Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Depression is life's most formidable foe. It doesn't matter how well you counter punch or can tell a feint from a real punch. It doesn't matter how well you bob and weave, or how good your footwork is. Depression is inside you, and it's there for as many rounds as you are. --- B
Coming out of an overwhelming depression is like swimming up from the
deep end of the pool with heavy weights attached to your body. You
aren’t sure if you will make it all the way up or survive the journey
at all. You tell yourself, “This too shall pass,” while your
Depression says, “Yes, but I will come again. And again and again.
I’m an addiction you cannot beat.” You consider this fact and wonder
if you can keep surviving these spells or if you want to keep fighting
this continuous battle. Each time, it gets a little worse. You are a
little older and a little less likely to beat it. That’s what
Depression tells you.
You wonder how long it will take for your dogs, family and friends to
get over your passing and start fantasizing a new happy blonde wife
for your husband. “Make sure she doesn’t have depression,” I tell
The crazy thing is you know things aren’t that bad in your life. You
are just having some kind of chemical pressure in your brain. It’s
pressing on your will to live. It exhausts you, drains you and tries
to coax you into ending it all, like a cartoon devil on your shoulder.
I am emerging from another bout. I don’t feel victorious yet, but the
fact that I’m still here means I won.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Perhaps I love them and relate to them so much because I often feel like at any given moment, I am trying to achieve realness as a filmmaker, a woman, or a boxer. There are some moments when I feel thoroughly real and others when I think I am a joke. That people watching me, or reading my words, or in my company aren't buying it. I do have depression, which makes my mind think terrible things about myself and I have had to develop the skill of letting those thoughts go. Sometimes that skill isn't as strong as I would like and I really believe the negative. I am fortunate to have solid people around to remind me and to have the resolve to keep fighting that depression.
My fight is two and a half weeks away. My training was thrown offtrack by a three day film shoot, a family reunion in New Jersey, and a trip to New York with my husband. Follow that up with catching a cold from getting up too early, plane rides, burning the candle on both ends, and a debilitating period. Five years ago, I would be a wreck at this point. But, I have had the quiet resolve to keep training my mind when my body wasn't well, and to jolt my body back into sparring/fighting shape. I rest when I need to and don't overtrain because I know that will just make me suffer in sparring. The most important thing I have been doing is letting go of the negative thoughts: the thoughts that tell me I am too old, too tired, or that my nerves are too fried from PTSD to keep doing this. I try to look at them and smile, put on my headgear, mouthpiece and go in for another round.
Yesterday, I went to Knuckleheadz Gym in Ventura to spar with Maureen Shea, a world champion, and an amazingly compassionate person, despite her ability to fucking obliterate girls in the ring. My coach wanted me to do real rounds in a real ring with a real boxer and Moe was kind enough to oblige. Coming off the cold and the period, I was nervous that I wasnt' going to be able to do the number of rounds she would need. I would probably need a round off. If we went hard or were super busy, I was afraid I would gas in the second. I figured her sparring partner, Matt, would give her the real work, but he didn't show up so it was just me.
The energy at Knuckleheadz is casual and friendly, unlike most boxing gyms. When you walk in, people smile and introduce themselves to you. My coach, Rich, brought his 6 year old son, who was welcome to hit the bags and shadowbox in the ring while we got ready. Hoss, Moe's kind-eyed mohawked coach, stepped out to get something to eat while we were wrapping up. What I especially like about Knuckleheadz, is that once we were wrapped up, the headgear was on, mouthpieces were in and about to go, it went from casual sweet atmosphere to business. This is the office.
Maureen is a powerful woman and I always sense this whether I am standing next to her or across the ring from her. It's not just that her body is strong, she has an intensity and a lot of knowledge. She is very tactical, scientific and savvy. For those who think that women who box just "brawl", please take a look at some of Moe's fights. Power and skill.
My training has mostly been in gyms, on mats, and outside on the grass. There aren't many rings I have access to anymore so when I get in the ring, I do feel like I'm doing this "for real." I feel the pressure to perform, but also know that I need to be really loose and relaxed in order for all the training I have been doing to work. This is a battle for me, especially when things get intense and I really start feeling the pressure of the other person. This feeling probably happens for everyone, but I have the additional little gift of PTSD that I have to breathe through and force myself to be present.
FACTS: I am a 46 year old woman who started boxing at age 40. I weigh about 110lbs. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have 6 amateur fights, half of which I won, and half of which I lost. I also run a small business and am only able to train hard on and off.
Maureen is a world class professional boxer with an 18 and 2 record. 11 knockouts. 16 years younger and a bit heavier, MUCH stronger than me. She also suffered from PTSD and has been through the wringer in life, but has worked through her struggles in the ring.
The facts are like the evil thoughts I have to let go of, and not give power to.
This is where "realness" comes in. I am learning through Maureen, my coach and "the doing" of boxing how to be a real boxer. The moments when I am in the "zone of realness", my movements are good, they make sense, I can throw sharp combos and counter like a smart boxer, make her miss from time to time and absorb shots without freaking the fuck out. When the realness eludes me, I start thinking that everyone in the room is humoring me, that I'm embarrassing myself, and stiffen up. So, I let that thought go and again, try to be real.
After four rounds, I was breathing hard and we took a round off. I could feel that the breathing was from nerves, more than poor cardio, but it's still tough to control. Most fighters will tell you that the mental piece is the hardest part.
We did another three rounds. When Rich told me to go back in there for the last round, I looked at him like this was REALLY the last one. Maureen intuitively knows how much to challenge me, how hard she can hit me, and when to back off. I was super tired in the last round, but made it my business to fight back. Because I trust Maureen so much, when she does unload on me, I am actually flattered! She knows I can handle this, so I must be able to. As faded and weak as I felt, I just used my will to keep fighting, defending, moving. The sound of that final bell ringing flooded me with relief. I got through seven rounds! I didn't make a complete ass of myself and I was able to incorporate some things I had just learned in sparring. My coach was happy with what I did and I could accept it as growth. Maureen also complimented me, telling me that the physical is there. I just have to believe it. I just have to have the confidence to own it. To be real.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Whenever I do something good, I always fear following it up. Which delays the next good thing. Yes, even a blog. It occurred to me that I haven't written in a couple of months and yes, while I have been busy with finishing technical aspects of the film, producing and editing a huge corporate job, traveling, etc, I usually find some time to do an entry. But, I didn't want to follow up my last blog with anything less than stellar. So, I just didn't write anything.
Then, I remembered, the whole purpose of blogging is to express myself without too much self criticism or judgement. Yes, I want people to enjoy reading it, but everything doesn't have to be a "gem." -something to perform or to submit to a short story collection. It's a freaking way to get your thoughts out of your head and maybe relate to someone who might be feeling the same way. It's a damn blog, for crissakes!
In boxing, you can land the best shot ever, but you have to keep going with the hope that you will top that, follow it up with more, keep improving. Sure, you miss, receive some hard blows, or throw some duds, but eventually you get back on top. Or you don't. But you keep going. The whole point of doing anything you love is in the "doing." You just have to love that. The results go your way sometimes and sometimes they don't.
I am keeping this in mind as I train for what might be my last fight. Last, because there is basically no one else as small or as old as me to fight in the Masters (this will be my third time fighting the same girl) and the thought of doing a pro fight, makes me want to lay down, eat a jar of Nutella and a box of petifores.
Getting my conditioning up has been tough and I am extremely hard on myself. Yes, I have been back and forth to New York two times in the last two months and have had a crazy schedule, but I want my body to snap back into fighting shape. Unfortunately, I have been getting tired after two three minute rounds or three two minute rounds!!! Way to go, boxer! I have to silence the negative thoughts that play like a recording in my head. Let them float away. I won't even mention them here because I don't want to give them any more power. Fuckers.
Instead of beating myself up over it, I have to let it be. Keep going. Breathe through it. Have faith. What are ways I can be more relaxed when I'm sparring? Am I taking enough vitamins? Eating enough? Do I love the "doing" of it to keep doing it even when I am unhappy with my performance?
If I am being honest with myself, the answer is still yes. I do see improvements after working with a new coach. I'm incorporating the new combinations and movement into my sparring. Despite the fact that I gas out so quickly, I seem to be getting off more shots and getting out of the way more on angles. Am I Joe Pro? Muhammad Ali? Floyd Fucking Mayweather? Far from it, but for me, I'm getting better.
I won my last fight against this girl. She won the first one. I think I know how to beat her now, but this also depends on the judges and where I am mentally and physically on fight night. So, I hope to get the W this time using all my newfound knowledge. I still have two months to get my conditioning up, relax more, breathe better, build confidence.
And then I remember that each time I fight, I prove something to myself - that after all I have been through in my lifetime, all the self doubt that swirls in my consciousness, that I can overcome it, win or lose, by fighting my heart out.
I just want to make it look pretty.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
By Jill Morley
GROUPON – 20 classes for $20
Might as well try it again.
Yoga Class #1
"Is anyone here new to yoga?" my lovely crunchy granola meets LuLu Lemon yoga instructor asks. I can smell a hint of Tofurkey on her breath so I know she’s legit.
A few hands raise.
"Brand spanking new?"
My hand creeps up. As usual, I am terrified to speak in front of a group of people I don't know, especially one in which I feel like an outsider. In boxing gyms, I feel right at home. It's a safehouse for ragtags. I know it's strange to feel more comfortable in a place that is predominantly male, where we pound the crap out of bags and each other, but it's familiar and has become Home.
I sputter, "I've tried it a few times and um,...I keep trying to like it."
Some people in the class laugh, a few won't even look at me and I am pretty sure I see an eye roll on a corner mat.
The instructor, Lola, brings over two "bricks" and a blanket. At first, I think that just from looking at me, she can tell I am special. That I can do all sorts of amazing things that the others most likely, cannot. After all, I am a boxer. I learn that the brick and blanket are to help extremely tight people get into poses. Shove a brick under a thigh that cannot reach the ground on its own, or a blanket under your butt if you cannot sit up straight. I later decide to call them the "brick and blanket of shame" and know that they will be with me for a long time.
I have flirted with yoga at different times throughout my life but while I long to love it, it's only resulted in one night stands. I usually found it boring, painful and bourgeois with a hint of spiritual arrogance. I remember a yoga teacher saying that he would never eat an apple that was sitting on a weight machine because it would have absorbed all the aggressive energy of the kind of people who lift weights. You know, "those people." Judge others much?
The people who take such pride in doing their extreme standing splits while I am in pain just trying to straighten one leg would also enrage me. I know from doing other sports that you have to start at a very humble place and be patient. You cannot expect results right away. You are not going to be Muhammad Ali after a week or two of boxing... or most likely ever, but you can become a force to be reckoned with if you work at it diligently over time. In Taekwondo, I remember being a white belt watching a black belt test and thoroughly doubting I could ever learn all those kicks, defensive moves, and especially that many katas. Four years later, I passed my own black belt test and resolved to always remember to not get overwhelmed by where I want to be when I am first starting something new. Ego is a bitch.
Yoga is supposed to be about "the journey." It's not a competition, but my competitive spirit has always gotten in the way of enjoying it. How can that skinny bitch jump her legs straight through her arms like an Olympic gymnast when I would most likely break my toes or become mangled in my own arms? As I get older, I am learning the value of letting myself be where I am and not judging it. Let her do her practice and let me do mine. “Stay on your own mat,” a wise yoga practitioner once told me. And it’s true. There is no trophy. No medal. No purse. It's just “practice.” I say knowing that this very evolved way of being eludes me often and I have to practice keeping my mind in this place. Yes, another thing to practice.
I'm probably trying too hard to do the poses right because I know how important technique is and my mind has a tendency to think random thoughts. What do these people do in their real lives? Are they in a cult? Why are there cushions on one side of the room with faux fur pillows? Do they have orgies here where they wear animal masks? Why can't I just concentrate and not think these things?
It doesn't help that the girl in front of me has on see through tights and is wearing no underwear. I am too jealous of her body to get any kind of thrill out of it. Damn me for being straight, but even so, my eyes keep wanting to look over as she downward dogs.
In boxing, when you get a combination wrong on the mitts or start to hurt from a strength exercise, it's not completely out of place to utter, "Fuck! Mother Fucker!" I can't say it's not frowned upon, but if it happens, it's not a big deal. However, in the candlelit room reeking of lavendar oil, a few whispery MFers escaped my lips when trying to straighten out a tight hamstring. I caught a dirty look from the woman on the left. I folded my lips in an effort to lock them closed and tried not to do it again. In my world, when I get super frustrated MF happens. Not yogi right. Yogi wrong.
"Everyone step forward, or if you want to challenge yourself, jump your legs through your arms," says Lola as she effortlessly hops through, her wavy hair bouncing like a Tresseme commercial. I chortle, "Yeah, right," and slowly step through. But the girls in front of me, next to me, and one of the guys up front jumps right through. I take comfort knowing I could beat the crap out of every one of them. White belt, I think to myself, and continue on.
"Plank position," Lola gently commands. Oh, it's like a push up position. I can do that.
"Into Chaturanga," Lola says as she lowers herself to the ground, but doesn't touch it. Her chin and elbows are near the floor, her back is flat and her toes and triceps are basically holding her up. Having done twenty million pushups and punches over the last few years, I do this with her. She sees how easily I execute, gets up and stands next to me.
"Plank," she says. I effortlessly push back up, pleased that she can see that I don't totally suck.
"Chaturanga," she says, watching. I lower myself back down slowly, almost in defiance. We do this a few times. The last time she says "Plank" I burst up with the loud grunt of a power lifter. Yogi wrong and for that matter, not very feminine. My arms start to shake and I look around to see if other people are planking. Some are in a "child's pose" (resting) and others have their knees to the ground, modifying the movement. I become embarrassed that to them, I am like the skinny bitch showing off by jumping through her yoga arms and slowly go into child's pose.
At the end of class, I am sweating and even though I haven't been pounding on bags, jumping rope or sparring, I feel invigorated. It's a different kind of invigoration. Perhaps because it's selectively strenuous and focuses on your breath with your movement. That, and you aren’t getting punched in the face.
At the end, there is always some sort of silent meditation and when you leave the room, you feel more centered, focused and charitable. After class, Lola tells me I am super strong and asks what kind of athlete I am, which makes me like her even more. I tell her I am a boxer. She hugs me and tells me to come back. Things will get easier. There is tea and water in the waiting area. I help myself to some tea and watch an older dorky guy get shot down by a very pretty 21 year old blonde.
"These chairs are really comfortable right?" he says.
“Your jeans?” She asks.
“No,” he says, “The chairs.”
She nods and goes back to texting.
I realize the older guy is probably my age and sigh. I smile at the other people in the studio as I leave. I peacefully go to the parking garage get in my car, take a breath and turn the key in the ignition. How long can I enjoy this contentment? There is a long line out the garage and I can already feeling my real world New York impatience waking up, cracking her knuckles and asking me what the hell is going on? Why is it taking so long to get out of here? Are these people in the booths mentally challenged? I remind myself, that I am not in a rush and let the traffic take its course. At home, I marvel at what a different culture this yoga thing is.
As strange as it is, I want to do it again.
YOGA CLASS #2
Inspired by the girl from my first class, to avoid unsightly panty lines, I decide to go to the second class commando. Unlike the girl from my first class class, my tights are opaque. I am open to new things and experiences, but this felt a little too "Free Wilma." Very difficult to be “mindful” when your petunia is not cradled by a piece of cloth. Next time, thong. Another bad wandering thought. Yogi wrong. I also decide to wear one of my favorite T-Shirts that says, "I Eat Lightning and Crap Thunder." Not sure if I'm doing it to be contrary or ironic.
The classes are always primarily women, which for some reason, makes me a little uncomfortable. I know at the boxing gym the guys aren’t looking at what label sweats I’m wearing or if my nails are properly manicured, but I know women pay attention to these things and become a little self conscious. Some things that go unnoticed in a boxing gym, might not fly here. For example, I might smell.
“Everyone sit up straight on the edge of your mat,” Lola purrs. “If you can’t sit up straight, put a blanket under your sitz bones. (ie. ass) That’s easy enough. I sit up straight sans blanket and see her staring at me. She starts walking over.
What’s the problem? I think to myself. She comes over and places a blanket under my butt.
“I’m fucking sitting up straight!” I want to yell at her. Perhaps my years of being hunched over a computer and shoulders rolled forward in a fighting stance has forced my body out of whack. I have to be open to that possibility. We sit like that for a while and I notice the girl next to me has on a Stella Artois T-Shirt and also cannot sit up straight without a blanket. I immediately know my people when I see them.
Even though it’s my second class, it’s already easier to go into downward dog. A space in my back has opened. My body needs this. I try to straighten my calves.
“Motherfucker!” escapes my lips in a whisper. The girl in the Stella Artois T-Shirt smiles at me and nods. An alliance has been formed. I am proud to announce that this Turrets like behaviour only happened once this class.
I think I am getting better.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Why is it that an MMA fighter who did gay porn in college is allowed to be a finalist in the Ultimate Fighter show, but a woman who did softcore porn 10 years ago gets fired from her job as a UFC ring girl? These people were not campaigning to be Mother Theresa or Jesus on a stick. They are not aspiring schoolteachers, politicians or role models. They did something subversive in their past and now they want to leave it behind and move on with their lives.
Personally, I think they both should be able to keep their jobs. If Dakota Cochrane has healthy blood tests, he should be able to fight. If Chandella Powell looks great and can bear the weight of a card that says "Round 1," she should be able to be a ring girl. She was hired for her beauty and sex appeal, not for her amazing choice making abilities.
What fighter or ring girl hasn't done something shady in their past? Let's face it, most interesting people have had to have done SOMETHING in order to make them who they are today. Why can't we "forgive" the choice and move on? Not to mention, I have gay male friends watch the UFC as if it is softcore porn, so what's the big deal? But, Chandella got fired and Dakota got a pass. It seems that women who have had any involvement in the sex industry are shamed for life; not by compassionate intelligent people mind you, but by the ignorant people with their heads up their asses. Men get a pat on the back and a laugh, but women have to wear the scarlet S for life.
Diablo Cody is one of the most maligned Oscar winning screenwriters of our day. She is funny, sexy, smart, snarky and super intelligent. Everyone may not like her style or even her writing, but instead of a take-it-or-leave-it indifference, there is this mean spirit directed at her. So, she used to be a stripper. Why is that so overwhelmingly frighting? Maybe she has too many weapons. She knows too much.
Meanwhile, Stephen Soderbergh is making a film around Channing Tatum's past escapades as a male stripper. Will there be any backlash from that? I think not. Channing will most likely continue to charm us, hoofing away in those "Step Up" movies until Tom Cruise ages out and he replaces him in the "Mission Impossible" franchaise.
I am not an activist. I am not going to Dana White's office and protest on behalf of Chandella Powell. However, I will sit on my ass with steam coming out of my ears and write this blog.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Now, my heart isn't into fighting in the ring. It's somewhere else.
For one thing, the film is coming to a close and all my fighting energy has to go towards finishing it. Hiring a composer, sound designer, mixer, music supervisor, getting everyone to do it below their normal rate so I don't go too much into debt is my job now. Also, I have to finalize: lock picture, title, voice-over, be prepared to live the rest of my life with the decisions I make now. No going back and changing. As Michael Jackson once said, "This is it."
After training hard for five solid months, my body is stiff and sore. Not a spring chicken and having other responsibilities in my life, this whole competing as a boxer thing takes a toll on a girl. I was grateful to have the time, the wonderful people encouraging me, coaching, sparring and training hard with with me. But now, I need a break!
1. The first thing I noticed is I immediately dropped some weight. When you don't train twice a day, you aren't as hungry. Even enjoying cocktails and Nutella, I somehow shrank. My back and shoulders got a little smaller simply from atrophy. While I enjoy that lean look, I want to keep my strength and know I can bang if I need to. Much more important.
2. Another thing, I found I had more energy. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. With more energy, I can go out at night, drink, dance, carouse and be social, but sometimes stayed out way beyond my bedtime. This is actually mucho fun after being a house monk for several months.
But, I can totally see how pro fighters who have made fighting their way of life and then retire, can go off the deep end when their training ends. That crazy energy isn't being sated with discipline and physical exertion anymore, so they look for something else.
Luckily, I've already had my dalliances with drugs, hookers, and alcohol, but I still have the urge to wear fishnets. Fortunately, when those fishnet photos show up on Facebook, no one blinks an eye and I don't have to explain anything to my husband.
Finally, being with friends I hadn't spent time with in months was amazing and having the energy to really connect made me feel like a sponge soaking in the people I love.
Working for yourself with more energy is a blessing. I am an emailing, editing, phone calling, going to meetings dynamo when I am not needing a nap in the middle of the day after sparring, jumping rope and hitting bags. Also, I manage an MMA fighter and can set aside more time to get fights for her, negotiate and learn more about the lay of that land.
The lists of things I need to do around the house are getting accomplished at a frightening speed, which gets my husband off my back. Yay.
3. The creativity I put into combinations and movement in training is channeled into my writing, helping to create music for the film, ideas for projects on the back burner, and discussions with other people. I actually have the impetus to want to initiate other projects. Before, I was too tired to even think about it. Just the thought of trying to get another project off the ground made me want to tap out.
4. When I do go to a fight gym to train, I don't feel the need to go all out. I just work my technique so it doesn't go away and enjoy watching the other fighters spar or move around the bag. This is completely different when I am training for a fight and have the blinders on. I also enjoy talking to the other boxers, people training, coaches, etc. I am a part of the world again.
5. I am enjoying swimming, running and even tried, (cough) yoga. Yoga pretty much kicked my ass for a few days. At least in sparring, after the initial impact of punches, the pain usually goes away. If it's a hard body shot, it might stay with you for a bit, but yoga will fuck you up for days, especially if you are ambitious. Maybe Pilates would be a better fit...
I wonder if the desire to train full force will return. In the meantime, I am not going to judge it. I'm just going to enjoy wearing girly clothes, make-up, having more time in my day for other things, work my ass off to finish the film and position it the best that I can. After that, I'm sure another desire will possess me......or, I'll just have to fight again.