One of the joys of having a blog is you get to see the same themes pop up each year at the same time. Oh, autumn, it’s you again!
For me there are two main parts to this autumn story when it comes to my fitness activities. I love riding in the fall but each fall I start riding my bike less on weekdays (bye bye evening light) and I find myself back in the Aikido dojo, back on the mats. Hello angry white pajamas, hello old Aikido friends. The second part, I wrote about recently. It’s my annual bout of autumn sadness.
These two story lines converge when it comes to Aikido. Each fall, along with questioning life’s meaning in general, I find myself asking why am I doing this particular thing, Aikido. I love it but maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I should just quit Aikido. It’s really hard and I’m not very good at it and I can’t roll and I go through all the angst and agony about whether or not this is something that fits in my life. (See way from way back when, Thinking about quitting: Life lessons from Kenny Rogers and Aristotle.)
I’m always going to be a Jill-of-all-sports. It’s never going to be just Aikido for me. I love canoeing, and bike riding, and weight lifting too. I absolutely have to be outdoors a lot.
And the thing is we all like narratives of success. Even when the total amount of good is the same, we like life stories where things begin bad and get better (think David Sedaris and Jeanette Walls) better than ones where things start out okay and go downhill. We like it when things get better and better . But not everything in life gets better and better. Sometimes we have to say this might be as good as it gets and that’s okay.
Back to Aikido.
What’s my issue with Aikido? Well, I’m not very good at rolling and you need to be able to do the advanced break falls in order to train for advanced belts. That makes sense. I can’t do them. I’m currently a green belt and the next belt for me is brown with stripe and to get that I would need to be a lot better rolling. I also just don’t have the time to commit to training for another belt level. I’ve got a big job with lots of travel and I’ve got lots of other things I want to do to.
Also I’ve been doing Aikido now for eight years and I’m not getting much better at rolling. The thing is though I still love it, I don’t get much better. So the other day I try to put a different perspective on things, to think about things differently. The world might not change but the way I look at it could change. Don’t lots of inspirational posters tell us this?
What I wondered was whether or not it would be okay to be a green belt forever. Would I keep coming to Aikido even if I never tested again?
Stopping progress and finding “as good as it gets” is true for lots of sports. Would you keep running if you never got any faster? What if you could never run any further? What if this is it? We talk about athletic values rather than aesthetic values but what if getting better wasn’t an option?
When Tracy and I started this blog and our fittest by fifty challenge, we wanted to be the fittest we’ve ever been at 50. That was an exciting goal but of course there’s a downside to that which is coming down the other side.
As we get older we can be training just as hard or harder and not seeing progress, staying the same, or even getting slower.
So I’m using Aikido kind of as a test case for staying the same and see if I can be okay with it.
I’m going to work really hard at being an excellent green belt and enjoy where I am without worrying about progress.
I’m not sure I’ll succeed at this goal, that is my goal of being happy without getting better–it’s been my goal for awhile. See Aikido Love from last fall. I love Aikido and I don’t want my inability to roll to take me off the mad for the rest of my life.
This might be as good as it gets but that’s still pretty great.