Saturday night in July, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My friends Molly and Sarah and I sitting in section F, halfway up. The ice arena floor, bare cement with huge florescent pink ovals taped to it. Women in skimpy clothes, bearing names like Krash, Toxic Angel, and (my personal favorite) Amelia No-Heart, roller skating in circles occasionally elbowing or pushing another skater to the floor. Yep, the Cedar Rapids Pink Ladies Roller Derby was in town.
At first, we had no idea what was happening on the floor. But we eventually caught on, and enjoyed learning the strategy and seeing the display of sheer chutzpa. Molly hoped for harder hits, while Sarah thought about what her Roller Derby moniker might be: Sarah Lee POUNDcake or Sarah Lee CupCRUSHER? I was in awe — these women were displaying part athleticism, part showmanship. And all of them were just putting themselves completely out there. All body types, no holding back. (OK, maybe a little holding back — it was an exhibition and they were competing against their own teammates).
In the spirit of the roller girls, I want to talk about power and strength. Mental and emotional toughness. Whether and how any of those concepts apply to me!
A Roller Derby Newbie’s Guide to Girl Power
- Don’t be afraid to let them see you sweat. Its true, powerful women sweat, sometimes profusely. After riding my bike just over 24 miles the other night, I had a crust of dried salt crystals on my forehead. Every thread of my clothes was soaked. My hair was a frightening combination of styles: Moe from the 3 Stooges (on top where my helmet plastered it to my head) and Medusa (out of control curls with a life of their own where the breeze could reach it). From now on, I will wear the Moe-dusa proudly.
- Your body is what it is. Revel in it anyway. When I mentioned that the roller girls were every body type, I meant it — and every type was dressed in tight, skimpy clothing. They were an inspiration to me as I struggle with the vicissitudes of significant weight loss. I don’t know how heavy I was at my heaviest, but the highest reading I saw on a scale was 352 pounds. The effects on my body of that excess are visible, and I can obsess about them…or not. Every day I need to choose; and I intend to choose a roller girl attitude!
- If you want it, fight for it. Ok, this is one that the roller derby expresses in a very physical manner. They push and elbow and trip and generally knock each other around. In my life, this is more likely to be expressed in fighting for the discipline, the planning, the effort to achieve the goals I want to reach. Creating a life that is happy and satisfying can be a joyful endeavor at the soul-level, but it is also hard work.
- When you get knocked down, pick yourself back up. Notice, I didn’t say “if you get knocked down”. Because you will, we all do. People let us down, we let ourselves down, the economy tanks, forces beyond our control refuse to do what we prefer. I can lay on the ground like a bug flipped on its back, flailing my arms and crying “woe is me” (and Lord knows I have). But I don’t want to waste any more time on that.
- If it hurts, skate it off. I watched several women hit the floor in ways that looked incredibly painful. There were a few pileups as well. Each time, they stood up, skated around testing out their limbs, then went back to the game. I’ve been practicing this physically with my knees — I’ve decided that living an active life means that sometimes my body hurts. Emotionally, I’ve been practicing this too. After holding on to hurts or insecurities for years, I’m working on letting them go. Sometimes, this takes the form of forgiveness and reconciliation, others it is more simply choosing not to invest energy there anymore. I choose healing over festering.
I’m sure there are other items I could add to the guide above. I must say, I am looking forward to seeing an actual competitive match. One other thing about attending the roller derby: it reminded me how much I’ve always loved to skate. Anyone care to join me at the local rink for the free skate?