Not my plan!

This is NOT the post I was hoping to write today. The headline was supposed to read: “I earned my black belt!” instead of the existing one. Although I’m not certain, I suspect I did not pass my black belt test today and if I did, I question if I really deserve it as I didn’t break 2 required board breaks despite the fact that I have done them many times. An official test has a way of raising the stakes and you really have to rise to the challenge and today I did not deliver.

For those that know nothing about requirements for a first degree black belt testing in taekwondo there are 4 parts: the form containing about 24 moves in a certain order; required board breaks; sparring with 2 partners; and a brutal 5 minute fit test at the end involving 300 moves. Let’s just say the black belt test is not an easy one.

I’ve been training now for 3 years for two times a week every week whether I’ve wanted to or not, and believe me there were many days where I did not want to go. I’ve been bruised up or injured a more than a handful of times – most notably once on the top of the foot in my first year training when learning my round kick (I had a nice big bruise on the top of my right foot and a major dent in my confidence which I needed to work though…and DID) and recently a foot injury while attempting a board break with a front kick – the board bent back at an angle that wasn’t good for my foot. This last injury caused me not to be able to walk correctly for a couple of weeks and I seriously thought about quitting at that point but then decided I was simply too close to earning my black belt to quit so with permission from my Master I substituted out the front kick for a round kick and decided to persevere.

If it weren’t for the board breaks today, I’m sure I’d be boasting my grand accomplishment for all to see on on Facebook. But this was not meant to be. Instead huge tears of disappointment were shed. I know I’m going to have to dig deep to really want this for myself so that I keep going and get this done. It takes a lot to put yourself out there especially after failure.

The thing is, it was never my goal to become a black belt in the first place. Taking taekwondo has been something I have done primarily to support my son and show him that you don’t quit when things get hard – and by doing this class I have been sticking to my word and leading by example. It all started when my husband signed us up 3 years ago when my then 5-year-old son expressed interest in taekwondo. My husband thought it would be fun to train with him so together we sought out taekwondo schools and agreed to have them train at Victory because we really liked their discipline and structure which we felt would be a good fit for our son. Since two people training in a family is the same cost as a family membership I was handed a uniform, much to my dismay. This was not MY plan! (I growled at my husband.) But I am athletic and not one to sit on the sidelines so I quickly joined into class since I might as well participate and learn something instead of just sitting on the bench and watching. Victory Martial Arts encourages families to train together and teaches people not to quit when things get hard. (Brilliant marketing strategy if you ask me!) The good student that I am took these lessons to heart and so once I began training it wasn’t really an option for me to quit until I reached my black belt, no matter how many times I complained to my husband, “Why am I doing this again?”

Perhaps this is why today’s blow of not breaking my boards hit me especially hard. In my mind, it wasn’t just a test – it was my way out! My ticket to freedom. My ticket to CHOOSE freely if I want to continue taekwondo or not. I don’t feel that I earned that ticket yet.

My husband and son were there to support me today and both of them told me how I looked really good and did great and I SO appreciated and needed that positive feedback. I’m grateful I have them to help me through this. My son even made tea for me on his own when I got home and showered me with love. I must keep things in perspective and not let this one setback get in the way. I will go forth and persevere, just allow me one more cry first.

Regifting is not a bad thing

Christmas time can be a challenge for minimalists like myself. I’ve never been big on getting a bunch of material things – less stuff is better as far as I’m concerned – so when family and friends start asking me what I’d like for Christmas I struggle coming up with ideas for them. This Christmas is even more of a challenge because people are not only asking me what myself and my husband want for Christmas, but they also want to know what my 1-1/2-year-old son would like. (Frankly, just wrap up a plastic kitchen cup or Tupperware container and he will be entertained for hours!)

Our family doesn’t really “need” anything since we have already been given so much from many wonderful people in our lives consisting of true necessities for the baby, toys, and so much more.  Many of the items we have gotten have been hand-me-downs but we don’t care. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things that I need or want – like the new iPhone for instance, which I want very badly – but the things I find that make me the happiest are usually not material things but rather experiences or trips.

I’m a firm believer of reusing items. There is so much out there already; why buy new when you can pass on a perfectly good used item that is sitting idle in your own house. I told my in-laws to not feel bad at all about wrapping up my niece’s old magnetic doodle board and alphabet magnets that she no longer uses and give them to my son as Christmas presents. Seriously, why not? They’d save money; they’d help the environment by recycling; and my son would love them. It’s a win, win, win as far as I’m concerned.

I encourage others to not be ashamed to do the same if you also have items in your house that you think other people might get usage out of. It will help you get rid of things you no longer need and save you money in a tough economy. I’ve devised a list of courtesies to abide by if you do take my advise and choose to pass on items to others this holiday season:

  • Don’t try to pass your gift off as being new if it was ever used before – that makes you look cheap, and it’s tacky. Tell them it’s a gift that is being passed on from you with love. (One exception to this is if the gift is a regift that was never even taken out of the box and is indeed new.)
  • Clean up the item thoroughly before giving it to someone else. Nobody appreciates getting a dirty gift – plus it’s unsanitary.
  • If the gift is a toy or an electronic item make sure it works. If it’s broken don’t give it as a gift; recycle it when possible or throw it in the trash instead.
  • Present it nicely. One thing I learned in art school is that presentation is everything. If giving as a gift, wrap it in a nice box or bag with tissue around it and a pretty ribbon and it’s every bit as fun and special as a brand new gift.

Don’t let someone make you feel bad about giving someone something used that you think they might have a use for. Remember, your intention is a good one – there is absolutely no shame in that.

Pass it on

The other day when our house cleaner came over, (Yes I have a house cleaner that comes once a month. Please don’t judge me!) I thought I’d do a good deed by passing on some old white undershirts from my husband that were in our rag pile. I had originally thought I’d just throw them in our recycle bin, but I decided to ask our cleaner if he wanted them first since I figured he might be able to cut them up and use them for cleaning rags.

After showing the old shirts to him, he surprised me. Not in saying he would gladly take them but rather because of his intended use for them.  I was not expecting that he wanted them for their intended purpose – as shirts – for the workers back in his home country, El Salvador.  When he told me his proposed use for them I felt a bit ashamed. Ashamed that I had ever intended on recycling them at all when some people could greatly use them just as they were. I was ashamed that they were all wrinkled up and in balls, as rag pile items often are. I wanted to get out my iron right then and there. I was ashamed that I was so privileged that the thought that other people would use my so called “rags” as clothing didn’t even cross my mind.

It wasn’t all bad though. A part of me was also happy. I was happy that I had the foresight to ask our cleaner if he wanted the shirts before simply throwing them away. I was happy that I often think of the best place to take items before declaring them trash. I have noticed that so many other people put valuable things in the trash cans simply because they are too lazy to find a good home for things.

Remember that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Please don’t just toss things in the trash can. Instead, think of a place that items could go where they can still be used for the items’ intended use. I know that whenever I find a good home for something it feels really good.

We’re all doing the best we can

I read an article not long ago in the Huffington Post by Mike Robbins titled “We’re All Doing The Best We Can.” He quoted Louise Hay when she said “It’s important to remember that people are always doing the best they can, including you.” His article, and particularly Louise Hay’s quote, really struck me and it will forever remain in the back of my head as I go through life.

It is so easy for people to judge others and I truly wish I were an exception to this imperfect way of being, but unfortunately I’m not. When thinking of the many times when I have judged other people in my life I realize that I have not fully understood their predicament because I was not in their “shoes” – so to speak. It’s very easy to make judgement calls from the outside when you yourself are not entrenched in a situation.

How I can people (including myself) remember to be more compassionate toward others who are really doing the best they can at any given moment?

Perhaps we could start by stopping the never ending judging voices that come forward like…”She COULD really be trying harder” or “If he only did it differently then it would be so much better” or “If they only did it my way.” Simply stop – mid judgement – take a breath, and let it go. And I don’t want to hear… “But really, they just need to…” or “She really IS doing it all wrong… .” It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. Just let it go fully and completely.

This is not to say you have to like the situation; you probably don’t. I’m simply asking you to try to take a step back from it with a little bit of compassion remembering that everyone – including you – is truly “doing the best they can.”