Glass Half-Empty

So, I fenced in a tournament yesterday (yes, another one!). And...well, you know what's coming. I didn't fence as well as I think I should. Not to put too fine a point on it: I fenced worse than I did two years ago in the same tournament (I missed it last year because I had stomach flu). So, two years on and...no progress. Zip. Nada. Zero. Nothing. I'm going backwards even. And no, it doesn't help looking over the results to see that there were more upsets yesterday in the D-E table than just mine. I suck. I can't improve. I'm hopeless.

So why don't I quit? I don't know. I wish I could. My life would be so much easier that way. Imagine, no more rage, no more frustration, no more feeling the way I do right now. Still wanting to smash something, preferably my equipment. No better off for having stayed to watch the remainder of the tournament, trying all the while to smile even though all I wanted to be doing was screaming. Feeling like an idiot for losing, even worse for not being able to do so gracefully (although, to be fair, I did make it out into the parking lot before letting off my primal scream. And then I came back in.) It might be different if I had had at least a few successes over the past couple of years to fall back on. But I haven't. My ranking hasn't changed in now close to three years, nor have I gotten anywhere close to renewing it (which means, if I manage to keep this amazing inability to improve up, I will go down a ranking after next year, as if it matters).

All of my friends have improved (and, yes, ladies, if you're reading this, you know who you are--and you have!). I, however, am hopeless. And I do mean that in every sense of the word: I've lost hope. Sure, my fencing has improved, I know that it has. I find myself making touches now that I could only have dreamed of two years ago. And yet, it makes absolutely no difference in my tournament results, none at all. Some bargain, eh? "How about this, Satan? You give me the ability to fence twice, no, three times as well as I used to be able to, and in return, I will be willing to lose every bout by one touch for the rest of my life." Which, it seems, is what I am going to have to accept if I actually want to keep fencing: lose, even when I know that I am fencing well. Over...and over...and over again.

I am smarter and more experienced than I was then. Oh, definitely. Two or three years ago, I was still losing bouts and having no idea what had happened. Now, I still lose, but at least I understand (mostly) something I might have done different. Oh, yes. But it doesn't make any difference--understanding, that is. I still lose. And lose. And lose. And lose. And lose. I lose to fencers whom I beat regularly in practice. I lose to fencers who can barely keep their point on target. I lose to fencers whom I can tell have clearly only been fencing a year or two or maybe three, simply on the basis of how awkward their footwork is. I lose even as I get on the strip and remind myself that, yes, even though she is nervous and/or young and/or inexperienced, she can hit me if I don't do everything exactly right. Which means, as always, that it is my own mistakes that are killing me. And yet, it seems, I can't stop making them.

God damn it! I've learned my lessons, why won't you let me win? Just once, just enough to make my D again. Just so as not to feel like such a failure when all of the kids in my club are making their Cs, Bs and even As. I've been there at practice just as much as they have. I've done the camps and the lessons and the exercises. I'm in reasonable shape, sure, not enough to be an A, but for goodness sake! J. (and you know who I mean) is a decade older than I am, barely moves on the strip and she's a B. And I nearly beat her yesterday in our pool bout. Damn it, I got more touches on her than anybody else in our pool. And you should have seen that first one I got on her: so amazingly sweet, parry riposte right to her left shoulder (she's a lefty). In the end, I did let her rattle me, when we were there at 4-4 and, to give her credit, she does have nerves of steel. But so close, so close. And then I lose.

My friend Ed says to stop worrying so much about my results and to concentrate on the fencing. I know he's right; of course he's right. But, you know, would he be saying the same thing if once in a while he didn't fence well enough to renew his A? Plus, he has the memories of having been there at the top, actually winning a tournament more than once. The best I have ever done is 3rd out of 13 (or thereabouts*), hardly anything to write home about (which, come to think of it, I don't think I did, although just to put things in perspective, that day, two years ago, I beat J. in our pool). I have a medal in my equipment bag that I "won" sometime last year at one of our home club tournaments: it was an open, but for some reason we had medals for the women who fenced and I came in third--out of three. I carry it around to remind myself that the important thing is to be there on the strip, trying. But I still wish I could win. Just once every so often. You know, like my teammates do.

I was having a fine old cry over this post until my family came in and started showering me with hugs. Now I'm waiting on the tea my son promised me. I know that they wish that I would stop taking all of this so hard. They must dread waiting for me to come home from tournaments, knowing that it is more or less guaranteed that I will be at least somewhat upset. The problem is, I can see what I need to do, at least I think I can, but I simply can't do it. Am I really as clumsy a fencer as those other women (aka girls) whom I see finishing about where I do? Surely not. That's not at all what I look like in my head. But perhaps I do. Breaking distance, letting my point go off target, moving out of tempo. A klutz. No, no, no! I want to be one of those elegant fencers, taking parry-riposte so fast you can barely see it, landing the attack in just the right time. Like the woman who won yesterday--and will soon be old enough to fence in the Veterans. Pushing me down yet another notch on the totem pole, keeping me where I belong. At the bottom.

*Actually, I lie. The best I have ever done is when I earned my D: 16th out of 86 in a Div II NAC. That seems like a miracle now. Perhaps it was.

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