One of the few things you can count on in life is that it will change, absolutely and without question. I like to say that I embrace the idea of change and I frequently seek change. But, I will also admit that I fight for control of change, and that is where my wheels usually come off.
I love to learn, and experience, and grow. But I don’t always grasp that it’s the things I can’t control that bring the most profound and valuable life experiences. I’m usually too busy trying to make them stop, or at least force them to submit to my will. Let me share how this might translate into derby life.
You decide to join a roller derby team which means you gotta learn how to skate. You strap eight tiny wheels to the feet that you have navigated for most of your life without conscious thought and then, well, you roll. Simple.
You envision that you’re going to glide smoothly across a glossy slick floor and go from point here to point there. And you’re going to do that in an upright and graceful state.
Suddenly, the feet, legs, butt, and arms that you routinely ignore as you push your cart down the grocery aisle or walk down the stairs are all in a panic, fighting for control. They yell at you to take charge, to use your brain to prevent them suffering some serious damage.
This is when you begin to realize two things simultaneously. A. You’re about to fail. And B. You hope like hell you don’t.
Fear driven determination kicks in and, with clenched fists and gritted teeth, you will yourself to stay vertical. After all, people are watching and your sense of self preservation and dignity is well developed and almighty.
You become acutely conscious of each action. You fight for control of everything. Toe stop down, gingerly push. Roll forward. Teeter. Wobble. Accelerate. Make undignified whimper noises. Realize that starting was the easy part before you bend your knees, lean forward, wobble some more. Whimper louder and use your toe stop to try to stop. Hope you are actually stopping. Pirouette around toe stop and manage to keep your balance before coming to a tenuous stop. The trainer blows her whistle signaling to everyone to gather around her. Teeter. Thank goodness you happen to be stopped in the right place. Heave a sigh of relief as you stand, vertical status intact, and take a quick glance around at the cluster of women who have all just danced the same dance as you, aaaaand…
Wham! Suddenly, you’re looking up at the legs and butts of those same women. You never even felt it coming. Those sneaky, greasy, lowdown, $@&#% wheels slipped skyward and you found yourself instantly on your ass. You were just standing there, minding your own business and now you’re sprawled on the floor like your drunk Aunt Mitzi at every family wedding. But that’s not all. You’re about to have a derby lesson about the illusion of control.
First, you haven’t experienced that kind of pain on your backside since you fell off the monkey bars in third grade. Second, you may or may not be able to breathe. Third, various body parts are calling you ugly names. But, the worst, most mortifying thing of all, is your timid, wallflower bladder is cowering “Sorry, guys. I just couldn’t hold it!” Are you serious?
Now you have a decision to make about your so called control. You can unlace your skates and hightail it to the ladies and do some bladder damage control. You can pull up your hoodie, throw on your Foster Grants, grab your gear and control yourself right out the back door.
Or, you can stand up, own your uncomfortably moist situation, and make a mental note to be prepared for future episodes of derby PMS (Peed MySelf).
You can accept that falling happens, that eventually you’re going to get hit, and that it’s probably going to hurt. You can decide to look forward to your first derby kiss and hope that it’s a lovely dark purple so you can show all your friends how badass you are. You can decide that it’s okay that you’re not in control. Yet.
Falling on your ass hurts. It’s a complete and utter lack of control. It’s humiliating, but the first time is the worst. It does get better. But if you embrace the pain and the failure you’ll be rewarded with something priceless that comes from inside you.
Falling means you’re pushing, you’re persisting, you’re persevering. It means you’re finding the thrill of the skill every
time you push yourself off the floor. It means that soon you’ll know what it feels like when you skim over the floor. You will know the feel cool air on your hot, salty face as you push to do your 27/5. You’ll get to feel a body buzz when you nail a killer turn around toe stop in your new, powerful and (dry) upright derby stance. No one can give that to you but you. And no one can take it away.
Life has a way of throwing some pretty brutal hits. You can be standing there minding your own business and then, without warning, you’re on your ass, and it hurts like hell and you wonder “What the hell just happened?” Maybe you need to take the bench, catch your breath, and pull yourself together. You can even hit the ladies to change your shorts. But, then you have to decide, are you going to sneak out the back door, play it safe, try and get control of the uncontrollable? Or are you going to get back up, live out of control and skate?