I went to my first kick boxing class recently. I left feeling pretty inept at boxing. Sort of the way I felt the last time I came even close to boxing. In the 1980s. In high school. It was SO “not me.”
I blame it on basketball–one game in particular, and it didn’t even count, it was P.E.! A friend and I played a game of 2 on 5, against a group of five, short Hispanic girls…and it wasn’t pretty…because my friend and I actually played basketball outside of P.E. and we were beating them soundly. The other girls were frustrated, but it didn’t dawn on me (like it would now) to let them win or at least score a few points. It was my experience that “you win some, you lose some,” that’s part of playing the game, and I preferred to win as much as I could.
The next thing I knew, I was on my back, just outside the key. My friend was leaning over me, worried, questioning, “Are you ok?” The other team was standing around with satisfied smirks on their faces as my friend filled me in: while I’d been airborne for a rebound, one of the short girls had gone for my pony tail, grabbed it, forcefully yanked me down from behind, flat on my back onto the court, which knocked me out when I landed!
Told you they were frustrated.
I got back up and continued to play. But every time one of the other team got near me they talked trash and threatened to beat me up outside of class. I ignored them; I thought they had to be kidding. I mean, fight? In my world, that behavior never dawned on me. No one I knew fought or even thought about beating anyone up. I thought they were kidding–until they followed me around everywhere and warned me I’d better pray they never caught me alone or better yet, alone in a bathroom.
I didn’t respond to their threats, I ignored their taunts, I pretended I didn’t see them trailing me (but I confess I was always relieved when I walked into a bathroom and saw other girls in there, just in case) and after what seems like a few weeks (but was probably more like a few days) P.E. ended and I don’t remember ever seeing those angry girls again.
That’s my near-boxing experience.
“I’ll bet the hardest thing about prize fightin’ is pickin’ up yer teeth with a boxin’ glove on.” (Kin Hubbard)
Add pickin’ up yer teeth with boxin’ gloves on to the list of hard things in, and about, life.
Things like sickness, death, disease, poverty, crime, betrayal, divorce, unemployment, emotional trauma, abuse, too much, too little, and every other unexpected challenge that comes your way. Life is full of hard stuff. In fact, life, itself, is hard. As Katherine Hepburn said, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”
But before it does, at least TRY to pick up yer teeth. Don’t quit until you succeed in clearing the floor of your molars and cuspids, or whatever your adversity may be. I’ve found, sometimes, that what I’m going through isn’t quite as hard as picking up teeth with boxing gloves on would be (while other times, one year in particular, I admit to wondering if dying wouldn’t have been easier than the challenges I was facing. Thank goodness I never, personally, discovered the answer to that myself.)
Because when you’ve collected your teeth and pulled yourself together, when the bell has rung and you’re back in the match giving it all you’ve got, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as a knock out. The knock out that comes at the end when you win because you endured. Victory.
The more I think about it, boxing is a lot like the unexpected life. Here’s why:
“As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.” (Budd Schulberg) At some point, we probably all have a love-hate relationship with our new and unexpected life. As much as we love it, we wouldn’t have chosen it. And as much as we may dislike certain aspects of it or the way certain things are, we wouldn’t trade it for the alternative. Life is glorious, regardless of your circumstances.
“Boxing gave me the opportunities to grow into the person that I am today.” (Alexis Arguello) Where would we be, who would we have become, what would we have learned, how would we have grown…without our unexpected life?
“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.” (Sugar Ray Leonard) Life, especially the unexpected one, is a test every single day. So it’s vital we get through it. With a passing grade, or better yet, an A+. Our score lies in how we choose to solve the problems and answer the questions put before us.
“Boxing was not something I truly enjoyed. Like a lot of things in life, when you put the gloves on, it’s better to give than to receive.” (Sugar Ray Leonard) Don’t underestimate the importance of giving, giving back, and making the way easier for others as you travel through life. I can’t imagine where my children and I would be today if we hadn’t had a little help from our friends, if others hadn’t reached out to us and helped make our way easier. Truly, it IS better to give than to receive.
So don’t quit. Hang in there until the bell rings and you get a breather. Don’t expect to understand everything all at once, or even in this lifetime. Just trust, as I do, that someday we will be able to see the grand design of a beautiful plan put in place just for us and our necessary growth. Someday, every mystery will be solved.
“When archaeologists discover the missing arms of Venus de Milo, they will find she was wearing boxing gloves.” (John Barrymore)
The unexpected life.