Thursday, March 25, 2010

I don't need therapy, I have Roller Derby!

Last night during a scrimmage, as I wove through the eight girls around a curve, I went around the outside - always the hardest way around a pack - right into the beeline of one of my opponents. In a blur of bodies, she crouched down and popped up, hitting me in the shoulder. I sailed out of bounds. After practicing my tomahawk stop (or sometimes called a turn-stop), I raced back onto the track. This time she jammed her hip into me, sending me out of bounds again! Almost sounds like a fist-fight, huh? It all started in February when I attended an open practice. Some of the girls were good skaters, others were wearing fishnet, and still others were dripping with attitude. Most of all, they were having fun. As I watched the skaters practice drills, I thought, "I could do this." I had learned to skate as a kid. I wasn't afraid of contact. I have an older brother and I played coed football in high school (much to my mother's chagrin). I was immediately hooked!
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and subjecting my body to chemotherapy, I needed a distraction. There was no sense feeling sorry for myself! But roller derby is more than that. It's a new, ruthless world that includes a great workout - and a built-in support group of open-minded and strong women. It's helped me focus less on what I lost and more on what I am gaining - new friends, a positive outlook and a stronger butt. The physical and mental exertion can help put emotional pain in perspective. There's something both fear-inducing and exhilarating about getting bounced around or bouncing someone like a pinball. Even veteran skaters get anxious about it.
I started subconsciously using derby as a metaphor: Getting past the anxiety and ache going on in my life was nothing compared to overcoming my fear of seriously hurting myself or someone else on the track. I balance on eight wheels between my two feet afterall, getting checked by some powerful women. Also, the adrenaline high is a payoff. It's a feedback loop that makes you want to do it more! There's also an evolutionary reason why people going through hard times might join derby: survival. Humans - all primates - want others around to help find food, water, give warning signals, gain power or form alliances. It is somewhere in my primordial unconscious, even if I'm not thinking about it, because it's in my genes!
I'll probably still spend a good amount of time on the ground. I don't know how tough I've gotten - I still say, "Sorry! Are you ok?" after knocking someone down - but I am considering getting a roller derby tattoo. I'm getting better at absorbing hits (hitting her at the same time or before she can hit me) and I'm not as afraid to mix it up with the hardest hitters. Now it's starting to be me, more and more, coming out of nowhere and knocking my opponents down, or out of bounds. I'm increasingly skating away triumphant!

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