I've always wanted to be a fighter. I've always had a "fighter spirit", which I know now is much different than being a fighter. I hear a lot of women say they'd like to learn self-defense, but ultimately feel secure that if a dangerous situation should arise, they'd instinctively know how to get out of it. Their anger and fury would be enough to scare off an attacker.
That's sweet. It's also complete nonsense, but I'm not really sure how to address it, since getting down and dirty on the mat with giant men throwing punches at your head is definitely not the kind of fun after-work activity most people enjoy. Fighter life isn't for everyone. Of course I had to go and choose one of the most hardcore styles of fighting there is, because, well, why not? Go big or go home. Friends laugh at how proud I am of my bruises, my bloody knuckles. I'm sore pretty much always. Everything hurts. It's awesome. I adore it. I can't stop blathering about it.
Meanwhile, over the course of the last two years, unbeknownst to me, another change was happening. I didn't see it until recently. I was just obsessed with fighting - learning to be a good fighter. I have never been an athlete and to say I dabbled in a couple of sports seems like an exaggeration. But, for whatever reason, I NEEDED to fight, and I needed to push myself to every limit I had. I just wanted to be better. It was hard for me at the beginning. I was so skinny and scrawny and every class left me feeling like I'd been hit by a bus.
Until this year.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to give you a little backstory:
I've always been skinny. Sure, it's been nice. Part of it is that I was born that way and part of it is my natural tendency to eat like a rabbit. A good start, but taking proper care of myself was never a priority. I was sick a lot in school. Lots of things, different things. When others got a sore throat, I got strep throat so bad it landed me in the hospital. I was tired a lot. I was diagnosed with a handful of not-real things that probably would have been better summed up as "she seems kinda depressed." On occasion, this would cause weight loss. Friends began the chorus of high school whispering - I'm clearly anorexic - or I have cancer - or..... Whatever, I didn't like school anyway. But it left an impression on me, that I was skinny and fragile and sickly. It became part of my identity. I'm not sure I've ever gotten over it fully.
…Until this year.
Somewhere between the tests getting harder and my obsession growing larger, I started attending my Krav Maga classes more regularly. Sometimes every day. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes for 3 or 4 hours a day. Even my instructors told me I was going too much. They said I would burn out.
I think I was becoming an endorphin junkie. I felt so strong and capable. It was a fantastic feeling. Occasionally I would pass my reflection in a window and -- wait are those muscles? On my arms? My back? Where did those even come from?
I'm a big supporter of artists documenting themselves and their lives. Yes that means photos. We are writing (and photographing) our own history. Hopefully, as an artist, you can make them interesting. Hopefully they reflect some current or important or profound aspect of your life and condition. As an artist, my evolution as a human being is directly connected to my art. I want my very life to be art.
Am I shy about these photos? In all honesty? Not really. If you knew where I'd been and where I've come from, you'd be proud of me too. So relieved. Victorious. That's how I feel inside. I want to reset the standard, the new normal for myself as a strong, healthy person.
I promised myself that I was not going to be bashful in my 30s. I had no way of knowing what I meant by that. I wanted to live fully and freely and not be tied down by a false, negative image. I'm proud of myself, and how hard I've worked. I have earned that right through a lot of fortitude and pain. I want to celebrate.
I am strong. And that's what I find beautiful. I never really saw myself that way before. There is nothing negative about it. You could say I am fulfilling a life dream, one that is happening right now. I FEEL the best I ever have.
You bet I'm going to enjoy it.