It doesn’t happen to me very often anymore, now that I am so long settled into a regular fitness routine in a city that is no longer new to me. These moments of disbelief and gratitude. I felt it last night walking to meet Nellie for our track workout. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience when it happens: I can remember so clearly what it felt like to be living my sad, disappointing, sedentary life in Maine and dreaming of something different. Maybe I’d travel somewhere for work and see other women my age jogging past me on the sidewalk, or headed somewhere in their fancy work clothes. I’d wonder, how did they get here? And how did I get so stuck in a life I never wanted for myself? The gulf between those (probably very ordinary) women and me seemed so great. I had no idea how to bridge it. I didn’t even believe it was possible.
Every once in awhile I remember how far I have traveled, and I am grateful.
This fall will mark six years of living in DC. The first of those three years were full of upheaval: the divorce and its emotional aftermath, the move, the new job, the illness that eventually resulted in surgery. The last three years I’ve spent as a DC Rollergirl. Despite the apparent glamour, it’s not always an easy thing to be. Like most truly extraordinary experiences, there’s a lot going on in the shadows: The relationships that fail because you only have time for a date once every three weeks. The non-derby friends who drift out of your life because you keep canceling plans. All the basic life activities you don’t have time for—sleep, grocery shopping, reading a book, the occasional cultural activity.
Sometimes I wonder if roller derby is my life, or just a way to avoid life.
Even now that I’m in my off-season and have a little more free time, I’m still working out four nights a week. It occurs to me I’ve built a very nice wall of activity around myself these last three years. It occurs to me that I may be just as invisible behind that wall than I ever was in my old body. The extra time I’ve had lately has made me feel unmoored. I see space opening up in my life, and it scares me. What is there to fill it? What if there’s nothing there to fill it?
It’s only temporary space, though, isn’t it? This off-season won’t last long. I think about balance. Is that what I want? I’ve always thought that balance is overrated. Just another word for mediocrity.
I think about those dark days in Maine. There was never a time I couldn’t visualize something different for myself. I didn’t know how to get there, but I could always imagine where I wanted to be. Now I can’t imagine anything beyond this routine of mine, which once seemed unattainable but now feels ordinary.
I know what I don’t want though. I don’t want to live behind walls. I don’t want to live in a box.
I think I need to open a window.