Have you ever done something you didn’t believe you could do?
Not things you “never thought you’d do” – that’s different. That’s a thing you hadn’t thought about, hadn’t put time into considering the possibility or lack thereof. Not believing you can do something is just that, a thing you’ve encountered, considered, and come up saying, “No, I can’t do that,” with certainty.
Usually we back down from those things. Maybe they’re too outrageous, or go against a moral code, or are too taxing or painful, be it emotionally, physically, or mentally. Since we believe ourselves incapable of doing them, we don’t. Why tackle the impossible? We know what the result will be failure.
Last night I realized I’ve been trying to do something I haven’t believed myself capable of doing. This despite slowly working towards this goal for six and a half years now. I’ve tried other things for longer without losing hope: The Silver Lining was in production for eight years (for me) before it was finally released, and we received not one but two C&Ds from big companies telling us no. And yet I never gave up on that happening, not really. I had moments of doubting, of being tired of it, of wanting to just quit and walk away, but only once, for one night, did I ever believe it wouldn’t happen. Quite literally the next morning, our fans were there for us, believing in us when we’d had that moment of doubt, and my belief came back. Now here we are, with a future before us.
But this goal, the one I didn’t realize I didn’t believe in, was a very different sort of goal. Since January of 2005, I’ve been training at the Theodorou Academy of Jiu Jitsu. I’m not athletic, I’m not violent, I lack aggression almost to a fault, I’m 5’3″, I’m not strong, I’ve never been attacked or even in a fight – in other words, I am not the person you would expect to see training in jiu jitsu. Our style focuses specifically on practical self-defense, strikes, and set responses that you could realistically pull off if attacked on the street, regardless of size or strength. Appropriately, the training starts off simple, things that are easy to do and to understand. Over time, it gets more complex, and also more serious. The things you’re learning can do some truly awful damage to your opponent, even kill them, but we also learn to measure our responses to what’s appropriate to the situation. For when someone’s just a little too drunk, we learn what’s called a bouncer technique. If someone’s trying to rape you or threatens you with a knife, then this is your life and they are trying to end it: you do whatever is necessary to get out of that situation alive.
It’s scary. Whether it’s because of the kind of injury I’m learning to inflict is terrifying to me, or that the practice itself inevitably involves some pain (you can’t practice a joint lock without the other person feeling it), a lot of what we do scares me. Learning to take a fall correctly, for example: you have to actively throw yourself at the ground which is completely opposed to every instinct you have about falling. Try it: Stand up, jerk your legs out from under you so you fall face-first, and with the ground rushing up at you, tell yourself you’ll be fine because at the last second you’re going to catch yourself on your forearms. I learned that one six years ago and I still don’t like it.
But now my next belt will be my first degree black belt, and more is expected of me. Our Sensei is great, very motivational, and a believer that anyone who puts their mind to it can become a black belt. The training for your black belt test is hard. Really hard. It’s extra time, he pushes you to do more, is bluntly honest with what you need to work on, and makes you work with some of the toughest guys in class. The start of my group’s training was this summer, in July, which was an awful month for many reasons. Everything was frustrating, stressful, and more than I could handle, and in the end, I opted to not aim for a November test date. I know this was the best decision for me. The new aim was then an April test date, but I should still be keeping up my training.
I haven’t been. I was burned out, I wasn’t having fun, I was frustrated, I was too busy, I’d been losing interest in going to train at all. The last two weeks, I haven’t gone at all, in fact. But it wasn’t really until I said these things aloud to Brandon, expressed how I felt about it, my doubts that I might do it at all, that I realized the truth: I didn’t believe I could do it. Even though I knew, intellectually, that it was possible, I didn’t believe that. That’s a crushing thing, to know that you don’t believe in yourself. Yet somehow in the act of admitting it, it changed: I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I could do it…and then, I think, I knew I would do it. I don’t know when, there are reasons beyond my belief in myself that could delay it, but it will happen. It will be extremely challenging, and frustrating, and painful, but it is possible. I am possible.
This morning a co-worker told me whenever she needs inspiration, she looks at a picture of a corgi sailing over a show jump. The bar is only about a foot off the ground for them, which doesn’t seem like much, until you consider that their legs are about 3 to 6 inches tall. And yet, with dogged and adorable determination on their faces, they leap over something more than twice the height of their little legs. “If he can do that, then I can do anything,” she said.