Plan B

Every muscle in my body aches, even my armpits. I'm not sure how I am going to get on the strip again today. Even my mind is foggy, despite the fact that I finally seem to have been able to sleep through the night, no thanks to the a) altitude, b) time zone difference, and c) frozen margarita I had yesterday evening while sitting in the hot tub with my girl friends. (Happy days!) But I'm still here, so I guess I have to fence today.

Have to? Get to! This is the first year that I have qualified for this particular event (Div II Women's Foil). And it's going to be tough. I've fenced Div II before at NACs, but I know from my experience of Div III that Nationals is even harder. What is going to be my plan for today? Let's concentrate on getting me to the strip in the first place.

First things first, write this blog post. Let my mind settle into thinking about what is going to happen today, what I am going to need to focus on. Have some coffee, even though the coffe that I can make here in the hotel room isn't very nice. Have a shower, hopefully without drenching the floor like I did yesterday morning. (Ooops! You mean you're supposed to put the shower curtain inside of the tub?) Eat a bit more of the life-size bear claw that my friend Badger baked for me. Breathe.

I need to stretch. I really am sore, but thankfully, not hurting. Oddly enough, my tendons have been much better these past few days, even after I've been sitting still for a while. Could it be that they actually benefit from more exercise? There's a workout room downstairs in the hotel, next to the room with all the scary exercise equipment. I did a yoga practice there on Thursday morning; I should go back down and stretch out there a bit after I eat my bear claw.

And then? And then...my head is all foggy again, I can't think that far ahead. Am I scared? Sort of. I don't want to embarrass myself on the strip today. But...what? What are my goals now that I've made it onto the podium at Nationals not once, but twice? Indeed, two years in a row. (Yes, Plan A worked! I got 8th in Vet 40 Women's Foil on Thursday!) What do I need to prove to myself now that I know that I can do it? Aha. What, indeed?

Part of me is thinking, "See? You really can do this. Now all you need to do is get yourself to work out more consistently. Then you wouldn't be so exhausted and would be able to fence even harder when you get to competitions like this." But another part of me doesn't really believe that. Seven years ago, at my first ever Nationals, I weighed thirty (or more? I haven't weighed myself in over a year) pounds less than I do now, was as ripped and firm as any marathon runner (my periods had even stopped, I was that thin), but I hadn't a clue what to do on the strip when I got there. So what if I had the body of an eighteen-year-old? I had the fencing experience of a toddler.

And now? Now I'm an eight-year-old fencer, with years of tantrums and disappointments behind me. Now I know how hard it is to get even one touch in a pool bout, never mind five. Now I know how much concentration it takes to hit even the most inexperienced fencer. Now I know that while psychologically it feels good to get the first touch in a bout, it isn't necessary. Indeed, allowing the other fencer to get the first touch can be extremely useful, as it can show you everything you need to know about her timing and strength, while at the same time giving her false confidence in her ability to hit you. (Oh, right. That was why I lost all those bouts 5-1 when I was two. Got it.) Now I know that I can win a bout even if I get four touches down--as, in fact, I did in one of my pool bouts on Thursday.

I also know that I have not been working out as I should have been and that I am going to get tired. I am worried about hurting myself, particularly stressing my tendons too much. But I am even more worried that I am going to get on the strip and simply not care. There, I said it. I've named my biggest demon this year. Apathy. What do you do when you've achieved the goal (podium, tenure) for which you have been struggling for years (funny, it took about the same amount of time for both)--and then still have to go on? What do you do when you've done what you needed to do to prove to yourself that you could do it--and the reward is no more or less than that you get to do it again? And again. And again.

It sucks, doesn't it, to get everything you ever wanted, everything you ever dreamed you might want to become, at least, everything you actually set yourself to work at as a goal. That's why stories end when they do, when the hero (or heroine) has achieved his or her quest, the couple falls into each other's arms, and they go off into the sunset to live happily ever after...doing what? Writing another book that will sell a few thousand copies and get me a promotion so that I can keep doing exactly the same job for slightly more money? Driving for over an hour in traffic to get to my club to practice so that I can prove to myself yet again that I can fence? When does the transformation come, the launch into effortless bliss? When do I get my superpowers so that I can save the world with my intellect, if not with my foil?

I'm looking for that Hollywood ending, aren't I? The one that resolves all the tensions in the plot and reveals what everything means. And yet, as every kung-fu panda knows, the dragon scroll is blank: there is no secret ingredient, there is no mystery other than the mystery of becoming fully ourselves, St. Me, the soul, "long, sharp, oiled and coruscating with the light of wisdom," that God holds in His hand and is His to use as He will.

So, okay, God, what are we going to do today then?

"Same as we do every day, Bear. Try to take over the world, one touch--one sparrow, one soul--at a time. On guard."

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