Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Little One Turns Eighteen

Most of you know that I have a "little" brother who I love more than anyone in the world.  What you may not know is that I seriously get sick thinking about having children, because I can't imagine loving another human being more than him.  I don't think my heart has the capacity for another person of such import.

I still remember the day he was born, albeit vaguely, but I remember. 

I was six years old and we were in a gas station bathroom when my mom's water broke.  She started screaming, and a very confused Chelsea ran to the car to get dad.  I couldn't figure out why my mom had just peed her pants when there was a toilet right there.  Little did I know what would come next.

I don't remember much else from the day, but I vividly remember that part.  

I do remember the time that I tried to smother Braeden in my bedroom.  I wish I was kidding, but thankfully my mom walked in as I was hovering over a two year-old Brae with my pillow in hand.  I remember swimming with him in the Shangri-La apartment that my grandmother lived in for most of my childhood.  We would play "taxi cab" and he would grab my neck as I doggy paddled around the pool making car noises.  The taxi game always gave way to "fireworks," where I would throw him into the air and he would flail his arms mimicking explosions in the sky.

I remember sharing a room with Braeden until I was fourteen.  We slept with our beds pushed together, in a room plastered with Nsync posters that surrounded one huge Jar Jar Binks poster and another of the wrestler Goldberg.  I remember walking him to school.  I remember volunteering in his classroom when I was in junior high, because I had to walk him home regardless, and I wanted something to do with the time.

I remember beating him up a little bit, and his retaliation as he grew older.  I have spent some time in our bathroom with the door locked as an enraged little brother pounded with a steak knife.  I remember teaching him how to shoot a basketball, and I remember the little guy that swore he would make it to the NBA.

I don't possess the vocabulary capable of describing how much my brother means to me.  Every time I get a fever, I end up breaking into hysterics crying about, "What if Braeden dies?!"  

Braeden and I started at Absolute MMA together while I was living back at home after a failed relationship.  For the first year I drove him to and from the gym.  Those car rides are not too far into the past, but sometimes I miss them.  Those rides made me learn to love the band Rise Against, and they made it so Braeden can now sing the Dixie Chicks "Cold Day in July" word for word.  Braeden learned to drive with me on the way to the gym.  The joke was, "You are so close to the median you can give the passing cars 'knuckles' as they pass."  The result of that statement is a paranoid new driver having his sister continually say "knucks" whenever he crowded the other lane.  The importance of our gym time, including the commute to and fro, can't be overstated.

This post is a little late, his birthday was on the 20th.  For his special day I cooked him dinner, we went to the movies and Cold Stone, and then I stood in Gets Some Guns N' Ammo for an hour while Braeden and Ben asked the clerk questions about guns.  We have come a long way from the days when I "made" him ketchup and toast for breakfast.  The young man growing before my eyes now requests asparagus and Italian chicken with a tomato, caper, and basil sauce.  

The young man I consider my best friend is graduating from high school, starting college, interning at the Sandy City Police Department, fighting on March 3rd, and continually making me proud.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blue Belt

It's about to get real braggy up in here.

Last Saturday I received my blue belt in Behring Jiu Jitsu, which is a big fat deal.  You see, jits hurts.  It hurts a lot.  It takes most people at least three months just to learn how to breathe instead of hyperventilate (you can always spot the newbs, because they grunt and get kind of purple when they aren't being choked).  It is bone on bone contact. Your body has to harden.  Skin gets pinched, you take unintended knees and elbows to all different parts of the body, and you learn really quick that rolling around in a gi is like wearing a sauna suit.  It is rough stuff for a while, but it does get better.

I never thought it would, but jiu jitsu did get better.  Apparently, my coaches think that I am better as well.

In the sport everyone starts with a white belt.  After the white belt the rankings go like this: blue, purple, brown, black (there are some variations on the black belt that eventually lead to red, but that takes an eternity and I don't feel qualified to explain the process).  I have trained for two and a half years, that is why it is a big deal.  The amount of people that actually make it to the first belt is small, and the amount of people that stick around after that is even smaller still.  I reached the first milestone.  My coaches think that I have enough skills and have put in enough time to be a blue belt.  It feels really good.

Grand Master Flavio Behring tied my belt on.  The belt that he tied on is custom with "Chillpack" embroidered on it.  Ben couldn't make the seminar and he had the belt made as a surprise.  I almost cried when I saw it.  After the belts were awarded (some of my very deserving teammates were also promoted to blue belts), Pedro gave me a photocopy of a handwritten letter from Ben to read in private at the front of the gym.  I didn't almost cry at this point.  I cried.

After I wiped my eyes and walked back onto the mat of sixty-five or more athletes, the Gauntlet ensued.  The Gauntlet is the rite of passage that requiress you walk through the middle of your teammates who hold the same rank or above.  Those teammates take off their belts, fold them in half (or if you're a real asshole, as many times as possible), and they flagellate you.  Yup, they whip you as you walk through.  I personally don't understand this part of the ritual.  I don't see the point and I can't help but feel repelled by this weird hazing ordeal, but it felt great afterwards.  The rush was truly unparalleled.

On the journey to this first belt I have learned a lot more than basic bjj.  These are the things I feel jiu jitsu has taught me:

1.) One thing at a time.  Don't become overwhelmed by the entirety of any given situation, just focus on the immediate threat.  If you can survive the first onslaught of anything, you have a chance to survive to the end.

2.)  Small victories.  Sure, maybe you don't choke someone every round, but learn to define your success in alternate ways.  Many rounds are chalked up as successful when I get to the top once or I don't get submitted.  Life and jiu jitsu are hard, and sometimes the reason we fail is because of our definitions of success.

3.) I am strong.  I am physically and mentally strong.  I can grapple with big, strong, skilled fighters and hold my own, because my body is more powerful than I ever could have dreamed. I was so terrified to start the sport, because of a fear of having my neck touched that I literally had to be tricked into it. Now, that mental barrier, that weakness, has given me a wicked choke defense.  I guess 3a.)your weaknesses can be transformed into strengths if you try hard enough.

I have learned so much, but so little.  I have a long way to go, but for the first time since I started I have finally realized that I am part of the way there.