Dealing with adversity

Dealing with adversity

So here’s a fun little thing I recently discovered about myself: When things get tough, my default is to quit.

Case in point: Playing pool with Hubby. There have been times where he is simply “on” and I am “off.” In other words, he’s smoking me. I get so discouraged that I only play worse, until I hang up my cue and walk away without finishing the game.

I know it isn’t pretty, but there we are.

This has been Jiu-Jitsu for me lately. I WAS at the top of my class, or so I thought. But it seems being the only one with four stripes on my belt doesn’t make me the best. There are a few three-stripers who are out stripping me.

Instructor posted this on Instagram. I think that means it’s fair game since it’s public. Can you spot me?

Take Gym Rat, his own characterization for himself. His shirt sleeves barely hold up against his muscly arms. He, ironically, calls me Killer, which I find funny. He also likes to offer me advice.

I know what you’re thinking, but I find it more kind than annoying. (But still a little annoying.)

Then there’s Tall Guy, who recently reported taking a private lesson because his work schedule prevents him from coming to most regular classes. At the lesson, Instructor said, “Let’s just take the test.”

And he passed. Just like that, without even intending to test yet. And did I mention he only has three stripes?

Meanwhile, Instructor said I should continue attending Reflex Development (RD) classes until I’m ready to test. I’ve been doing RD for a couple weeks, but am not finding it particularly helpful, since my partner is generally on the same level as I am. But Instructor suggested one more go through of all the techniques, which would take a month.

By that time, more will have tested on ahead of me. Though I don’t believe taking action out of pride is a good thing, I wasn’t keen on being further humbled.

Tired of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere, I considered giving up. The joy is being sucked out of Jiu-Jitsu. If I could move on and start learning new techniques, it would probably be fun again.

If nothing else, shouldn’t I at least complete this program? Or should I not bother?

My friend who does Muay Thai, a boxing style often taught at Jiu-Jitsu gyms, posted this. I can so relate.

Knowing that I would miss it if I quit, I instead asked Instructor if I could do a one-hour private lesson to short-cut this process.

If I could make progress… If I could get a WIN, maybe a rare and coveted “I’m proud of you,” I wouldn’t feel quite so discouraged.

The actual test is five drills. Each must be completed in less than five minutes. The fourth drill was covered most recently in RD class, so we started there. It’s also, to me, the easiest.

Nevertheless, this one five-minute drill took up the entire hour. There are numerous tiny details to remember. Keep your arms up, land on your shoulder not your elbow, your stance needs to be wider, pounce off the front foot, bend this knee not that one…

We went through it over and over again, checking the video afterward each time to watch for mistakes.

Darn it, elbow! Darn it, bent knee! Even though I knew what to do, in the heat of it, I kept screwing up.

“Want to try again?” Instructor asked for about the fifth time.

“Are you sure you’re still up for this?” I asked, amazed he wasn’t bored by the repetitive process.

“I’m fine,” he said.

Meanwhile, I’m tired and panting; he’s acting like he merely strolled across the room.

On the next round, all was going well. When the timer on his phone went off, indicating our hour was up, we continued through to the end.

“I think that was the one,” he said, meaning the one he’d turn in to be graded at HQ.

“Yeah, that felt perfect to me,” I said, relieved.

He checked his phone. “But when the timer went off, it stopped filming.”


Cue discouraged, wanting to pack it in, tired, sweaty, “the last one we got was close enough” panting me.

“Want to do it again?” he asked.

By now I’ve exhausted my allotted time, as well as myself. Nearly.

“You sure?” I asked him again.

“Yeah. You’ve got this. Each time gets better and better.”

Back in my glory days when I still felt great. This standing armlock, by the way, was in this drill, and was not one I struggled with. So, when in doubt, at least I know how to break men’s arms. πŸ™‚

So we did it yet again, not surprisingly, in record time given all that practice.

We eagerly sat down to watch the replay, him breathing normal, me panting into my gi top to hopefully cut the sound of my who-knew-I-was-so-out-of-shape? heavy breathing.

He slowed down the crucial spots.

If I could’ve been more breathless, I would’ve been.

“I didn’t see the elbow,” he said.

“Me neither,” I exhaled.

He slowly continued the video.

“Yes! Straight leg!” I pumped a fist in triumph.

He kept scrolling, sometimes pausing and zooming in to check proper hand placement and grip (thumbfull vs thumbless).

Finally, we made it to the end. “You’ve got it,” he said. “I don’t see any mistakes.”

Requisite fist bump!!!

Finally, as I grabbed my water bottle and bag and dragged myself to the door, he said, “I’m really proud of you.”

Note that this wasn’t an “I’m proud of you for rocking Jiu-Jitsu,” of course, because clearly I kind of suck.

It was an “I’m proud of you for sticking it out, for not giving up, for continuing to strive for perfection even though it was hard, and you were tired and panting like a dying dog in my ear.” (Though hopefully not that last part.)

And you know what, I’m proud of me too. (Let’s just ignore for now that that was the easiest drill, shall we?)

When I got home, I considered this vase of leaves on my desk. They were put there by my daughter weeks ago when they still had flowers. The purple blooms have long since gone, but the leaves have not only stayed alive, they’ve even grown.

Unstoppable leaves.

Then I noticed what looked like string in the vase. Pulling out the plants to investigate, I discovered this:

One of them has even managed to sprout a root in its tiny watery home.

I can learn from this plant.

But first I need to go kick Hubby’s butt in pool.

80 responses »

  1. I felt a knot in my throat as I got to the end of your post, wow, I’m glad you’re sticking with it! You know what this reminds me of? Of Guillaume Apollinaire’s:
    β€œCome to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    And so they came.
    And he pushed them.
    And they flew.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh, what a hopeful and resilient post. I love how you self-assess and then kick butt. And I mean that second part literally. Great job on that perfect test – something to be proud of! I think when you want to quit and don’t — it’s even more impressive than when you just cruise through. You’ve got this, my amazing friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always stick it out. Because I have struggled the same with Krav before, and yeah it’s embarrassing as an advanced blue belt to have an orange belt correct you. But my level of krav does not affect who I take advice from. Some people just grasp on to concepts better. Like for me, I am known as someone to not give a knife to because my knife skills are pretty darn good lol. But certain chokes and grabs are very difficult for me. Just stuff I have to work on.
    When it comes to life, I tend to run also. Just yesterday I dramatically sprinted out of the dojo because I had a bad day and so did my partner (romantic partner lol) and they were being a little jerky to me and I was being jerky to them too and the tension was insane and I literally couldn’t do it anymore and I ran so fast out of the dojo. A lot more happened but yeah. Basically my relationship is falling apart and idk what to do.
    Sorry for venting I just need to talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1. Thanks for commiserating.
      2. Good with a knife, huh? That’s cool!
      3. I’m sorry about the relationship. And you’re ALWAYS free to vent. Sounds like the two of you just need to have an open, honest conversation. And if it turns out they’re not right for you, that’s okay. It’s better to find this out sooner rather than later. I never advocate for people wasting time with the wrong person for fear of being alone–NOT that I’m saying you are, just that people sometimes fall into that trap, understandably. You’re a catch, so be with someone worthy who recognizes that fact. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the advice. My partner and I are just going through a lot and we both tend to take things out on each other. Last night we had a conversation with their mom (who is our referee) (also she is basically my second mom lol I am glad we are close) and she suggested putting this random argument on the back burner until we have cooled off. So yeah. We’re chill now but I’m thinking about things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is good advice. Cooling down is always wise. It’s a sad truth that we tend to take things out on those closest to us. I guess knowing that means we shouldn’t take things too personally, and it’s also a reminder to keep our own mouths shut.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the book ‘The Runner’ by Cynthia Voigt for a model of thoughts about competition and competitiveness. Also ‘Tell me if all the Lovers are Losers’ by the same author. Thanks for posting. I read the whole thing and it was really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The final go-around (after the failed video) proves you have anything but “quit” in you, which is an awesome trait. But I can’t get the group photo out of my head. Are you ever matched up with the guy to the right or the one to the far left? Both of them are large humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So there is SO much in this post. All of which I relate to in some form. For you to have or better your innae/인내/perseverance is a fantastic skill. You know I can’t help but say it is not just the physical skill you are improving/gaining. πŸ™‚

    Go play pool. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A few things to unpack here, Betsy, I hope this helps on your BJJ journey. But, it does sound like you have your intentions directed towards persevering. Good!

    “And he passed. Just like that, without even intending to test yet. And did I mention he only has three stripes?”

    It doesn’t matter that he has three stripes and you have four. Comparison is the death of many Jiu-jitsu players. In 5.5 years, I’ve seen so many people leave BJJ who were BETTER than I was or had the potential to be better.

    There is a reason why there are always more lower ranks than higher ranks. More Black Belts than Coral Belts, more Brown Belts than Black Belts, more Purple Belts than Brown Belts, more Blue Belts than Purple Belts, and more White Belts than all. Everyone who start doesn’t finish. The hardest competition they face is themselves because, by and large, the road to black belt is a LONG one when compared with other arts. But even then, in other arts, you can see more lower ranks than higher ones.

    Almost two years to get to blue, another two to purple. I’ve been at purple almost two years, but I’m not expecting brown anytime soon. I personally think I’ve another two to go, at least. But I’m not in charge. So I stay focused on growing and not looking at the color of my belt or how many stripes I do or do not have.

    The ones who stick around, stay at it, keep going – they may not be better or the best, or they may be – but they all stuck to it. And that’s why they are the rank they are.

    It’s you vs you – seriously.
    Are you improving compared to last week, last month?
    How are you performing against the goals you currently have in BJJ?

    Don’t worry about the ones who have less stripes or those that get promoted faster. Your skills are different from their skills, your progress isn’t their progress. Everyone who walks in to an Academy progresses differently in BJJ. Don’t worry about them, they are going to hit their walls, plateaus and seasons of suckage, too. Guaranteed. And they’ll either sift themselves out, or they will persevere and continue the climb.

    Right now, at my level, there are deficiencies in my game and how I want to perform that are driving me bonkers. I’ve got a couple of stud blue belts who regularly give me a hard time on the mat. Those are good problems to have.

    It’s me vs me – always. So I’ve got deficiencies in my game, cool, what am I doing about it? So I’ve got some young studs that give me a hard time even though they are “lower” ranked. Cool, they make me better by giving me their best, forcing me to observe where and how they are besting me and make improvements – and then I do the same for them.

    “Tired of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere, I considered giving up. The joy is being sucked out of Jiu-Jitsu. If I could move on and start learning new techniques, it would probably be fun again.”

    Remember: Jiu-jitsu will find the quitter in you, always. Whether it is a season – or three – of feeling like you aren’t growing/improving, or everyone is the hammer and you feel like the only nail, or even after an extremely hard session of rolls – you’ll feel the quitter start to speak up.

    Been there, many times. Even at Purple.

    Just keep at it like you are.


  8. Thank you, Tom. I saw that you liked the post earlier, but when there was no comment to accompany it, I thought, darn. I’d really like to get Tom’s reaction to this. And then it came through: a nice, long, well thought out comment. I so appreciate it, Tom. I have a feeling I’ll come back and read this multiple times. Thanks. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. I do take comfort in that. Probably these other guys are taking comfort in, “At least I’m better than Betsy. And she has four stripes.” Ha! I guess I’m there to make others feel better. We all have a roll to play.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just happened to glance at Facebook and see that another person earned his 4th stripe. He’s probably going to test on soon. Sigh. Despite all your fabulous wisdom above, Tom, I can’t help but feel like crap. :/ But I’m working on it. And actually, it’s probably my own darn fault for not training more. But that realization actually makes me feel a little better, strangely.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Be happy for your teammates.

        It could be a simple solution of more time on the mats. Nothing beats more time on the mats. But don’t try to put a β€œfault” on yourself.

        Understand that people will catch up to you and possibly pass you. As a mother, wife and doing all the things that life has for you, you may not be able to train as much as someone with less responsibilities.

        Currently I only train two days a week, I am OK with this. I know that some of the younger belts could very well catch up to me and pass me because they train more often than I do. I have to be OK with this and understand it is my own journey that I am on with jujitsu and they are on their own journey.

        In the end, anyone on your team has potential to help you get better at jujitsu, whether they are a lower rank than you or a higher rank than you. It is all in your approach.

        Liked by 1 person

      • All very true, Tom. And I am happy for them. That initial shock of seeing someone caught up was like, “Dang it!” But I’ve calmed down a bit now. And, yeah, if I had more time on the mats, I’d be better for sure. That I have to double up training time with TKD probably doesn’t help either. I’m okay now. That’s for being there for me to complain to. πŸ˜›

        Liked by 1 person

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  11. We are same! I might (MIGHT) be known in another circle of mine to have thrown a golf club out of frustration during a game of mini putt lol… I was new to the game .. (disclaimer, no one was hurt in the process of my ego being shot) lol.. but it was hella dramatic lol I stalked off and never looked back lol that being said – I am so proud of you for not giving up too! That’s something I want to highlight for Charlotte – it’s not always reaching the goal but the effort you put in, the never giving up that one must be most proud of first.. that grit… Also, go kick your husband’s butt! You can do it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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