Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Breakdown

It happened.

There have been hard days, and tough classes mentally or physically. But today was the worst day I've ever had at Empire. It probably started not getting enough sleep and having blood drawn for a third time today.


After we were done, I numbly made my way down the long hall to the bathroom and tried to throw up to alleviate the nauseous. But I don't have a gag reflex anymore (hold the jokes) from so many strep culture tests growing up, so I sank to the floor and shuddered trying to control my breathing and emotions.

There are twin, cigarette burn-size bruise marks on the median cubital veins in the crook of my arm. Gooseflesh was shattered across my legs unevenly from my body attempting to cool itself. And I sobbed pathetically.


From the start of class my gut felt weird and I was sluggish. Maybe it was all the uncertainty and actual blood drawing, or stress, or lack of sleep, or just my body and mind resisting being uncomfortable.

It was my mind that went and the body followed suit. In light sparring, Coach caught me in the liver with a swift and bat-like leg kick that had me doubled over.

This isn't light sparring anymore, he said and came back at me after letting me gasp a couple of times.

I didn't drop to the floor like I did last time he caught me in the liver.

Josh had gone a light round with me before and during hard sparring it sank in that he was still going relatively light and I was completely gassing out. I wanted to be done. My ears tuned themselves to nothing more than to wait for the double beep of 30 seconds remaining.

Malik was last. And I wanted to give up. In a fight, it would've been called and I would have lost by TKO. I wanted to take the punches but couldn't give any back. He was relentless and my arms wanted nothing to do with it, my legs flailed weakly, and he began to drop his hands to let me hit him a few times so, presumably, I wouldn't totally lose heart.

The tears had welled during Josh's round but by now they streamed freely. Mixing with sweat, they coursed down my face which worsened them as it sank in I was performing below my capability.

That is what kills me more than anything. Maybe it kills other fighter's spirits as well. But for me it's not when I am losing or making mistakes because someone is better trained, it's when I know I can do better and can't will myself to do it.


Coach found me as I was wiping down my gear. He told me to smile and that I'd done well. He wouldn't have lied to me, but I knew he was also trying to keep it in perspective. I responded with something like, "It was my worst day." And he said something I'll probably never forget:

Your worst day is your best day.

As in, those are the days that make you. Not the good ones. Sure, I learn every day. I've improved every week of sparring, every time I train. But on the bad nights, when you have to face yourself, those are the days that can change your thinking. That is when the mind is forced to grapple with itself. In rowing, we trained so that when we were most fatigued, our form is still held together because that is when it matters.


With the final bell, I collapsed, turtled up, and began sobbing. Malik pulled my headgear off and sat across from me. I don't remember what he said other than I had done well and she would never hit me as hard as he had and that I'd weathered it.

But I hadn't. I would've lost the fight. I disappointed myself because I didn't know how to mentally weather the stress. It's hadn't been about the fight until sparring with Josh when I started to fail. But that on top of the blood testing fiasco, a friend knocking on my door last night t(hat I had thought I wouldn't see for a long time and came with a wave of unexpected mixed emotions), concerns about making weight, annnnd I'm definitely experiencing the hormonal train wreck of the inescapable lady problems that are due to hit any day.


So that was it. Oss.

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