Saturday, October 31, 2015

taking up taekwondo

I always considered myself to be more of a yoga person, in need of relaxation, deep breathing, stress relief, but lately I have been realizing that I need to be strong. I wanted physical expenditure of energy, a good workout, a confidence builder. So I decided to take up taekwondo together with the boys.

I have been going for the past two weeks, taking the same mid-morning class that the boys are attending. When the boys started, the standard talk was: "From now on, it's "Yes, sir!" Is that clear?" When I signed up, I was told that Motrin and hot baths will be my best friend. The instructor was not kidding: my muscles are sore. What looks so easy for the boys is a challenge to me. All those moves, kicks and blocks that I saw them do take a lot of strength.

On Thursday, I was placed into no-touch sparring for the first time: three kicks from me, three from the opponent. My opponent, a higher belt, after watching me sort of lift my legs: "Do you know any other kicks?" It felt weird kicking towards someone that I feel neutral about, almost impolite. But I mustered some strength and went on with the exercise.

As we were coming of class, 11 yo told me; "Mom you looked like you were flying during sparring!" I scanned his face for traces of irony. Was he making fun of me? Was he referring to the time when the drill was shuffle-step across the dojang and I tripped over my own feet and fell?


My mother's voice follows me. I was born a preemie, back when they did not do much for preemies, did not expect much. She was told to expect difficulties coordinating movements. She made sure that I knew my limits.

A flashback to my grad school. I am working on fruit flies. I am injecting fruit fly eggs with DNA. It is a super-precise and delicate work. I am able to do it. I am clearly coordinated enough.

In my son's eyes, I am flying there on the mat, in the dojang, a fearless mommy sparring alongside. In a few years he might not be so kind towards me.

In "All Joy and No Fun" Jennifer Senior writes:
The most productive, generative adults see their children as their superegos. Their kids hover over them and guide all of their moral choices. If these adults falter of behave ignobly, they know their kids will see; the same is true if they do well. They are exquisitely aware of themselves as role models.They know they are being watched.
This isn't how everyone thinks. Roughly one hundred years ago, Freud observed that many people spend their time reenacting the dramas of their pasts, seeking the approval of ghosts. They think of their parents as their superegos, the imaginary judges they've constantly got to please. But this is not true of the adults who are most concerned about leaving a lasting legacy. In their eyes, "the evaluator shouldn't be the past generation," says (researcher) McAdams. "It should be the next." They are freed up to invent their own lives, knowing that won't be governed by the norms of a previous generation. They want their children to be their final judges.

I need new vocabulary for a mommy who is taking taekwondo.


And, a nod to Brene Brown,


Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Rising Strong"

For a while, my newsfeed was divided between the people who talk to their socks and those who want to live wholeheartedly. (Perhaps if I have a wholehearted talk with my socks, they will find their matches and stay that way?) I was intrigued by "Daring Greatly" and put it on hold at the library. To my amazement, it came in pretty quickly, and just around the time that my baby was born. I thought all the nursing time would translate into reading time, but the calculation is different when there are four other kids and mommy is suddenly spending plenty of time on the couch. Also, "Daring Greatly" touched on a lot of deep conflicts and feelings, and did not make for a good discontinuous read. ("Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" was a perfect nursing read: so many places to stop and still be able to pick up the story). Being a popular book, I had to return "Daring Greatly" to the library before I even seriously got into it, but I made a mental bookmark to revisit it under different circumstances.

Lo and behold, "Rising Strong" came out, causing a new stir of conversation. Brene Brown seemed to be interviewed everywhere, and the idea of grit, persistence, and coping with failure seems so essential to healthy functioning. It is hard to learn if you can't cope with disappointment. It is hard to recoup, if you can't learn from failure. So once again, when I was in the library, I found myself putting a hold on a popular book.

It also arrived pretty quickly, and I knew that I have to retrieve it before it goes back in the system. Only this time I was shocked to find that I apparently put an audiobook on hold. I quickly flipped through: nine disks, hours and hours of listening The confusion of the moment almost lead me to leave the CDs in the library.

I hate listening to lectures. I am not an auditory learner, and I do not process info that way. I hate trying to pick out one voice to focus on from all the background noise. Today it would be called auditory processing disorder, but I just call it "avoidance of sound". I have a hard time carrying a conversation in a crowd. I listen to music only if I can put it as a background noise, not as something that I have to actively focus on.

Would I dare listen to a book on tape, all nine CDs? When would I find the time? Would I be able to gain anything? Is it a waste? I was making a call whether I would rise to an occasion, or whether I would admit defeat, say that this is not for me, that I am beat.

I decided to take it out, pop it into car's stereo, and hope to cobble enough time to listen to this book. I do drive afternoon carpool every day, and that is good twenty minutes alone. I can also rope the boys into listening with me, they need to learn how to get up after a failure just as much as I do.

I am on the second CD. The author is driving me nuts. She keeps listing points, and then going off on tangents. I cannot keep mental track of her lists, some of which contain seven or eight points. She keeps talking about herself, and her research, and how everything is so enlightening and important. I am lost in the forest of her words. Yes, she repeatedly brings up points which resonate with deep emotions, yet her examples are so mild and non-specific, that I keep on focusing on how inconsequential they are. I keep alternating between feeling that she is a genius, or a self-indulgent repetitive whiner.

Maybe I would process the book better if I could read it instead of constantly being subjected to the personal auditory hell. Maybe I am not emotionally ready to process these important ideas. Maybe the emperor has no clothes, and there is no step-by-step guide to getting up after a setback. We just have to decide to keep on going.