Who Are You Fighting?

I first walked into East Coast Karate two years ago on a whim when a friend of mine posted they were hosting “Buddy Week” where people can bring a friend to try classes for free. You can read about that experience here: The Karate Adult

Karate – like anything that challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone – had proven to be a place where I experience the most growth physically and mentally. I’m a person who likes to do things right and well. I like the satisfaction that comes with doing something to the best of my ability. I’ve also been known to “not see the forest for the trees.” I can get so mired in details that I fail to notice the big picture. That became abundantly clear a couple of weeks ago.

In karate class, we’re often sent in groups by rank to work with a sensei. A sensei is someone who has achieved a rank of black belt or above and is entrusted with the training of underbelts. On this particular day, we were paired with Sensei Les and we were thrilled. A little backstory on Sensei Les: when I first started in the dojo he was going from his final green belt (green with a black stripe) to his brown belt. His entire belt rank was amazing. I can safely speak for my entire group when I say that we would watch them in absolute awe and wonder if we would EVER look like that.

Before I get to our conversation on the day in question I want to share how Sensei Les challenges us. He’s a man that always does things to full potential. If you’re going to go then GO and GO ALL THE WAY! It’s inspiring. I can get inside my head pretty quickly and I like to mentally go over things before I put any speed or emphasis. I was paired with Sensei Les and we were learning a new drill. I’m trying to work it out – trying to get it perfect (ugh) – and I go to punch Sensei Les. Remember, I’m trying to work out details so I’m not placing any power in that punch. As I “punch” him he just stares at me.

Me: You’re supposed to block…
Sensei Les: You’re supposed to hit!

(apply cold water to burn)

That was the first day I just laid waste to my perfecting BS and just did the drill and it was amazing. I was almost forced out of my head because I was going to do the drill or get drilled. I wouldn’t want to take an errant punch from anyone at our dojo but certainly NOT from Sensei Les. This was a powerful lesson (and epic clapback) that paved the way for our next session with Sensei Les at the helm.

Karate is learned in stages almost like child development. You have to crawl before you walk and certainly before you run. As you improve and progress you learn more advanced ways of doing moves. This is hard for me because I want to know what is RIGHT. RIGHT! What is universally correct. There’s a lot of nuance to karate. (I know, I know.. I’m working on it!)

Sensei Les is taking us through our katas. We start from the beginning and we know the patterns of 11 of them. As second level green belts (green with white stripe) we are at a place where are no longer crawling through karate. Sensei was gifting us with fine tuning our kata with more advanced moves. This is where Sensei Les was when I started karate. Having him teach us is like seeing the light in the tunnel! I want to absorb everything!

Me: Sensei I notice that you move your arm this way yet another Sensei does it slightly differently. Which way is correct?

Sensei Les: They’re both correct.

Me (mentally starting to crumble): Wait, which way is classically correct? Like which is the way that we should learn in our development now?

Sensei Les: Who are you fighting?

In an instant, the light bulb went on and my brain simultaneously snapped! As I was wandering aimlessly through the forest looking for trees I missed the largest and most fundamental part of karate:

Karate is a fighting style!

When we spar in class I fight. I’m actually surprised by how much I like to spar. It’s fast, there’s no time to think, you act and react accordingly or you get hit. Despite knowing this, I was approaching this entire class like a chance encounter with someone in an alley would go like this:

Oh, you’d like to attack me? Hold on… can you stand right there? Give me a second, I just have to perfect my punch placement! All the while my attacker is just letting me get set up. I would never do this in sparring but I was failing to connect the two. We are not learning poses!

When we learn kata we also learn bunkai or the practical applications of kata. I remember in the beginning just thinking that I need to know WHAT I’m doing then I can learn WHY. That logic is fundamentally flawed. Knowing the why improves the what, even at the beginning. Especially at the beginning! Why have I resisted this? Sensei Dave has said it repeatedly. This was the first day I received it.

One question from Sensei Les and my karate has taken a new level of intensity. Every moment is in preparation for an actual fight. In the mirrors, I am my opponent. When I practice I think of the fight and I’m preparing for it.

Ultimately, this works in so many areas of life:

  • If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability
  • When preparing for any battle know who you’re fighting
  • Practice like it’s real because when it’s real you won’t get to practice
  • Move, block, or get hit… the choice is yours.

Domo Arigato, Sensei Les!

Farewell 2018

Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.

What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.

Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!

God Bless!

Regina

Perfectionism, Food Issues and Karate

I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done. Right. The first time. I like doing things well and I’m obsessed with things like order and placement. From a marketing perspective this can be considered great or even ideal. One thing that really changed my life was when I discovered perfection’s back story. Perfection is really fear, anxiety, and procrastination doing an elaborate dance.

What does that mean? I can’t speak for all people, but I can certainly speak to my own experiences. Looking over my past behaviors – which was essential to weight loss – I discovered that I would often opt to do NOTHING if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY. Inevitably, the task I needed to do would likely take more time to complete but I’d want to do it immediately. If I didn’t have the time to do that, I’d leave it to another day.

Perfection is merely procrastination in a tuxedo.

In our last house I had an office studio where I’d make personalized items. After the holiday season it was usually a wreck. I’d open the door and want to clean it to sheer perfection. Realizing how that was impossible I’d simply shut the door and wait until I had more time. If I did get to the place where I’d actually tackle it, I’d often get so overwhelmed at the enormity of it all and shut down. Greetings Anxiety! I knew you’d show up eventually!

As I began the process for weight loss surgery, I noticed how a lot of this behavior was not only in office clean up but heavily tied to my food behaviors. I would never say, “I’m going to cook dinner tonight.” I would say, “I’m going to cook dinner every night for the rest of my life!” When I failed once at my Lifetime Cooking Goal I’d go right back to ordering out because I failed.

I had to recognize that I was constantly setting myself up for failure! In my office I could’ve planned to break down what needed to be done into smaller, more manageable tasks, set a deadline for completing those tasks, and worked toward completion. With cooking dinner I could’ve endeavored to cook that one night and work up to cooking more often.

I mind-tricked myself out of my own wellness!

My internal need for perfection would often have me procrastinating until I felt that I could accomplish something perfectly. What a realization!

As I applied this model of breaking things down into smaller and more manageable tasks, I realized it was not just in office cleanliness or wellness that I had this issue. Karate brought out a lot of this behavior. I wanted to have black belt skills as a white belt. Yeah, that’s not possible. I’d often go home after class and beat myself up for not learning fast enough or looking as good as my peers. It was challenging physically and even more mentally.

After a while, you realize that you will only get better with dedication and practice. I am not a black belt so I won’t have black belt skills. What I can do is learn and practice. I will not know anything instantly. I will have to break it down, learn it in pieces, and put it together over time.

One of the most valuable pieces to all of this is the realization that doing something – even something unbelievably small – is better than doing nothing at all. Gracefully bow out of the Dance of Perfection and Procrastination and begin.

Progress not perfection.

Five Years in 2 Hours

Five years ago Jeff and I bought new furniture for our offices from IKEA. I love IKEA because it’s affordable, convenient, and matched my aesthetic. We picked out what we needed and everything was fine.

After a couple of weeks, Jeff wanted a file cabinet to match his desk. We went back to IKEA and found the Alex. It was perfect. The box was super heavy but we got it home and it sat for a couple days.

I decided that I was going to surprise Jeff by putting it together since he has precious little free time. I dragged the heavy box to the living room and I was excited to get to work. IKEA flat packs all their items so I expected to see a lot of slabs of wood.

Then I saw something else… the bag of screws.

It looked like THOUSANDS of different screws, bolts, plastic pieces, and a bunch of stuff I’d never seen before. I immediately panicked. I wanted to put this together so badly but I couldn’t get past the screws. Before I abandoned all hope, I decided to look at the instructions. I like written instructions and I understand that IKEA ships all over the world so their instructions are all pictures.

I tried to follow the pictures and looking at the bag of a million parts but I just couldn’t do it. I was frustrated and a mess. The box sat for the next 5 years. We moved and took the box with us.

We have a small room as you enter our condo and it has a recliner, electric stove, and our antique rocking chair. Taxi likes to sit in the recliner when we’re not home. We even called it the Dog’s Den. I do a lot of writing and developing here at home and I had a desk in our bedroom but it’s not a working environment. I have a workshop in the garage but it’s not suitable for writing. We decided to shift my office into the Dog’s Den.

We set up the desk and there was space for a small file cabinet. The Alex is still in the garage! I asked Jeff if he’d bring it upstairs. I knew he was concerned since it’s been in the box for literally 5 years.

As soon as I opened the box I saw the enormous bag of screws again and my heart sank. Then I remembered how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. I went to the cupboard and got some plastic cups. I separated each kind of screw in the cups. Then I counted to make sure I had everything that I needed. Next, I separated all the wood pieces into like groups and laid it all out. Finally, I took out the instructions and just did everything step by step.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned in karate is that you will not be good right away. It takes time, practice, patience, and relaxation. Also a healthy dose of forgiving yourself. You’ll make a mistake and shake it off and move on. Frustration will not be your friend in karate. Or IKEA furniture.

As I completed the steps and something wasn’t clear I’d go back and start again. Look at it differently, see what I may have missed.

Please note that box sat untouched for 5 years and with a little organization, patience, and taking it “one bite at a time” it was done!

Blind Trust

Trust. It’s one phenomenon that takes so much time to gain and only seconds to lose. Over time we learn to trust and if we’re of the forgiving kind we can even learn to trust someone again. There’s another type of trust and I find that this one may just be the hardest. We have to learn to trust ourselves. Trusting ourselves can extend to doing the right thing even when no one is watching or not betraying someone’s confidence. However, it can go much deeper than that and I find it most challenging during karate:

Trusting what you know and trusting yourself to do it.

Karate is skill and discipline honed over time. Everyday we learn a little more. When we line up in karate we line up in order of rank. Every person in front of you has trained as long or longer than you. When we practice our katas in a group and you see all these black belts and upper belts and they look amazing with crisp techniques and years of training and it’s easy to feel like you are just never going to get there. I look at their work and then look at my own and I still feel like I’m a tangle of limbs and anxiety. This is why Sensei tells us we are not qualified to judge ourselves. I rank that up there with trying to relax. Easier said than done, for sure.

We recently had another belt test. This time we were testing for our green belt. When it was our time to test, I made a mistake. I let all the anxiety of the day get to me and I lost my place for a second. I was over thinking again (apparently, it was a day that ends in Y). I recovered quickly and made it through but I was a little disappointed. I should know by now to trust myself. This thought was immediately confirmed by what happened next.

The next group was green/white stripe belts testing for their green/black stripe. I have to describe the room before I continue so you understand exactly what this is like. Around  the main dojo floor are ALL of the underbelt students testing that day. Then there are chairs around the dojo filled with parents, children, guests, and friends. On the sidelines are the black belts and advanced black belts watching and able to step in for partner work. Basically, there are a lot of people there and many eyes watching you and it can be unnerving. It’s like any potential mistake you would feel like it was being seen on a stadium jumbotron or in the center of Times Square.

When you test with your group you want to be uniform, look good, make your family proud, and cut through all the mental and physical chatter happening all around you. It’s not easy. When the green/white belts went they were a little distracted at first. Sensei then did something I don’t recall him doing in a belt test before. He asked them to do it again with their eyes closed. No outside intervention, no looking at anyone else, just trusting what you know. Then the most amazing thing happened.

When they started again I looked at Cheryl. She was directly in front of me and she was incredible to watch. It was like she came to life! She was completely in the zone. I honestly don’t know how anyone else did because I was completely drawn to what she was doing. Every move was deliberate, crisp, and powerful. There was something completely missing: fear. She showed absolutely no fear. With my eyes closed I’d probably freak out wondering if someone was going to knock into me, if I would trip over my own feet, and a million other potential evils but Cheryl just trusted herself to do what she knows, what she’s done, what she’s trained for the past three months. She completely trusted herself and her capabilities.

I’m constantly working on trying to get out of my own way, to relax more, and deepen my skills and understanding. This will come when I learn to trust that I know what I know. Cheryl really showed that trust and I was just blown away by it.

Terror, Typos, And Roundhouse Kicks

I’ve blogged for over a decade on various platforms so sharing parts of my life or general observations of the world around me isn’t new. I first got my stride writing on MySpace. Everyone had anonymity through embarrassing screen names which made what you were sharing have a layer of privacy. As the platforms shifted we lost that anonymity. Facebook literally put a face to our feelings and comments. Despite shedding that last layer of privacy, we continue to share. One would think after all these years of sharing that writing a book would be what comes naturally. One would be wrong.

When I started writing I wanted to be open and honest which were two things I’ve spent a lifetime NOT being about my weight. From lying about how much I was eating to how much I weighed, openness and honestly were not a part of my program. Diving into those feelings and emotions were terrifying but the more open I became the better I felt AND the more I realized that I was never alone in those feelings.

Writing was emotionally challenging. The rewrites were unreal. I struggled with sharing too much or too little. I struggled with sharing parts of other people’s stories that overlapped my own since I felt they weren’t mine to tell. Then I struggled with my anxiety.

Should I write this?

Will anyone understand?

What if it’s universally hated?

These thoughts are the devil and sometimes incredibly paralyzing. I’d write, then rewrite, then try again, and again… and again. Then I noticed that these changes and rewrites were really more about delaying progress than seeking perfection. Procrastinators are truly perfectionists with anxiety! I was starting to lose my nerve but I had many books already sold from the preorder so I knew I had to turn off the internal chatter and just do it!

It was then I discovered the intricacies and potentially issues with self publishing. There were formatting problems, platform delays, and shipping issues. With every delay my anxiety was rising because this process was only to take about 40 days from book completion took way longer than that. I wanted my first signing and book pick up to be at Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse and I had to reschedule it 3 times waiting for my books to arrive. I made the decision to order my pre-ordered books and first round of books to have on hand – sight unseen. An enormous leap of faith for a perfectionist. Even doing this resulted in people ordering from the Amazon bookstore receiving their books before I received mine!

Last Thursday after months of delays and oddball issues my books arrived. In looking them over I noticed some typos and some formatting issues. Things I definitely should’ve caught but I was so concerned with the forest that I failed to see the trees. Amazon’s self publishing arm is very new and apparently still had some kinks to work out from the author end of things. What’s beautiful with self publishing is that the books are print on demand and easily updated. I’m working on this formatting issues and typos now. If you’ve ordered one of these original books thank you and I hope the typos aren’t too distracting from the story itself.

What I’m most proud of is that I did it. Knowing things weren’t completely perfect I still did it. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said:

“Done is better than perfect.”

For a person who obsesses over minute details, this is a challenging concept. Historically, I’d rather do nothing than something substandard! I’m discovering that karate is helping me immensely in this area.

When you watch a trained person do a karate move it looks effortless – almost simple. Yet, when you try to mimic the movement you become keenly aware that it is not simple. It’s really a million tiny moves working in perfect harmony! A roundhouse kick is a prime example of that for me. Looks pretty simple, right? You’ve seen it on TV and movies forever, right? Try it. Everyone from Bruce Lee to Steven Stegall to Patrick Swayze made it look easy. It’s not.

My kicks will only improve with the combination of time and training. Time alone will not do it. I could be enrolled in karate for 50 years but if I don’t practice I won’t improve. Training is also not enough. You can learn the basics of a kick in one session but you won’t master it that day. I really want to master it that day! REALLY!

I have to continually remind myself:

I will not master anything immediately.

Procrastination is the devils way of blocking your progress.

I have never been alone in my feelings of self-doubt, anxiety or fear and that sharing that – even imperfectly – is of great benefit to someone who needs it.

And done can really be better than perfect.

Sometimes.

To see Food, Sweat, & Fears on Amazon click Here

Finally

When I offered my new book for pre-sale to the readers of my blog I naively thought I was in the homestretch of the process. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my own challenges and insecurities of telling such a personal story and wanting to tell it honestly and openly but without compromising the many other stories that intertwine with my own was an undertaking. When I thought I was finally able to communicate my vision without infringing on others I ran into platform issues with publishing that I did not anticipate or account for.

IMG_0615In the midst of this, I was selected to be a speaker at TEDxNewport which was a long-standing dream for me and one of the most incredible times of my life. The preparation for TEDxNewport was extensive and was coupled with the busiest season at work. Needless to say, more delays. I’ll be sharing my TEDxNewport experience when the video becomes available.

Finally, after delays, technical problems, insecurities, and more Food, Sweat, and Fears is shipping!! The pre-sale was successful so they are coming via freight. As soon as they get in my hands I’ll post the pick up locations and book signing dates. The book is now available on Amazon if you did not pre-order. If you’re local, books will be available for sale at signings and some store locations which I will share when finalized. If there’s a bookstore or library you think should have this book reach out!

 

If you’d like me to come to your school, business, or church please contact me through the contact form HERE. Weight is only a part of the story. The issues of anxiety, fear, faith, and self-value are universal and so very necessary right now. Let’s talk!

Click the book (and check out early praise) to go to my Amazon author page! I’m currently working on expanding my first eBook Healthy Fare into a full scale cookbook. Follow my author page to know first when new material is available.

Thank you for your continued support! I am blessed beyond measure!

Altering Discomfort

Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways. I find I often have the hardest time with clothing. If you see me at work just know that I’ve probably changed my clothes no less than 5 times before I left the house. 

That doesn’t look good. 

Not feeling that today.

My midsection looks crazy in this.

No.

No. 

After all this turmoil I usually end up wearing my Life Uniform. This is the type of outfit I’ve worn forever. Black pants with a modest black shirt and flats. All that drama and I always end up in the same fashion place. And by always I mean my friends (and husband) want to contact the authorities when I leave the house not wearing black. 

When I started losing weight I did start wearing some color. The ONLY reason for this was I was losing pretty rapidly and I was given a lot of transitional clothes. It does not make any sense to purchase clothes the first YEAR after weight loss surgery unless you’re into wasting money or you shop at thrift stores. Every moment I wore a colorful t-shirt I was in misery. Just not my thing. Anyone who would say any complimentary was always met with “Thanks, it’s not mine.”

When I started buying clothes I would gravitate toward so many Life Uniform pieces that my husband was willing to sacrifice almost anything to get me to buy a non-black shirt. I always look like I’m in mourning but it suits me. I do try to branch out, but it doesn’t seem to work out. Like this one shirt I have. 

I purchased this shirt a few months ago and I liked it. Although it’s black it has beautiful flowers embroidered on it. I liked it so much that I thought I could ignore the cut out shoulders and neck. I came home and put it on and I liked it. I thought it looked nice and that I would get over feeling the breeze over my collarbones. I see people wearing cut out shirts all the time and they look great. Why not me?

I snapped a selfie and sent it to my husband. He loved it BUT he would also would love me in a burlap sack. Then I got the first realization that we may have a problem. He was getting his hair cut at the time and showed his hairdresser, our friend, the picture. He texts me back that she loved it too. I had a mini-freak out inside that someone else saw the picture. Oh stop, Regina! 

Then I tried to wear it to work. 

No.

No.

Next time.

Nope.

Then I tried to wear it socially.

No.

No.

Next time.

There is no next time. There has never been a next time. I have never worn the shirt. Sad because I love it. 

Last night as I try to get a jump on the horror that is getting dressed in the morning I see the shirt in my closet. Tags still on it. I decide to act. If the exposure is making me uncomfortable the alter the discomfort. I put it on backwards and tried to figure out if I had enough play in the garment to close the openings but not lose the shirt. It has a bit of a trapeze swing to the body of the tunic but the arms could be challenging. I decided to go for it! The shirt is doing nothing in my closet next to the many other things I don’t wear because the sleeves are too short, midsection to obvious, or color doesn’t fit the Life Uniform. A few creative stitches later I have a shirt that I love that I’m finally comfortable wearing AND is has a splash of color. 

I don’t know why getting dressed is pure craziness for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever embrace wearing multiple colors and prints. Until I get there I’ll continue try to branch out and if it’s just one thing that is making me freak out then just remove the one thing.  Like this:


Let’s go to work!

Warning: Beach Class

The day I wrote my last post I had to immediately “put my money where my mouth is!” I pressed the send button waxing poetic about finally feeling comfortable in discomfort and was greeted by the opportunity to put that to the test at the door of the dojo!

The day I wrote my last post I had to immediately “put my money where my mouth is!” I pressed the send button waxing poetic about finally feeling comfortable in discomfort and was greeted by the opportunity to put that to the test at the door of the dojo!

As we lined up we had a different Sensei lead class. True fact about humans: Each person teaches a different way just as each person receives information a different way. If you’ve been around these parts you know that I’m a person of details and I like doing things right. This will forever be my albatross in karate. 

Sensei was showing us a kumite that I’ve done just a few times before but with a twist. He was giving detailed options about kick placement and my mind was swimming. I needed to know what was the “right” way. I’d like to know what I’m doing then I can add things to it. In my brain there’s the right way then nuance. I was getting all nuance and it was killing me. It wasn’t his teaching it was my learning that was tripping me. I had to ask him which way was right. Ultimately they all were. I need to learn to live with options. 

The victory here is that I asked a question.  Normally, when my head begins to swim and I feel overwhelmed I’d just shut down and never return. I wouldn’t say a word just bow out gracefully and be on my merry way. I tried to find some comfort in the discomfort of what I was learning and then asked the Sensei. I didn’t leave and I didn’t die. Victory. 

As I drove home I almost had to laugh about how quickly I was called to live out my writing. Then came beach class. 

East Coast Karate does a few beach classes a summer. This is my first summer so in my brain I thought it was our class on the beach. Seems legit. It was scheduled for last week but the thunderstorms had other plans. I was on the fence about going because I was sure it was going to feature some key things:

  • Humans
  • Lots of small children
  • Beach onlooking humans
  • Sand

I could hear the The Sound of Music song “these are a few of my favorite things!” Not really. I can appreciate them all in measured doses but not all at once spread out over one of our largest beaches. 

Then someone posted in our Facebook group about wearing a bathing suit. It was like a bomb went off in my skull.

ARE WE GETTING WET????

I had to go back to my bulleted list above and add:

  • Potentially being wet in front of lots of people 

I message my friend who knows of my lunacy, my need for details, and how my mind will conjure up a million – usually completely ridiculous – scenarios and asked her what to expect. She wrote me back with details in a language that was perfect for me. Everyone teaches in their own way and everyone receives information in their own way. Lindsay is not only an epic beast at karate and a person I aspire to emulate she also spoke my language completely. Sufficiently briefed, I got dressed and headed out. I can do this. 


When I arrive at Misquamicut Beach the first wave of hysteria flows over me. I have no idea where we were supposed to meet. Where do we go in? Is there a spot? Did I miss hearing the meeting spot? 

Anxiety Level One – Achievement Unlocked

I get to the beach and there are still so many people there! It’s 6pm! Why are they still at the beach? I see a sea of East Coast Karate shirts but none on any people I recognize. I wandered like a child lost at the mall contemplating hopping back into my car and just leaving. Find the comfort, Regina! I saw some of my friends and they saw me too. My odds of safely escaping to my car went out the window at eye contact. 

Anxiety Level Two – Achievement Unlocked

More and more people arrived and there were many more familiar faces. I came to realize with a crew this large we didn’t really need a meeting space after all. I need to learn to go with it. 

As we gathered together and lined up I was amazed at how many people were there from class and how many more were just there to watch. Some were family members and others just happened to be on the beach and found a great live show. 

We started off doing warm up drills all together. I was fine doing drills. Kinda. Facing the beach made it easier since I wasn’t watching people watch us. That would’ve been much harder. When we broke into teams I was finally feeling ok. Note: Always be extra cautious when you start feeling ok as craziness seems to ensue immediately. 

Our team drills were competitive and I’m a slightly competitive person. That’s not true. I’m an insanely competitive person. So when we raced to touch the water and back my spirit of competition took over. That was fine touching water. The story changed with Army crawls, somersaults, shimmying on my back in sand, and ultimately getting drenched. I cannot accurately describe the horror that is sand in my hair. With every passing minute I’m being flung haphazardly out of my comfort zone. 

Anxiety Level Three – Achievement Unlocked

 We did take downs (this is another blog entirely), performed kata in the surf, and even push ups with our faces in the water. I was soaked from head to toe, covered in sand, and being watched by a beach full of people. It was like a personal attack of all of my issues in one place. But I did it. Miraculous. 

When all was said and done, I wasn’t exactly comfortable in the discomfort but I gave 100% and held in until the end. I walked back to my car soaking wet, covered in a delightful mix of sand and sweat but feeling really good that I did it. I battled through my fear of random humans, being wet in public, and allowed myself to enjoy the chaotic dance that is beach class. Even though I looked like this: 

Post Beach Class
Epic Karate Warrior Level One – Achievement Unlocked 

Comfort in Discomfort: Shin Splints, Karate and Lobsters

As humans I think we all love a good Comfort Zone. That wonderful place that fits us perfectly. A lovely corner of the world where there is no fear or anxiety. There is also no growth. 

In order to get where you want to be in anything you have to stretch your arms wide and bust out of the comfort zone. In that process there will be fear, there will be anxiety, and there will be growth. Gross, uncomfortable growth. 

I first tried my hand at running in 2007, when I quit smoking. Just getting outside was a stretch out of my comfort zone but during one particular race I learned the joy of discomfort. 

As a city dwelling non-driver for several years I look public transportation everywhere. On my 35th birthday I was doing the North Kingstown 5K. NK is a good distance from the city but I could take a bus there. I’m comfortable riding the bus so I was confident I could get there. 

As an overweight, unathletic person who smoked for 18 years and was smoke free for only 5 months we could say that running (also known as slow, miserable walking with a smattering of jogging) was a challenge for me. Every time I hit about 2 miles I experienced the most painful shin splints. Every time that happened I would immediately stop. 

September 8, 2007. It was a clear and crisp morning. I jumped my freshly turned 35 year old body out of bed, eagerly put in my race clothes, and headed to the bus. The ride was over an hour and in my confidence of riding the bus I didn’t double check my stop. I knew where I was going. Correction. I thought I knew where I was going. I ended up missing my stop. The driver told me which way to go to get to the high school and time was running out. I was going to have to high tail it to make it to the start in time. 

My adrenaline was high! I took off from that bus and raced to the school. I knew when I must’ve hit about 2 miles because I felt the fire in my shins. I wanted this race. I needed it. I needed to be healthier. I needed to get there. I had something to prove to myself! I pressed on. 

Then something happened that changed me. As I approached the long driveway to the school I noticed my shins stopped hurting but I couldn’t dwell on it. I had to keep going to pick up my bib. I arrived in time to pin my race bib to my shirt and I heard the start pistol. 

For the first time this race was entirely pleasurable. I was relaxed and my body felt ready to go. I finished NOT last for the first time and did the 3.2 Mile course in under an hour.  Most runners can complete the course in about 28 minutes and elite runners in 15 minutes but breaking the hour mark was huge for me! (2007 NK5K race results- Regina Foster)

When I got home I looked at where I got off the bus to get to the race. Turns out I went farther than a 5K to GET to the 5K! The beauty of that was discovering that if I pushed through the discomfort of my shin splints I could go farther and faster than I ever thought. 

As I venture deeper in my karate studies I’m reminded of that memory. Karate is like a Master Class of Comfort in Discomfort but I’m getting better with it. I’m learning to just stretch my arms wide and edge out of my Comfort  Zone. 

To advance in a belt rank there are certain requirements we have to know. As we learn them we also have the opportunity to learn techniques above our rank. The first time Sensei called a kata that I had never done I felt an intense panic envelope me. 

I don’t know this!

I will look like an idiot!

Can I somehow get out of here?

Learning by making a series of large and embarrassing mistakes has never been my strong suit. My anxiety hits a high point and I just want to stop. Very similar to a shin splint at 2 miles in 2007!

On Monday night I had my first true moment of comfort in discomfort with karate. We started with the basic kata and slowly started advancing. When we reached the first one that I only knew a part of I was surprisingly calm. I’ll confidently do the part I know and then I will watch and just do what I can. I did just that and I was fine. I figured that Sensei would probably involve the entire class for another one before breaking us into groups by rank. 

WRONG!

We continued into the unknown and I did what I could follow and I didn’t panic. I didn’t feel stupid. I knew nothing at all and had no anxiety about it which was nothing short of miraculous. I was lobstering out of my comfort zone. 

The shells of lobsters don’t grow. When they become too tight the lobster must molt. It sheds the shell and must wait – completely vulnerable – for the new shell to grow. The lobster hides knowing the dangers all around it but also knowing that without this time of vulnerability it cannot grow. 

I want to grow and to do that I will have to continue being uncomfortable, continue stretching myself into the unknown, and continue to risk being completely vulnerable while molting out of my comfort zone in order to get there.