Sunday, December 27, 2009

some time later...

i retook the white star test. i wasn't sure that i would. it was a shitty blow to fail the first time and i wasn't sure i had it in me to fail again. failing sucks. i tend to avoid situations where i can fail so i'm not well practiced. i'm not saying that i'm awesome at everything, i guess it's just that i play it safe. i do things that i know i'm good at so i never have to suck too much. but skating is fucking hard and the level of skill required is beyond my capacity. so i freaked out and thought that it's probably best to avoid future devastation. but i agreed to car pool with shirley tumble and slicer minelli so i had to go. and i passed.


and here is a list of what i've learned about myself:

1. i dont have great balance
2. i learn at my own unique pace
3. i really really really miss pippa when i work all day and skate all night
4. i have no real interest in doing sit ups or push ups
5. i'm very inexperienced with team sports
6. i love skating and feel hugely accomplished when i learn a new skill that had previously seemed impossible.

i don't know how long i can ride this wave for, but i'm pretty stoked to have gotten this far.

xx darth ada

Monday, November 30, 2009

darth ada's sing-along blog

i'm ok. i knew that i didn't do all that well on the test, so it's ok that i didn't pass. i'm not going to make excuses as to why i didn't do well. fact is, i did my best. so how i can i complain? it is what it is (current favourite catch phrase) and i'm ok.

i'll take the retest and take it from there.

i'm ok.

xx darth ada xx

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Apologies for not posting on this blog before now. It's the night before derby tryouts and I'm facing some fears.

Over the past five years, grief, depression and laziness have turned me into a (larger) shadow of my former self. A gutsy person is still in there, though, surviving, and derby is resurrecting her. Being back on wheels is exhilarating and I'm loving the feeling of long-lost skills (and muscles!) returning. In roller derby, I see a way to get back some things I've lost: fitness, confidence, pride and guts.

When I was nine or ten, I was always on skates – every spare minute of the day not spent at school, eating, sleeping or reading, I was on wheels. And I was fearless. I moved onto blades in my teens and then once I left school, as with too many things, I gave it up. I used to be a writer as well – poems and stories just flowed out of my pen – but I lost confidence along the line and threw in the towel.

Boot camp has been a challenge, especially since the second week in which I injured myself during the first drill. The fearful voice inside me started questioning whether I really could be a derby girl, whether I was too fat, too weak, whether I should just stop wasting everyone's time. All these thoughts were running through my head as I watched the rest of the training session from the sidelines, then limped away from the rink and blinked back tears on the long drive home. But, sitting in the bath at home, soaking my screaming muscles, I felt a hunger to be part of something incredible – that glory I see on the derby track – and I knew I had to keep going. Thinking about the tryouts tomorrow terrifies me, as has the idea of putting the pen to this blank page, but I know this fear is good and I'm ready for more...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors

When I was eight or so I put together a picture book called What Good Luck, What Bad Luck based on the idea behind the Fortunately / Unfortunately picture book from the 1960's. It was about a boy who went fishing with his grandfather (because I'm obviously a subject expert on both fishing and being a boy) and each page started with either "What good luck" or "What bad luck" in turn, something like this:

What good luck!
Poppy took me fishing in the boat.
What bad luck!
It started to rain.
What good luck!
Poppy had remembered to bring his raincoat.
What bad luck!
I had forgotten mine.

You get the idea.

I was reminded of this book recently when thinking about a skater who has injured herself and may not be able to attempt the white star test. I hope her story, like the book, ends in good luck.

Bonnie xo

stack it up, skater

this is an old sesame street song pippa and i have sung a few times a week for the past 6 months. it's about all that women can be - astronauts, pilots, poets, wood choppers, roller skaters. in addition to it being educational and entertaining for pips, i use it as a motivational tool for me. i can be a roller skater. i can be a roller skater.

last night's bootcamp was the best one yet. i thought it would be. week one was overwhelmingly exciting, week two was the come down, and last night it all leveled out. i could barely sleep when i went to bed - i was all twitchy with the radness of it. btw, i totally got plow stops. oh yeah. calamity maim, i thank you.

i'm still nervous and worried that i wont be good enough to make it into the league, but all i can do is what i do. i think i'll be an asset to a league that's By the Skaters, For the Skaters. I'm a DIY girl from way back. but will my skating skills stack up??

we'll soon find out.

xx darth ada xx

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roller Derby is a Cruel Mistress (but I love her)

It’s hard to say why I was so drawn to roller derby as soon as I saw it. I suppose you could say it was the atmosphere in the rink, the costumes and theatrics, and of course the beautiful and awe-inspiring derby girls. But it certainly wasn’t for love of physical activity. I have always been inherently lazy. I’m the person who never stands if she can sit, never sits if she can lie down. So I had no idea how much I would love the pure physicality of roller skating.

Before boot camp started, the most roller skating I had done in the last 16 years was a Friday night trip to the local rink a few weeks ago (to see if I still remembered how to skate at all). I doubt I’d even really thought about how much dedication, training and exertion would be required to be able to be one of those derby girls I so admired from the ringside. I wanted the glamour, the confidence, the sexiness of being so good at something, but I hadn’t really thought about what it entailed to be good.

And as it turns out, it entails a lot – you aren’t surprised are you? Since I’ve started boot camp I have been skating at least every other day. I’m eating twice as much as my body desperately tries to scrounge up energy in order to keep up with my enthusiasm. In the first week I made great progress in learning falls, stops and crossovers. Then I hit an enormous stumbling block: I can’t turn to the right. I can skate quite well in an anti-clockwise circle, and I can perform “lateral movement” to the left, but when I try and go to the right it’s like the whole floor gets tilted onto a bizarre angle and I’m convinced I’ll overbalance. But the surprising part is that I don’t mind having this problem, it only makes me more determined. I’m one of those people who have really low tolerance for sticking to something they’re not immediately good at.

So why has roller derby got me so hooked? Because its cunning, that’s why. It understands the psychological technique of push-pull. You get into your skates and off you go, it’s wonderful, like flying. Then you try something difficult, like maybe turning a corner, and you fall on your arse. But the embarrassment and the adrenalin rush from the pain only makes you try harder to get it right. Then you get it right and you feel amazing, you have never felt your body behave so gracefully, with such responsiveness, as you move this way and that. Then you hit the next barrier, but this time you know what it feels like to get it right. You start skating twice as often as before to fix your problem.

And that, to the best of my understanding, is how the evil temptress that is roller derby operates. She lures you in with the gorgeous spectacle of a derby bout, then when you are trying it out for yourself she puts all these hurdles in the way. But just as you are becoming terribly frustrated, she rewards you with the most exquisite feeling of physical control, grace and power – it’s intoxicating!

We were told at the beginning of our fresh meat journey that we would become obsessed. That we would skate constantly and, when not skating, we would think, talk and dream about skating. Well, last week I did actually wake myself up from a nap on the couch by kicking the coffee table: in my dream I was pushing off with my right skate for a crossover. This indicates two things, firstly that I am helplessly in the clutches of roller derby and, secondly, I can’t even turn to the right in my dreams!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weaving? That's like a crafty thing, right?

Session two of bootcamp is over. Halfway there, but so far to go. I can see and feel how I have improved; I'm skating lower and faster, I'm stopping without the aid of a wall and I can even jump things. I know I'm getting better, but will it be enough to get in? Some days I think I might have a chance and other days I have almost accepted that I won't. It's all I think about and my partner is so sick of me asking about my stance (it's lower right?), my strength (can you just count my sit ups for me) and my speed (do YOU think that was faster?). I've also discovered, much to my shock and dismay, that he does not give a shit about wheels, bearings and the art of double lacing.

Maybe I should start asking him how his day was again? :)

I know that those who are invited into the league need to pass the white star test, but due to the huge number of freshies just passing the test alone won't be enough to get in. I guess if it was me making the decisions I would be looking for those who really want it and will commit to turning up to training two or three times a week for the next twelve months at a minimum. But how do you test for that? Imagine passing and not getting in and then hearing about people who did get in dropping out after a few months. How devastating would that be?

This line of thought will do my head in.

I'm going back to one day at a time. I'm going to concentrate on the skating skills and I'm not going to worry about who and how and why and when. I want to know I did my best. I want to follow the philosophy of doing what you can with what you have where you are right now. And if I don't make it then I'll try again next time.

Right after I buy shares in Kleenex.

Bonnie xo

Monday, November 16, 2009

roll with it, baby

i spent several hours with frozen peas strapped to my thighs last night. and today, i'm slathered with deep heat.

last night at bootcamp part 2, i excitedly began doing knee stops when something in each thigh snapped. i sat out for the entire drill chatting to two significantly injured freshies about the glory of pain.

i rejoined my group when they started doing T stops. but i felt weak and the pain in my legs was holding me back. i couldn't jump very high, and the two minute sprint nearly killed me. i sucked at weaving and skating on one leg was tough.

i went to sydney this weekend for a wedding. spent a couple of days there with favourite friends. pippa and my partner stayed home though and i missed them. i was pretty drained when i finally got home, but had to high tail it to bootcamp only two hours later. i was unfocussed, tired, sore and disheartened. i was torn. i wanted to be at home.

like slicer, i left bootcamp last week feeling excited. but this week, i sucked. my body failed me. i don't know what i expected really. i'm not fit, i'm not athletic. i still haven't fully recovered from my pregnancy and as a new mum, i don't get enough rest.

i'm left with a sense of failure and fear. roller skating has taken over my life, it's true. it's all i think about, talk about, read about, do. i'm worried that i want it too much. placing too much emphasis on it. it feels similar to having suffered a broken heart then being faced with the prospect of another relationship. what if it doesn't work out?

ok... so. what i will do is take a couple of days off from skating. look after my legs. do gentle stretches. smile through the pain. it's ok to have ups and downs. this is the roller girl journey.

i need to roll with it. i need to get down and derby.

xx darth ada xx

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

two points.

i want to write about my experience at the intersection of roller derby and motherhood. and there are two points i want to make.

1. i chatted to Titasaurus during one of the water breaks at bootcamp on sunday. she mentioned something about her daughter and i realised suddenly that i hadn't thought about pippa for at least an hour. i was awash with guilt. Titasaurus said 'that's the point, roller derby is yours. you're not a mum here. it's about you'. when you're a parent, your life revolves around your child/ren. everything changes, gets put on hold. your perspective and priorities shift. the world is a different place because now you're someone's mum. but not when you've got your skates on. i've committed more time to skating than anything else since pippa's been born. and i think that it makes me a better parent. certainly it makes me a better role model. i've found something that's just mine, thats about me and that's pretty damn ace.

2. so day 1 of bootcamp ruled. but for the past 3 days, i've barely been able to walk. sitting and standing have been a problem. i didn't fall over or injure myself, but i worked hard. i'm not athletic, so my body gets a big surprise when i make it do physical activities. i don't have the pleasure of a full nights sleep so there's no opportunity to rejuvinate. there's no rest in my day and i cant call in sick. lifting pippa has been painful. my point is that my ability to parent has been effected. if i hurt myself, it makes everything else much harder. nothing in my life can change, no one else can be pippa's mum, so if i'm hurt i just need to carry on as usual. that's gnarly.

i don't really know what any of this means at this point. i don't want to compromise my capacity as a parent and i don't want to give up roller derby. i don't know if i'm strong enough for this. i hope i am, but there's no precedent. this is all new ground. scary, awesome ground.

xx darth ada xx

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Watch this space: hardcore derby girl arriving soon

Yes, roller derby means pain. I can say this without even having been to my first bootcamp session because I'm sitting here writing this whilst fitting my mouthguard. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to have blisters on my top gum. Mmm, tasty. I've got what they call a "boil and bite" mouthguard. Boil for 90 seconds - sure. Dunk in cold water for one second - um, what was that? Bite - fuck, that's really really hot. But hey, I didn't take it out. I must be made for roller derby.

Well, maybe. Fact is I'm a massive physical coward (you know, the kind who says "ow!" before she's even been hit), which is one of the many reasons I've decided I want to do roller derby. That may not seem to make sense, but I'm like that. No confidence in my singing voice? I joined a choir. Having trouble showing my writing to people? I enrolled in a creative writing degree. Sucker for punishment? Maybe. Sucker for the self-improvement cult more likely.

But you can't just choose one reason for wanting to do roller derby. It's roller derby, who wouldn't want to do it!? It's almost an insult to call this activity a sport. Yes, this is coming from the girl who was a conscienscious objector at school sports carnivals - "too much unhealthy rivalry and segregation into tribalist factions." (I'm not denying I was an obnoxious (and lazy) little shit in my early years.) And yet roller derby had me clapping, cheering and shouting like I've only ever done at music concerts, never at a sporting event.

Roller derby is so much more than a sport, it's a philosophy (and, I'm starting to suspect, a religion). It's got everything you need for a well-rounded philosophy: aesthetics, ethics, politics - I could go on ad nauseum (no, I really could, I'm a philosophy graduate - eww!). But perhaps such theorising is better left for a later post. After all, aside from falling on my arse a few times during a public session at the local roller rink, I haven't actually played the damn sport yet. It's time to bite the now nicely moulded and comfortable mouthguard and put my money where my badly burnt mouth is. Stay tuned.

-Deadly Longlegs

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Life is beautiful when you hold the keys to your own kingdom.

I'm not what one would refer to as sporty, athletic or even semi-coordinated. Up until I had my son I had the blessing of a high metabolism and good genes so I never had to worry about my weight. To me a "fun run" is an oxymoron and a gym is a place where people went to sweat and perform synchronised movements to awful music, so I was never interested. Perhaps this is why, when I decided to express my interest in joining VRDL some months ago, my friends I mentioned it to looked at me like I had suggested I wanted to move to the moon.

So.....why roller derby?

To be honest, I'm not really sure, but I know what it isn't. It isn't boredom. I'm crazy busy all the time with work, study, sole parenting and attempting to have some kind of a life. It isn't a love of exercise, of sweating or of getting a perfect ass. I've accepted my post baby body is never going to look like the before photos and while I'm not deliriously happy about it, most days I can accept it. It isn't a deep desire to beat the living crap out of chicks on wheels either.

Maybe it is about being the me I want to be, or the me I can't express in other areas of my life. When my son's father left unexpectedly after five years of knowing nothing else it wasn't him I missed, but the woman I was before I moved in with him. That woman was brave and confident and opinionated and passionate and full of energy. That woman was tough. That woman was derby.

And maybe I can find that woman again.

Bonnie xo

fuck dancing, put your skates on!

i first saw derby girls when i was walking home past the melbourne museum. i almost tripped over myself watching them. i wasn't sure at first what they were doing, but i was in awe. i stopped and watched them for a minute, amazed at their style - hella tough and hella sexy. once it dawned on me who they were, i knew. i knew that i was a derby girl too.

it was a couple of years later that i started hearing about bouts. a work friend took me along one time cos she'd seen a doco on the roller derby and decided that i couldn't live another minute without witnessing it. and from the second the girls rolled out, i was hooked and felt again that sense of belonging.

i think roller derby is revolutionary. it's powerful, feminist, inspiring, fun, cool, tough. it's all i've been thinking about since i bought my skates.

the problem is, i take pain way too seriously. i've known this for a long time and i've spent a lot of time struggling with it. i have a bunch of tattoos but i hate getting them. i go through hell in the lead up to any appointments and am entirely anxious throughout the whole process. my tattooist thinks i'm hilarious (and lame). i gave birth last year. i felt clear that i wanted to have a normal birth, with no medical interventions so i spent my whole pregnancy thinking about pain and my relationship to it. i succeeded in that i had a 42 hour labour with no pain relief at all. what an amazing accomplishment. the next step for me is to join the roller derby. i don't want the fear of pain to stop me from doing incredible things. i want to show my daughter that we can overcome significant fears by launching right in. i intend to prove to her that fear will not stop me and by doing so my hope is that fear wont stop her.

i've been skating with a bunch of excellent women for a few weeks, all of us hopeful to make the league. we start bootcamp in 3 days and each of us is sick with excitement. partly, i'm nervous, afraid of failure, afraid i'll suck, afraid i'll be afraid. i'm also eager, determined, future focussed and wrapt to have met so many rad ladies.

emma goldman said "if i cant dance to it, it's not my revolution". i say 'fuck dancing, put your skates on!'.

xx darth ada xx

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bootcamp soon... eek!

So, Roller Derby, eh? My friends are mostly in two camps about this adventure I’m embarking on. Some think I am a crazy masochist, and some think its kind of awesome. All I know is that Roller Derby is this awesome sport that until recently, I never really saw myself as being within the realms of possibility – in my life at least.

Since I returned from living overseas I'd been feeling a bit like a fish out of water. My life here in Melbourne was so different to the one I had here before I went away. My relationships with my friends had changed, and I'd broken up with the partner that I'd been living with before I left. I had changed as well. I was looking for something to fill the big montreal-shaped gap that was now in my life. I had thought that a team sport would be a great thing to get involved in - to get fit and to meet new people. I'd thought of Roller Derby, but only fleetingly. I didn’t think I was fit enough, or coordinated enough, and too much of a sook to be involved in a contact sport.

The first time I really thought of roller derby as a possibility for me was about 3 months ago when my buddy Ladykiller came down from Brisbane to play in a bout against the Victorian Roller Derby League. Now, Ladykiller historically has been one of the more uncoordinated people I know...Sorry, Lady!! But stick some skates on her feet and suddenly she is all fast and balanced and can knock people over! Seeing one of my mates be a fearless rollergirl kind of made me think that if she could do it, maybe I could do it too. I got to meet a bunch of the other rollergirls that weekend too and everyone I met couldn’t tell me enough how awesome it was to be involved in derby! After meeting some of the women involved, I saw that there seemed to be a place in derby for women of all different shape and sizes, and most of them hadn’t previously been athletes or played contact sports much. I started to think, why not give it a bash?
So, I asked Ladykiller to pick me up a pair of skates when she went to Las Vegas for Rollercon (huge saving on postage!!!) and I immediately loved them! Being on 8 wheels is so much fun, I feel like I am 10 again, chasing around my friends on skates back at the Rollerama. Although I have not much natural coordination, the sense of accomplishment when I finally learn how to do something I’ve been trying is awesome.

So I got in contact with the VRDL and registered for bootcamp, and I’ve been practising with some girls that I met at the info session in October for the last month or so down at the Melbourne Museum. We’ve been trying to learn all the skills that we need to pass the white-star test, which comes at the end of boot camp – one month’s time.
There’s a bunch of us that go pretty regularly – All the girls that I’ve met so far have been great. We’re all keen to learn, and keen to work on our skills together. Something I’ve loved is that all of a sudden there is a whole new group of women that I’ve been able to be a part of. That Montreal void is beginning to be filled, by endless chatter about where to get the best socks, pads, helmets, what our derby name is going to be (I’ve decided on Slicer Minnelli. Fingers crossed it gets approved!), what boot camp’s going to be like, and how to skate crossovers. Pretty much any day of the week, there is always someone keen to go for a skate.

This weekend is the start of bootcamp. I am a little nervous about it, to be honest. I think my biggest fear is that I will completely suck. Although my skating buddies have reassured me that I'm okay, my stomach is still all fluttery about it. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I get hurt? What if I don't make it through boot camp, and have to keep training till next year? What if I look like a complete idiot out there? What if, what if, what if!! I guess there's not much I can do about any of those what-ifs! Even if I fail miserably, and look like an idiot, I'll have had a lot of fun trying!