My Notebook and Me

So, that went well--NOT!

Sigh. It is supposed to be a good thing to keep a fencing notebook. You know. To keep a record of all of the pools and DEs that you've fenced. To make notes on the opponents you've had, what you've learned about how they fence. I know fencers who keep beautiful notebooks, with carefully, calmly written notes about every bout they've ever fenced, thoughts about things to work on, strategies to try the next time they come up against a particular fencer. I've tried to keep a fencing notebook, I really have. But when I come off the strip after learning NOTHING, it's the first thing to go.

I have no idea how many fencing notebooks I've gone through. They never survive very long, maybe a year or two. I will dutifully keep track of all of the bouts that I fence in a pool, make notes about things that I noticed in this or that bout, write myself encouraging notes about what to work on...and then there will come a day like today when all I want to do is rip the damn thing to shreds. Then burn it. Then scatter the ashes if there are any left.

I hate keeping a fencing notebook. I HATE HATE HATE IT. Which is pretty comical if you come to think about it: I have notebooks for everything. I have a notebook for recording how many carbs I eat every day. I have a calendar for recording when I meditate, do my arm weights, go to fencing practice, and practice the fiddle. I have a notebook for brainstorming blog posts and book chapters. I have a spare notebook in my purse just in case I get caught without my principal notebook (as I did this afternoon, when my friend Marie took me out to lunch--far away from my fencing notebook, not to mention the venue) and need to take notes on something I want to write about later.

All of these other notebooks, I love. They make me feel safe and comfortable. With a notebook, I won't lose that thought or eat more carbs than I mean to. Thanks to the calendar that I've been keeping this past year, I have a clear record of exactly how often I do my morning meditation (almost every weekday, for 20 minutes at a sitting), how often I go to practice (on average, five evenings a month) and how many touches (200) and bouts (3-5) I do in an evening. Filling the calendar, I can see how much time I have actually spent focusing myself, how often I have kept my promise to myself to do just a little bit every day.

And it works! It really and truly works! You'd be amazed (I am!) at how strong my arms are after doing weights for only 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for three or four months. A little practice--meditation, weight lifting, repetitions of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"--goes a long way, and I have my notebooks to prove it. Except in fencing, where I suck. Keeping a fencing notebook is the exact opposite of keeping count of my carbs or making outlines of what I am going to write. I feel no sense of progress or fulfillment looking over the record of all of the events I have competed in. There are always fewer than there should be. I have always lost more bouts than I remember. I never quite make the progress that I would like to. Yes, I'm still a D. Yes, I still, on average, only win half of my pool bouts. Yes, I still, on average, lose my first DE, typically 13-15 or worse (today's was 4-15). NOTHING EVER CHANGES, so why the #$%& should I keep a record of it?

I have this illusion that if only I could keep a better fencing notebook, all would be well. If I wrote down all my pool bouts and DEs, if I made notes on all my opponents, if I kept a record of the things that I learn in lessons. But that's what I have been doing with the most recent notebook--and a fat lot of good it did me today. Which, of course, is a great part of the problem. Every other kind of notebook I keep is about being in control. In control of how many carbs I eat. In control of the ideas that I have about what to write. In control of my habits--or, rather, better: in control of remembering how much I have actually done every day. But with my fencing notebook, all it seems to be is a record of the things that I couldn't control. Not that bout. Not what I think about as I get onto the strip. Not what I remember about fencing this or that fencer.* Its only use (if it actually has one) is helping me keep track of the bouts that I have fenced thus far in my current pool. Otherwise, it is a total #$%&ing waste of time for all that it helps me control anything. Including my temper.

Stupid, #$%& fencing notebook. I suppose I'm going to have to buy another one now.

*I remember plenty about the fencers I've fenced. What I can't seem to do is learn anything from the experience.


  1. Sometimes I think it does more harm than good to follow opponents/results that closely. Do you think that knowing too MUCH might be psyching you out?

  2. Possibly. It certainly did that today. It does help to keep track of the bouts fenced in the pool, but I am thinking maybe just to bring a single pool sheet to the event, rather than carrying the whole record around with me.


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