Who is this bear? Do I know her?

Look at me. Okay, this would be easier if I could figure out how to upload a photo into Blogger from my iPad. But imagine you can see me, sitting calmly on my fencing bag. (Remembering, of course, that I am just a little bear, not a full grown woman or anything.) There I am. Not crying, not beating myself up, not telling myself stories about how I can't learn and never will. Just sitting. And, yes, I lost today. Not badly, not well. Just lost.

And that's it, end of story. Or the beginning of a whole new one. Because I fenced in a national tournament today against the best women in the country my age (well, some of them, not everyone who was signed up decided to fence the event so as to save themselves for their big event on Monday), and...nothing. Or everything. I'm fighting a bit of a caffeine-headache right now, not having my usual supply of tea for the day, but I am still nevertheless oddly calm. So calm I'm not quite sure what to think about it. Because part of me is also pissed. I lost, after all. Against someone whom I have beat before in the past, despite the fact that she has been fencing for almost as long as I've been alive (she's a good thirteen or so years older than I am, and I am pretty sure she started fencing before high school).

But, and here's the odd thing. Even though she beat me handily (10-5), I know, I KNOW that if I had had more time I would have figured out what to do against her and maybe even caught up. I know this because I did it several times this morning. In my first pool bout, when I was down 3-0 and I was able not only to keep my concentration but also know throughout the bout that I could win it. Which I did, 3-5. Once I figured out what to do, she didn't hit me again. And I did it again and again in my pools: watched, waited, thought, figured out my opponent's timing and distance, what attacks she was using against me, and hit her. Even our new top Vet-40 and former Olympian. I watched and knew what to do.

No wonder my head hurts! I spent the morning thinking really, really hard. Funny that I only just now realized this. But I kept my breathing and my focus, just like I've been practicing with my meditation in the mornings. Breathe, breathe, breathe, focus. I even won a pool bout that I did not expect to at all because I was able to keep my focus and, thus, my line. Which I was also able to hold in a place that I had previously not even used, so uncomfortable did it make me feel. But (mirabile dictu) I trusted myself and tried it. And it worked! Better even than I expected. (I will have to tell Ed.) Even better, the woman whom I fenced for my first D-E gave me an enormous compliment: not only did she exclaim about how hard I was to read ("You didn't give anything away! I never could tell when you were about to attack, and I couldn't figure out what you were doing at all!"), she also commented on how nice it was talking with me after the bout.

So. Wow.

Maybe I'm not the bitch in the pool anymore (the one who, if you can't figure out who it is, must be you). That can't be. Me, nice? No, even better. Me not worrying anymore about being nice because I'm not afraid of everyone as I used to be. I know I belong here. I know that I don't have to earn the right to be here by being the best. I know that the most important thing is to learn something from each bout, even if it is only yet again how to keep one's confidence and cool. And I also know that it makes not a whit of difference how my opponent looks at me, whether she likes me or thinks I'm a good fencer. So what if she doesn't seem to think that I fenced her well? I know if I did. So what if she doesn't smile or look me in the eye at the end of our bout? It could mean anything, but whatever it means, it is not my problem. My problem is to stay with my game. I am a little worried that I might want to cry again. I can imagine scenarios in which I would. Part of me is still worried that the Pit is still there, waiting to open up and swallow me. And yet, oddly, even that isn't such a scary thought anymore. I'm not sure I know this bear. Could she really be me?

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