I've talked about how the rest of my life becomes irrelevant when playing derby, but I didn't tell the other side of this story. Derby may seem impermeable when viewed from the track, but it has, in fact, infected the rest of my life much like an aggressively cancerous tumor. There is nothing anymore in my real life that has not, in some way, been tainted with derby.
Besides the little things, like the tendency to open doors with my ass and remembering only after I've hip checked my husband in the kitchen that I should of asked him to, 'pardon me, please' instead, The Way of the Derby has rooted itself in my primary ways of dealing with shit. I don't think derby has changed who I am, but it has changed how I move in the world.
I've begun borrowing heavy from derby when I'm dealing with my kids. When crossing the street or in a busy store, I yell, 'pack up!' When they fight, I find myself wadding in and shouting, 'Illegal hitting zone! Major! Two minutes!' Or when leaving the movie theatre I call, 'Snake on Smootch!' and we all manage to get out together single file.
I also handle other people differently now. I have always been a little understated socially, particularly in larger groups, and very much avoided physical contact. Learning to play derby, I've had to fight my own social conditioning and learn to speak up. Also is my instinctive tendency to move back when someone gets too close. My first few games in particular, I used to shy away from other skaters, which made it appear as I was avoiding hits (while moving myself just far enough away for another blocker to get a good run at me) and I was missing opportunities to effectively positionally block. This is an ongoing challenge for me and I am working on it by sticking my ass into any set of hips that may present themselves on the track and touching everybody that I can, just to let them know where I am and to continue to break this conditioning.
Guess it's not surprising then that I'm also starting to push back in real life. When confronting a difficult person, be clerk, friend or landlord, instead of stepping back to avoid a conflict, I find myself now leaning forward and maintaining eye contact in an unmistakable display of combativeness. If my life was filmed by National Geographic, a voice over would be announcing how my wide legged stance and attempt to physically loom over the bank teller is not-so-subtle display of dominance and that, no, I will not be paying an extra fee for this withdrawal. Sometimes if the other person is equally disinclined to back down, I imagine I can hear the screams of a troupe of chimpanzees, excitedly circling around to watch a fight.
Or in the pub, when buddy is too sloppy drunk to read body posture that already says, 'Fuck. Off.' gets too close, then I no longer try to spare any feelings or dilute my message with pleasantries in order to avoid something ugly. I find my new appreciate for succinct message to actually be easier and less messy, though it isn't making me too popular among the lecher crowd.
Not saying I wasn't a bitch before I started derby, but I know I am just so much more now. I have to wonder about the few times both my derby and my mama bear selves have been simultaneously activated and how it might have been for someone on the receiving side of things facing someone who isn't impressed by swagger or intimidated by tattoos and muscles. When they've cut through the playground on their drunken stroll and tried to menaced a three year old when his seemingly inoffensive looking soccer mom in nonthreatening baggy capris and sweater set suddenly takes three rapid steps towards you and rips you a new one?
Which brings me to another way derby has affected my non-derby life: letting it go.
I am a dweller, muller, and sulker. I have a hard time not taking things personally. I can't let things go, particularly my own mistakes. I've been beating myself up long before I anyone else thought to do it on skates. But derby provides so many ways to make mistakes and look like an asshole that the sheer amount of gaffs, biffs, and fuck ups is overwhelming and de-sensitizing my critical self. After awhile I either have to learn to let the last jam or bad driver or hurtful dig or unfair accusation go. Otherwise I become overwhelmed and can't focus on the task in front of me or the big blocker who has been gunning for me.
Fall down. Pick self up. The more I practice, the easier it becomes. No matter what happens during a jam, there is someone on the bench who will tell you what you should of done instead. No matter how awesome you are, somebody is going to knock you down. There is no way to get through it all with getting some bruises, both inside and out. The real mark of a good player, and integrity, is what you do afterwards. Are you going to get up and continue? Are you going to hold onto to it and ruin the party after? Are you going to let some bully push you around or are you going to push back? And the biggest question of all, are you going to take it personally and carry it with you?
Well, I'm still working on it all. Letting the physical confidence I'm gaining from derby help me where I need to stand up and then learning on how to let it go, no matter how it happens. I've suggested before that there may be an aspect of zen in derby and I'm becoming more convinced as time goes on. As much as derby has created some difficulties in the rest of my life (see: time management, monetary resources) it has also given me lots of good stuff to carry around. Not to mention an impressive selection of expletives by which to tell off bratty kids, random drunks and bank tellers.