The True Confessions of a (Recovering) Jiu Jitsu Workaholic
Warning: Vulnerability Ahead
I’ve been at a little bit of crossroads lately with my jiu jitsu, after returning from a high at the all-women’s camp that lasted three whole days at Princeton BJJ. The return to reality was quite abrupt and sudden, as I went from a place essentially surrounded by women who were looking to empower each other, back to my old gym where the males still outnumber the women. On top of that, I had felt like my training was very subpar for the month of July, due to a return trip home (no training) and then being distracted and unfocused for class when I did return.
Even though I’ve made a lot of strides in mental health and my attitudes towards training, the one area that I consistently struggle with is feeling like I’m enough. It’s easy for me to find a reason why I should be doing more, and sometimes I forget to give myself credit for the work that I put in. It’s not a great way to live, nor is it a way to be grounded or present with whatever is actually happening. My friend Katie calls it “rubbernecking,” which is exactly what I do instead of working on my technique, taking the opportunity to get better through self-study, or frankly just letting myself actually be for a while.
Over the months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through the old patterns ingrained in me from my upbringing, and trying to navigate this new territory of being a real adult who understands that she has choices and options beyond exploiting every single opportunity to train.
Yet this act of being gentler on myself, of being caring and kind to my own feelings, is easier said than done. It’s still uncomfortable for me to actually feel good about the work that I’ve put in that day — the default mode of scarcity, even though it is destructive long term, is tantalizingly easy in the short-run.
This, of course, makes me frustrated that I’m not making progress fast enough, which runs contradictory to the spirit of being compassionate and giving permission for myself.
Permission like having empty space in my calendar and letting it stay that way.
Permission to feel good about it.
Permission to take a step back and work on what I feel like is important, even though it’s not jiu jitsu mat times, instead of following what I think everyone else feels valuable.
Finally, permission to feel anxiety or wistfulness over wanting to train more, because those are valid feelings too.
Whenever I feel a little lost in my training, like I’m drifting on a cloud that seems to be moving further and further from the earth, I always return to a work that I call the Tao Te Ching. It’s a work that was introduced to me by my creative coach Dave Ursillo, and we refer to it from time to time whenever I get into my head a little too much about where I’m headed and what I’ve achieved.
Tao exists in one’s own true self.
It cannot be found outside of one’s true nature.
Hence, there is no need to leave the house to take journey in order to know the world.
There is no need to look outside of the window to see the nature of Tao.
The further one departs from Tao, the less one will be able to know.
Therefore a saint is wise to know without seeking for It.
For me, this quote means that if I’m going to navigate this confusing place, it’ll require a gentle approach to be aware and to accept myself for what I am. The phrase “there is no need to leave the house” reminds me of a pandemic lockdown, but it also is a calling for me to realize that I don’t need to try to move mountains to find what I’m looking for. In fact, it’s not even necessary to actively search for something that is outside of myself — instead, I can, should, and want to embody all parts of myself so that I can feel more integrated and whole.