Holy crap! I think this is the first time ever I’ve missed writing a blog post for the month! Ah well, all records have to end some time.
So a few things have been happening in my life. First of all, I left my job at the university library as a book shelver. It was a very solid, simple and reliable job with a decent wage, and it took a great deal of convincing that comfortable didn’t mean good. Of all the things I try and fit in my day (training, study, work, friends, Bethwyn, videogames/movies/books/TV series), shelving books wasn’t high on my list of things I enjoy. So my weeks have freed up just a little more. I tend to fill them right back up with new interesting things to do, but I’m still glad I did it.
Work at PICYS has been going well. There are good days and there are not-as-good days, but I’m really grateful I’m getting a decent bite of what it’s like to be a youthworker. Parts of the job are hard for me- being bossed around or trying to connect with someone who is very different from you- but part of it’s easy and natural- seeing a movie or writing a report. I’m a fairly odd person to end up in social work, but that oddness has its place too. We’ll see where things go!
During supervision while at work, I talked to Tess about how I’ve been feeling, and she made it really obvious that I’ve been struggling with anxiety for a while. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it, or why I was so desperate to not put a label on how I’ve been feeling, but it’s very relieving to finally admit that sometimes I’m not okay. I can spend hours stressing about having to go to training, or hours planning out a week so I fit in the most stuff with the time I allocate. I have a burning urge to fill blank spaces in my schedule, and I obsess about time and when things should be done by. I try so hard to please other people and get positive feedback from them, and I need to control the environment around me and the circumstances of my daily life.
But I’m working on that. I saw one of the university counsellors, and they helped me remember that anxiety is a state of mind, and just because I’m feeling anxious, doesn’t mean I have to be anxious. In the same way that I might feel sad if I saw a dead bird, I don’t need to spiral into depression for hours until I get over it. A big part of my therapy is based on mindfulness- not focusing on the immediate future (which I tend to do- I always think a few hours ahead) but on what I’m currently doing. I plan to start meditating daily (why is it a plan? Why haven’t I started yet? Pah, gotta stop making excuses) and getting enough sleep so I don’t fall asleep in those few minutes of quietude. Maybe nanna naps are what I need?
The other big part of how I’m dealing with feeling anxious is called ACT- acceptance and commitment therapy. To basically acknowledge the thought or feeling (of anxiety, or the compulsion to plan and control to debilitating degrees) without letting it control me. To realise how I’m feeling, and then move on. That’s an amazingly empowering process: to say to my mind “I know I’m feeling anxious right now. Thank you for letting me know”, and then doing and thinking whatever the hell I want anyway. Generally a big part of ACT is to act- to do something, regardless of how you’re feeling. In my case, this means going to training, seeing dentists, going to work, rather than staying at home in my (slightly unhealthy) bubble of video game comfort. Hopefully being aware of how I feel will empower me to not need to feel it anymore. I’m not expecting to be cured of anxiety for life, but I do hope I’ll be able to manage despite it on most days.
Training-wise, I practiced tamashigeri a few weeks ago. It involved soaking tatami mats in water for 24 hours, sticking them on stands and cutting them to pieces with a sharpened katana. I’ll say this much: it’s effortless with the right sword and the sheer willpower. The mats are as dense as a human limb (minus the bone), and they slice like butter if you just swing fast enough. But that’s not what tamashigeri is about. Cutting the mat isn’t the goal- a child could do the same. Acknowledging the target as representative of a human being, and giving that person the honour of a clean, good death is a big part of what it is to practice cut. It’s hard to describe what I mean by a good death. A bad death is a messy one- blood spurting everywhere, great pain for prolonged times, jagged, crooked cutting, broken bones… A good death is clean, no confusion in the sword or the wielder- one cut, one kill. A perfect cut, without hesitation or reserve.
Iaido aside, I’ve finally learned all 108 moves in Moy Lin-Shin’s form of Tai Chi, based mainly on Yang style taijiquan. I picked it up really quickly, and I do not idly brag when I say I am leaps and bounds ahead of all of the beginners, and most of the continuing class. But having completed the beginners course, my journey doesn’t stop there. It’s tempting to just take what I currently know, and how good I currently am and just pick up something else. But to my frustration, there are secrets to each of the techniques that aren’t taught to beginners because of the overload of information. I’m so impatient to move on to Chen Pan Ling’s Tai Chi system, which is far superior for reasons I’ll describe in a moment, but I can’t say I fully know Yang Tai Chi yet. In karate grading terms, I’d say I’m about a 4th kyu, but they haven’t taught me any higher otherwise I would already be in the dans. My goal is to stick around for another month or so and continue to gain from the continuing class until I decide I have much more to learn elsewhere.
I am impatient to learn for different reasons. I was invited on a gashuku recently which was a three-day training camp in a forest/lake area. It was really exhausting/challenging, really educational, and really fun. I learned so much about goju ryu karate, the great versatility of jodo, the seemingly simple but deviously complex nature of the internal arts (such as Tai Chi) as well as practicing wing chun on a muk yang jong. If you didn’t understand that, I basically gained great insight into martial arts I know well, and things I had never considered being important. I learned so much in those 8 hours training a day, and going back to learning three moves a week or whatever is really frustrating. I keenly desire to return to the club that hosted the gashuku and resume training with them. The teachers there are amazingly well-learned and qualified, and they are no less and no more skilled than Kaneda: they just have different things to teach me, and I hunger to learn while they are still able to teach. I guess I feel like I’m wasting time, because these great masters are world famous, and it’s so convenient for me to train with them but I neglect that for poor reasons. As of next week, I hope my schedule will look something along these lines:
Monday: Moy Lin-Shin Tai Chi
Wednesday: Mugai Ryu Iaido.
Thursday: Goju ryu karate.
Saturday: Boxing/general fitness routine with Eugene and his personal trainer.
Sunday: Mugai Ryu Iaido.
At the same time I’ll be training hopefully every day in the sword, as well as trying to fit in a night to train with Wing-sempai in aikido and the kenjutsu/iaido school of Jang de Jong. I’ve made many commitments to people and I just don’t seem to have the time to fill them all at once! I know I’m still young (20-years-old, a sapling in my martial life) and have plenty of years to learn different arts, but I want to seize them all now! I’m sure I’ll find a balance somehow :)
And I’m about done blogging! I’m really tired. I haven’t been sleeping particularly well, and it can be attributed at least in part to Puzzle Quest 2. Beth downloaded it for DS and the first night I started playing it, I thought I’d play for fifteen minutes to wind down before bed. I started at 10:30pm and decided to stop at 5am, just to acknowledge the sheer stupidity of the fact that I needed sleep before work. It’s ridiculously addictive and very enjoyable. Okay, that’s it for real this time. Peace.