I’m a bit overwhelmed and trying to get things done. A lot happened over the summer. I’ll update once autumn arrives about everything that’s happened
This question was asked last night. I started to reply, then stopped. My reason — my primary reason — for fencing seemed a bit selfish. There’s love and passion for fencing, to be sure. I study manuals, I learn, I apply, and tell grand stories of bouts I’ve been in and had the honor of witnessing. There’s the rush of adrenaline when I step out onto the field, and the audience goes away. At the heart of “why” is the ever present state of my body.
I fence as proof that my condition doesn’t always win.
I was diagnosed when I was 28, and those first three years were a struggle. When I could do basic self care (and I mean basic) by myself I tried to do some sort of physical activity, as exercise is supposed to help. I eventually landed on fencing after a friend of mine invited me out to a local practice.
It was the first physical activity that didn’t hurt. Not the way running, swimming, or lifting weights did, with pain blossoming across my whole body that sent me to tears or came damn near close to sending me into a flareup. It wasn’t going to land me in the hospital.
I shook the entire first year as I worked on conditioning my body to the stance, the weight of the blade, and the motions. It hurt. It always hurts. But this was something I could work on. This was an act of rebellion against a condition — against my body — that I felt at the time took everything away from me before I even turned 30.
I never know from one day to the next if I would be able to go to work, much less fence. I decided to go back to PT and work on strength rather than just on function. I wanted to be able to hold an epee without trembling. Once I could do that, I wanted to be able to hold a rapier blade without shaking. It took a year, but I did it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but there were other things that happened as I pursued fencing. I got out of the house every week, even if for one day. I made friends. I met new people. I learned from a variety of people. I became more involved. I wasn’t sitting on the couch every day.
I realized that with patience, determination (or being damn stubborn. Take your pick), a sense of humor, and (for me) a dash of rage (remember: I felt robbed at the time) I could possibly do more. I may not be able to run a marathon or bench press my old weight ever again, but I could do something. I would no longer be consumed by rage, be limited by my condition on everything. I could do.
Fencing helped me get my life back on track.
When someone mentions mourning, the first thing that comes to mind is the death of a loved one. Rarely do people mention mourning in regards to other things and concepts. Which, I think, is why it took me so long to recognize that I was in mourning.
Sometimes, mourning is used for a turn of phrase, to drive home the point, or for poetic reasons. Something to help drive the point home. Other times, it means exactly that. Yet, the way the word is used — much like how the word ‘theory’ is used in every day conversation — it doesn’t mean exactly that.
As I wrestled (and still am wrestling) with the fact that my reactions and mindset are different than most, I was consumed with the notion of not only am I fighter but also a woman. I’m not a tomboy, but I’m not a girly-girl. I keep my hair long, I enjoy wearing makeup, and I like wearing skirts and dresses. I also like wearing jeans and business suits, going without makeup, and getting dirt under my nails. But society seems to have this notion that if you’re female and a fighter, you’re an automatic tomboy (this goes back to my rant “What’s So Bad About Fighting in a Dress?” that I posted on Tumblr). Seriously, why can’t I be feminine and a fighter? That was about the time I decided that I wanted to be otherworldy and vaguely threatening. I don’t mind being underestimated. People slip up because of it.
While working through that, the path that I find myself on — let’s call it the Path of the Warrior, for lack of a better descriptor at the moment — is lonely. I can count on one hand the number of people I know for a fact who understand what I’m going through. There are other things that I do that a great many also enjoying doing: wire work, drawing, writing, table top gaming, PC gaming, console gaming, camping, etc. But this- this is something that I’ve struggled to explain to others.
It’s those quick reflexes of catching things before they fall, walking quietly without meaning to, and reading tells and being able to anticipate what the other person is able to do before they realize it; it’s that calm in emergency situations that people tell you that they don’t know how you managed it; it’s looking at someone and just knowing that they’re not someone you want to screw with but others have a hard time putting into words why they feel so uncomfortable around that person (but you know, and it’s because that person is an apex predator at the top of the food chain. That’s the best explanation you can give, but it’s something so primal that you’re not sure if others would understand if you tried to explain it to them any other way); it’s your instinct to attack when you’re surprised and needing to still yourself because you know others will just call you violent; it’s seeing the lines of attack and being able to maneuver around them; it’s being able to see everything because you don’t narrow your gaze; it’s watching old movies and finally understand that one character that you just didn’t get, or realizing that something that seemed kinda silly in the movie is a giant tell of just how dangerous someone is; it’s all these things and so much more.
As I struggle through this, I mourn the fact that I can’t share this with everyone. Not because I don’t want to, but because chances are no one will understand. It’s not their fault. It’s no one’s fault. Not yours, not theirs; however, somehow you find yourself on this path and you find yourself practically alone. That is what I mourn: this is a part of myself that if I do decide to share with others, try as I might there’s a very big chance that I will be misunderstood or no one will understand at all.
So please, when you read a book or watch a movie or TV series, and someone remarks about how lonely a path that the warrior or soldier is on, take it as a statement of fact. It’s lonely and frustrating, and it isn’t a simple thing to just turn around and go back. It’s not something that you can just stop. It isn’t that easy. Nothing is that easy. It isn’t the end all, be all defining aspect of them. It’s just a hard one to come to grips with, and convey to others.
Every winter is hard for me. It’s a fact. I manage it as best I can, and I normally do alright. The weather, coupled with trying to learn new fencing wards reminded me that I still have a lot of work a head of me. I decided to go to physical therapy.
Monday was my first session, and included an assessment. For my age group, my range of motion is average, my flexibility is above average, and my balance is average.
For my level of fibromyalgia (moderate severe), everything is above average.
A lot of the PT involved lifting weights away from me, as holding things out in front of me or throwing things hurts (now you guys know why I don’t throw things). I’m starting on 3 lbs weights and will progress from there.
Here’s the Okay News or
Why I am Making All of These Weird Faces:
My body was not happy with me, and what I did Monday wasn’t even the proposed full program. I won’t lie: I’m kinda dreading today. I’ll try to keep my complaining to a minimum. Teasing me is fair game when I make the weird faces, but please keep the poking to a minimum outside of fencing as my body adjusts and becomes conditioned to the new motions and weights (woo physical conditioning!)
All My Love,
The Strange Chick Making Weird Faces
No really. Food. It started Friday night with dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill with friends. No big deal, right? Saturday morning was spent helping a friend pack out his basement. Afterward, we went to Red Robin. There was so much food. I even splurged on a Chocolate Guinness Shake. There was more food that night with going out to a bar and stuffing myself with bar food. AND THEN! Sunday was more food. It was a celebration for a friend completing her master’s degree.
I think I gained 10 lbs from eating so much. I’m off to go beach myself and try to digest all this food.
As some of you may know, I’ve been studying a fencing master by the name of Giacomo di Grassi. The manual in question that I’m studying is his True Arte of Defence. I’ve read other manuals — The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Book of Five Rings by Musashi, and Gran Simulacro dell’Arte e dell’Uso della Scherma (“Great Representation of the Art and Use of Fencing”) by Capo Ferro — and realized that I’m not a duelist, but a solider. I struggled with agression — women aren’t supposed to be aggressive, we live in a society that frowns upon violence with a desire to ultimately exist in an egalitarian society, repress any “dark” or “negative” traits that are frowned upon in polite society — but after exploring the topic with my instructors and a few fencers that I look up to, agression isn’t necessarily a negative trait. Rather, it is one that needs to be recognized and properly channeled and used in the right situations.
I’ve also been listening to podcasts lately. As I struggle with the path I find myself on — no. I chose this path. I knew this was the path when I was reading Capo Ferro and realized that not only did I not understand the mindset that it was written in but also did not understand how the sword could be used only as a tool for self defence. It’s a sword, a tool made with the intent of killing; a weapon of war. Saying the sword is anything else results only in a lie to the self of what it was meant for: killing.
This is roughly where I find myself right now. I’ve played a few war games and found that I have an aptitude for it. Especially the naval based ones. There aren’t many people willing to play another game with me at the moment. Some are thrilled, because I’m beginning to understand the nature of war.
As I thought about all of this, bringing the topic up now and again, I noticed that there were far more duelists than soldiers in the rapier community (as far as my local area goes).
I asked my fencing instructor on the way home from an event last night, “Is this path a lonely one?”
As soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer.
“Yes,” he said.
I said, “Okay.” I paused, then asked, “What else should I prepare for?”
He thought for a moment as music from Anthrax’ new album played, and finally told me, “Be prepared for more stiff shots. Your aggressiveness will make people panic.”
“They’re not used it.”
It wasn’t mere flowery words when poets and writers were talking about how lonely this path is. It’s romanticized a great deal, but they were right about a few things. Namely, the loneliness because a great deal of people don’t understand. Some people get it, but they don’t understand.
And so I’m left with the fact that while there will be other parts of my life I’ll be able to share with friends and they will understand, this particular part of my life — the war aspect of rapier — very few will understand. A part of me mourns that, but I would rather that not many people need to understand. This path is not for everyone. But, every now and again, it’s nice when someone does.
And not for the reasons that you might think.
So far, this winter season has been especially difficult. The temperatures have varied wildly, and the third weekend in December there was a 60 degree temperature change in 24 hours. I’m coping as best I can, trying to catch the pain before it becomes too much to handle. I’ve come into the habit of checking the weather — especially the barometric pressure — in 2 hour increments. I’ve discovered that my body picks up on the air pressure changes before the weather hits. If I head off the pain early enough, I can avoid a flareup.
And that, right there, is what I mean about winter being hard for me. From what I can tell of the weather where I’m located, the weather will be a bit tumultuous this winter season. I’d like to think that my proactive time to quell any potential flareups is better, as there were a couple of huge temperature shifts in 24 hours. I didn’t flareup as badly as I could have simply by taking precautions and noticing how badly my joints hurt.
But it hasn’t been all bad. I did receive a pair of handmade jewelry pliers for my wire work.
It’s small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and do a lot of fine detail work that I would normally do with my fingers. This will save my fingers a lot of pain.
Here’s to hoping that the rest of the season won’t be too rough.
Until my next update, here are some things I made to help take my mind off the pain.
in NaNo this year, or last. Why? The simple absurd drama that is my life. I ought to carve out some time, but I can’t promise to meet a certain word count every day. I’m sharing this here because I think I found the beginning that the story and myself are quite happy with. It’s rough, and by no means polished. Enjoy! (cross-posted to Caeruleus Aether)
She stared ahead, her gaze unfocused. Caolán glanced at his sister as each knight, warrior, would be protector presented themselves. She acknowledged their presence, but did little else. Their mother handled all the proceedings, passing out the favours given to each participant.
The sister he once knew was gone. In Cinnia’s place was some wildling, a feral elf. She disappeared some years go, spirited away by a neighboring kingdom. But a dragon had attacked, and so they thought that their princess had perished with the raiding party. The kingdom grieved for the loss of their princess for years, until one day they heard a rumor of a dragon with a hatchling and a young elf.
They searched tirelessly for years, but always they found an old nest. It was as if the dragon knew they were coming. They hoped that the dragon was simply taking care of their princess and not saving her to feed the hatchling. By the time they did corner the beast, Cinnia was near full grown.
No one recognized her. Her hair was matted , her skin grimy; her clothes the colour of the woods, patched together with sinew. She wore leather that looked like dragon scale and used razor sharp blades as talons, and she snarled like a wild beast at their approach. The princess fought like a creature possessed, far stronger than anyone had thought possible as she was determined to protect the dragon and it’s juvenile offspring. The dragon was brought down, which sent their erstwhile princess into a rage. When the juvenile was captured and killed, she killed half a dozen men. It took three times that to subdue her.
She fought being cleaned. She fought having her clothing taken away. She fought being confined. She railed against their mother and defied everyone, shouting that she didn’t belong within cold walls. When she did escape, Caolán often found her in the garden. But there was one night that it seemed to him that the garden was different. There were fae flitting about, and the night air seemed warm and the moon appeared a faint shade of pale green instead of harsh white light. He followed her into some darker place of the garden. When she stopped abruptly, she turned to look at him. There was something unfathomable in her gaze. She seemed ancient, knowing what his intention was before even he knew what he was doing in the garden so late at night. He coaxed her back to her room. Since that night, each time he found her, she would come back to her room peacefully and wait until dawn.
Over time, she fought less and talked more. She was subdued, and refused to acknowledge anyone but Caolán. She retreated into herself. He didn’t recognize the feeling that settled into his sister’s heart at first. Fearing the worst, Caolán took her out to the gardens in the hopes that she would react to something besides him. It was then he recognized the look in Cinnia’s eyes: hopelessness. It nearly broke his heart. He would much rather fight with Cinnia when she was full of fire than this empty husk that now sat at their mother’s side. It was Cinnia’s current state that brought about the need of a protector for the princess.
Cinnia’s gaze suddenly focused, her nostrils flaring. It was a small thing. So small that Caolán wasn’t sure he saw it. There was a man with dark hair and amber eyes, his features somehow off. Caolán figured he was one of the fae folk come to fight for the honour of protecting a princess of their fair woods. Cinnia did no more than watch the man approach the queen, take a favour, then depart.
I’ve moved three times this year, and I’m about to move again. I’m tired of living out of boxes.
Really, my life isn’t *that* much of a mess, but the lack of a stable place to live is starting to allow the existential crisis to creep in. It’s incredibly disheartening living out of boxes for most of the year, and it would be nice to have a place of my own and furniture to put clothes in.
Speaking of furniture, I’m selling everything I have in storage. I don’t expect many to understand, but all that’s in there is stuff I either got when I was with my ex-husband (who was not a nice man) or with my ex-fiancé (who ended up being a narcissistic sociopath). I want to start over, even if my TV is sitting on the floor and I’m sleeping on a futon.
Work is steady. I still have a car, which cost me huge in maintenance (new breaks, new rotors, new tires – the tires just killed me, but I at least have new tires for the winter season). The cats are still assholes, but they’ve been keeping me company and taking care of me as much as I take care of them.
Health wise, it’s been rough. The stress of not having a place to stay, constantly moving, and trying to get things sorted out from my ex-fiancé trashing my credit has wrecked havoc on my body. I’m managing my flares, but barely. The gym is helping, not only with getting into shape but also working off pent up frustration and energies.
I can’t say that anything interesting has been going on. Fencing is still a big part of my life, but it’s not an all consuming, driving force right now. The big things are that I had an Ah Ha! Moment, and I’m definitely a war time fencer (Genoa, 1532 – 1625) rather than a peacetime fencer. Perfect example would be: I read Capo Ferro. There are some universal truths that can be found in every manual that I have read; however, it states that the sword should be used for self defence. My first thought was, “It’s a fucking weapon. Use it.”
Allow me to explain: a sword is designed to kill. It has a pointed end and sharp edges, designed to either go through something (the pointed end) or cut something (sharp edges). The sword, at the very core of its being, is a weapon of war. It should be used as such.
That is the thought process of a product of war. I am not a gentlewoman. Perhaps a noble one, but if there’s a fight to be had, best believe my goal will be to cut you down and obliterate you.
There was something amusing that I found while reading war and peace manuals. Sun Tzu’s main point is to use everything, and try not to be too much of a dick about it. It’s still war, so use everything in your arsenal. Try not to do anything stupid and get yourself killed, though. Musashi and di Grassi quite pointedly tell the reader to punch the other guy in the face. George Silver also points out that not only should you punch the other guy in the face, but also aim for his nuts. Capo Ferror and Giganti do not mention punching anyone in the face, muchless in the junk. They are peacetime fencers. They are, after all, gentlemen. But please, keep in mind that the warrior will use whatever means necessary to win. There’s no such thing as a fair fight in war.
They went somewhere, but I’m not sure exactly on the “where” part. I attended some events, fought some, blew out both of my fencing boots within a month of each other, fought in sneakers, had a huge FM flare up, and started making copper wire rings and painting scrolls to take my mind off the pain.
Alright, fine. I’ll go into more detail.
July 2-3 was Grace and Valor. It was super hot and there was hardly any wind. There were a lot of classes, but I confess that I spent most of my time chatting with people and bumming around, desperately trying to stay out of the sun to not be burned.
July 8-9 was Caer Galen Defender. I managed to blow out my backup pair of fencing boots. I ended up running around in my sneakers the entire event. I did crash at the end of the day, sacking out in the backseat of a car until we got home. I remember sleeping most of the following day.
July 15-16 was Rapier Camp and War Collegium. I felt pretty good that weekend and ran around more than I probably should have. I have a cadet brother now and I was also awarded my Silver Tynes.
Last week I flared up pretty severely. I was in pain most of the week. There’s some residual pain, and I had a minor flare today. I stayed home in the hopes of quelling it in order to work the rest of the week before a friend of mine visits next week.
This past weekend I went Pokemon hunting at the local lake and caught, among other pokemon, Magikarp. It’s 400 candy to evolve him, so I’ll have Magikarp forever, give or take a day. Saturday was pretty quiet. I had a fantastic dinner with friends and my Don and his lady. SO MUCH FOOD. So good. Sunday was a Mad Hatter Tea Party birthday party. It was a lot of fun, complete with tea cups and saucers, finger foods, and changing seats.
I need some rest now, after a seemingly long work week. I hope everyone is doing well. I’ll update as I can.