Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lesson 4: Reality Is Tough, So Be Sure to Train Hard Before It Hits You

People sometimes look at me funny when I tell them I used to train to be a kickboxer (muay thai, if you must know). Of course, this was 15 years ago, back before reality hit and I got married and had kids and discovered that most dreams fail to materialize.

I'm in the worst shape of my life now. Having trained in professional dojos and sweat-soaked gyms, atop bloody wrestling mats and in the musty garages of backyard si-fus, I should know better than to let myself go the way that I have. But for years there hasn't been anything threatening me to get in shape. No upcoming fight or even a sparring match to look forward to. And so my fitness suffered.

I'm talking more than just physical fitness here, folks. When you're subjected to years upon years of complacency, your brain grows soft from a lack of challenge, a lack of adversity. I've overloaded myself in adversity in the last few weeks and it's showing. My brain aches from an influx of new experiences and stress, my muscles are screaming from overuse.

But it feels good. I'd forgotten how good.

And so, I'm thinking it might be time to start training again. Good thing I'm back home, where my old dojo (and my old trainer) happen to be. Funny how life leads you in circles sometimes, isn't it?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lesson 3: Shave Your Legs Before You Stay at a Motel 6

Sure they leave their light on for you, and they probably still have a room available even when all the other inns are full. But their freestanding stall shower is a bitch to maneuver around in, especially when you have a sharp object like a shaving razor in your hand and you’re standing on one leg trying to find a perch for the other leg.

Any yoga or ballet experience you might have comes in handy here.

Lesson 2: Everything Is Always About Sex

When traveling cross-country with pre-pubescent and pubescent boys, the conversation inevitably digresses into discussions about why most sexually transmitted diseases have funny names, the female anatomy and nocturnal emissions. Ignore this if you can, or use it as an opportunity to offer a little sex education if you have the stomach for it.

Subset A to Lesson 2

Burps and farts are also prevalent during road trips with boys. Be sure to bring some sort of spray to mask the odor. Perfume is not a good idea as spraying lots of it in an attempt to cover up the odor from the emissions of a 13-year-old boy who just ate a whole pizza can result in fits of gagging and sneezing.

Subset B to Lesson 2

Head slaps are common on long trips with boys. They often originate from the child in the backseat and leave lumps on the head of the child in the front seat. If the child in the front seat screams like a goat every time someone touches him, be sure to place him in the backseat for the duration of the trip.

Use bribes to alleviate the problem, if you must. A point system in which points are taken off for bad behavior and dessert is rewarded at the end of the day to any child with points remaining works well, too. But this could also be considered a bribe (and results in hyper children in the car at the end of the day).

If bribing children pricks at your conscious, be prepared to leave your parental guilt at your town of origin and pick it up again at your final destination. God will forgive you.

Lesson 1: For Every Ending There is an Equal and Opposite Beginning

As I begin this blog, I prepare to leave my home, my family and everything I have known for the last three years to begin a new life on another coast.

Sure, this isn't the first time I've done this: I moved to the East Coast three years ago from California -- but recognizing a pattern in my behavior brings to mind a lesson. The first lesson I ever learned. A lesson I'm still learning.

Endings in my life are always abrupt and devastating. This current bout includes more than one ending, in fact. My second marriage is ending as we speak. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly a struggle.

I am quitting a job I like a lot in a gamble to make a life I'll love.

And I'm dragging my three kids cross country, whether they like it or not, from their home in South Carolina back to my native California where the familiar and the unknown await us.

But I realized something -- just today in fact as I stood outside my beloved southern brick home and watched a Carolina thunderstorm roll in, face upturned to the turbulent sky, thunder broiling through a darkened heaven, thick drops richoteting off my face and pummeling the green canopy around the yard. I never feel more alive than I do during a thunderstorm, with the Carolina pines whipping overhead and frogs crooning in the shrubbery underfoot. Life is in the spark, the bright lightning, the growling thunder. It scares the hell out of me, to stand underneath that ethereal battle, beneath the flailing limbs of white oaks and crepe myrtles, which in good weather are rooted so strong it takes a machine to yank them out of the ground. The lesson to learn from a storm is that a strong one can upturn a centuries-old oak. Storms bring change, bring new life and set fire to the old. They wreak havoc and set fire engine sirens to roaring. They can roil a calm sea, but they can also set birds to singing and children to dancing.

This move of mine is a storm of my own making, and I recognize this. But I also see the life in it, despite the death of my current way of living. I don't know what I'll see on the other side, what job I'll get or house I'll live in. I don't know whether I'll bounce when I hit land or crash and burn and like lightning striking a tall, overgrown pine.

But if I do catch fire, at least I'll know all the clutter of my old underbrush will be cleared away. The view after the storm is always the clearest, after all.