Monday, March 22, 2010

Would the Real Lop-her Please Stand Up (& Tap Out)

This morning I tweeted, partially in jest and partially in all honesty: "Another Monday, another identity crisis. Who will I be this week? Cindy Lop-her? Publishing Professional? Homebody? Future psych patient?"

I was pretty bummed last Wednesday when I realized my 2-week conference stint in NYC and the time needed to make up massive amounts of work because of the NYC conferences had just barely precluded me from making my roller derby attendance for this month, resulting in my being benched from next Saturday’s game per our attendance policy. That was a mouthful. It was a head full too. The implications of this were my letting my team down for what feels like the millionth time so far this season and my having to explain to my captains that I’d be missing attendance and unable to skate – a conversation I hate having to have. It wasn’t until this morning on my way into work that I realized what part of my problem is: I’m too fucking responsible for my own good.

Somehow, everywhere, I wind up leading the charge. I do it at my job, I do it at derby, I do it at home, and I even do it with friends. I think it all begins with the identification of a problem or a want that I take upon myself to put into action because I can’t stand NOT acting. By doing this, I now “own” whatever it is that I started, and I feel personally responsible for the follow through and maintenance of the project. This is why I became an LLC member of our roller derby league, and it’s why I’m one of only two remaining. This is why I’m in this massively time-consuming job that I wanted and that I helped develop the job description for, even though it’s at times overwhelming. This is also why I start massive projects at home, like the 4-day vegetable gardening project I nearly broke my back completing this weekend even though my house was and still is filthy and I have no clean clothes or groceries. I am, in every sense of the terms, a project manager at heart. Problem is, I spend so much time managing things outside my basic wants and needs that I have no time left to really tend to all these things like I should, and I have no time for me.

Each week, sometime each day, I feel like a different person, and I suppose I decide what main role I will play by identifying where the most immediate emergency lies. In the middle of last week I was the publishing professional, because I was behind on my work. This weekend, however, I was Farmer Dell, because if I wanted to accomplish having a vegetable garden this year, I knew this weekend was the absolute last deadline to prepare my previously ungardened lot. Tonight I plan on being Donna Reed, going grocery shopping and then cleaning my house and doing laundry, because, well, no food or clothes inside a house covered in dog-hair tumbleweeds and tiny clumps of dry soil is the emergency. I feel like I’m all these different people, but really I’m just a harrowed mess of a person who’s constantly trying to race against the clock. I have too many ideas, too many ideals, and not enough time, yet I don’t ever give up anything and I even add complications at times (hello, garden), which are sure to stress me out even more in the days to come when my lists are longer and my days are shorter. So all this leads to one question: how do I regain control? Does the answer lie in giving up responsibility or in giving up entire projects all together? A good friend of mine said to me the other day, “I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m so beaten up, lying in the center of the ring, and I know someone else needs to get in there and I need to get out, but I’m so bloodied and exhausted that I just don’t even have the energy to pull myself to the side and tap out.” Yep. That about sums it up. For me, however, there’s possibly one other reason I lay bloodied in that ring: because the lights are shining, the spectators are watching, and well, I’m already there.

There’s a certain reward I get for being every woman imaginable – friends tell me I’m “amazing” and the public really likes to see me fight, even if it’s against myself. In a way, I keep doing it because I know other people like to see me do it. Am I a people pleaser? Afraid of being unpopular? Afraid of no longer being “amazing”? Um, yeah, I’ll take all of the above and probably some others I haven’t even begun to think about.

Like many of my recent blog entries, there is no answer to be found at the end of this page – it’s more of a starting point for my thoughts and considerations. I think I need to find out what’s really important to me and identify where I want to be next year and five years later. Besides chasing my tail, what are my goals? What do I want? How do I envision the perfect life? Only then can I start to create it. The hard part is now – the time when I let various people down because I really can’t do it all. Oh, well, I project managed myself into this mess and I suppose I can project manage my way back out. Next on the agenda, a to-do list and some spreadsheets for how I can get back on track. One thing’s for sure, no matter who I am or what I’m doing, I take comfort in my methodology and my anal retentiveness. And, shit, if a girl can’t cling to perfection and procedures, what can she cling to?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making Music on the Track

Just because you know how to play a note or a chord, doesn’t mean you know how to put them together to make an actual song. This is my story (click here right now! & then come back...):

In the third grade I tried out for my elementary school’s elite chorus, The Singing Saints, not necessarily because I wanted to be in a choral group but because my friend Amy was trying out. I still remember finding out the results of my try out via our new high-tech 80s-model answering machine – it was probably the first message I ever received. It was Amy, giggling, who revealed that we both made the cut. Chorus turned out to be something I did enjoy (except for that one terrifying Christmas concert at the local nursing home), and I actually did learn a lot about singing by participating in the choral group at a young age.

When I was 14 I decided that I was going to teach myself to play guitar. I can’t even remember why I decided to do this – probably because I thought boys would dig it. Looking back on it, I lived a large portion of my adolescent years with the mindset of a pubescent boy, but I digress as usual. I got my dad’s old acoustic guitar out from the hall closet, bought new strings for it, learned to tune it, learned some chords, and learned to play some popular music for which I could find sheet music in my small country town (which at that time was REM). I eventually graduated to electric guitar, which I received for Christmas about a year later. On that, I learned to play REM AND Cracker. Impressive, I know.

Then, in my third year of college, my girlfriends and I had a drug-induced revelation that we should start a band, and The X-Girlfriends were formed: Anna on drums, Dana on bass, Jaclyn on keyboard, and me on the mic and guitar. We called our brand of music “pop punk”, and our influences were The Donnas and The Rondelles. We practiced every week, sometimes twice a week, and in our two-year tenure we scored some gigs and played out ($100 goes to the person who hands over the video from CafĂ© Tattoo so I can destroy it!). Regardless of all these things that sound really awesome and make it seem like we knew what we were doing, we so didn’t. In retrospect, we were just a step above horrible. But why? Independently we all knew how to play our instruments. I knew how to sing. But when it all came together, we were a fucking mess – kind of like my individual contribution to the All Star try-out scrimmage last weekend.

In derby we start by teaching new skaters the basics: stops, sprints, cuts, and blocks. As they progress we start to incorporate these individual skills into drills that mimic potential bout situations – how to block someone out of bounds, how to break up two opposing players, how to get in front of someone. We really do try to build on skills and groups of skills to ease skaters into game play, yet there’s always a few skaters who remain great at drills but are surprisingly bad at actually playing roller derby. The good news to them is that with time and practice they can improve and become wonderful skaters. The key word here is PRACTICE, and not just skills practice, but practical practicing of, in their case, actual game play.

I wasn’t too thrilled about trying out for the All Stars after having attended less than 10 practices since my return from injuries in September and then again in late October (god, I’m a klutz), but I really wanted to play against Oly in April, so I figured I’d give it a whirl and see where my skills actually were. Individually, my skills are still strong, and even after a 15-lb weight gain my endurance is nowhere as shot as I would have expected it to be, but as I tried to put everything I knew together, it just wasn’t meshing, and trust me, I could tell I was off as the scrimmage portion of the tryout was taking place. On paper, I could have told you what I should have done in each situation that arose, but in practice, I became confused, indecisive, and unable to execute any string of truly effective moves. Ick. I’m out of practice – not with the skills, but with my team. There’s something about practicing together that can’t be replicated in any other way. I now know that I need to attend as many scrimmage practices as humanly possible to get my mojo back as a productive and working part of the whole.  

As for The X-Girlfriends, we hung out a lot, but we never really practiced enough. Had we done so, who knows? I’m still amused by many of our old songs, especially Sugar Bobby, about a wealthy middle-aged guy I knew through my job as a Camel Girl, and Meter Maid, a song about my disdain for ticket-happy meter maids in Baltimore who would ticket my car as I was loading it up outside of work with cases of Camel cigarettes. Being a Camel Girl was both a fun and annoying job at times. If you ever happen to catch me or any of my old band-mates out, buy us a beer and we’ll sing you some songs. And hopefully soon you’ll be able to see me make some music on the track again as well.


Awoke from a dream I was looking for answers, when I suddenly found myself in the pit of an unearthed tree. Underneath the roots was a pile of trash - plastic cups, red and blue. Lifting myself up like I was exiting a pool without a ladder in the deep end, I crawled out. I was the only one who had noticed the roots were no longer stable. Worse yet, I was the only one who cared, and no one else was around. I skipped to another tree on the landscape and found my feet sinking in a semi-solid gelatinous purple-grey goo. I retreated and went the other way. This time the ground was covered in the same goo, but it was mostly solid - only a tiny slip. Still, the goo was there. I went on to search in the abyss for something. A tree with good roots? I don't remember finding it, but I do remember eventually finding other people. They were among the concrete highrises, chasing and being chased - those who broke the law were being pursued by others breaking the law to find them. I was sad and didn't want to be there, so I woke up. Weird.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

Discontent is the First Step in the Progress of a Woman or a Nation

Just minutes after I found out I hadn’t made the All Stars this go round, I received a distressing call from my mom in which she relayed that the lawyers handling my dad’s wrongful death case need to see us immediately for an urgent matter. It was after this that I found myself pondering the following rhetorical question:

If we knew the end result of all our actions and attempts, would we still attempt them or act on them?

Now and again I’ve read stories about people who have the ability to memorize and recall everything they’ve ever experienced on every single day of their lives. You can give a person like this a date – June 20, 1982 – and he or she will be able to tell you exactly how that day played out. Sounds pretty cool, initially, but the horrific truth behind this “gift” is that just like these people can remember every detail of every day, they can also vividly remember every emotion as if the scenario relating to that emotion is playing out before them for the first time. Luckily for the rest of us, as time fades and memories become fuzzier, so do the emotions we had relating to those memories. The emotions tied to memories are dulled, and we never again experience the same emotions with as much gusto just by remembering them. This may be why we repeat our mistakes – we don’t remember the magnitude of the bad consequences. If did remember them, however, and we knew that those feelings were a possibility when we were about to make an attempt or act in some way, would we follow through? Or would the possible negative emotion keep us from acting?

In the case of the wrongful death suits, I can’t help but think that all the work and all the pain it brings up just isn’t worth it. Well, let me qualify that by saying it isn’t worth it for ME. The only benefit of successful outcome I’ll ever see is my mom being awarded some cash-money that will help support her through her senior years. That is indeed a benefit. I guess I’m just sick of reexamining what is possibly the most painful incident in my life over and over and over again for years on end. I don’t want to think about any part of it in detail anymore! It’s horrific, and in the grand scheme of things it was a teeny-tiny part of how I remember my dad, and I’m pissed that I’m being asked to spend so much time recalling the details. The whole thing, however, is beyond my control. As long as my mom still wants to go forward, I’m tied to still participating. It sucks, but short of faking my death there’s nothing I can really do.

In the case of not making the All Stars, I’m not surprised, but I’m still disappointed. I dislike the feeling of disappointment and rejection, and I am a bit embarrassed that I couldn’t bounce back immediately and make the team like I’ve seen some people do. In a way, I am almost luckier to know I’m blow that 20-person roster than to have made the roster at the 20th spot, because I don’t think I’d have been honest with myself about where I stood, and I might not work as hard as I will now.

If we knew the end result of all our actions and attempts or if we knew the real possibility for a bad outcome with negative emotions attached to it, we might never do anything, and to me, that’s not really living. Living life to the fullest incorporates risk, and to a certain extent it’s risk that gives us a thrill like no other. It’s a good thing we don’t have accurate foresight or the ability to recall emotions with accuracy, because if we did we’d never take risks, we’d never experience the thrill you get when you do take a risk, we’d never get the chance to surprise ourselves with a favorable outcome, and probably most importantly, we’d never fail, which means we’d never grow. If discontent is the first step in the progress of a woman or a nation, then failure is the first step in trying harder (not the last step in trying at all). Everyone fails at some point – it’s what we choose to do after we fail that matters. For me, I’m going to suck it up and take a day off work this week to go see the lawyer, because there’s no use fighting the inevitable. As far as improving on my derby skills, I have a good list of feedback from the try out to start from. I’m going to push myself harder to correct those things that led to the captains’ decision, I’m going to commit to attending more practices more regularly to help my skills improve, and I’m going to try again. As long as I’m trying, I’m moving forward, and that’s all I can do.