A couple weeks ago, I almost quit. I almost threw in the towel. On just about everything.
During a particularly challenging Aikido class, I found myself biting back tears. My body felt foreign and incapable. I was grappling with concepts far more advanced than my training. I was overthinking absolutely everything. And I was operating on fear and ego (not a good combination).
By the time we bowed out, I was convinced that I wasn’t progressing, and instead, regressing. I was scared to be on the mat. I was scared to fall. I felt like techniques I’d learned early on had abandoned my muscle memory. And though I hate to admit it, my ego was bruised. My confidence puddled at my feet.
As soon as I left the mat, the waterworks began. I hid in the ladies changing room while all of the frustration of the prior couple of weeks poured out. Because it wasn’t just Aikido.
Work had been particularly stressful. I’d decided I needed to start saving a little more, budgeting my finances more effectively as Bryan and I try to figure out the next place we plan to move in San Diego. At the same time, we have a wedding to plan now, and holy crap, venues and events are expensive. I’d received word that a friend from high school was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a year of back-to-back writing successes, the rejection emails were streaming in, and I had some crippling writer’s block. I had a tough moment with my mom when she came to visit the weekend prior.
And now, I felt like I couldn’t do anything right on the mat.
Everything just felt so…heavy.
And, in the midst of this post-class emotional crisis, I decided quitting Aikido would take some of the pressure off. Why was I causing myself additional stress trying to learn something new? Why was I subjecting myself to something that made me feel stupid and confused and incompetent—especially at a time when a little confidence boost could’ve gone a long way?
My fiancé saw the state I was in and refused to let me drive myself home (thank God). He drove us somewhere, parked, and patient saint that he is, let me talk and cry and get my frustrations out. Afterward, there was a burger and a cocktail and lots of hugs.
The next day, the two of us went to the dojo alone, and he worked with me one-on-one to jump start the process of banishing my fear and getting me to accept that it’s more than okay to be a complete and utter beginner.
That was all a few weeks ago.
Last night, I participated in a brilliant Aikido class that made me sweat and work and learn. There were still times when I struggled, but I asked questions and laughed at my own mistakes. There were no tears when I got off the mat. In fact, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.
The rest of it—finances, wedding planning, work stress, my friends’ ups and downs (all of them—man, we’re having a rough start to 2016), the writer’s block (which is over, hooray!)—I’ve learned how to manage. With time, all of that…stuff…has become lighter and lighter. I’m in a much better place than I was two weeks ago.
So, what’s the point of this story?
Well, I’m pretty sure that if I’d gone with my ill-advised gut and quit Aikido, I wouldn’t be doing so good right now.
Because I wouldn’t have been quitting a martial art; I would’ve been quitting on myself.
Last night, I would’ve sat in front of the TV and watched something mindless while Bryan was at the dojo. I would’ve been passive and alone.
I wouldn’t have experienced blood pumping through my veins, the community and friendship that form as a result of group training, the confidence boost I got because I was throwing grown men a good foot or more taller than me.
I wouldn’t have been living.
Sometimes, all the little stressors of life can seem impassible. Suddenly, it feels like it would be so much easier to quit this or that rather than hold on and work through it. But you have to ask yourself, at what cost? What will you lose? Drive? Confidence? Love? Potential success?
We can’t let life (noun) get in the way of how we want to live (verb).
Instead of passively sinking, let’s struggle. Instead of giving in, let’s fight. Instead of giving up on ourselves, let’s be a little gentler and kinder and give ourselves room to fail. Because it isn’t failure if it leads to growth and transformation—which it often does.
And life is fickle. It goes up, it goes down, it levels out, it takes a turn…and we just have to hold on and push forward and continue to improve ourselves.
We have to continue to live.
One Aikido class at a time.