a dramatic rebuttal to the demons of doubt who live rent-free in my head
Today was all the tired. The pre-lunch session at the farm was weeding crop beds thick with bindweed; the post-lunch session was pruning tomato plants. I came home with a blister from the hula hoe, my arms neon yellow to the elbow from tomato foliage, and the small of my back sunburned quite dramatically from the sagging waistline of my Carhartts utility jeans.
And this the day after we got home from the weekend. Oh, Wyoming. You are so vast, so sunny and hot, so very without shade. Driving across you very nearly made my brain melt and our car overheat. That latter isn't hyperbole; we stopped to change drivers in Wheatland and discovered our radiator fluid was boiling over. That was special.
Saturday morning was relaxing, though. The joy of away bouts is, I'm not responsible for helping set up the track. I'm not expected to help tear down the track and reassemble it on Sunday at our practice location. So I got to sleep late, have a leisurely breakfast, and even take a little reconnaissance walk from the hotel to the afterparty location just to make sure I was familiar with it before I tried it at night, post-bout and post-alcohol. Walking from the Days Inn to Mingles, I went one block too far and found myself at the corner of Wyoming and E-Z Street. I had no idea that Easy Street was in Wyoming. That, also, is special.
You are probably antsy to know how the bout went. I will tell you. We won! The score was 323 to 70, which doesn't begin to tell the play-by-play story. The thing about roller derby bouts is, no matter what the score, every single jam feels like the game depends on it. Every single time you're out there, the intensity is high and the heat is on. Besides, the bout was at an ice hockey venue, using a hockey scoreboard, and there is no hundreds digit on a hockey scoreboard. I had no idea what the score was until it was all over.
("The score is always zero to zero," as my coach will tell you. "Don't even look at the scoreboard until the game is over.")
Also, the track was super slick. We were skating on the polished concrete surface that holds up the ice when the ice rink exists. It made it harder to stop, harder to slow, harder to turn around, and harder for our jammers to push on walls of blockers. Slick floors make for sloppy skating, which makes for more penalties too. Which means each jam was even more of a struggle for dominance, no matter what the scoreboard said.
Now, understand, we're the B travel team that went to Gillette this weekend. Our league's travel teams are filled by twice-yearly try-outs. At try-outs, we're each scored on our skills according to specific metrics. The skaters with the highest scores fill the slots on the "All Stars" A team (our WFTDA charter roster, who, by the way, are going to Division 2 Playoffs in August, and you have the power to help them get there). The next bunch get slotted onto the "Bombshells" B team. Once that fills up, everyone else is placed on the Shrap Nellies C team. At least, that's my understanding of how it works--I don't get to see the scores or the numbers, I just go to try-outs and then practice where they tell me.
I'm explaining this so you'll understand that I was, by actual objective standards, nowhere near the best skater on the track. Our roster included A/B crossover skaters--skaters who skate for both the All Stars and the Bombshells. Our roster included skaters who used to be A/B crossovers but are now full-on All Stars, but who came with us because a week simply isn't enough time to get the new post-try-outs roster ready to bout. I was often on the track with a line-up full of All Stars, and I'm more grateful for it than I can adequately express, because they have taught me so much about how to work with my line and how to communicate and how to hold the jammer and how to be immovable, stable and strong. I've learned so much from them, and I still have so much to learn.
The point is, when the bout is over and the teams come out of their post-bout huddle and announce who they've decided to give the Most Valued Player awards to, when the opposing team says, "And we'd like to give the MVP Blocker award to..." I do not expect to hear my name.
Which is why I stood there like a fool, eyes wide, asking, "You mean me?" And then there were hugs, and congratulations, and pictures, and me crying a little on John's shoulder because I was so stunned and delighted. ("Don't worry," he said. "No one can tell those are tears. You're too full of sweat.") And, oddly, relieved.
I've often said, there are few joys greater than getting to do what you love, than getting better at doing what you love. But I don't always feel like I've got a handle on how much I've improved, or whether I've improved at all. Despite knowing that I can now execute maneuvers I couldn't do last year, and that I'm more stable and have better pack awareness than I used to, there's still doubt. Mistakes often stand out more than triumphs in my head, not least because few of the mistakes go without comment from coaches or teammates. So there's always this half-conscious fear that I'll never be better than mediocre at the game, despite how much I love playing.
But I didn't really understand the extent of all that until Saturday night, when my interior reaction to the award was a huge, overwhelming, and unexpected sense of relief. "Oh, wow, I really am getting better, I really do have the potential to excel at this sport I love playing. Oh, thank goodness." Only then did I realize how much constant background noise of doubt and insecurity I'd been living with.
I'll be attending make-up try-outs this week, having been out of town on the original try-outs date of the 13th. As usual I'll be going into it nervous, aware that I'm capable of screwing it up, and holding no higher expectation than that I simply demonstrate improvement over my results from six months ago.
But maybe this time I'll go into it with somewhat less self-doubt.