream – a dream that if you had asked any of us would have included and still includes athleticism and love of the sport at the top of the list. Yet there seems to be an undefined definition or an unseen line that marks and explains how the majority of us envision roller derby and how we don’t envision roller derby.

What should roller derby be? We say we want athleticism, but we chose to dedicate at least a portion of our time spent on “derby” to the derby admin that enables all those other things to happen that frame the sport for our audience. If we REALLY wanted this to be about pure athleticism, wouldn’t we say “screw it” to the production and instead spend that extra time practicing?

It’s odd that as a community I have no knowledge of us ever having really considered NOT being as “big” as we are. Several years ago while still growing WFTDA, we were somewhat consumed by not allowing outsiders to step in and make our sport “so commercial”. We live and breathe by this value of being our own owners, yet we’ve never really considered making things easier on ourselves by reducing the fanfare associated with derby. Why?

Now, I know I seem to be going down this road that implies we all say “fuck it” and stop trying so hard to make our leagues and our sport successful in the minds of the public and “shut up and skate,” but you’re wrong. My answer to this is that like everything else in life balance is needed. I don’t think we have to choose between either pure athleticism or derby as most of us know it.

After this weekend there seems to be a slight panic in our community that there’s no way we’ll be able to both keep the spectacle going AND excel in our athleticism, yet without improving upon both at the same time, our sport’s popularity and growth could plateau and our dream could be shattered. I think that by going “big” and not resigning ourselves to flag-football-esque derby, we’re keeping the dream alive and we’re not compromising our values or desires, which may be a longer road to “having it all” – a place where retired-skater admins perpetuate the bigness of our sport and active skaters CAN spend more time focusing on being athletes – but that long road is worth it (in fact, I think it’s the only way we can fulfill our dream), and I think we’re close.

Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t be playing this sport if it were another attempt at pure spectacle, just like most of us wouldn’t be playing this sport if bouts between really great skaters took place on Wednesday evenings in a church gym. Where derby’s concerned, sport and spectacle are not mutually exclusive – one simply cannot exist without the other, and modern-day roller derby wouldn’t exist without both.

I think we should use the panic as motivation to taking the next step in modern-day roller derby, just like I think I should use the panic to get my ass to the gym more and kick it up a notch, so I don’t have my ass handed to me by someone twice my size in April. This sport’s growing faster than we can keep up with it, and some of us are growing faster than we even realize. I dare say our dream has already come true, but like any athlete, I also know there’s always room for improvement. Who’s ready to do this?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Declaration of Derby: GO!

In case you need a formal justification to go hang out with your friends and drink beer while watching really good derby this weekend at the WFTDA National Championship in Philly, I’m here to give it to you: watching really good roller derby will make you a better roller derby player. Consider it part of your training program – just like practicing and going to the gym.

According to a November 10th article in the Scientific American, people imitate that which they see (and hear), and if a person watches someone else doing something similar to what he or she already does, his or her network of “mirror” neurons show significantly greater activity than if the person were to watch, say, hockey instead of roller derby – there are strategic similarities, but we play derby, not hockey. So what does this mean, you ask? It means super scientists are really freaking close to being able to tell us for sure that if you want to excel at something, viewing others who already excel will help you imitate the actions that contribute to excelling. And after all, that IS what you want to do, isn’t it?!

When I was a young derby player I could give a rat’s ass about watching other people play roller derby. While my teammates were traveling every-other weekend to go see bouts held by other leagues up and down the East coast, I was doing derby admin and god-knows-what. As time went on, my teammates seemed to get better at playing derby, while I was completely and utterly stagnant. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of factors that played into my stagnacity (yeah, I made that up!), but certainly on that list was my almost refusal to watch other people play. After all, I already spent a huge chunk of my life practicing and playing and another huge chunk building our league and derby in general around the country. I thought I already knew derby, therefore I should be becoming a better player. Wrong. I knew derby the business, not derby the sport.

In a way, suffering sequential shoulder injuries last year was almost a blessing. It caused me to slow down and gave me the opportunity to accidentally see a lot of really good derby that ignited my desire to not only NOT fall behind the skill set of my peers, but also to consciously challenge myself to excel as a derby player – to BECOME a derby player, not just a “rollergirl”.

Watching other people do what you want to do better is fucking exciting, especially if you can personally relate to someone who has those qualities you so desperately want. Many times we make excuses for why we can’t do something, because it’s easier than actually trying. During the time I was frustrated that all my teammates were getting better and I wasn’t, I decided that I was merely too fat to compete – that I would need to lose weight to play derby.

Buddha bless those girls who somehow get past their insecurities faster than the rest of us do, because they serve as our role models in derby and in turn help the rest of us get over ourselves. This weekend I guarantee that you will see someone you can relate to. Maybe she’s way taller than all her teammates, maybe she’s way shorter. Maybe she’s a slight blocker, maybe she’s a bulky jammer. Maybe she’s only 19, or maybe she’s in her 40s. Watching someone else who shares your perceived “flaw” do something amazing is sure to help you shake your excuse and go for the gold.

For the more advanced skaters who aren’t skating this weekend, or who maybe get knocked out early, watching really good derby will give you ideas about how you can improve your game play. Let’s face it, you watch your own team and league skate ALL THE TIME. Because of this, you have limited examples of alternative ways to do things. If you’re lucky, you get to play against or watch your travel team play against other leagues’ teams who are more than likely in your same geographical area. Nationals, however, brings together teams and styles from all over the country. By attending Nationals, you get to see a variety of other proven ways to do things. Some will reinforce why you shouldn’t do something a certain way, while others may give you ideas about new things to try when you get back home.

“Well, I’m not going,” you say, “but I will be watching the bouts over the internet.” Watching bout footage is great, but just like there’s no substitute for watching your favorite band perform in person, there’s also no substitute for watching really amazing derby in person. For one, you’re likely to see your new derby crush in the stands several hours after she’s just played “the best game you’ve ever saw,” and if you have the guts you just might be able to ask her something about her game play. Can you do that from home? No. No, you can’t. Secondly, if you’re viewing from home you’re totally missing out on the vibe from the crowd, and that’s just a bummer. Third, well, I’ll be there. C’mon, it’s Philly – you know I wouldn’t miss this being only 2 hours away! Seriously, if you’re there and you see me, say “hi” and give me some feedback on the direction you’d like to see me take this blog. I’ve got a couple of ideas for 2010, but they require audience participation. And, if you buy me a beer (or four), I might just turn into my evil, touchy twin: Cindy Grope-her. Not everyone likes Cindy Grope-her, but most people do. Just know that by purchasing me a beer you are agreeing to not hold me liable for any touching or fondling that may ensue. Beer purchase is not a guarantee of touching; if you are creepy, you will not be touched.

On that note, I’m off to do some laundry for this weekend – I can’t wait to see all of you in Philly!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cats aren’t the Only Ones with 9 Lives

In everyday life, most of us learn from our mistakes. We do something resulting in an unfavorable outcome, and we learn quickly to not do that thing again – unless, of course, that thing is an injury resulting from derby.

I have family and friends who look at me with awe and amazement when they hear of yet another derby or athletic-related injury. What they say is usually something to the effect of, “Wow, you really are dedicated,” but I know what they’re really thinking is more along the lines of, “Wow, you really are fucking crazy.”

I’ve always been accident prone, and I’ve never quite done the smartest of things. When I was about 8 I had a series of foot injuries due to wearing jelly shoes while riding my bike. When I panicked, I wouldn’t use the bike brakes for some reason – I would use my feet like Fred Flintstone – and I panicked quite often going by the house of my friend whose hot brother made me, well, panic. Slamming my feet to the ground, I would tear right through a pair of jelly shoes as if they were big pink erasers disintegrating on mistake-ridden spelling homework. I would come home with the nastiest foot wounds and repeatedly tear open the thin skin on the inside of the ball of my foot – just below my big toe. I played soccer then too, and I remember my dad trying everything to keep the scabs from turning to a layer of yellow puss that would rip off during each practice or game, making me start from scratch with the healing process. I don’t know how I played like that, and I have no recollection of it hurting or keeping me from playing, but I digress (as usual).

Speaking of feet, two months is an appropriate amount of time for a rollergirl to lose all her carefully crafted calluses. Last night was my first night back in skates since September 6, and my candy-coated exterior was nowhere to be found (boo!). But that’s not the point here. The point is that I GOT BACK ON SKATES!

My physical therapist has been telling me for the past week that I may be ready to try out skating again, but I’ve been understandably doubtful that I really am ready. I know she’s seen derby before, but I don’t think she knows just how much the ankle is involved in cutting and other quick moves. Regardless, I’ve been bored as hell at home, so I decided that I’d show up and just noodle around. Then, at least, I’d have a good idea about where I am with regards to being able to skate again. I made it through an hour and a half of skating (and about 20 minutes of warm-up time on my own before the actual practice started). I didn’t jump, and I didn’t do any contact (coming off injury, I have to do 2 practices no contact, 2 contact, and then I can scrimmage again), but as time went on, I could actually feel my ankle joint loosen up, which was a good feeling. Then, I did something stupid on the carpet, trying to show a fresh meat skater an exercise she could do at home to mimic the intensity of sprawls and falls, and it was all over for the night, which was actually fine because I didn’t really know what the outcome would be anyway.

I cannot tell you how good it felt just to be out there on the hardwood with two of my teammates, Holly and Terror, warming up and bullshitting before practice started. THAT is a big part of what I have missed: telling Holly she’s an asshole and listening to Terror bitch that she hasn’t been on skates in a week (I’m only talking about Holly being an asshole here out of pure love, because I know she reads this. Hi, Holly!). Being there felt good – really good. At one point, I stopped and thought about what I’ve been doing during this time while healing at home. My goal was to use practice time to write several large articles I’ve been planning and submit them to some magazines, but instead I sit on the sofa with the dog and watch crappy network television by myself. “I could be here instead,” I thought, “There’s really no other place I’d like to be.”

I guess I really have found my thing. I joke with Lady Quebeaum that we’re “lifers” – no matter what we do or how burnt out we get, we can’t stay away from derby. I’m beginning to think there’s some real truth in my jest. I’ve been injured significantly enough (albeit not all from derby) that I’ve been off-skates now 5 times during my 5-year derby career: PCL tear, right AC joint, left AC joint, herniated disk in my neck, and sprained ankle. And this list doesn’t include the other minor injuries that haven’t kept me off skates, like a tailbone break, rib fracture, cartilage tear between my ribs, pulled hamstring, pulled groin, various foot and back pains and cramps, and that insane knot on my lower leg that still hasn’t gone away and that the doc said after viewing my ankle X ray looks like a now-healed hairline fracture that I skated on all last season.

Even the most seasoned skaters might ask me, “Isn’t that enough?” I guess not. I’ve come to terms with my inability to plan any sort of “retirement” from derby. Each year I think it could be my last, but then I’m just not ready to leave, so I don’t. Bottom line: I’m going to continue to skate as long as I want to skate, and I’m not done yet.

This morning I woke up, expecting to be greeted by a swollen, sore ankle, but instead the usual morning stiffness I experience was nowhere to be found – neither was the swelling. I’ve been having problems getting the fluid cleared from the joint, and I’m wondering if skating last night didn’t actually help it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no position right now to jump back in head first – I can’t make quick maneuvers and I’m scared to lock wheels with anyone because my ligaments are still in pain – but I think I’m on the road to recovery.

There’s a white board at my office on which someone wrote “Interesting facts”. One of the facts was: cats have nine lives. Standing a little taller and walking with a somewhat larger stride this morning, I grabbed a marker and added my own fact: Rollergirls ALSO have 9 lives. By my count, I’m on my 6th, and I have a feeling number 6 is going to be a good one!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Expectations

We all experience times if life where we’re met with the unexpected.

I grow anxious relying on other people, because there’s just no guarantee that things are going to happen the way I’d like them to happen, yet over this past year I’ve been trying to make amends with my intense need to control everything around me. I’ve been relying more on others to carry the load and make decisions that once consumed my time, knowing that things might not always get done the way I would do them, but they will get done nonetheless. The results of this in my professional life have been pretty good. My time has been largely freed up so that I can manage the big picture, while leaving the details and the mechanism with which we arrive at attaining our overall goals to people with whom I work (I’m a Project Manager). Derby? That’s another story entirely.

Sometimes (okay, many, many times) I get frustrated that my natural abilities lie more with things like building budgets than with being an excellent derby player. I mention budgeting only because it’s something I just finished doing that I did incredibly fast and well. When my boss complimented my mad budgeting skills, I was thrilled, but then my thoughts immediately turned to longing for that same type of praise with my performance as a skater. It just doesn’t come natural to me.

Much like I take being able to build a budget for granted, I’m sure many skaters out there who have natural skating and athletic ability take their position on a roster for granted. Not me. It’s an anxiety-ridden nightmare in the weeks leading up to roster selection for an All Star bout. I get sick to my stomach each month, hoping and praying that I’m playing well enough to stay at the bottom of the roster. It seems no matter how hard I try, I’m just mediocre, so I follow the rules of being rostered prior to each game, hoping the skill I’ve shown at practice and my attendance and attitude will win me a spot on the roster. The days leading up to our captains’ selection are filled with my constant comparison of myself to other skaters in a similar position as me. Did they make attendance? How are they playing? What could they have over me that would make them rostered and me not? Then, once the roster comes out or the plane tickets are purchased, I breathe a sigh of relief and can then just focus on playing derby instead of competing for a spot to play derby.

But the “rules” of being rostered, as I know them and as I alluded to above, are not always followed. After really good performance at home against Philly, I was totally amped to travel to Chicago and play Windy City – a team I’ve wanted a piece of for a while. I had been feeling good about my ability and comfortable in my position for the first time all season. Now, with one game left I could get out on the track and just do my thing with my ladies. Or maybe not. Completely blindsided, I was told 15 minutes before we left for the venue that I wouldn’t be playing in the game. Confused as hell, because I thought I was just starting to excel, I was told that with this being our last game before regionals, our captains needed to be able to see if several other skaters were prepared for the level of game play we would face at regionals. It wasn’t because I was sucking – it was because they were confident that I could play at that level after watching me play against Philly. After a period of disbelief in this reasoning, I got really upset. I followed the rules, I worked hard, and the reward for that is being rostered – getting to play. Only this time it wasn’t. I felt completely jipped! And if I wasn’t going to play, why the hell did they bring me to Chicago?! What was a really great trip instantly turned to shit, and if I could have afforded to buy another plane ticket fly home right then, you better believe that I would have.

Then there’s the perception of others… I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care what other people think about me in derby. I do. And everyone else knows the unwritten rules of being rostered just as well as I do, which means assumptions would be made, and I’m sure they were made.

Back to natural talent. If I had natural skating ability like many women I know, I wouldn’t have ever been placed in this situation. The same can’t be said for budgeting. If you’re not a natural at budgeting, there is no horrible consequence that evokes a strong emotional reaction. Sure, maybe you have to spend more time redoing the budget, but it’s not like there’s a chance you don’t get paid because someone else in another department can budget better than you. And work doesn’t make me emotional. Derby, on the other hand, makes me incredibly emotional. Why? I actually think I’d enjoy derby a hell of a lot more if I cared a whole lot less about it, but therein lies the catch 22: I’m simply not naturally talented enough to care about it less and still be able to play well. My emotional health could be good, but I’d never get rostered.

I train out of fear. I try out of fear. Sure, I want to get better, but my biggest derby motivator is fear, and I don’t know how to change that. Thing is, I’m so freaking tired of living in fear of not being rostered each month – SO TIRED. What do I do to change this? How do I find some sort of balance that makes me less crazy in the head yet still in the running for a roster spot? If anyone out there knows, this girl would love to be hit over the head with a hint.

I’ve evolved a lot over the last three seasons. I went from the really fucked up mindset of “I’ve been here since the beginning, so I deserve a spot on the roster” and completely not giving derby my all to knowing it’s not about who you are or how long you’ve played – it’s about how good you are, and if you want to compete, you have to be good enough to compete, so now I do give it my all. I suppose I can’t be all that upset – I did accomplish many of my personal goals I set for last season: I made the All Stars and played in bouts against top-ranked teams. I still just want to be better so I can get out from under the stress associated with being at the bottom of the roster.

It’s difficult not to go into anything without expectations, and it’s especially difficult not to have expectations for something you’ve been involved with for so long, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past season, it’s that it’s foolish to have expectations that allow you to be set up for misery. Loving derby in the long term is like loving a long-term partner who always keeps you on your toes. After a while you grow to expect things to be a certain way, but they aren’t always like that. Turns out you need your partner more than your partner needs you. At times it can be a shitty relationship to be in, but you keep going back to derby because the allure is like nothing you’ve ever experienced, and although you often get hurt by it, you still can’t imagine you life without it. At least that’s how I feel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pussy(cat) Calling

I get cat called all the time. Am I special? There are certainly some people in this world who have that certain something about them – I’ve always thought Buzz Kill was one of these people. Me? I’m fairly certain I’m not, yet I still get cat-called and hit on more than a major league baseball. Sure, it’s flattering, but over time I’ve come to believe it’s just another charming characteristic of Charm City. My boyfriend has a theory that the men in this town hit on every attractive woman they see, because it’s merely a game of numbers. If you hit on 10 women a day, 7 days a week, out of those 70 women at least one or two should be willing to take the bait, right? I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a good strategy for getting laid, because you waste a lot of time and effort, but it is a strategy nonetheless and one countless men in Baltimore subscribe to.

Yesterday on my lunch break I tweeted: “Shamelessness hath no boundaries; I just got cat-called by some guy in his car as I was walking down the street in Towson.”

I kind of caught some shit for using the word “shame” and then decided I couldn’t say enough on this topic in a 140-character tweet or a Facebook comment reply, so I’d write a blog about it – a novel idea and something I haven’t done in far too long (I have Facebook set to automatically publish my tweets as status updates – a glorious invention for people like me who have diarrhea of the keyboard but not the time to update 47 different social networking statuses).

Here’s the deal: I’m not being hit on in bars or at social events. In fact, I never get hit on where you’d think I get hit on. Instead, I get hit on by people in places and situations that seem destined for failure. Yesterday, it was by a man in his car, driving through the business district of a suburban yuppie Mecca, stopped briefly by a red light. What’s the best case scenario here? I drop what I’m doing and get in? How often does that happen?

(No fucking joke, as I was typing that last sentence while sitting here in the car-dealership waiting area for my oil change to be complete, I was hit on: “I wish I could type like that, baby. Damn, you type good.” Seriously? Well, at least I know he has a car…)

Not too long ago while running at the Lake I had a man ask me if he could tell me “how good I look in those sweatpants.” One time I had to change grocery stores because the fish guy would follow me around, and then when he finally stopped working there another employee approached me in the candy aisle, asking if I’d “get him something sweet if he asked real nice.” A cop followed me home from work one afternoon, only to stop in front of my house once I got out of my car to ask me a question that’s popular around these parts: “are you married?” My all-time favorite incident, however, occurred at a mini mart. It was a nice summer day, and while we were both inside, this guy started with the “hey baby you look good” and proceeded to try to convince me to come hang out with him. When I got in the car, I noticed him parked beside me – on a mini-bike the size of a large house cat! How the fuck did he expect me to fit on there with him?! I can appreciate the effort, but part of me also wants to scold some of these gentlemen for writing a check with their mouth that their ass can’t cash.

I usually respond to these cat calls and drive-by hittings on one of two ways: I ignore them all together or I say “thank you” and leave it at that. However, over the past day I’ve really been pondering fun and unexpected responses I can pull out of my ass the next time someone wants to tell me just how good I look in my sweatpants. On one hand, I might as well come up with some witty replies, because I’m engaged by strangers like this on the regular. On the other hand, I am taken, and I don’t want to lead anyone on or get into an awkward conversation about why I’m refusing to give out my phone number. What I’ve come up with could both be fun and a sociological experiment: a business card with a link to a brief survey designed to find out the motivation behind the solicitation.

Stranger: “Damn, girl, you really know how to wait in line at the grocery store for your prescription. I like your hair. You married?”

Me: “Check out my website.”

Naturally, they assume I’m buck naked on it – hey, whatever gets them to the survey. I only need one survey respondent for every ten people I hand the card to in order to be statistically relevant (damn, girl, you’re smart and shit too). But am I really going to have enough people to whom I can distribute the cards? People, whatever you’ve heard about Alaska is wrong – they may have five men to every one woman up there, but your ass will get hit on more in Baltimore than anywhere else in the world. I’ve since left the car dealership, and on my 2-mile drive home I was hit on in traffic while at a light. It’s not called Charm City for nothing.

Survey results or no survey results, cards or no cards, I really do appreciate the feedback of strangers, because their methods keep me in a constant state of surprise and amusement; each cat call like a really fucked up greeting card, each line like a different amateur song lyric. Some days I may be caught by surprise more than others, but I’m not aggravated. It’s actually quite fun.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moving Forward

After a month of sulking, eating candy at night like it’s my second job, and reading a handful of articles about unconscious self-sabotage, I’ve come to the revelation that there may be no resolution as to why I fucked myself up so much in the month of September, rendering myself unable to attend Regionals, finish my home season, or just exercise like a normal person. As of late, several things have become apparent to me: I’ll never know why this happened, so I should stop fixating on it, and this self-deprecating environment I’ve vacationed in for the last month is about as useful as keying one’s own car (which, coincidentally I did back in college one drunken night to “see how it would feel to have your car keyed”). It’s time to move on.

Derby has been my outlet for nearly 5 years, and when it hasn’t been my outlet, running has. Rendering myself unable to do either has been extremely difficult, but I have learned a thing or two from being in this situation.

First, although it does about 80% of the time, derby should not define me. I’ve let this happen, and I live a very unbalanced life because of it. Just like you shouldn’t let your job define who you are, you shouldn’t let your hobby do that either. If you let your job define you and then you get laid off, you lose yourself; if you let derby define you and then you cannot skate, you lose yourself also. Although derby’s a big part of my life, I need to pull back and make sure I’m not using it as a crutch for not doing other things. For instance, over the past few weeks I’ve been panicking at the idea of no longer skating (even though I plan on skating next year). When I was finally able to get to the bottom of “why”, it was because I’m afraid that I won’t be as successful at anything else as I have been in derby, which, when I really thought about it was really disturbing, because I’m not even a “great” skater. I work my ass off to be mediocre on my travel team. I do derby because I love it, but I don’t not do derby because I’m scared not to. I need to evaluate what other things I want to accomplish in life, and if next season is the last for me, then I need to be prepared to use the same fierce attitude I have with derby with whatever else I choose to pursue.

Second, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Being mildly non-ambulatory is no excuse to give up the things that I say I love, like exercise. After weeks of whining to myself that I couldn’t skate or run, so I couldn’t do anything to stay in shape, a friend of mine popped into my mind as I was strapping on my air cast one morning. This friend has had chronic medical problems since birth, wasn’t expected to live past childhood, and has even landed himself in critical condition in the hospital several times since we met over ten years ago. He, too, uses something like an air cast (a leg brace), only he uses a brace on both legs every single day of his life. He’s also one of the buffest motherfuckers I know. He technically can’t run or skate either, and he has the further disadvantage of having a brace on both legs, so why the hell can’t I think outside of the box and employ strategies other than skating or running to keep my physical fitness in check? There’s no reason I couldn’t have done pushups and crunches and all sorts of upper-body exercises while I was on crutches. I’m currently at the point where I can use the stationary bicycle at PT, which means I could use one at the gym too. I need to start incorporating movement I can do back into my life, so I’m no longer a prime-time zombie with a part-time candy-eating job.

Third, it’s easy to stay in a slump, but there’s no good reason to do so. I could continue to beat myself up about being a couch-surfing laffy-taffy hog, but what does that do aside from encourage me to perfect my ass-groove and hate myself even more than I did the day before? For some reason I lingered in this state way longer than I typically have, and I don’t know why, but it’s time to put those ways aside and resume enjoying life and respecting myself.

Fourth, I need to learn to adapt to the unexpected inconveniences in life. This past month proved to me that I need to be more flexible in how I do things and how I feel about doing things that may be different than I’m used to. Just because I can’t do 100% what I want doesn’t mean I should do nothing at all. I’m a pretty selfish person. I have no kids, I have a good job, and I pretty much do what I want when I want and how I want, so you can see how having to adapt how I do things could throw a monkey wrench in my mental expectations of how things should be. This need for flexibility without emotional turmoil is actually something I learned from my mom. The day I sprained my ankle, we planned to go out for my birthday and I was so upset that our plans were ruined. My mom’s casual response of “that’s life – just deal with it and move on” seemed very out of character to me at the time, but I eventually realized that she has probably learned the hardest way there is that life doesn’t always go as planned, so you’ve just got to roll with the punches – no use in letting things out of our control upset us.

So, it’s time to move forward. Skating’s still out of the question for 6 weeks or so, and by then we’ll be in the middle of our off-season break anyhow, so I’m just going to plan on coming back in January like everyone else taking a break. I’ll run when I can, and I’ll try not to push it (risking re-injury, which would be a royal bitch). In the meanwhile, I’ll walk and maybe do the bike at the gym. I’ll try and stick to my original goal of using time I would have spent at practices during the off-season to write. And perhaps most importantly, I won’t obsess over or dwell on why things happen or what if other things happen in the future (like immediate re-injury of my neck or ankle once I’m back on skates). And as for that part-time candy-eating job, I’m resigning just as soon as I get home this evening – wish me luck, because you know how hard it is for me to give up responsibility.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shit Happens... Sometimes Sequentially

To say I’ve had writer’s block lately would be an understatement. In fact, not only have I been unable to put pen to paper in any logical manner, but I’ve also been unable to form much of a cohesive thought that didn’t involve my pure frustration or anger for this end-of-season plagues of injuries. That’s right, I said injuries – as in plural, multiple injuries.

After 3 weeks of being unable to do much of anything because of the herniated neck disk, I was finally feeling good enough on Saturday to ignore my physical therapist’s orders and go for a run. Running clears my head, and after no more than a quarter mile, I was finally thinking straight and could articulate in my mind why I had been in such a panic about not being able to skate or run for an indefinite amount of time. Then it hit me – not another profound thought, the ground. I was so engrossed in thought, almost at a dead sprint, when I rolled my foot in the pothole I never saw coming. Fuck, not again. Just as soon as I was again beginning to feel alive – head cleared, lungs burning – POOF! Right back where I was: condemned to my fucking sofa and horrible Wednesday-night fucking television. Fuck.

Unable to put weight on it as I got up from the ground, I sat on the curb and looked down at my incredibly-inflating ankle, trying to assess the practicality of the situation. The lake is 1.3 miles around, and I was approximately .75 miles from my car in either direction. I couldn’t put weight on it, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to crawl back with dog in tow. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. I scrambled to call J to come get me.

I thought I broke it, because it looked a lot like the lower-leg breaks I’ve seen first hand in derby. It was instantly profoundly swollen – nearly twice the size of my other ankle. I had visions of an overnight stay in the hospital, surgery, and hardware – the trifecta that so many of my teammates have had to face over the years. There was no chance of denying the severity of whatever had just happened because it looked fucking scary. The instant physical deformity made any hope of a quick recovery seem as foolish as hoping Santa would come the year after you found out he didn’t exist. After the neck injury and the whole missing Regionals, I was grasping at straws though, wanting nothing more than to “get back to normal”, which apparently is just not in the cards for me right now.

Before I bit it in the pothole I realized that I was angry and depressed not because my active lifestyle was briefly interrupted, but because I’m terrified that with each passing day that I cannot skate or run I will be one step closer to reverting back to that person I was five years ago – the rollergirl who wanted to be called a rollergirl, but who didn’t really want to have to do anything too difficult or athletic in order to look cool, the person who was so out of shape and in poor health that she was on medication to lower her blood pressure, the girl with the pretty face who had such poor self-esteem that she couldn’t even see that, well, at least she had a pretty face even if she didn’t have the body to match. Yes, I’m terrified that like an ex-junkie I’ll relapse into a junk-food filled sedentary lifestyle, and by the time I am able to resume the active lifestyle I’ve grown to love, I’ll no longer have the desire to do so.

With previous injuries, I’ve used my time off-skates to be sure I’m extra cautious about eating right, so my body is as prepared as it can be when I have clearance to resume derby. Not this time. September 8th marked the beginning of the binging that has not stopped. I’m so terrified about what I’m going to do to myself that it’s even crossed my mind to retire from derby now, in order to save face in 2 months when I’m so out of shape that I can’t keep up with my teams. I realize this thought is a ridiculous one, and I also realize that by having it, I’m giving myself permission to fail, and that scares the shit out of me.

The good news is that I now know what I’m afraid of, which means I can take steps to keep my fears from becoming a reality. Exactly how remains to be seen, but I’ll figure it out.

The ankle is sprained, not broken, and I’ve already gotten off the crutches, into an air cast, and started some very painful physical therapy to help it heal faster and more completely (apparently after you sprain an ankle it’s very easy to do it again). I’m quickly becoming good friends with everyone at the Sports Medicine clinic, since I’m now there nearly every day for either my neck or my ankle. Booking new appointments, however, is like reciting “Who’s on First” with the person behind the desk who can’t get that although I was just there for my neck, I need to make more appointments for my ankle. But I’m patient. Let’s face it, I have the time and there’s no reason to be an asshole.

“Everything happens for a reason,” is something I’ve heard more times than I can shake a stick at. Does it really? Cause right now I’m feeling more of a “Shit Happens” vibe. I’m not ready for the nice-and-tidy happy blog wrap-up quite yet, so you’re gonna have to wait for that just a little bit longer. Perhaps we can learn together that patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Derby Body Image Survey

Hey, ladies of derby!

Kiddo from Arch Rival Roller Girls is collecting skater-imput regarding body image for an essay. You can help her out by filling out the survey here.

Here's an excerpt from my final answer to the survey:

"Secretly, I think people want to believe that fat can still be fit and they want a hero that's "imperfect" (like them), but it's rare to see normal people excelling at something in the spotlight, and derby does provide the venue for anyone to shine."

Monday, September 21, 2009

2009: Going out with a... Slow Hiss?

Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve written last, and I’ve honestly been dreading coming back on here. Four days before Eastern Regionals I woke up in a shit-ton of pain, completely unable to move my head. I quickly found out it was a herniated disk and pinched nerve that would cause me to miss the trip to Carolina with my team. Oh yeah, and it was also my birthday. Happy birthday to me – injured again.

The neck injury didn’t necessarily come from derby. The docs say it could have been a long-time coming and virtually anything could have triggered it. I had been sailing the day before when a storm unexpectedly popped up. I’m a rather inexperienced sailor and was at the helm at the time. We went from 5 knots to 12 in two seconds, and everyone on the deck was thrown to one side of the boat, including me.

Set to be leaving for Carolina on Thursday, I didn’t tell my team about my neck until Tuesday night. Part of me had managed to hold out hope that my neck would miraculously correct itself and I’d wake up one day soon just fine, but after several days of being unable to look left and right before I crossed the street I realized that if I couldn’t turn my head, there was no way in hell I could play derby. Driving home from work, I called LQ crying. I begged her not to say anything to anyone else on the team, because in the teeny-tiny chance I woke up fine tomorrow, I didn’t want to be benched because my captains had heard about it. After several more hours of internal debate about what I could do and what I should do, and after about an hour hiding under the covers, I got up and emailed my team the news – I wouldn’t be joining them at Regionals. It may have been the single most difficult self-regulatory decision I’ve ever had to make as an adult.

Everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish this year was just building up to this. My goal was to play in Regionals with my team, yet somehow knowing I would have played had I not been injured is not the same as actually playing. I took a tiny bit of comfort in my teammates’ well wishes and encouragements to “get better so you can play with us at Nationals!” Then on Sunday all of our dreams were smashed, as we lost to Boston and were rejected a trip to Nationals. Fuck.

It’s true that I’m heartbroken that we won’t be making it to Nationals – and not just for selfish reasons – but what’s worst of all is that I have this overwhelming feeling of having unfinished business. I’m not ready for our season to be over. I want more. I want to play more! I’m not the only one, I know.

This past Saturday was the 1st bout my mom has attended since my dad died, and it killed me not to skate. On Friday night I had 2 glasses of wine, and convinced I was invincible, I sent a text to both my captains and our bench coach telling them that I would be playing tomorrow. I had to rescind that offer early Saturday morning when reality again set in. They all want me to rest up for our championship bout, but I realized this morning after traction as I was laying in a dark room with a heating pad that smelled like a foot around my neck that the championship bout is 4 weeks away, and I can’t so much as think about getting back on skates for another 3 weeks. Double fuck. I haven’t told my team yet…

So, that’s it. Without fanfare, without a trip to Regionals or Nationals, and without being able to even finish out my home season, my 2009 season has ended. Done.

I know what I need to do is take inventory of how much actual progress I have made since January, but I just can’t right now. I think I need to have my little depressed fit, I need to cry, and I may even need to throw things (without twisting or making any motions that would compress my spine, of course). God, I hate being injured.

I’ll get over this soon, and then I’ll really be able to reflect on the progress I made this season. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Going Away to Windy City

Going Away for Windy City

The woman on my left has a bad case of the tofu farts - you know, the brand of vegetarian fart that smells the way I envision hot rubber would smell. Not tire rubber, but the kind of rubber that condoms are made out of - latex, I suppose.

The man on my rght is worse than the woman on my left, only because the frequency with whch I smell the stench eminating from his filthy mouth is mere seconds apart with each exhale. I can only describe the smell of this man as 'dirty teeth'. You know how if you haven't flossed in a while and you dislodge something you somehow missed there's a smell of rotting food mixed with the worst case of halitosis ever? That's what I smell with every exhale of my travel mate - every 5 seconds.

What's worse, these smells are makng me have to concentrate very hard to not throw up right here. And here's the kicker, if I puke, I think United Airlines is gonna call the police to pick me up at the gate. Before takeoff, Rosie the Rioter was inquiring about the empty row ahead of me. She and I are both riding bitch on this flimsy piece of shit plane, yet we are not allowed to sit in the empty seats because they are 'premium economy' seats that, if they had been sold, people sitting there would have paid extra for. After noticing Rosie arguing across the aisle with the flight attendant, I take off my head phones to join in with the fun.

"You mean no one can EVER sit there during this flight," I ask. "What if someone were to get sick and puke all overhimself or his neighbor - the person wouldn't even be moved then, to get the other passengers away from the puke?"

"No," the attendant said. "We'd get something for you to help clean yourself up where you're sitting."

"Really," I ask. "Even if you puke???"

"Are you feeling sick?"

"Not particularly, but I might."

Time passes and the attendant is packing up the cabin by me agian, when Rosie starts back with him. I can't hear what she's saying, but I then feel a tap on my head from behind me. It's Minnie Piledriver and someone else passing me their barf bags. I can hear Dolly yelling up from several rows back, "You can have mine too if you need it!"

I pull out my earbuds and notice the attendant looking at me with a face full of "am I gonna have to clean up puke in Chicago or are these bitches fucking with me?".

"Are you feeling all right," he asks me.

"Im fine," I reply. I give him a look I would have given my mother or a teacher had I been 3 instead of 30 and having done something wrong.

My teammates bust out laughing all around me. I hear someone in the back of the plane ask what's going on and a response regarding them passing me barf bags because I'm not allowed to sit in the 'premium' row in front of me that's empty. The attendant is not amused, but luckily the woman sitting beside Rosie is. He leaves, annoyed with our adolescent antics - my two travel buddies making the bread of the lop-her sandwich look scared - real scared. I don't say anythng to put them at ease, because I can already smell the garbage can mouth stench and I can't yet tell who it's coming from. I now know - the one on my right.

Sweet Jesus this plane ride cannot end soon enough! My only comfort is knowing this thing should land pretty soon, and if I do puke, stank-ass to my right appears to be wearing the Dockers pants that are stain resistant, so I probably won't bother him as much as he's been bothering me, even if I do puke on him.

I've finished my can of gingerale - holy crap, he just yawned!!! Almost lost it there... I've finished my can of gingerale, and I think the plane is descending. Jesus, I promise I'll never intentionally fuck with another flight attendant again if you get me through this. I'll be good, Ill go to church. Well, I won't fuck with another flight attendant again - isn't that good enough?!

The condoms are again warm and saturating my breathing area. Does anyone know how to make one of those masks come down?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thank You, Mr. Photog!

photo by dennis_l&t's_dad (Flickr)

Before this season started, I stated somewhere that one of my goals was to come away with at least one good action shot of myself. Since then, there's actually been a couple good actions shots taken of me, but the series above from Saturday's bout against Philly's Liberty Belles is FREAKING AWESOME!!!

Now, before you chastise me for that elbow (which I got sent to the penalty box for on a major), let me explain how I think this series validates my execution of a near perfect block.

The block I was landing here is a lean block, where my ass is supposed to be behind the other skater, my shoulder is supposed to be in front of the other skater, my foot is supposed to be in front of the other skater's foot and in front of her, and I'm supposed to be pushing with my right leg while my thigh, hip, and ribs are making contact to push the other skater out of bounds. I had perfect form! Except for that elbow, which I'll come back to later...

I have STRUGGLED with form ever since I knew I had played 3 years with bad form. It is so much harder to unlearn bad habits than it is to create new good habits, so this past year has been frustrating and difficult for me. That being said, I am so happy to see a photo of myself where I have good form!!!

Now, for the elbow. I'll tell you now that I'm an idiot. I knew while I was executing that block that it was my shoulder and core that were moving her, not my elbow, but my arm is bent, and I can see how it looks like I'm elbowing the jammer. However, if you look at the progression, my elbow is the same in all four shots. I wasn't chicken-winging, I wasn't jabbing, it was just bent. And I always had contact with another part of my body. That said, I've also learned a lesson here to straighten my arm and perhaps move it out of the way, so I don't get sent to the box again for having my arm bent.

I know some of you will disagree with the elbow, and that's cool. You have to admit, though, these are some pretty bad-ass shots!






This Saturday: Windy City...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Azaleas & Fishing Poles

The first time I recall ever seeing an Azalea bush and learning what it was, I was sitting in the center-seat of a Ryder moving truck, about to pull away from our house in Mississippi, when just as my dad released the emergency break, our landlord’s car squealed into the driveway and blocked us in. As I tried to ignore the argument in front of the truck, I looked to my left – a line of Azalea bushes that I had never noticed before. “What type of flowers are those,” I asked my mom. “Azaleas,” she said. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in Maryland as we pulled into the driveway of the house of my paternal grandparents, whom I had never met. Three months later, with nowhere to go, they kicked us out of their house.

Last week was a typical week. I worked, I skated, I worked a whole lot more, and then I skated some more. In between all the work and skating, I was especially disturbed each time I read the news or turned on the television. The top story here in Baltimore last week was the assault of a local black fisherman by a self-proclaimed white supremacist and two juveniles while his wife looked on. After work and before practice or after practice and before work the next morning, my boyfriend and I had the same discussion each time we heard about the incident again on the local news: if we had been there, what would we have done? Would we have said something? Stepped in? We knew we hoped that if we’d been there we’d have done something to stop the horror of what happened.

On Thursday I was talking with my coworker about her need for more regular exercise. I offered to take her to my gym the following morning, and (gasp!) my ass actually made it up and there by 6am, a feat I haven’t accomplished in quite some time. As I was running on the treadmill, listening to my new workout mix and reading the captioning on the array of televisions ahead of me, I again saw the news story and I again became utterly disgusted. “I wish I could do something for that family,” I thought. Only this time that thought was followed by an idea: “I think I CAN do something for that family!”

As soon as I showered and got to the office I typed up an email to our league and posted a poll: Do you approve of donating 5% beer sales from tomorrow’s bout and giving a $150 gift card to the victims of the recent hate crime? Do you approve of collecting donations at the bout? And it began.

Emails flooded back replying to my post. In a matter of minutes we were preparing radio copy and emailing the Baltimore Sun reporter who broke the story. Within two hours we were writing a press release, designing a PayPal donation button to place on our website, and making plans to make DIY spray-painted ERACISM tees to give away at the bout. Three hours later we got a call from the mayor’s office who wanted to present us with a community service recognition award, and they weren’t even on the press-release list. It was a good thing I had planned to take off work Friday at noon, because almost immediately there was a lot to do!

Facebook posts, emails, phone calls, and a shit-ton of art supplies consumed Friday night. I could hardly sleep. I was so nervous that we wouldn’t raise a respectable amount of money to donate to the family, and I really wanted us to be able to make a difference. That, and I was so overwhelmed by pride for my league and the amount of support and hard work that so many ladies put into making this fundraiser happen, and happen successfully. It still blows my mind, thinking about what we pulled off in only a matter of hours. The next day, the bout.

The next morning I almost forgot I would be skating against Philly’s Liberty Belles that night, because I was so worried about making the fundraiser “perfect”. When I realized this was happening, I asked myself why this fundraiser had become all consuming. We’ve done fundraisers for charitable organizations before, but somehow this was different. Maybe it’s because the need was tangible – because I’d seen the couple who was assaulted on the news twice a day for the last 3 days – I don’t know. I do know we all became incredibly driven like we’ve never been before, and it paid off.

Last night we raised $2,000 for the Privott family. We’ll be leaving the PayPal button up on our website through this coming Friday, and we’re hoping to raise another $1,000 by the time we close donations. Our goal? To show this family more love this week than they had seen hate. Love can’t be measured in dollars, but I hope the dollars will help.

There’s something else that’s been on my mind throughout this whole ordeal: I really hope Mr. Privott is able to continue fishing. On Friday when I proposed the fundraiser to our league, I posed the question: Can you imagine packing up your skates and pads after practice, only to be attacked with a sledgehammer because of what you looked like?

I believe sports are important – not just for children or rollergirls, but for everyone who has a passion for a sport – even a man in his 70s, and I really don’t want a fishing pole and tackle box to be Mr. Privott’s Azalea bush. I want him to be able to continue to do the thing that he loves, even though for a while I’m sure it will be a symbol of pain. I can only hope that negative association will fade with time.

When I was 11-years-old and briefly without a home, I was amazed that this community that we’d been a part of for only 3 short months would be so kind to provide small things that made all the difference in our day-to-day life, like toiletries and food. And most of the people who helped us out, I’ll never know. I hope my small contribution in response to this recent horrific event can make the Privott family feel the same love I also felt from this Baltimore community at a very low point in my young life.

I made a decision when I was 11: I would never be homeless again. Sixteen years later, I purchased an old house in Baltimore. Each day when I arrive back home, I look at my house, my front porch, and my Azalea bush, and I can’t help but fell full of love. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and with time horrible memories do fade. But the good memories – even those that we experience in dark times – they become clearer.

If you’d like to help offset Mr. Privott’s medical expenses, please click here to make an online donation. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like I Need a Hole in My Head

Last time I wrote I was expressing a problem I was having about being motivated for the rest of the season. I really thought it was an internal motivation issue. I also had been thinking for the past two weeks that I really needed a new pillow because my neck hurt so damn bad. Then there was the mystery “peak of summer” pollen that was causing me to have a headache every day. It’s funny how we justify things to ourselves.

Early last week, after mentioning a growing bug-bite to my boyfriend and showing him the rash (both things I hadn’t given a second thought), he convinced me to show it to my doctor. Good thing I did, because it explains a hell of a lot: I have Lyme Disease.

Now, if you live outside Maryland, Pennsylvania, or New York, Lyme Disease may sound exotic to you. Actually, it sounded exotic to me until last week. Turns out, something like 90% of all Lyme Disease cases each year are in the three aforementioned states. It really is super-concentrated in this area, and on top of that mid-summer is peak tick season. If you’re like me, you learn something new every day.

I feel kind of validated knowing that my lack of energy is due to Lyme disease and not apathy, but is this not the WORST time for me to have gotten this sickness?!?! Regionals are in a month!!!

I’ve been super depressed over the last week, and Sunday marked my worst symptom day yet – I slept damn near 28 hours straight, and I was only awakened by my 24-hour headache that was completely non-responsive to 800mg ibuprofen. In the past 2 days, I’ve fallen asleep while driving twice. It’s only been a week, but I can stand my sofa no more.

After contemplating my life without derby during WFTDA finals, I’ve decided I must somehow figure out how to push through this and make it happen. I’ve worked too damn hard to be taken down by a fucking deer tick.

The good news is that it was caught early. What I can’t seem to figure out is how long I can expect to be feeling like shit. I plan on taking Co-Q10, B12, and superfood to try and increase my energy, so I can make it to practice and finish this thing that I’ve started.

If anyone out there has any useful resources, please send them my way! I’ll update more later. I’m off to acupuncture now…

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Enjoying What Will Be the Time of My Life

It’s funny to me how people often say that high school was the best time of their life. Really? Because I was a neurotic mess until I was 24 or 25, and some people I know will tell you I still am. In all seriousness, I remember my high school years as often being lonely, confusing, and full of anxiety. The best time of my life? I think when I have a chance to look back on it, I’ll tell you it’s right now. Yet even knowing this, on a daily basis I struggle to be mindful of my life. Right now it’s the same day-to-day, the daily grind, too much work, too little time, and nothing new, but I know that in 10 or 15 years I’ll remember the underlying joy I have for and the pleasure I take in skating. Knowing this, I fight daily to “not sweat the small stuff” and enjoy the things I have and am doing right now.

I didn’t learn about mindfulness until after my dad died and I was apathetically perusing the “grief” section at Barnes & Noble during my lunch break. Sometimes I get an idea in my head during the work day, and working within walking distance of an urban shopping Mecca proves all too easy to make a purchase or two on a whim. This was one of those whims. I had gone months without ever picking up a book on bereavement or death or chicken soup for this rash that won’t go away, but that day I decided I needed a book on grief.

If you’re ever already depressed, it’s probably not a good idea to go stand in the grief section of a major bookstore chain, because once you start reading the titles you’re bound to feel not only depressed but also hopeless now too. As I stood there I could imagine a salesperson saying “With such a wide selection, there’s a book on grief for everyone!” and me responding to the imaginary salesperson, “Book for everyone, my ass!” With rows of books titled things like Gay Nephews Remembering Their Uncles, How to Go on when Someone You Love Dies, and Jesus Suggests You Take up Underwater Basket Weaving to Deal, I almost walked out; I wasn’t a gay nephew, a hippie Christian, or suicidal – I just wanted something to help me sort through my intense and often inexplicable waves of emotion. Then, just when I had given up hope for finding anything normal, I saw a title called Grieving Mindfully.

The book was not only practical, offering real explanations for my rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it also introduced me to mindfulness – a concept I could kind of already relate to and that I would research even more over the following weeks. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the calm awareness of your body, feelings, emotions, and intent at any one moment. Although I never did finish the book, I liked their take on using mindfulness to acknowledge each feeling I had associated with the death of my dad.

Outside of using mindfulness to help deal with grief, I’ve also tried to use it in daily life. If you know me, then you know my outlook on life is simple: have as much fun in the small amount of time you have here; life is short, enjoy it. This does not mean I’m a proponent of doing whatever the fuck you want without any regard to rules or responsibility or respecting others. This does mean I try my hardest to appreciate what I have in the moment and make the best of it, but like I said earlier, it’s a struggle to keep up this train of thought, especially when you’re working 12-hour days and have little time to yourself.

When I tried out for the All Stars last February, I hoped and prayed and have been anxious to play with my team at Nationals. Recently, however, I’ve been ready for Nationals to be over already. And it’s not just me, too. Even some of the most die-hard derby players on my team often joke when discussing our impending “off season” that they don’t know if they’ll even last that long.

At a time when I should be kicking things up a notch, I feel as if I’ve been coasting in a lower gear – staying just within sight of the rest of my team and that destination ahead of us: Nationals. It’s not that I don’t want to go to Nationals or that I don’t want to skate, but I’m tired, and the rest of life has been demanding my attention even though I know and want to be spending that time on derby.

The other day I was talking to a teammate who was feeling similarly, only on this day she couldn’t even hide it at practice. As she wore her outlook on life and derby on her sleeve, I couldn’t help but preach what I’ve been recently unable to practice. “Look around you,” I said, “Things aren’t so bad here, today.” I went on to tell her that this is our year – we’ve worked hard, and we will go to Nationals – and when she looks back on this time, 20 years from now, she’ll remember this as the time of her life, so she should enjoy it now while she’s living it. I couldn’t have put it better if I was telling it to myself, and I wouldn’t have said it at all if it wasn’t for her.

I need to follow a bit of my own advice. Life is for having fun, and this will likely be the most fun I ever have, so I should be mindful and enjoy it, despite the nagging everyday stresses that don’t mean dick when everything’s said and done.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have… Yeah, I wrote it, The Facts of Life! Enjoy yourself today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Real Email, Real Life (to my All Stars)

Hey!

If you can read no further, this email is to let you know I must work tonight instead of coming to practice. If you can read further, the rest of this email is a look into my imperfect mind, and will possibly be repurposed for part of a blog (my words, not yours).

This week has taken a turn for the bizarre and busy. I had a pipe burst in our basement Monday evening, which is why I wasn't at practice. Home Depot occupied my night instead.

Today, I'm out of my mind busy at work. We have 12 business days left to finish testing code and writing support materials for this online management system that's going live on 8/17, and I'm the Project Manager :( I just had to do a total overhaul of a 1-page quick reference guide that I thought would take me 30 minutes but has instead taken me all damn day. And I have a 60-page tutorial to review and edit next... I won't be there tonight. I know I NEED to be there, but I can't be.

I won't have any problems making my attendance for Philly and Windy City, but I also want to play to the best of my ability and become a better player and teammate overall, so I torture myself for not having perfect attendance. Also, I hate to miss a Sunday (even though it was planned), a Monday, and a Wednesday all in a row (makes my guilt worse).

However, I had my therapy appointment today and this was the topic of discussion. I need to be less hard on myself for things that are out of my control or take priority over other things in my life (aka, work today). I feel like answering to you guys is more important than answering to anyone else, and it makes me the most anxious because in actuality work and home have to come before derby. I know we all struggle with this, and we choose different things: we may choose derby and feel the guilt for not choosing other areas or we may choose work or home and feel the guilt for not choosing derby. Either way, life is unpredictable and it's pretty much guaranteed things won't go as planned for any of us on any given day. Some days it's the practicality of not having enough time to do everything that needs to be done (or that you had planned to do or want to do), while other days you could cram everything in, even with a monkey wrench thrown in, but that would mean you would have no time at all for yourself, and let's face it, that doesn't work all the time either because everyone needs some time at least every once in a while for herself.

My therapist asked if there was anything I could give up or cut back on. I told her about the OSDA, but I also told her how I'm not yet ready to stop competing at the level at which our league competes, and although derby requires a great amount of my time, it also provides a great reward (many rewards, actually) that I still find totally worth the sacrifice.

It's especially hard to balance life outside derby with derby when you're trying so hard to improve and you're fighting each month for a spot on that game roster. The intent is there, but often the actions to back it up can't be. Scratch that, they CAN be, but you would totally sacrifice your health - mental and/or physical - and eventually that will catch up with you and force you slow down. I want to be an amazing and valuable player and teammate, but I know deep down that I can't truly do that if my life isn't balanced, so this is my way of saying that I'm going to try my hardest from now on not to be so hard on myself when it comes to life getting in the way of derby. When I am with you all, when I am at practice, I can guarantee that I will do everything I can to give it my all, to challenge myself, and to become that player and teammate I want so badly to be.

In other news, I do plan on attending practice tomorrow, and after nearly a week off skates I'm gonna be hurtin. Holly, please kick my ass, but also be nice to me if I cry from the pain.

Since I took a 30-minute detour to write this long-ass email, I'm just going to repost it in its entirety as today's blog entry. In case you couldn't tell, I really do love you guys, so thanks for reading my rant in the off chance you've made it this far (which you might actually have, since Reckless has been asleep all day and unable to send any equally-long but thoughtful emails).

XO,

Cindy

PS: I love you, Reckless!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

That's Not Cellulite - That's Jammer Fuel!

Going into my college days, I knew I wasn’t the sorority type, and when I actually got there my suspicions were confirmed – I am not a sorority girl. I did however joke that I was starting my own sorority: Pi Pi Pi, bake me a pie and you’re in! No one ever took me up on it, yet that didn’t stop me from packing on 65 pounds in 6 months…

There was a time in my derby career – a time that existed up until several months ago, quite frankly – that I knew I wasn’t a jammer. Often times at team meetings someone would get a count of all those available to jam. “Don’t look at me!” was always my answer. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but those days are behind us (and I suppose I could give a shit about embarrassing myself now too!).

This past Saturday marked the 3rd bout in which I’ve jammed – all three times for my home team, Speed Regime (oddly enough, a team not know for its speed). The first time I jammed was in May, our inaugural home season bout. Scared as shit as I approached the line, I got lead jammer and my opponent got a major, sending her to the box and leaving me unopposed for a full minute.

It was both the longest minute of my life and the shortest. It was a blur. I thought I had scored a 20-point jam. My whole bench was screaming, the fans on the floor were on their feet, and loud bursts of cheers came from the stands each time I completed a pass. “FIVE MORE POINTS!” I remember hearing our announcer, Dirty Mary, yell above the cheers of the crowd. Jamming, I then determined, is highly addictive. Each burst of the screaming crowd made me want more, while all the anxiety associated with being a jammer no longer mattered – this was totally worth the risk. The audience wanted me keep giving them reasons to stand up and yell, and I wanted to keep giving it to them. I still do.

We didn’t win that game, but that jam created something that had never existed in Baltimore before – Cindy Lop-her fans. I always resented jammers, because in general they’re the only players in the ever-changing clusterfuck of a derby pack that stand out to novice fans, so it makes sense that they’re also the only players who really ever get personal recognition and fans at the local level. In actuality, good jammers are good because their blockers are good, but only experienced derby fans realize this.

After the game I went upstairs to get a beer, which I sat off to the side and drank while taking off my gear (and no, I couldn’t wait for the beer). For some reason, no one saw me sitting there. What happened next was something I’ll never forget. A group of 20-something guys who had congratulated me on a good game as I was coming off the track were up at the beer counter talking to Joy Collision, who was standing behind it. “Do you know Cindy Lop-her?” they asked. That’s what caught my attention. When you talk to Joy, you talk to her about HER being a derby prodigy – you don’t talk to her about someone else. You don’t talk to her about me.

Their conversation continues with them telling Joy how awesome I am and asking her about me.

“Yeah,” she said, “She’s really big and really strong – well, she’s not really that big anymore – she’s really STURDY and can take a hit, but she can also skate really fast!”

Hanging on her every word, the guys retold the story of my first ever jam to Joy Collision. I looked around, I pinched myself – it was a very surreal moment in general but even more so because you don’t often get to hear what people really have to say about you – both strangers and people you know. It was an amazing gift that I’ll never forget.

At the after party I was a rock star, and some couple even had their picture taken with me. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a little weird, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t completely and utterly love it.

That 20-point jam that night turned out to only be a 10-pointer. Oops. It may have only been 10 points on the scoreboard, but it felt like a fucking million.

Two months later, last Saturday, I “beat” my personal best – that 10-point jam – by scoring a 12-pointer against the Mobtown Mods. I don’t remember the crowd being nearly as loud, and I didn’t have any fans come up to me afterwards, but I did get some pretty heavy congratulations from several of the Mods while on the line in the next jam I was in.

Jamming’s okay. Although I may never do it for the All Stars, I’ll continue to do it for Speed Regime. The fans, the recognition, and the drug-induced haze I get from the screaming crowd are all nice, but the real reason I’m going to continue to do it is for me. Each time I jam I prove to myself that win or lose I have the power to stand up to my fears and take them head-on. I learn something each time I jam, and it doesn’t hurt that sometimes that something is that it’s okay to have a bit of a big ego every now and again. It’s fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 8

It’s hard to go back several weeks, single out a day like any other, recall where you were, what you did that day, and how you felt, especially when nothing particularly notable happened. This is completely unlike remembering the particularly notable days.

I always thought that I’d never be able to forget the day my dad passed away: July 8. I remember driving my mom and boyfriend to the hospital that morning to say our final goodbyes to the shell of a man who once was and who needed to be moved from the ICU to the morgue. Before we even made it into entrance of the hospital I remember thinking to myself: “July 8 – 7/8 – this date will forever be ingrained in my mind”. And I was right.

Fourth of Julys have never been the same. Memories of parties and fireworks are now superseded by recalling days on end in the ICU and the ICU waiting room. By the 4th of that year, I almost couldn’t take the waiting any longer, and I broke my streak of daylight hours spent inside the hospital on the 5th, opting instead for a toilet to vomit in and several doses of Ibuprofen. My mom was pissed.

This past July 4th was the same as the last few have been. Sure, we’ve gone to barbecues and celebrated with our friends, but that looming stale soberness is always there in every direction I turn. And on the 4th of this year I told myself, just like I have been telling myself for the past few years, that it will be the worst on the 8th but over on the 9th. Only I just realized here on the 20th that the 8th was a day like any other: I forgot to remember.

The 8th was a Wednesday, which means I went to scrimmage practice that night. It was 2 weeks ago that was the week we really meshed as a team – the 8th. We were relaxed, we worked well together, and we had fun. In an attempt to not overanalyze things, we bypassed our usual post-scrimmage team performance dissection, and instead sat around just chatting. I was so proud of what came of that chat – all the things we’d been saying and strategies we’d been explaining were being retold and reinforced by our newest team members to each other. “This is awesome,” I thought, “they got it.”

Mildly obsessed with our impending trip to Kansas City that weekend, I was briefly distracted earlier that day at work by a string of Chuck Norris joke emails sent to me by my boss who has a thing for jokes and who had just recently revisited the Chuck Norris kick after being reminded of it by someone I supervise. Coincidentally, my teammates were telling each other Chuck Norris jokes as we stood in the security line at the airport that Friday evening, and I didn’t even bring Chuck up. I did, however, share my best Chuck Norris joke that I had heard earlier in the week from a coworker: “When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he doesn’t push himself up – he pushes the earth down.”

Oh, god… Thinking back on it, I was late to work on the 8th. With the assistance of some “Chocolate Smooth Move” herbal tea I had drank in a last-ditch effort the night before, the stomach issues I had been experiencing since the 4th finally resolved themselves, which I suppose was both a blessing and a curse. It was a curse in that I had to tell my boss why I would be coming in late, but it was also a blessing, because as unpleasant as it was ridding my body of what I can only describe as layers of sediment dating back to the Mesolithic era, the shitting myself blind apparently kept me preoccupied enough to completely throw off my day, and I never noticed what day it was.

As much as things stay the same, they also change. My feelings of initial guilt over not having remembered my father’s death-day anniversary have now been replaced by a fond recollection of my dad as our basketball coach, his taking me to buy stupid joke books and allowing me to tell the same “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” joke over and over and over again on the ride home, and his persistent laughter at my singing what I can only describe as “the diarrhea song”. What can I say? We have the same sense of humor.

It’s funny – it’s the things we don’t find particularly notable at the time that creep into our minds and over time somehow magically transform themselves into really fond memories. I’ll probably always remember July 8, but in the grand scheme of things, the events of that day pale in comparison to the years of everyday events that shape my overall memory. July 8 may have been the first day no more memories were able to be made, but it was also the first day I began to remember and celebrate all those wonderful noneventful things that have made me who I am.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Person(a)

You know those times when people make statements or maybe ask for your approval on things, and you don’t really agree with them, but you know you should choose your battles, so you lie through your teeth or agree even though you really don’t? Well, I can’t do that very well. I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions – I’ve been told my face shows it all. Now if that isn’t a reason to get Botox, I don’t know what is! I’d like to think this is one of many stellar components of my personality – my face can keep it real even when my mouth can’t. In all honesty though, I know I do this, so I try my hardest to just be me, while also being nice about it.

When I first started derby I was really into the entertainment aspect of it – the name, the character, the dress-up uniform. I painstakingly crafted the image that I wanted the world to see. When Cindy Lop-her was on television, you’d know it was her. How? For one, my season 1 helmet mohawk – green to match my home team and gold to match the travel team. It was prominently featured on a Blood & Thunder postcard, which still hangs on my refrigerator today. I thought the mohawk was bad-ass at the time. Looking back on it now, I wish I had put as much time and energy into my skating as I did that fucking mohawk.

Season 2, I removed the mohawk. After having seen numerous television spots and photos of myself in season 1, I realized I looked awkward, and I decided I wanted to draw less attention to myself. That, and I knew I could use all the help I could get on the track, so I removed the eyesore that was the mohawk, telling my teammates that I didn’t want to stand out in the pack and (gasp! Here comes something thoughtful…) I wanted to be recognized for my skills, not a piece of flair.

As time has gone on, the persona and the uniform have both become more practical – as I’m no longer trying to appear to be the shit, I’m exposing all my personal shit, for one! As far as the uniform goes, it’s just a uniform now. I don’t want to look cute or sexy or bad-ass – I want to be comfortable, cool, and able to move easily. I no longer wear fake eyelashes or even makeup sometimes. I spend the hours before a bout preparing mentally instead of preparing my hair, which is only covered by a helmet and then drenched in sweat in 10 minutes anyhow. Some fans or derby enthusiasts may think I no longer try. I think I’m trying harder than ever.

In the days that I sported the green and gold mowhaws, I was careful not to let my work know I played derby. I wasn’t Cindy Lop-her, I was a professional, and I was to be taken seriously. Editor by day, rollergirl by night. I remember getting nervous when everyone found out about my secret identity.

Today, I sit in my scrimmage jersey on casual Friday, because we wear them when we travel, and I’m headed to the airport almost immediately after work to go to Kansas City. My office door sports the upcoming home bout poster, and my office walls, filing cabinet, and bookshelf all sport the home bout posters of bouts past. I often receive emailed links to national derby stories from my coworkers, and some of their kids even wear tee shirts supporting one of my teams.

A teammate of mine recently relayed some concern over a new haircut, wondering if she would be letting too much of who she was in derby into her upscale job. “It’s not just who you are in derby,” I thought, “It’s who you are.” It was then that I realized I no longer have two lives – I am Cindy Lop-her and Cindy Lop-her is me.

And you know what? I fell a hell of a lot more comfortable this way than I ever did when I wore a mohawk or a business suit. I don't have to worry about controlling my facial expressions either.

PS: Tonight I’m headed to Kansas City in preparation for our bout tomorrow night (6pm EST, I think it will be boutcast on DNN). This is an important game for me. We’re down players for this trip, so I’ll have more playing time than usual, and the chance to prove that I’m a valuable member of the regular roster. I’m going to try not to let that freak me out and to just play aggressive and well and keep my head in the game. I’ll update you as to how it goes come Monday…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Dress

Like many of you out there, I curse the days of my youth that I thought I was “fat” and decided I needed to do something about it. At 17 I had already failed at Weight Watchers once, and I became so distraught that I made my mom take me to the doctor, who essentially laughed at us and told me to eat more salads and get more exercise. Despite my belief that I was horribly fat at that time, over the past 13 years I’ve often looked back and been nostalgic about not only my weight, but also who I was back then.

At 17 I was fearless, much like I am now, and even though I had a poor body image I was a pretty confident person, and I liked who I was. I lost my way a bit when I went to college and moved out on my own. Not only did I gain over 60 pounds, but I also suffered mental and emotional setbacks like a lack of confidence and intense self-loathing. At the time I associated these symptoms with my ever growing waistline – because I was fat, I was unhappy. And, so, I attempted to fix the problem through this diet or that. From shakes and 87 different vitamins a day to meat, meat, and more meat, I tried everything I had heard worked for anyone else, and although I may have seen momentary successes, I always stalled and put the weight back on.

For many years I had a gold standard of success that manifested itself in my favorite dress that I had last fit into when I was 17. My mom called it “that horrible housecoat”, but I loved it more than anything else I owned. Better yet, I picked it up from a thrift store for less than $5 – an incredible find for even the shrewdest of shoppers such as myself! The dress was sleeveless and white with a vibrant blue flower print. Around the high neckline was what I used to refer to as “a doily” – really it was white flower appliqué, which was then repeated down the sides of the dress. It came below my knees when I bought it, but I quickly shook the old lady out of the dress by having my mom hem it into a mini-dress (against her will to put any additional effort into the housecoat). When I was 17, I wore it all summer long with 5” platform sandals whose platforms mimicked tree bark. I certainly thought I was the shit. How couldn’t I, wearing that getup?!

After 13 years of going up and down in size and packing and moving multiple times, that blue and white dress was the one thing from my youth that I kept and never threw away. Each time I switched over my clothes from winter to summer, I’d smile when I saw it, but I’d leave it in the box, hoping that maybe one day I would again be able to wear it. God, I loved that dress!

For one reason or another I had taken a bunch of ill-fitting clothes and placed them in a laundry basket in our guestroom – the room that essentially doubles as my own personal walk-in closet, not because I’ve made it into my own personal walk in closet, but because my clothes are simply everywhere and I don’t bother doing anything more about the mess than shutting the door. The dress had somehow made it out of its box and into the basket, which caused me to attempt to squeeze it over my ass several months ago, only to become depressed and long for the days in which I was able to wear cute quirky things. On top of the basket it has stayed since that depressing day.

Then, this past Saturday when unhappy with my current wardrobe and trying to decide what to wear to a 4th of July cookout, I again thought of the dress and how wonderful it would be if I could wear it. I had time, so I figured I’d try and squeeze into it, knowing I wouldn’t be able to, but at least seeing if I could pull it up over my ass this time. It was shortly after that when I started screaming from my upstairs hallway, unsuccessfully trying to get my boyfriend’s attention. The dress fucking fit!

Not knowing what else to do, but like any other tech-savvy red-blooded American, I immediately changed my Facebook status to reflect the fact that I was now wearing this 13-year old dress that had been my favorite dress in high school. Because, you know, I could only stay off Facebook for 3 days before I had to re-download the application for my phone and get back on to share the most intimate details of my life with the world. FAIL. I know…

Walking on air and with my head in the clouds, we finally made it to the cookout, and I instantly got asked about the dress and my earlier post on Facebook. As much as I love and am addicted to Facebook, I feel really weird when people I know refer to something I posted on Facebook in person. It’s the shy part of me that can still only express herself through her fingertips, I guess. In any event, I received a lot of praise and congratulations from people I’ve often talked to about weight.

Later that night I was sitting with a friend discussing a recent doctor’s visit she had attended. She was telling me that her doctor told her she needed to lose 30 pounds and how she didn’t know how he came up with that number, because even at 30-pounds lighter she would still be in the morbidly obese range on the BMI chart.

“I’m in the morbidly obese range on the BMI chart,” I told her. And it’s true. For my height, the government has labeled me morbidly obese. I’ve been in that range for the better part of my life! Yet, this time I thought about it and said it, I didn’t give a shit. Here I was wearing my favorite dress that I had kept for 13 years. I’ll be damned if I’m letting the man get me down today!

“Are you serious?!” she said. “But you’re wearing that dress!”

“Does weight really matter?” I asked.

“See,” she said, “I keep thinking back to what you said to me at the gym that time, ‘when you stop trying to lose weight is when it will happen’ ”.

Although I remember those words coming out of my mouth, I began to wonder if it is actually not doing anything that causes one to lose weight or if doing something for one's mental health causes one to lose weight. All these years I thought lack of self confidence and depression were symptoms of being fat, but now I wonder if being fat was a symptom of my poor mental health. This isn’t to say this is true in all cases and that if a person is 100% right in the head, she will be thin, but I think there is an association that exists between mental health and weight – at least for me.

When I tried to fix what I perceived as the problem all those times, I was really just temporarily masking the symptoms of something bigger. But when I gave up my all-consuming struggle to lose weight and started doing things for myself that made the core of who I am happy, my weight – to a certain extent – fell into place. There’s also a little something to say for the additional exercise you get when training as a member of your All Star derby team. The reason I fit into that dress (even though I’m now 7 pounds heavier than when I last tried it on and couldn’t get it over my ass) is because of the added activity and the increase in muscle mass.

And to think that I wasn’t even trying… That’s the best part of being able to wear the dress. If I wasn’t trying, then I must be living right, and really, that’s what that dress stands for now – living right. Mentally and physically, it feels great to be in a place where I’m confident and I like who I am again. Sure, we all have our bad days (in celebration of the dress I ate my face off at the cookout and have been in severe physical intestinal pain since), but as long as we learn from them and get back to remaining true to ourselves, we’ll be just fine.