Prayer for Indifference

My husband quite justifiably asks of what do I feel I have been cheated by yesterday's results? Did I really think that I should have been up there with the medalists? Well, no, not really. Okay, yes, but still, not really. What I want is some feeling of progress, a sense, any sense that my fencing has actually improved so that I might have the hope of, yes, one day, maybe getting up there with the winners rather than being yet again one of the ones taking photos of her friends. (They gave the winners chocolate in their goodie bags. Talk about adding insult to injury! It's not the winners who needed the chocolate! But never mind.)

Or is that it? I don't know any more. Do I have any hopes of ever making the medals round at a national tournament? I doubt it, I really do. Just as I have lost hope of ever owning a house or getting that promotion that I thought last year's leave might help me towards or publishing something that more than a few hundred people might pay me to read. No, I do not think that I have a bad life, far from it. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful home (even if it is an apartment), a magical puppy, my health (most of the time), and enough money to travel to tournaments such as the one I am at now. And I have witty and generous friends, not to mention a marvelous son and a loving and intelligent husband. What more could I possibly want?

Ah, the American dream. I want progress. I want confidence in the possibility of improvement. I want to believe my yoga teacher when he tells us that if we keep working on a pose, one day it will come. Ha. Double ha. It's never going to happen. Some of those poses that we've been doing in class, I used to be able to do, better even than he can (e.g. the splits or full Pigeon). What if that day when I could do those poses has already come--and gone? What if it's all downhill from here? What if I've published the best book I am ever going to write already? What if my top 16 finish in Div II foil three years ago is the best result I am ever going to have? What if, no matter how hard I work for the rest of my life, I stay at the same professional rank? What if this is it?

Well, stasis is certainly better than things getting worse, so I probably shouldn't complain. But. But. Is it so wrong to hope for my fencing to improve? Is it so wrong to believe that hard work will gain me, I don't know, maybe a raise? Is it so wrong to believe in a dream that tells you effort will be rewarded and that, yes, if you stick with it, one day you, too, will succeed? Thus far, my fencing at least seems to be proof of the exact opposite. I have been fencing so well these past few months after getting my puppy* and learning how to wrap my back foot. I know it; I can feel it. Things make sense to me in a way that they never have before. I am doing actions that I never had before, making touches in perfect time, even setting up actions in exactly the way that I should. But does it make any difference in my tournament results?

Triple ha. I lost all but one of my pool bouts yesterday and I don't even want to think about my D-E. Not that I actually fenced at least the pool bouts all that badly. I got touches on all of my opponents, and I even kept one of them down to a 3-2 victory (on her part, not mine). But I lost one of my bouts after being ahead 4-1 (sigh), and I made all sorts of mistakes in all of the others except the first, which, okay, I won 5-1, but it was hardly a harbinger of what was to come. Just for the sake of comparison, three months ago at our last tournament, I won four out of six of my pool bouts--but then lost my D-E. I finished about the same yesterday as I did in December, i.e. at the bottom.

Aren't you tired of reading posts like this? I'm certainly tired of writing them. But what should I do? Quit? Throw myself off the hotel balcony? Grin and bear it? Try another sport? I don't know, I really don't know. If only someone could give me that magic feather so that I could fence in tournaments the way that I know I can. If only I weren't so competitive so that losing didn't hurt so much. If only I had enough confidence in myself that external results had no effect on the way that I feel. If only I weren't sitting here in a hotel room crying--again--over nothing. I'm alive, aren't I? "To be alive is to be able to feel pain. This alone is cause for us to smile." I wrote that. I even published it. I just want to know why I have to feel it so much.

I got a message in my email yesterday from one of my friends at church just after I had lost my D-E. It was one of those chain letters that the sender asks you to pass on. Here's what it said: "Concentrate on this sentence: 'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence: 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.' Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear." I must not be concentrating properly because I still feel like sh*t.

I am so tired of trying to think my way out of this psychological paper bag. "Have confidence in yourself." Right. If only it were that easy. Don't you think I want to have confidence in myself? Ha. Yesterday I thought I did--right up to the point where I started losing to myself--again. Okay, so what lesson can I take away from yesterday's bouts? Let's see. Don't rush your attacks. But I've known that one for years now. Um. Don't concentrate on getting the touch because you will just telegraph when you are about to make the attack. Um, okay, but I knew that already, too. Don't think you will win just because you're technically a better fencer. Yup, knew that one, too. Watch your distance. Hmm... Now this one might actually apply, but, again, it's not as if I haven't been hearing the words for a good, let's see, nearly seven years now. It's pretty hard to have confidence in yourself when you are clearly such a slow learner.

Fine, God, I get it. You are withholding what I want (to be one of those fencers up on the podium) in order to prepare me to receive something better. It cannot possibly be yet another of these blog posts, although it would be a fine joke if that were it. As you know, I am always more inspired to write when I've lost than when I've won. No pain, no gain. But how much pain for how much gain? And isn't some pain just that, pain, not a harbinger of gain to come? This spiritual lesson had better be pretty good. Or have I not suffered enough yet to deserve it?

*Because she's magic and makes me happy, of course!


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