Tag: falling

“Ode to a Bruise”

“Ode To a Bruise”
By Wild Violet

I arrived and walked through the door
of the Armory for the practice du jour.
As a newbie skater
my skills would come later
after many falls to the floor.

I lined up as my legs did shake,
my insides seeming to quake,
to practice a drill
hoping not to spill
or to cause my body to break.

The trainers announced: “Time to jump!”
and into my throat came a lump.
What were they, nuts?
We’ll fall on our butts!
The adrenaline started to pump.

I watched wide-eyed as one by one
the skaters lined up for the fun
of clearing the hurdle
or falling to turtle
but catastrophes- there were none.

As I stepped up to the cones for my turn
my stomach continued to churn.
“Ok, here goes!”
I silenced my woes
and took off feeling my face burn.

With all my hesitation to go
I arrived at the hurdle too slow
and pointed my nose
down toward my toes,
as my legs tangled I shouted “Oh no!”

Onto the gym floor I thumped,
landing on the side of my rump.
Though I felt some slight pain
I mostly felt shame-
for my fear caused me to miss the jump.

I stood back up and shook myself out.
Trainers gave an encouraging shout:
“Try it again!”
So I lifted my chin,
and skated back round’ fighting doubt.

I fell again and again on that day,
thinking “Oh, Derby Gods, show me the way!
To master this jumping
and get my legs pumping,
so this skill I may finally slay!”

Back home after practice I felt
how the side of my left thigh swelled.
Tender and blue-
hot to the touch too-
from the repeated blows it was dealt.

As days passed bigger she grew.
My first “derby kiss”- something new!
I named her Big Bertha,
for she was big as the Earth a
symbol for pushing through.

I wore her with pride and wincing smile,
for she proved I’d gone the extra mile,
and not given up
when the going got tough
as I endured my roller derby trial.

She transformed through many hues-
yellow, green, purple, black, and blues.
To me, Bertha meant
that I’d tried and tried again.
So I sing this Ode to my Derby Bruise.

(Though jumping I still need to practice,
and wonder if I’ll ever quite hack this,
I shall never give up
If I fall on my rump.
Bertha would want me to attack this.)

Confession of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Living Out Of Control

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?

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Falling

One of the great side effects of derby is increased confidence. Each time I get on skates I am nervous. I feel inadequate. I feel a little intimidated. Then I start to feel the wheels, and my legs warm up and my heart starts beating and I stop thinking about what I can’t do because I am focusing on what I am being challenged to do. I am skating forward. Awesome. I am picking up some speed. Hurray. My crossovers are smoother and more rhythmic. Yippee. And then, a new skill is introduced and suddenly I am skating backward or doing transitions or sliding to a stop on my toes, and each new skill that is introduced brings a momentary slight panic that it’s something I can’t do. But then the next thing I know, I am listening to the trainer or a vet give me pointers, breaking everything down, and making it look so easy. All I can do is focus, listen, and try it and then, ta-da! I fall on my ass. I get up. I stumble through it. Maybe I fall on my ass again. But, eventually, it comes.

So, here’s the amazing thing. Falling on my ass has been one of the best things in the world for me. Because, when I fall on my ass, there are a team full of girls there saying “Great fall! You’re really pushing yourself!” and they really mean it. Falling in derby means you’re learning. It means you’re living. And it means that you can take the bump and get up and keep going.

Something happens when you hit the floor and you bite it hard. Hard enough to rattle your bones. Hard enough to make you pee your pants. You feel pain, and sometimes it is a lot of pain. I have fallen so hard my legs turn to jelly when I stand back up again and it takes a few minutes to skate it off. But those things are just a part of it. Taking a digger, feeling the pain, and getting back up again triggers an emotional and mental response that I have never experienced before, and it’s the reason any derby girl will proudly show her “derby kisses”. You begin to feel your strength. For me that was a feeling I didn’t recognize and it is addicting. You begin to understand your personal power when you get up, shake it off, and get back to work. You skate the practice out, finish crusty, salty, achy, tired, and triumphant. There is a high that I feel after a good practice, when I have made it through the whole thing and did something I didn’t know I could do. That feeling has filtered through derby practice and has started affecting the way I feel when I am not on skates. It feels good. It feels like something I have missed my whole life. If I take nothing else away from derby, that in itself is priceless.


Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: First Day


Have you ever wondered about roller derby? Like, seen a picture or an article and had a little flutter of curiosity and a flash of derby fantasy? If you’re like me, it was more than a flutter, and, like me, you probably daydreamed “Whip It: The Sequel” starring (insert your name here). And then, like me, your grown up brain kicked in and said “Was that light green or did we just blow through a red? Wait, is it only Wednesday?” (Yaaaaawwwwnnnn)

Well, give your adult self a cookie and put her down for a nap. You’re going to grab your inner (wild) child by the arm and drag her to the Lewiston Armory to see what this roller derby business is all about.

This is not just any derby night, it’s your FIRST derby night. You, fresh derby diva, have just begun an exciting new adventure with the Androscoggin Fallen Angels Roller Derby League.

You’re early because you’re excited and nervous.

When you step into the Lewiston Armory you mentally kick yourself for being too eager. It’s awkward. Super intimidating. You see women of all shapes, all sizes, all kinds, and they are gearing up.

These are the vets, the badasses, the ones who have already clambered over a bunch of derby hurdles to form this fledgling team. They are laughing and talking, busy doing their derby girl thing. You hear things like “which wheels are you using tonight, 94s?” and “look at this bruise!”  “Are we doing 27 in 5 tonight?” You have no idea what they’re talking about

Your eyes scan the wide open gymnasium for something to stand behind before one of them notices the new girl. No luck. You’ve got your new derby gear in your old canvas tote (so lame) so there’s no hiding, no backing out. Suddenly, you remember exactly what the first day of high school gym felt like and exactly how terrifying your gender can be to it’s own kind.

But, you only shake in you sneakers for a split second before a friendly face appears to welcome you and show you the ropes. She explains the gear, checks your mouth guard and helmet for proper fit, and reassures you that you don’t have to know how to skate to do this.

You sit on the bench and finish gearing up, watching the vets out of the corner of your eye to make sure you’re not committing any derby faux pas. Girls pass by, saying hello, introducing themselves with fantastic derby names and you wonder if the names you have been thinking about are cool enough or whether everyone will think they’re silly. Maybe, you say to yourself, you should just forgo the derby name. But so far everyone seems so friendly and down to earth. Maybe this will be okay.

New girls start to trickle in, and you see on their faces how you must have looked a few minutes ago, waaayyy freaked out! You try to relax and take it all in. Butterflies are out of control.

A couple of team members are all skated up and gliding gracefully around the track, warming up. Most of the skaters are finding the newbies to welcome them and give them pointers on how to make sure gear is secure. You’ve already got your gear on so now you can watch and listen.

“I don’t think I can even stand up on these things!” Nervous laugh. “ No kidding! I don’t remember how long ago I last skated.” Someone nods her head as she struggles to figure out which way her knee pad goes. “Did you get butt pads? They’re not required but I’m afraid I’ll break my ass!!” More nervous laughter. “I don’t want my ass to look any bigger than it already is.” “I don’t know about wearing those tank tops. All my fat rolls will show.”

You recognize your own thoughts in the chit chat. As you listen you begin to realize, this is how we women try to fit in, get comfortable with meeting new people in an intimidating situation. We tell everyone how pathetic we are, give them a heads up, before they have a chance to do it for us. That way, when we fail, at least we can save face by saying, “See? I told you I suck. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!” You laugh, and throw in some self shaming of your own. You don’t want to seem like you’re too full of yourself.

But maybe in your not- too- distant past you would have judged some of these women in just the same way they are judging themselves on your behalf. It’s what we do in our culture. We judge each other, we judge ourselves, and we accept and internalize  judgement as though it was our birthright as women.

You start to really look at these women who are just as crazy as you are and just as flawed as you are and you have an epiphany. If you apologize for your self and your imperfections, then you’re telling everyone around you that not only are you not worthy, but neither are they. Because how can you hate your own rolls, or bony knees or clumsiness without, in turn, hating someone else’s?

You ponder this during your first practice as you struggle to stay upright, to shake off the burning in your legs and back, to catch your breath, keep up with the girls, wipe the salt out your eyes.

Then, BAM! You fall, and you take out a few other girls in the process. You’re mortified. Did you hurt someone? Break something? Pee your pants? You can’t even get yourself up and you’re reaching out to help your victims. “Omigod, are you okay? I’m so sorry!”

An Angel glides up to make sure no one is injured. She is smiling as you’re still apologizing for causing the crash, and she says “There’s no sorry in derby!” You recover. Push through the embarrassment and you skate out the rest of the practice.

Maybe it doesn’t sink in completely, maybe it’s not a light switch moment, but maybe, on your first night of roller derby, you learned something that had nothing to do with skating. You learned you can give yourself permission, at least for one night a week to just be, in all your glory and with all your flaws. No apologies. No sorry. Who knows where that might take you?