Sunday, March 15, 2015

Still Meaningful

There's a lot you can do besides those two things, work and raise a family, but they're a big part of a person's identity, which able-bodied, neurotypical people, don't seem to understand. There's being a friend, community member, volunteer, even just surviving, you are giving those around you experience and awareness that they would not have otherwise.

Just try to leave things one step better than they were the way you found them. You can never really know how far the effort will run. Like planting a tree for shade in which you'll never sit.

Great advice, right? But I'm still struggling to answer, "What are you looking forward to these days?" with anything more than "karate."

My ex and her new spouse had the baby for which she had been letting me plan while she made her exit strategy. It's even more brutal to let go of the baby we were so close to having, than it was to let go of her. I don't put my heart lightly into things, as can be seen with my commitment to karate.

At the dojo I've had to stop working with the children because my heart breaks into a thousand shards of sorrow when I see a wash of eager little faces, and none of them are mine. I am so proud of those kids, and worked enthusiastically with them when I was expecting my own. But I can't hold back the tears anymore when they come in, and the last thing I want to do is being my feelings into the dojo. That's where I go to get away from such pains and pressures, in the same way that a church pew takes away the pressure, like someone else is holding the reins for a little while. So until I'm stronger, I'm finding other ways to be useful there.

Medical school didn't work out. Marriage didn't work out. Children didn't work out. I don't feel hopeless, like the last two things could never happen. Rather, I feel like it shouldn't be this hard to achieve such basic elements of human life. It took seven years of fighting the laws for the right to marry her, and I, not believing in divorce, was ready to commit. I was ready to give up every possible comfort to raise a child instead, to give it everything it needed. But it was not to be.

I help so many people, hundreds or more, and I accomplish more than I can get down on paper. So why can I not be satisfied with that? In Japanese there's a word, "Bosatsu." Bosatsu is one who gives up heaven to help others get there. Why isn't that enough for me? With as powerful and effective as I am, why can I not commit to such a life of valor and kindness? It seems like that's my strength, and that I would be happy to have identified my strength so I can maximize the good that I will do with it.

I've decided to pursue a Master's degree in Social Work. After that I may pursue a Medical Social Worker's license, which puts me in the medical field, albeit not where in the field I had planned to go.  I hope with all my heart that through my martial arts training and my graduate studies I will be able to let go of desires for myself, and learn to be contented with what I can offer to other people. We'll see.

All I know right now is that karate is holding me together, and if I lost that I would be in a very bad way. Thank goodness it's not going anywhere. It's a part of who I am and that's not going to change now.

This is a pretty emotional post but who's to say that inner battles are not just as real as the ones we practice to fight in the dojo? Balance... Balance.

It's time to find a new dream. Maybe digging down into something new will kick up enough dirt to bury the dead and deferred dreams. Face forward. All that healthy stuff. My marriage died, not I.

Be well.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Holding My Own

Karate takes discipline. I would say that I waste a lot of discipline on just staying well enough to get to karate. But if I make it, my discipline is not wasted.

Nobody denies the reality of that feeling when you're down that the terror will never end. When I'm sick, weak, in pain, barfy, or sedated, all I can think about is that I don't know what it's going to take to get me back to the dojo, but I know that it's more than I have at that moment. How easy it is to feel that the defeat is ultimate.

Either somebody said to me, or I read, that when you miss a few classes, but you're in it for the long haul, it doesn't matter too much. That is, when being a martial artist as your way of life, it cannot be taken from you so long as you live in that way. Thats why its called karate-do. Whenever I had discovered this point, I didn't internalize it right away because I didn't know how powerful and moving it would be for me.

Still, karate is literally everything I look forward to in my life. That can either be seen as sad or dedicated. Either way, it's quite true! Most decisions I make are predicated on whether or not they will improve my karate, or my ability to get to karate. In fact, I wish I had even more discipline than I do, but I suppose that's everyone's wish.

Between Christmas Eve and the middle of February I was ridiculously sick with one infection after another, and then the rest of February was a rehabilitation period. I had my physiotherapy list earning her money for sure, trying to keep the pain under control and trying to put a floor beneath me so that my condition wouldn't get worse. Much to my pleasure, she succeeded and my rehabilitation time has been a lot shorter, with bigger benefits, than ever before. That's also because of karate, at least in part.

My friends know well that I am not modest. Sometimes that's not a very good thing at all, but when it's time to look at whether or not I am loyal to what I believe in, there is seldom any question of what matters to me. I work hard to succeed in karate, and I'm quite proud of myself! But I could never excuse myself from the humility love knowing that I couldn't do it without the help of many other people, especially my Sensei.

When you think about taking martial arts classes, a part of you may think about the fact that this is a teacher providing an athletic service of instruction. On a fundamental level I suppose as much is true. But after you've passed out, dislocated joints when nobody's even touching you, cried at a sudden flood of awareness of your progress, and used the stability of your class schedule to get you through hell, then being a martial artist is no longer a matter of going to the gym and working with a very dangerous trainer with a black belt. Then, being a martial artist becomes the beautiful thing which is the art.

A Sensei does a lot for each seito (student). When you're gone, they look for you. When you're tired, they tell you to push or tell you to rest. When you're sick, they expect you to take care of yourself and return. When you're careless, they bring you back to earth. When you're hopeless, they hold a safe place for you on earth until you can stay grounded on your own again.

Karate is not a thing I do. Karate is a thing I am, and a thing I need.

When you're a religious person you go to church. Sometimes you connect and you feel very energized, and other times you sit in the pew and wonder how things could have changed so drastically in your relationship with a higher power. But church is the same. It is you who have changed.

I'm a religious person but I have had a terrible time finding myself comfortable in a church. Being Catholic, Church policies are incompatible with my values. Protestantism is a little bit confusing for me, but if I could find a Protestant church that would probably be ok. Even that is difficult to say, because I would never want to expend any energy which keeps me from karate. Sunday is my day to rest, and I very much need to rest on that day. My sensei and many other people in my dojo have a strong religious values, but in this type of church our beliefs never get in the way of who we are as people. That's the kind of religion I can get behind.

Each day I sit in seiza, kneeling, and reflect with these two meditations:

Warriors of Grace Karate Dojokun:
Through discipline, strength, and humility,
I will strive to bring out the best in myself and others.
I will use common sense before self defense
and never be abusive or offensive.
I will strive to have patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.

The Lord's Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.

That part about trespasses is really hard, but that's what I work on the most during Lent. It'll probably take a few more iterations of the season to really understand that part. Until I am humble enough to really own that, I'll keep practicing. That's a Black Belt attitude. My goal is to be able to hold it, own it, and live it. For me, karate is the way.

Be well.