It was a normal Sunday night. Scrimmaging had started three jams before. I was in the center of the track, skating as a poor substitute for a jam ref due to some bruised ribs. The girls were doing short pack scrimmage drills. Three jams in, one of our girls went down, her ankle leading the way. I stood and watched it happen, having no recourse to help. It’s a gut-wrenching thing to see one of your teammates fall and not get back up. Derby girls are tough. We stand in less than three seconds if uninjured, ten if slightly rattled, thirty if we have our bells rung pretty hard. Last night time stretched beyond those benchmarks. We waited on one knee, silently willing our teammate to rise, knowing as the seconds ticked past the likelihood of her getting up on her own grew smaller and smaller.
Category Archives: setback
What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part Three: Sometimes You Have No Idea What the Lesson Is
Since I was useless as a jam ref, I chucked off my skates and drove her to the ER. Fortunately, it was a slow night and radiology came for her soon after I arrived from ditching the car in the garage. The doctor came back with the results almost as quickly–broken fibula. Just like that, in the odd bend of an ankle, all of her plans for the summer, for derby, for everything, came to a sudden and complete halt. And there seems no apparent reason for it.
We’ve all had those slap-in-the-face moments of hyper-clarified reality, when life seems to be trucking along nicely; we’re enjoying ourselves, our jobs, our writing, and then a lightening bolt crashes from the cloudless sky and sets everything aflame. We try to make sense of it, say things like, “There’s a reason for it,” but in reality we’re just ignorantly stumbling in the smoke, wondering what in the hell just happened.
As someone who always wants to know the reason for everything, I wish I had an answer to those moments, that I could locate the lesson within the haze. Sometimes, years later, I do see a glimmer of a thread connecting a bad event to others, a tiny labyrinth of happenings that lead to my current happy situation. Other times, though, the purpose is more deeply hidden, seemingly absent.
Maybe it’s not the event, but the response that counts. How quickly we pick ourselves up from that devastating rejection letter, from our dismal sales rankings, from that sidelining injury. Some would say it’s a test of our mettle. I agree, but not in any hand-of-God way. Instead, it’s our own test, not something we set for ourselves, of course, but one to accept once presented just the same. We are all stronger than we feel most times, and can take hits–even devastating ones–better than we can ever imagine.
Still, searching for the whys in difficult times can be counterproductive. Coming from an obsessive background, I understand the allure of picking over minutiae, analyzing mental scenarios to find the cause, reason, truth. The torrents of energy we pour into such thoughts, however, can better be served by moving on, even if the steps are slow and tedious. If there is a lesson hidden within, no doubt it will present itself along the way. Conversely, if the universe simply decided to flip us the double bird for no discernible reason, then what else is left but to flip it right back and go forth?
Divine lesson or no, chaos or no, the only thing to do is keep on rollin.’
Get well soon, Punk.