Day 12: Fear And Loathing In Muay Thai

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Last night I coached kid’s jiu jitsu, then made my way across the dojo to the in-progress Muay Thai class, as I usually do on Tuesday and Thursday. The bags were all in use, and there was no one left to work pads with, so I stationed myself a the wall pad for the duration of class. It was sufficient for working strikes, except knees, which I quickly learned to throw in air.

After class, I sparred for the first time. I’ve never sparred striking before, except a little boxing a long time ago. I did 2 rounds, and got banged up  a little. My neck and feet are stiff, but that’s okay. We weren’t going hard, and I had gracious training partners who took it easy on the new old guy. I’ve wanted to spar for a while. During advanced class, I’d usually work combos on a heavy bag in the corner, staying out of the danger zone of the sparrers, in awe of the ease at which they stalked, parried, counterpunched. I knew one day it would be me, but I was afraid.

I was afraid I wasn’t ready, I was afraid of getting hit. I wasn’t worried about looking silly or making mistakes, but I was afraid of pain-which never came.

I knew when I woke up on Monday morning that I would spar that night. I was overthinking it-fear was the mind-killer. Overthinking and being in my head gets me in trouble in martial arts as well as the rest of life, doubting my choices and thinking self-condemning thoughts  when I screw up. Like T-Swift says, I gotta shake it off.

I did it, and it was no big deal. I put so much value in it, put it on a pedestal, and in the end it was a fun exercise between teammates. My fear was bigger than the threat, but it was my beast, and I slayed it. Maybe next I can focus on something more challenging, like not getting so worked up by other motorist’s inability to use turn signals, which is also typically not a big deal.

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The Ghost Athiest (Fiction)

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This originally appeared on my Medium.com page, where I post fiction pieces.

The Ghost Athiest

“Dude, wake up.”

Paul rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. “You’re not talking to me. I already told you ghosts aren’t real. Rather, they could be real, but there’s no evidence for or against. My non-belief is pragmatic and based on the scientific method”, he said.

“Paul, this is going to get ugly if you don’t get your stupid meatbag ass outta that bed. I have to right wrongs on Earth so I can move on, and you’ll learn something through the quest.”

Paul sighed. “This is just a side effect of my medication. I’m going back to sleep.”

“Goddamnit Paul! Even prescription-strength dandruff shampoo doesn’t cause claw-like lacerations, auditory and visual hallucinations, and fuckin’ ECTOPLASM!”

“The scratches are from inexpensive towels, the hallucinations are from being tired, and the alleged ectoplasm is sebaceous fluid from my inflamed scalp. Goodnight, to no one and nothing, because I am alone.” Paul said, glad for having stood up for himself.

The ghost shook the bed. “A common earthquake, and a pitiful one, at that.”

The ghost opened Paul’s laptop and typed “SAMSAMSAMSAMSAMSAMSAMSAM.”

“Screensaver,” Paul declared.

“Listen, jackass, I have to settle accounts” the ghost said.

“Misplaced workplace anxiety,” answered Paul.

The ghost jumped in through Paul’s solar plexus and made his head turn around three times.

“Yoga must be paying off”, a smug Paul said. “Namaste.”

“I have business with the realm of the living, and I’ve chosen you as my corporeal assistant”, the Ghost said from within Paul’s thorax.

“I have big things to do. I’m going to change the World! I believe in me, I’m a winner, and nothing can get in my way!” affirmed Paul.

The ghost swam out through the main exit, dragging a fart with him. Paul giggled.

“You screwed up big time, buddy! You could have been rich, and imbued with the power of the spirit world. You could even have been reunited with your dead dog, Sparky. I’m outta here.” The ghost said, before flying through the dreamcatcher over Paul’s window and teleporting to Arizona.

“Is he gone?” asked a voice from under the bed.

“Yeah, it’s cool. Come on out, babe”, Paul said

“Whew, that was close” said Lady Sasquatch, as she slipped under the comforter. “Tell me about Sparky” she said, spooning Paul.

Random things that make me emotional

I went to a spoken word/poetry event. We proposed and voted on a theme for the next week’s event. The theme was: “Random things that make me emotional.”

Because of real life, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it 2 weeks in a row, but I liked he prompt. I decided to do a freewheeling prose listicle, or what non-writers call a list.

  1. Ive only ever had 1 panic attack, which was in the drive in of a Panda Express in Hampton, Virginia. My family was changing their orders as I was speaking to a young lady through a surprisingly busted-ass intercom for a brand new building. She misheard everything I said, and tried to upset each item to a combo. The din battered my ears like deep turquoise waves pounding craggs at a Scottish shore. I clenched my jaw tight. I didn’t want eggrolls anymore, I just want the moment to end. My heartbeat rattled my eyes like a Muppet’s, back in the day when muppeteers lived on uppers and downers. I said “nope nope nope nope, I gotta get outta here”, and stomped the accelerator, blasting the pre-owned Mazda 5 out of the drive through.
  2. Epic arrangements of songs-I saw a Black marching band do Jr. Gong’s “Welcome To Jamrock” and it made me tear up, back before I lost the ability to cry. It was like a mega-dose of goosebumps.
  3. When Mufasa dies. Everytime. Damn. Every damn time.
  4. Racism. “Emotional” doesn’t just mean “sad”. Intolerance-based hate in general, but definitely racism.
  5. Baby laughter.

 

Rectangles

This story originally appeared on Medium.

 

You pat yourself down before you leave-wallet, key fob, phone. You have all your pocket rectangles. The rectangle is utilitarian, to be sure, and the least sexy of all shapes. Rectangles are boxes containing brown, square-toed shoes to make boring men more boring, their feet more rectangular. Rectangles are cubicles, mid-sized sedans, Excel spreadsheets, cinder blocks, paper money, the phone books that appear on your porchtangle to be fed to your recyclingtangle. Topographical maps commit the sin of rendering mountain ranges-MOUNTAIN RANGES!-as rectangles, their purple mountain majesty wider than tall, cornered by 90 predictable degrees. Even the Golden Rectangle of the Parthenon is only hip because of spirals and the Fibonacci Sequence. If it weren’t playacting as circles (and therefore asscheeks-trust me, the ancient Greeks were all about ass), the Parthenon would just be another fucking fat fucking square. You walk through your rectangle door into your pickup truck and drive down the road alongside other sad rectangles and their sad people. You encounter more as your go along; traffic lights, handi-vans, convenience stores. Rectangle, rectangle, rectangle. You see a box in the road. It’s possible the box is full of kittens. You speed up and run it over. At the very least you’ll create something new and asymmetrical, and though you’re not overtaken by feline bloodlust, you’ll destroy a rectangle.

 

 

Thank God

Yesterday was stressful- I thoroughly Good Fridayed. I felt like I had a lot of loose ends for an event I was supposed to be planning. I rear-ended someone in the course of running errands (minor-everything was ok), but everything went fine. The event was a blast, and not the miasma of confusion and ruination I projected it would be.

At the end of the day, it was good. Kind of like hiking, when about halfway through you doubt your decision-making faculties and elucidate on all the ways you were sure to die, but at the end, all that doubt and anxiety was really getting your hackles up over nothing, and hiking isn’t the worst thing.

We have three chickens. My favorite is Beyonce. The other two were being all Mean Girls and not letting her hang out. They’d venture across the yard without Bey, and hog the food. I made a point to petting and scratching her as I tucked them in every night for a few weeks. At first she was resistant, and did not appreciate me being in her space. Now she lets me pick her up and carry her around. Bella has started hanging out with Beyonce, and leaves Alice Walker to do her own thing. It’s very interesting, but Beyonce doesn’t need fairweather friends.

My whole family has been sick, and I really hope I don’t get it. I had a cold from November to February. The main reason I don’t want to get sick is because we’re doing a lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) event at jiu jitsu on Monday. We all bought masks. I am really looking forward to it, I know it will be a blast. I’ll take a million pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Monk With A Camera, about a Buddhist monk who was also a photographer, as the title would suggest. It was more than that he came from a family high fashion, his father was a diplomat, but still, apt title. I enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to a photography class semester after next. The Dalai Lama was in the movie. I’ve seen him in a lot of things, and I’m always taken at his big, genuine laugh, which he is quick to share. He has deep joy and peace, even though he constantly deals with ameliorating intense suffering. His laugh is effective medicine.

The best medicine for me right now is sleep. Adieu.

 

Everyday

I’m posting everyday until Easter. This is in spite of work, school, family, not sleeping, and activities.

Of course, these won’t be the topical essays I used to write- I like those pieces, but they took a great deal of time to post. I’m choosing to force myself to write and post in spite of work, school, family, doing stuff, and not sleeping.

During roll call I told my guys I’m leaving the Air Fore, that I’d gotten a job, and was staying in the area (for now, inshallah). They applauded and congratulated me like a  scene from a movie.

When my life resembles a movie, it’s normally some stupid Ben Stiller movie, like the time a few months ago I somehow got both thumbs simultaneously, not on purpose caught in 2 separate rat traps. Applause by a crowd is a welcome change.

I still feel good about my choice to leave the military. I’ve wanted to for years, but never before have I had a solid exit strategy. It makes sense this time- we don’t have to move right away, we don’t totally hate where we are, my workplace is a drive, but manageable. The logistics aren’t daunting. Typically I have a sense of impending doom regarding major changes, and I am so overwhelmed with a massive to do list that I just have to lay on the floor. Not so this time. Again, welcome change.

I don’t typically write about politics/current events, but I am DISGUSTED by Donald Trump. I suppose his supporters think if Trumplestiltskin is elected, the ugly rhetoric, the sick ego, the talking about his dick (which is still hard to believe really happened) will go away, and he’ll be presidential, develop actual policy, and basically stop being Trump?

Reagan and the omnipresent, looming threat of nuclear war shaped the 80’s, and had a huge impact on the arts. One good thing about our volatile times is the interesting things people will create in response to this volatile, shitty age, where rhetoric, statesmanship, and civility, the marks of polity since Rome, have disappeared completely. I’m no Reagan fan, but at least he could string  together a senence. A few years ago, O’Malley and Kasich would have been just dandy opponents for an election cycle. Now they seem tepid next to booger-munching, pseudo-evangelical blobfish Cruz and the Orange Fascist. As much as I am an advocate for clearly demarcated separation of Church and State, these fools need them some Jesus.

 

 

 

A ripple in a wall

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El impacto de un libro AKA El castillo, Jorge Méndez Blake, 2007

I saw pictures of this installation by Mexican artist Jorge Mendez Blake, and it got me thinking about the power of ideas, about memes, about the transmission of culture. It reminded me ideas, their propagation and sharing, can impact our world, not just as gentle eddies in a pond, but in disrupting brick walls of institution, custom, and identity.

I haven’t mentioned it much on this blog, because at this point most of my readers are people I know in real life, and are already up on it. Yesterday, the paper ran a story on us.  Today is pivotal for medical marijuana legislation in Utah. My wife has been going to the Capitol, lobbying, meeting with representatives and senators, and engaging the media. I’m proud of the work she’s done, and I wish I were more involved.

Well, today is also my first job interview as I transition out of the military.

I’m anxious; and it’s mostly in a good way. It’s an energizing fire. This moment is a culmination of 3a.m. conversations, dreams, thinking out loud in hospital rooms, early morning driving to work long before the Sun rises anxieties, of pros and cons lists, of planning, of wishes, of phone calls, and emails. All of those things have the potential  to cause physical ripples and eddies and displaced bricks today.

Mazel Tov.