This is Part 3 of "Roller Derby Makes Me Brave," an ongoing series in which I chronicle my journey to becoming a derby girl. To make sense of this post, you may want to read the whole series or the individual posts.
Thirty-six years and I've barely inhabited my body, but a bruised tailbone pulls one's attention down into the seat of a self. My body. My tailbone. Nerves and pain at the base of my spine, a flinch and quick "eesh" of air sucked in through teeth every time I sat or stood or shifted.
I fell because I was roller skating. Lured onto wheels by the siren song of Roller Derby. I fell because I was trying to be brave. I fell because I was tired of being so careful in my everyday living.
I've never played an organized sport, never been one to willingly break a sweat, and I've never liked the saying, "No pain no gain."
Thirty-six years, and what do I know of this body?
I don't engage in physically high-risk activities. At most, my lifetime accumulation of injuries have been minor: Skinned knees, paper cuts, bruises (sometimes in strange places) that I can't recall causing. A slip and fall on ice. The worst of anything has been my ankles, each one severely sprained multiple times, starting with a fall in eighth grade gym class. A torn ligament in college, a stupid (sober) fall running around campus before graduation. Never broken a bone, but friends would (do) call me clumsy, accident prone.
It's not a label I think much about. It just is. Until it's something else.
Advil and ice helped the pain, but there wasn't anything I could take to fight off the confusion and fear that burbled up with each dull ache and stab.
I wrestled with the tension that vibrates between between pride and shame. So proud of myself for getting on skates, for falling and getting back up. So proud! And so ashamed for taking a risk and getting hurt. I hid my guilt behind a thin veneer of bravado and practical pronouncements: "It's not so bad. There's not much you can do for a bruised tailbone except rest it." That week was uncomfortable, not just for my backside, but for my inner compass. I was learning to look at the world through a new lens, the lens of I took a risk and got hurt, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid or bad or irresponsible.
This was a new way of being in the world. If you played sports as a child, you may not understand this. If you are accustomed to taking physical risks, you may not comprehend. But if all your life you've been bundled up in...
Play it safe
Take it easy
...then you may understand this. You may comprehend the profound nature of this shift.
All my life I've been afraid of getting hurt.
All my life this tension between desire and fear.
No sex before marriage. No sky diving. No driving too fast or without a seat belt. No drugs. No excessive drinking. No. No. No.
I've bubble wrapped myself in worry.
The day I stepped outside of that soft bunting, the bubble burst. An epiphany of the obvious: Sometimes people do things for fun that can hurt them. And this is not wrong. This is an acceptable way of being in the world.
At age 36 I was learning what most 10-year-olds know. Kids who play sports learn these lessons about their bodies, their limits, their capabilities at a young age. They learn how to get hurt and how to heal. How to get hurt again and still not fear. Here I was, approaching (or perhaps already at) middle age, navigating, for the first time, this new way of being in the world. This new way of being in my body. This new way of being me. This new way of being. This new way. This.