I was going to write about my friend who was religiously profiled in downtown Montreal on Friday (Roman Catholic French Canadian-American profiled as a Muslim and threatened to be thrown out of a cancer fundraising event for a venerable Mtl health institution, the Jewish General Hospital). It’s a shocking story. But I can’t. Instead, I need to celebrate moments of happiness and silliness, to counter the asphyxiating despair that grows stronger with every day since Nov 8, 2016; the despair is spilling over into the Great North – no wall, real or mythical, can keep it out.
Superwoman had a boxing fight at an elite boxing tournament this past weekend. It was the first time since my last fight that I attended a boxing event. Yes, I still see my crew (my darlings!) at the gym, but I’ve missed the broader community. It made me nostalgic to see all these boxers whose amateur careers I follow on Facebook. There is a fraternity amongst boxers, a shared understanding between fighters that is difficult to verbalize: it transcends nationality, age, class, education.
Everyone who walks into the gym is looking for an escape from the outside world. Yes, the same can be true of a yoga studio. But here, people are looking for a reprieve from the tangle of thoughts, emotions, and frustrations that is a necessary by-product of being alive through the action of hitting an inanimate punching bag over and over again. It’s a safe haven that allows a person to work through whatever they need to work through, surrounded by people doing the exact same thing. The particulars of each individual’s tangled mess is irrelevant; everyone has preoccupations, and the gym is our way to work through our shit. People who walk through the door are looking for the freedom of a few hours when socially acceptable constraints are no longer required. The punching bags become the recipient for every harsh word that was bitten back through the day, every slight that was received, every injustice, every worry. For a few hours, the world stops pushing, and we can push back as hard as we want, without any consequences. Bliss.
Once upon a time, I too shared this need to box. But something changed this summer, which is why I quit boxing:
It is that constant assault that has ruined boxing for me. Every time I’ve stepped into the gym, I feel dread at having to steel myself enough to throw a punch, or take one. I don’t have anything left for this optional battle. What I want is the absence of punches, either metaphorical or physical. I need a break, a wee vacation. Life, and my brain, are throwing plenty my way, and I am fighting back as hard as I can. I don’t want to fight additional fights, that could be avoided by my simple decision to pursue other activities.
This weekend confirmed it. Watching my friends and former teammates step into the ring, I felt no envy. I don’t want to fight. Life is coming together, and I am taking on the world at work. My battles are strategic: owning my newfound assertiveness, growing into this new identity of a career woman that can affect change from sheer intelligence, force of personality and interpersonal relationships. While this all is thrilling, beyond my wildest dreams, it is exhausting. In my downtime, I want to stop thinking, to simply feel. Hence my choice to dedicate many hours a week to dance: ballet, kuduro, kizomba and salsa. Through dance, I’m exploring a different form of non-verbal communication than boxing: boxing is about pushing back – hit, don’t get hit. In dancing, it is about being comfortable occupying a space while being fully seen. It requires existing in a state of vulnerability. In those moments, using my body to communicate, it creates a space of truth.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. – Martha Graham
In this time of #AlternativeFacts and #FauxNews and real news that is so awful, the impulse to express my unique self feels like an obligation. An obligation to be true. It is a small, almost irrelevant rebellion against the lies and hate that surround us.
How did I deal with the upsetting story of my friend’s religious profiling? I took a dancing class with Teacher:
Teacher’s website: https://www.drkizomba.com/
Teacher’s dance school on Fbk: Kizomba Canada