Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's Derby: Sometimes People Are Going to be Difficult

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I'm not going to be posting on a weekly basis anymore. I'm only going to post when I feel inspired to write, and that may be few and far between. Originally when I started this blog, I did it because I needed an outlet to express my thoughts and emotions about derby; I didn't feel like I had a voice with my league at the time, because I was a newer skater, and I never felt like I was going to be taken seriously by the veterans. Also, there were a few people in my league that I just didn't get along with, and sometimes I felt like my opinion didn't really matter, so I vented in my blog. I never expected that it would catch on, and others would read it! Thank you for reading! Over the years I've helped some people, and ruffled some feathers, but that's who I am, and I have remained true to my character, regardless of the popular opinion at the time, and that may be one of the most important lessons I've learned in derby. Sometimes you're not going to be in step with the rest of your peer group, and that's ok. It's about figuring out the important issues and coming to a consensus with your team or league. People are complicated, beautiful, wonderful, and at times, difficult.

You will have to deal with difficult people. Duh, right? Derby is made of people, so of course at some point some of them will be difficult to deal with or tolerate. As goes in life, goes in derby; people by nature can be obstinate jerks, or at least APPEAR to be obstinate jerks when they come in conflict with something you want to do. Not everyone is going to be difficult 100% of the time, but you probably know the people in your league well enough by now to know who is going to be problematic to a goal you want to achieve. Sometimes it's because you have a personality conflict with that person, or sometimes it's because you have baggage. History can accumulate between league members; people hold grudges, or they don't give others second chances because they're carrying the hurt from a prior blow ups. We're people, and we all have feelings and emotions, so they come into play with league politics and relationships. At this very moment, you're probably someone's "difficult person" to deal with, and that is absolutely normal. The question is, how do you deal with difficult people without completely losing your shit?

1.  Take a deep breath. If you're going into a situation where you may have to deal with a difficult person, the best thing you can do is stay calm. Many people make the mistake of getting amped up before talking to or discussing a topic with someone they feel is difficult, so already you're bringing energy and baggage to a discussion that doesn't need to be there. I don't know how many times I've seen someone sabotage an interaction because they're already emotionally wired up for a confrontation. Breathe! You're not going in to fight someone! Even if you have to have a discussion about a topic that is prickly to people, you can remain calm by remembering why you are both there; you love derby! At least that's some common ground you have together.

2. Take the emotion out of it. Some people have thicker skin than others, and they don't get their feelings hurt as easily; some people are extremely sensitive. When you get these two types of people together, feelings happen; as much as I hate to admit that I have feelings, it's a part of being human. The other part of being human is the ability to recognize when we're being emotional. Put that self awareness to good use, and keep your emotions in check when dealing with difficult people. Is it easier said than done? Absolutely, but I'm betting that you have to deal with difficult people at work, and you survive and actually get things done! Use what you've learned outside of derby to be successful in derby.

Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami
3. Use appropriate humor to diffuse a difficult situation. It's hard to be a jerk to someone when they make you laugh. You don't have to be a damned comedian, but cracking a joke when things are tense is a great way to relieve stress and change the emotional tone of a conversation. Humor can be dangerous, because of the varying degrees of what people find funny, but it's better than letting tension build and build until someone blows up and no resolution happens.

4. Listen to the person. Even if your leaguemate is one of the most difficult people on earth, listening to what they have to say might help keep them from being even more difficult in the long run. Listening is HARD. It's definitely a skill, and most of us are rusty when it comes to using it; practice listening to people. It might surprise you when you start to become a good listener, that you will be able to understand a person's motivations and drives much better.

5. Use better body language. Most of us sense when someone doesn't like us, merely by noticing hostile body language. Crossed arms, even though they might be comfortable, might make someone believe that you aren't open to what they're saying. Hands on your hips have the same impact. The best way to show that you're open to the other person is arms at your sides, with relaxed and open hands. Practice it, because it's way harder than it looks!

6. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, or some other bullcrap saying. Yes, it's bullcrap rhyming and annoying, but it might be true. Trust me, ANYONE can be difficult to deal with at any point. If you think everyone you run into is a difficult person, maybe it's time to turn the microscope on yourself. Are you confrontational? Are you listening? Are you doing the tasks you said you'd do? Nobody is 100% perfect at anything, and some of the difficulty happening in a relationship is yours.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dinosaur Derby by Furious George

 This blog entry speaks to me, mostly because I joined derby at the ripe old age of 39. Yes, I have to try harder than younger skaters, and I have to take care of myself better, but I also have more life experience than the younger skaters I've run into, and more patience and focus. Being an older skater isn't always a terrible thing. :)

Dinosaur Derby by Furious George
I was broken before I began.
In more ways than one, actually. At 37 years of age, my body has already been through a few wringers, and my fears of rejection and abandonment had recently been solidified at end of a horrible relationship.

So of course I joined derby.

This conversation is about that, joining derby as a dinosaur, and I’m not talking about the ferocious man-eaters I loved in Jurassic Park. I’m talking about the word dinosaur I used once to describe my parents' old microwave. Old and busted. Also, huge. That microwave was huge.

Consequently, so am I, but I digress.

So many people find Roller Derby at different times during their lives. Most of the people I’ve talked to in this community will tell you it was “Just when they needed it.” I am no stranger to that cliché, but I do find myself asking God why I didn’t find Derby sooner? You know, back when I was 16? I was in the best shape of my life, attending Martial Arts classes every day for two hours a day. Hitting people was fun back then too. We just didn’t do it at 100mph.
Or maybe when I was 21, on the verge of marrying someone because I felt like it was what everyone was supposed to do to feel normal. I was still in pretty decent shape too. I still had enough teenage leftover angst from those irritating bullies from High School.

Or maybe 26, when I was working a dead end job and at my heaviest weight of my life. I had no motivation, no encouragement, and no social life. That was probably my worst year ever. It would have been the perfect time to discover derby.

Nope. For some reason I found Derby when I was 35. My knees already hurt and the only time I had ever been on skates was way back in the 80’s, right during the death of derby (Sorry Rollerjammers, you know it is true). I hadn’t worked out in about ten years (see age 26 above) and I was reeling from the end of a toxic friendship that left me wary of “strong empowered females.”

But I stuck around. I made it through the Baby Giraffe phase, to wondering if I’d ever make the charter, to my first moment of burnout. It’s been about 3 years, and I’ve seen many people come and go. Interestingly enough, most of the women who show up are easily younger than I am, and I wonder why they don’t stick around as long as I have.

It’s tough when you’re already past your prime and you’re starting out at the same place that some of these young whippersnappers come in. There is a girl on my league that is barely 24 and I’ve watched her snap back from some horrendous hits that would leave my old, brittle, decalcified bones shattered from intimidation. Let’s face it, I’m not as fast as I used to be. I’m not as able bodied, I’m not as quick to recover from practice. I’m always sore and it’s harder for me to keep up with skaters that I consider below my skating experience, mostly because I’m older.

The hardest realization was when someone half my age (almost) got a charter spot before I did. It’s not because I didn’t try, I just couldn’t perform as well as she could.

I’ve heard this multiple times in derby, and life, that comparison is a thief of joy. And I’ll say it again until I get it through my thick dinosaur skull. Comparison is a thief of joy. I joined derby because it was fun, after all. It brought me joy. It still brings me joy. I don’t know why I found it so late in life, but it did. I’m on the older end of the spectrum, and there are times where I feel like Iron Maven in “that roller derby movie” (Whip It, of course) where she tells Babe Ruthless:“I'm 36. Guess when I started skating. I was 31. 'Cause it took me that long to find one thing that I was really good at.” However, I wouldn’t have ridiculed Babe Ruthless for starting so early. I would have applauded her for starting young, for finding a sport so encouraging that it allows all skill levels, all shapes, all genders, and especially all ages.

I guess all I’m trying to say, is don’t wait. If you’re reading this and you feel like you’ve always wanted to try Roller Derby, or anything you wanted to try. Do it. Don’t wait until you’re older and you can’t do the things you could when you were younger. Don’t wait until you’re a dinosaur.

Better yet, just be a Dinosaur. Have you seen Jurassic World? (Spoiler Alert) That old T-Rex is still alive and kicking. She looks bad ass with a few scars and she kicks that Indominus Rex’s ass, with the help of her teammates, of course. Those spring chickens might be limber and quick, but nothing beats a little bit of wisdom and experience. And they don’t have as many teeth.)
I am Dinosaur. Hear me roar. Photo Credit: www.