I woke thinking of roller derby this morning. Not in an in-love heart heart heart way, but rather like that ex lover with lots of history, with plenty of ups and downs in a relationship that ended in a way no one liked. An aversion, an underlying sourness in the stomach, a bad taste in my mouth because seeing her brings up so much hurt. Yet, there is an unceasing pull drawing me towards her because of a rough and deep love I still feel… maybe I will always feel.
That was where my mind was when I was jolted awake by four pokey cat paws on my stomach.
As I pet Stella, the girlcat I share with Mary, my mind wanders down the path of skating. I haven’t pictured it in my head for a while. Nothing fancy – showing up at scrimmage night, running the penalty box, staying a bit afterwards for fresh meat. Skating in circles. What would that actually be like, what would that feel like?
I picture one of a few dozen women approaching me before or after scrimmage, saying they’re glad to see me. Me asking about their latest derby trip, scrimmage, whatever. That sort of conversation, which I have had hundreds of times, seems foreign, so out of sync with my current life. Wondering if I want to have those types of conversation about a topic I defensively chose to push away months ago.
I picture myself warming up with fresh meat. A voiceover comments how it is fresh meat who are injured the most – the body isn’t adjusted to skating, the muscles aren’t toned. Usually it’s a broken leg, a fractured arm. I have lost any muscle strength or fitness I had from skating over the last 1 1/2 years of a sedentary lifestyle. I have no muscle tone to protect me from injury.
I imagine myself doing one knee falls to warm up, the feel of the impact through my whole body. I wonder what it would feel like now, now that my energy has improved and I am again developing some tolerance for pain and discomfort.
I see myself hitting my head on one of many falls. What would happen? The doc says it’s fine as long as all my symptoms have healed. I have realized these last few months that that is a trick – pretty much no one heals 100% from a head injury… likely there will always be symptoms.
The people who love me will probably want to wrap me in bubble wrap once I’m healed.
Maybe they’ll believe that the last year and a half of recovering from a devastating injury clearly shows that I should never do anything physically risky again. Oh, I shouldn’t do this cuz I might hit my head. Oh, I shouldn’t take that risk because I might be injured.
I know that is not who I am. I am not one to cut out physical-ness from my life because I have been hurt. Injuries happen. I am much more likely to be killed or seriously injured driving my car every day than playing even a aggressive contact sport like roller derby. Really.
Anyone coming back to a sport after serious injury knows – there is fear. It isn’t rational, it isn’t controllable. Those we consider “strong” usually hide it. I know I hid it as best that I could. There is hesitancy, those points where you choose not to push yourself because of fear of being hurt again. That niggling doubt in the back of the mind that stops you from jumping to transition, and has you stepping instead. Those voices of fear that say you aren’t recovered enough or you aren’t good enough or you aren’t strong enough.
I know about injury. I broke my thumb before being cleared to scrimmage. I tore my supraspinatus (shoulder muscle) doing whips without enough muscle tone to support another woman’s weight at the end of my arm over and over again. I did some weird thing to my knee right before my first bout that kept me off skates for two months. I have sprained both of my ankles, and both of my MCLs (each at a separate time).
I took a shoulder in the nose during a bout in 2012 that took several months to stop hurting… and I am pretty sure I didn’t have that little jog sideways in my nose beforehand. Every time I return to skates after an injury, there is a moment of fear… or a week or a month of fear, depending on the pain, the cumulative pain I experienced healing from the injury.
Maybe my nerve for roller derby has been broken by this injury. Maybe I’ll never be able to let myself do something physical 100% again. I don’t know. I don’t think so. As I have learned over the last 1 1/2 years, all of those strong feelings and abilities I saw in myself during derby – confidence, assertiveness, aggression, bravery, power, strength – are all a function of energy and health. I expect that as my energy returns, and my mind truly heals, it will be possible, again, to see those characteristics as part of my identity.
I am not one to go back. It has been my rule for a lifetime that once a romantic relationship is over, it’s over. None of this together / break up / together again shit for me. Someone better be damn sure they’re done before they walk away. I better be damn sure before I walk away. There is no going back.
But this ex, roller derby, I left her. I didn’t want to leave her, it broke my heart to leave her, but I had to. We shared a lot of really fun times. Yet, I know I can’t ever go back to a previous time, something that was, that is no longer. Once something is done, it’s done.
I do believe in staying on good terms with ex-lovers, preferably close friends. I’m almost militant, compulsive, about it actually. It has never made any sense to me how a person can claim to love someone one minute, and then if things don’t work out as planned, suddenly that same person doesn’t matter to them. No, once I love, I love.
In a not-too-long-ago human romantic relationship, when I ended it, I had to take a break from communication. It was just so hard to get myself to walk away… actually, almost impossible… even though that was what I needed to do for my health and spirit. I had to create space to grow myself a life that was fulfilling and meaningful without this other person. It took me about two years to be ready to re-create a connection with them. And then another year and a half to accept that maybe that wasn’t possible.
Roller derby, though. I often wondered during my years of skating what would ever convince me to walk away from roller derby. I really couldn’t think of anything – having a baby, maybe? Moving? It is addictive, but I knew skating had to end eventually because of the heavy toll it took on my body. And suddenly, this mild traumatic brain injury came along and gave me a mandatory year and a half timeout.
What now? Well, I’d like to make friends with roller derby, even if we are never lovers again. It’s still too early for me, though – the idea of picking up that world again feels heavy and draining instead of delightful. I’d like to think, some day, I will be ready to move forward and reinitiate a relationship with my old friend – one of my forever loves – roller derby.