Monday, February 9, 2015

Looking back on the impact derby had on my life, by LaLa Lebow

 Derby permeates our lives, and we learn so many good and terrible lessons from it. La La Lebow shared a blog entry with me in 2014, but she had more to say on the subject. Here are her musings about her retirement and what derby has taught her.

Earlier this year I wrote a pretty powerful recollection of my journey through Roller Derby. I wrote it as anonymous because I didn’t want to attract attention. Well that epically failed some read it and instantly knew it was me. Some of those that voiced their opinion had been by my side when I took that journey some of them were the ones I butted heads with etc. The point of the article was not to point fingers or cause a giant crap storm but you know how that goes. You can’t control people’s feelings and their opinions. I was also in a pretty dark place mentally and emotionally when I wrote that. I had just lost my job I had for over two years and was dealing with severe mental and emotional anguish. Now I am much better and a much different person. Honestly nothing anyone can say or do will bother me because it can’t affect me unless I let it.

I got mixed reactions before which was something I expected, but I don’t think I thought about how strong some of them were going to be. Some people were hurt and angry others were down right shocked and surprised. Then there were the ones who took a step back and said ‘Yes I see where you were going with this. You wrote what some of us have felt at one time or another.’ I have talked to former rivals and teammates and gotten one opinion or another and I’ve taken it in stride and withstood the brunt of some pretty strong opinions, but that’s a good thing. I wrote that article a while ago before it was even posted. For years writing has been a tool through which I search through my emotions and help clear them out. Sometimes you get so much going on inside of you there has to be an outlet. Everyone expresses differently I chose writing years ago.

All of that being said I have no regrets for writing that article. None whatsoever, but I would be lying if I said the comments and remarks made didn’t hurt me. However, I’ve come to the conclusion just as I wrote how I felt every one of you has every right to express yourself as how you see fit. It is ridiculously freeing and almost euphoric to take your keyboard and just blast your thoughts. It can be a bit dangerous sometimes and not have quite the outcome you thought it would.

Putting out that article made me do a lot of reminiscing and thinking about derby. There were many times I sat down and just thought and some nights where I had dreams I was on the pivot or the jammer line again. Other moments I would get in my car and my gear bag that stayed in my hatch would permeate with its ever present stink and I would tear up. Then of course there was the article of Gotham dominating a certain team, or a local teammate getting MVP, and even my old teams posting pictures of current bouts and my heart would ache.

I started thinking yes derby gave me a lot of moments I wasn’t proud of but it also gave so many more moments where I was. Despite the previous article there were moments of elation and achievement. There moments where I was on such a high that I thought I could conquer the world. In writing this second part I have finally come full circle with my feelings and my journey.

In the previous blog entry I spoke of a death in my family, well there were three deaths in my family actually back to back in two months. I am not putting this out there to try to ask for sympathy it’s an important event in how I started this final leg of the journey and where my emotions culminated from. I was also given an ultimatum by healthcare providers about my knees the inflammation I’ve had for thirteen years has gotten to the point where there are days I don’t walk without a limp. You can also sometimes hear me coming before you even see me because the cartilage crackles and rattles in my knees. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration about hearing me before you see me but there are moments when I kneel and stand that when my legs straighten it sounds like dry wood cracking. Surgery on both knees is in my future, along with a possible knee replacement. I also have tendonitis in my shoulder and a heel spur in my left foot with collapsed arches. All of this didn’t come from derby; please don’t think it did, but derby did put the icing on the proverbial cake so to speak. I have been involved in contact sports since I was seven years old. I’m twenty-eight now so a little over 21 years that is HELL one one’s body. I’ve had two corrective major surgeries on one knee already not looking forwards to any time soon having anymore if I can help it. When you start feeling like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, and ibuprofen and icy hot are just putting a band-aid on things, and more than one health practitioner tells you point blank to STOP, you kind of re evaluate things. Every hit hurts as you all know, but when you can’t even take a fall on one knee with it taking more than a few seconds to get up without searing pain, there is a problem. 

Also something I kept hidden for years was the fact I suffered from severe anxiety and depression. For the first time in years I have let loose emotions that I have hidden for a long, long, long time. I can tell you derby didn’t trigger these other things, did but derby did give me a push in the right direction. I started seeing my faults blaring at me like neon signs. I wasn’t happy, and I can promise you nothing could have changed that except me. I finally got some professional help, and between me and my therapist derby has come up. I’ve showed her pictures and talked about the times I was a real solid B.I.T.C.H, and the other times I was happy and at peace with myself. Those times have helped me pinpoint certain parts of my personality and helped me come to terms with some things and also helped me find the tools I need to no longer suppress those emotions but to learn how to filter them and let them out in a healthier more productive way. I’m still not perfect, and I still very much have my moments, but they are fewer and farther between. Roller derby really helped me start the path to finding myself; even if it helped me see a few ugly parts of myself, it also helped me see some of the beautiful parts of myself.

To those I hurt with my article, that was never my intention and hopefully one day you’ll see that it was how I felt at the time. I don’t blame anyone for my behavior and I certainly never intended for it to be something to embarrass anyone but I can’t help the way you felt after reading it. Also if you feel like said circumstances referenced in the article were false or over extended in truth than that's fine. Everyone has their own opinion of how events happen and how everyone feels individually is different. I just ask that from this point on respect my wishes and know that I am completely and utterly DONE with derby. I have no intention of NSOing, reffing, or play ever again because this is a choice I made. I can only take responsibility for myself, as I have learned. This second and final part isn’t supposed to be an apology or a last resort of sympathy is the cold hard truth.

This past year has been hell but sometimes; you have to go through the darkest times to find yourself.

There is still a part of me that is that girl with the skates on her feet that likes to kick ass and take names, who slapped hands with her teammates, who spent nights at Waffle House talking strategy with her teammates and coaches, and who spent many sleepless night biting her nails over one dramatic event or another.

My husband, yes I got married this past year, laughs at me sometimes because I can’t ever seem to make up my mind if derby was something that hindered or helped me. Unfortunately there are days where I have my regrets but again there are the days where I smile and want to hug my jersey.

As I prepare for the next stage of my life, being a wife and in a few years a mother, I’m glad I took this journey, even if some days I question it I always come up with the final answer of ‘Yes, yes I’m glad I did.’
So, to the many miles driven, the many laps skates, the giant hematomas, the almost broken bones, the ruined joints, the fainting spells, the vomit, the life-long friends, the “enemies” (HA-HA!! Seriously this is a joke…..), the rivals, the blood and tears spilt, the money spent on yet ANOTHER set of bearings or pads, the decals, the sleepless nights watching Gotham kick ass, and of course every single moment I asked myself ‘Is it all worth it?’ 

I can’t change how people feel but I can how I feel. I’m so happy that I’m coming to terms with so many things. Congratulations to my previous team for finally getting WTFDA and good luck and god speed to the freshies with hearts in their eyes. Much love to the friends who I have like me who are no longer involved in this sport but are never too busy to invite me to their houses for dinner and to share a good laugh with or to watch kitty videos in youtube. Just to everyone I am in a good place now and I’m living and thriving in it as much as I can and I wish the same thing for you.


  1. While I don't think I was around when the occurances happened from the original article, I believe I was deployed at the time, I will say you were always a pleasure to Ref, Announce and even sometimes Coach for. I was never so happy than watching you and your husband getting married (Biased, my wife Hell-O-Nurse was the Officiant); and I wish you the best of life in your future post Derby.

  2. Hell. I did read that article months ago but had no idea it was you. I never thought of you as a bully but I guess I did only play with you the last year of your derby career. It was great to see you get married. I miss you but I'm glad you're happier now.

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