Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mister Misser

All night I had violent muscle spasms, an amplified form of the day's evil pains. These spams hit so hard and fast that if I could replicate them I might get a new kata. My body wrenches so hard that I flail, so heaven help you if I happen to be nearby with hot tea in an uncovered tumbler. I got a dislocation that it took me hours to reduce, a bruise from flailing into the wall, a nasty headache and soreness all over.

I missed karate this morning.

Today I had a lot of plans. I won't be able to do them independently. I might not be able at all, we'll see. So far I've had breakfast and brushed my teeth. This is an enormous accomplishment every single day and I give thanks for that.

There is nothing in my dojokun about perseverance, and I prefer it that way. Sensei often speaks about Higaonna-Sensei's unforgiving and relentless hours of repetitive drills. He says of 2007 punches while crouched in shiko dachi, "but you know what? I got through it by only thinking about the one I'm doing: now this punch... now this this punch...."

My point is that it makes sense that mindfulness has a cumulative impact on overall success. That is, just focus on the next task. It's very hard to do that with EDS because I will wear myself out for several days by doing certain things for five minutes, and this is not hyperbole.

I hate missing karate. That place is the only thing I strive to do, the only thing I always enjoy. It's where I get to be with myself and my body in a positive way. When I can't make it I feel so sorry, so very sad. I miss my Sensei, I miss working in groups, I miss just being somewhere and knowing that I don't have to plan out the next hour. I can just hang out and have fun, and know that I will be able to handle anything that happens there. 

Being in the dojo reduces the anxiety I have about EDS. We never do a drill for very long, and if we do I just take a rest when I need to. Sensei has instructed me to bow out and rest when I need to, so that means being a tough guy is not acceptable. I have to follow the rules and be honest about what I can and cannot do. In that sense I interact with my body's limits, and it doesn't seem unmanageable like it does outside of the dojo.

My second instruction is to get back in there as soon as I can. I live for that feeling I get when I open the door and bow back in.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Keeping On

Onegaishimasu. Please teach me.

Life continues just as it has never promised to wait or slow down. But I look for the beauty and I saw it at the dojo this evening.

I had to sit down so I didn't overdo it. That left an odd number of karateka, with one of the younger karateka left out of a paired up exercise. Sensei slipped on his gloves and paired up with her.

Sensei has a big job to do. He is the head teacher, the owner, the leader. He is also a father, a friend, a counselor, a spiritual leader, a moral compass, a cheerleader, and a genuine human being. What a tall order for one guy! No wonder he looks tired by 9:30pm when it's time to close up shop.  The whole day through he is watching like Peter Cottontail. Are the children safe? Are the adults being good role models? Are the exercises challenging enough? Are the exercises too challenging? Did the business meet the bottom line this month? Is the paperwork done? Is the restroom stocked? Does the timer have batteries? Is the floor sanitized? Is my attitude on straight?

It's truly no wonder he isn't sure how to answer the simple question, "How are you?"  Every day he works with students to help them face their fears and challenges. Nobody has a hill that he won't climb. It's amazing to see.

But this young lady who was the odd one out today happens to be a bit skittish. But I saw Sensei in a rare moment. He was simply playing, enjoying a spar with her, building her confidence. He was a lion playing with his cub.

How it makes me happy to have seen this. It reminded me that I need to have fun in life.  I enjoy karate but until I felt at least a little safe with my skills I took it far too seriously. Constant hypervigilance is part and parcel of life with EDS. But if he can take on all that he does and still play, then maybe I can, too.

Sensei ni arigatou gozaimashita. Thank you for the lesson, Sensei.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reaching Out, Reaching In

The belts in this picture are my former ones, and my finest achievements. They show that I have not given up on my body, and they wrap around me as does the love of so many people.

It has been seven months since my wife left me. My dojo has continued to be the anchor that keeps me from sailing over the edge of the earth. A hundred or more people with and without EDS cheer me on while my medical professionals help me keep at it. I feel like a jerk because, despite all of this, I still ache for her. This is a major error of thought as it invalidates everyone who has helped me pick up the pieces.  Karate has been a way to cope, something to focus on.

The picture in this blog entry is of my first four belts, stacked and bundled with a modest thread. They rest on my bookshelf where my wedding photo once stood. I need them there right now because they remind me to continue fighting like H. E. Double Hockey Sticks to stay positive. It hurts to be without my wife, to know that she has let go and moved on, but I have not. 

My friend and Sensei Mike, up in Buffalo, challenged me to keep a leader's attitude. I am aware of the fact that I say much online, and everything I say can be construed rather deeply by a lot of people. Such is true of anything we say or do. It has taken much grace by people who continue to reach out to me, to remind me that even getting support online can be asked for and gotten in a positive way. Positivity does not just happen. It is a choice--a way of being--actively pursued. 

Asking for support at all is a positive move. Just like asking for help to perform a move or technique in karate, asking for help to navigate a cloudy day is another way to connect with people who care. Self-Defense is about self-preservation. If we go the extra mile physically,  then it makes sense to also go the extra mile emotionally, and both in good company.

I do not wait for a crisis before I reach out. It is the "humility" part of my dojokun, a beautiful meditation authored by my Sensei on which I rely several times a day. We all have to make choices. If we are creative and patient we can perhaps always find at least one positive choice. If we cannot, that is the signal to reach out.

Reaching out looks like this:
1. Identify people I trust with my thoughts before crisis starts, tag them in my phone contacts as teammates.  Also tag 1-800-SUICIDE, 1-800-VET-2-VET, and any other crisis line.  It helps to have a confidential and nonjudgmental person at the ready.

2. Don't overthink it, just call. Say, "Do you have some time to talk? I am having a tough time and could use some support."

3. Be honest with yourself and the person or people helping you. Tell the truth.

4. Do your best. It will be messy because crisis is a highly emotional time. Karate and other self-defense practitioners may feel that they should be tough enough to handle it alone, but the strength to be vulnerable is essential in self-care. 

5. Give your awesome self a round of applause. You go, you tough cookie. Make a plan for tomorrow so you have something to look forward to, practice a kata, drink some water, and get some rest.

Good work! Nobody said it was easy. But if you practice karate you are no stranger to being tough. Inner strength is much of overall strength. Seize the opportunities to get a little stronger by practicing with others. That is, reach out when you need to. 

Now on my 7-kyu belt, I am right at the early intermediate level. I think that I am conceptually in the right place. Physically I am working very hard to get stronger. Stronger, in my world means more stable, movements more deliberate, complex exercises practiced more conservatively in favour of longevity. I really want to strike a balance on that last one before I progress any further. I reach out to my doctors, physiotherapists, friends, and of course, my Sensei. 

Be well.