Yes, I joined a roller derby team! It’s been something I’ve wanted to do every since I saw Whip It well over a decade ago.
So why did it take so long?
Because I truly believed I could not do it.
My twenties and early thirties were rough. In my twenties I was recovering from my childhood, a bad marriage, living paycheck to paycheck, and then moving to a brand new state where I found financial security but then also collided with another bad relationship that I’m still suffering the physical toll of.
My childhood instilled in me a deep dislike of exercise, creating a disconnection between my self and my body. Exercise reminds me I have a body which is….distasteful. This disconnect was created by various factors: physical “discipline,” becoming my mom’s best friend, the obsession with weight loss. Exercise was never done for the simple joy of it. My body remembers more pain than it does love.
These factors created an expectation of perfection. Mom icing out adult acquaintances as they cycled through our lives for disappointing her eventually extended to me as I also grew up into an adult and inevitably did the same with some of my decisions. Now I have a incredibly hard time not being good at something–or being good as someone. My back stiffens. My internal walls go up. In the past, I avoided anything that caused me this discomfort until I knew the time was right. Spoiler alert…the time never became right, and I drifted through my young adult life not doing things for fear of failure and disappointment, instead of embracing the possibility of joy.
In some ways, joining the derby team was one of the bravest thing I’ve ever done, but it constantly exposes me to this discomfort. Taking up space, getting a drill wrong is abhorrent. Having a more experienced skater suggest holding hands because that’s how they learned is unthinkable because I don’t want them to reject me for being a lost cause when I still won’t be able to get it even with their help.
Also, I can’t stand to be touched. Joining a full contact sport makes perfect sense — from a certain point of view.
In skating, it’s not really about your feet or what they’re doing. It’s about the movement. A transition needs to start at your head, and then your shoulders, and then your hips, and then your feet. But I’m someone who sees their body as unwanted and troublesome parts, not as a cohesive whole. Learning to integrate my intention and my body is essential, and skating is a great sport to teach that–but it’s hard and uncomfortable.
That’s not even getting into the other health issues: the insomnia, the gut problems.
The gut issues were officially diagnosed (after three doctors and a three month wait for a gut specialist) as “stress.” However, I later learned my roommate was not in the habit of washing her hands even after going to the bathroom, and my issues started shortly after we had an arrangement where I grocery shopped and she cooked. It wasn’t just my roommate though, easy as it is to blame her. I was also on the keto diet, a diet that is notoriously hard on the body and really shouldn’t be used unless medically necessary. No matter the reason, my gut hasn’t been the same since, though it has improved to a manageable level.
Insomnia, as most people know, just makes everything worse.
Derby triggered a lot of insomnia, and a lot of gut issues. Bad gut days on practice days became infuriatingly common. If I could go to practice, I spent my nights on the toilet in the days after.
But still I tried. I didn’t want to wait until I was “better” because I truly don’t think I will ever be better. Also, I had already recognized that “waiting” was a maladaptive strategy that used to keep me safe but isn’t needed anymore. Anyway, the gut-insomnia cycle is self sustaining, and it made participating in derby extremely difficult. I still don’t know how to let my body know that derby is a safe place, and that we need this.
I haven’t been to practice in so long. I miss it, and I miss my teammates.
If you are looking for a new sport or new experience or a new way to make friends, I do recommend joining derby. Many teams are rebuilding due to the pandemic, and the vibe in derby, at least on my team, is just so good. It’s very queer friendly, and my particular team is very welcoming to new skaters, even if the first practice is your first time lacing up skates. Even if you don’t skate, there is a place for you as a non skating official (NSO) and other volunteer opportunities. For a physical sport, it is very friendly to disabled skaters or people who can’t or just don’t want to skate for whatever reason.
What scary new thing did you try recently?