In Spite of X / Because of X

A few weeks ago I visited “X” in order to reflect on everything that had happened since the last time I had seen X. OK, ok, I didn’t do all that much reflecting. I grumbled and grouched. I even yelled, “I succeeded in spite of everything ‘X’ threw at me!”

Eventually I grew quiet but my heart was still burning with hurt and anger. I went away from X.

Your own “X” could be anything – material or immaterial. X could be an event or a series of events. X could be a person or people who stood in your way. X could be a broken down building with a splintery floor and no air conditioning. X could be an injury or other debilitating condition. X could be a combination of all of the above. X might not even exist anymore except in memory.

Before I go further, I acknowledge that if your “X” is a person or group of people your trauma might run so deep that you might consider this blog post to be “toxic positivity.” If that is the case I apologize and recommend you stop reading. Seriously – I am not qualified to address deep trauma and this blog post is only about stuff that is, at most, aggravating, frustrating, and maybe even stupid.

After visiting “X” I decided to visit “Y.” Y had played a role in my success and still contributes positively. I was hoping visiting Y would get my mind off X. As I “sat with” Y, I relived some very pleasant memories. Yet X still niggled at me. As I left Y, I realized X had given me an appreciation for something else – “Z,” if you will. Z is a good something else. Z has its flaws, yes, but without the experiences with X, I wouldn’t appreciate Z. I’d blow up Z’s flaws, making mountains out of molehills. Perhaps because X made me realize how good Z is, X indirectly contributed to my success.

A few days later I realized that X is a mirror that I can look into to see myself as I was then and as I am now. Was I perfect when X was part of my journey? No. Did I contribute to the negativity? Yes. Did I do the best I could in the face of X? Yes. I dare say I learned and grew because I appreciate “Z” all the more. It’s not pleasant to think about X, I wish X had never intruded on my journey. But X was there and it’s up to me to learn the lessons X had to teach me.

It’s difficult to be in the middle of an “X” and see any benefit. It’s quite likely the next time I encounter an “X” I will again contribute to whatever negativity is present. I’m only human and nobody likes it when their buttons are pushed. I seriously doubt I’ll see any benefit to the new X until maybe years after it’s done slapping me around. Or – maybe I’ll respond better. Who knows?

What I do know is that my success means more because I went through what X threw at me. The adage, “A black belt is a white belt who refused to give up” implies that the way isn’t easy, it will have obstacles, and one will want to give up. I don’t think that I ever wanted to give up because of X. But that’s me – maybe others would have at least been tempted to give up if they had faced my particular X.

I also know I do not wish to be an “X” to someone else’s karate journey. But I probably will. I might hit too hard while sparring. As a fledgling sensei I am afraid of mishandling situations, frustrating students, and setting the bar too high for someone’s rank. I’m pretty sure I’ll botch a few calls when I get to referee at tournaments, and I know I’ve missed points as a judge. I struggle to keep my ego in check, to not show off. I have been and will be an arrogant jerk and/or just plain stupid on occasion. “Grouchy” is often my middle name. There are so very many ways I could be a hindrance to someone else.

It’s a little reassuring to know that if I find myself being an “X” to a fellow karateka it’s an opportunity for both of us to learn and grow. I wish everything could be smooth sailing all the time, but I’m human. That doesn’t excuse any wrongdoing on my part, it’s just an acknowledgement that perfection is impossible. Fortunately, karate does teach us self discipline. More than that, we learn how to work through our own shortcomings, both mental and physical. We learn what it means to be our best selves.

Maybe time will soften the emotions whenever “X” enters my thoughts. I don’t think I’ll be visiting “X” again anytime soon – I feel those emotions have been released and have more or less run their course (at least for the time being). I can always remind myself of how much I appreciate “Z” because of “X,” and how appreciation of “Z” has contributed to the success of my journey thus far.

For further reading (I stumbled across these books very soon after visiting “X”):

Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by daughter Shannon Lee

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

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