I took a break from slogging my way though nonfiction and a bunch of other things, like writing (!), and read Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi. This was prompted by my need to read something that was 1. just going to be fun and also bring me some joy from the frustration I’d been experiencing at the gym (note: I read this over the summer when things were still bad, more on later) and 2. This passage that I saw posted somewhere on Twitter right after it came out.
I competed in the NABJJF Grand Canyon Open for the third time early last month. This tournament makes me a little nostalgic since it was the first one tournament I ever signed up for and the only one time I’ve signed up for two divisions. Last year I signed up for gi only and came away with a silver medal. This year, my first as a blue belt, I competed in no gi, a weaker area for me, and did not make it to the podium. I’m not upset that I didn’t place. I think it’s great that there were more women in my bracket than usual. Usually, it’s so small that everyone places by default, so this is good for the sport and competition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was disappointed in myself and frustrated. I’m still adapting to being at the bottom again and the competition at blue belt is very different compared to what it was as a white belt.
I wrote that paragraph at the beginning of May. Tomorrow is the first of June and my frustration has continued to grow; not just with being a relatively new blue belt but maybe, unfortunately with jiu-jitsu itself. I think I’ve been avoiding coming to terms with that and as a result, writing the original post, because of how much stock I have put into my training. I started martial arts right as I was entering a turbulent time in my life that had lots of change and I’ve jokingly referred it to as my quarter life crisis. Jiu jitsu was there for me through what amounted to lots of ups and downs and some very low downs. I don’t really wanted to get into the details about that right now because some of these things are still painful to talk about but jiu jitsu was my anchor and as long as I dragged myself to the gym and got some good rounds in, I knew I would be okay, even if it was just until I get back onto the mats.
It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t a healthy way to cope and now I’m paying for it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to be motivated while I’m at class. I feel like I’ve plateaued harder than I ever have over the past three years and I hate it. I hate not being excited to go the gym and work on improving my game. I know some of this comes with the constant change in training partners. My original cohort has dispersed and my personality doesn’t mesh well with some of the newer ones. The whole atmosphere has been different and despite my best efforts to hold fast, I’ve flirted with the idea of quitting all together. It just seems easier to go back to just striking but I think I would also feel weird if I did that. I’m not sure if that weirdness would be the result of shame but I do think I would be very disappointed in myself. Jiu jitsu is the first activity that I’ve picked up and really poured myself into with the intention of being the best I can be and not giving up. To move forward, I’m going to try to keep this sentiment in mind and compete again soon. Hopefully that mental reset will do me some good and pull me out of the funk. I hate being so whiny.
As for the books: I’m currently working on The Labyrinth of Solitude by Ocatvio Paz. It feels very academic but is still readable and enjoyable. I’m not sure what’s the best way to talk about it, just as I’m not sure how to talk about Vonnegut’s Mother Night, the last book that I read. It was good, like everything else of his that I’ve read, but I don’t have the words to properly describe how it made me feel.
Ever since reading Sirens of Titan, I’ve been meaning to read more Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five is on my list and would have been the logical next step but last time I was at my local used bookseller’s and the only Vonnegut book available was A Man Without A Country. I finished it last night and no regrets! It’s not really a novel so much as it’s Vonnegut’s reflections on life and the political climate at the time. He was writing in 2004 and commenting on the Bush administration, such simpler and gentler times! I honestly never thought I would look back on that presidency in that way and can’t imagine what he would have to say.
I’m not sure I have much else to say besides go read the book. I feel like I am the better for it and it just has lots of great advice and me a little misty. Here is one of many of my favorite quotes:
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what it is.”
As usual, some time ago, I finished up reading a book. Eventually I hope I will get better about posting things and actually figuring out where I want to go in the venture but in the meantime, my thoughts on John Connolly’s A Time of Torment. I’ve been a fan of Connolly’s since discovering The Book of Lost Things at a used book sale in my home town. I’m due for a reread on that so eventually, hopefully, you’ll have something on that.
A Time of Torment is one of the more recent installments of Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels. This book follows Parker on his investigation into the framing of a local hero in Main who believes the people that framed him are still after him. The investigation leads Parker and his friends, Angel and Louis, to The Cut, a small community within West Virginia known for secrecy and hostility towards outsiders. Since it’s been over a month since I finished the book and I gave it to my dad to read, my memories are pretty hazy. So rather than bore you with a synopsis of it, I’m just going to suggest that you read it. Especially if you like that feeling of not being able to put a book down because the suspense is killing you. I was spending every spare minute I had reading just to get to the end. This even led to me staying up close to midnight one night (I wake up at 5:30) and being spooked when something fell off my kitchen counter. That was the scariest moment I had experienced in a while and it probably didn’t help that when I wasn’t reading this book I was catching up on My Favorite Murder at work. If you happen to be looking for podcast recommendations, MFM is amazing!
Jiu-Jitsu updates: Not competing this summer after all. I was really hoping to compete in a local tournament this weekend but life gets in the way. After that tournament last October, I learned that I really shouldn’t be competing if my mind and heart aren’t in it.
About two months ago, I finished up reading The Girls by Emma Cline. The book serves as a parallel/allegory to the Manson Family and the women that made up his cult. Like, the history of the Manson Family and subsequent murders, The Girls is set in California during the late sixties and is told from Evie’s perspective through a series of flash-forwards and flashbacks. Evie is 14 years and a bit of misfit. She doesn’t have very many friends and has slipped through the cracks of her parents’ divorce, while each parent if focused on new romantic pursuits. The loneliness that is born of this situation makes her vulnerable to the charm of Suzanne and the societal outcasts she lives with on an abandoned ranch.
I don’t really feel the need to delve too much into the plot since the story is so widely known. Suzanne’s character is clearly a parallel for Squeaky Fromme, one of Charle’s Manson’s most devoted followers. The fictional cult leader, Russell that is embittered after being unable to land a record deal, is Charles Manson. The book was a quick and light read and did a good job of capturing the feelings of isolation that begin to settle in during adolescence. I’m not sure if those feelings ever go away but you do become less vulnerable with age.
I think I would have found the material more engaging if I hadn’t listen to Karina Longworth’s summer series on the murders, Charles Manson’s Hollywood. It is part You Must Remember This which is easily my favorite podcast. The podcasts delves into the secrets and forgotten stories of Old Hollywood and is incredibly well done. In Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Longworth immerses the listeners in the various players and intricacies operating around Manson. I would definitely recommend checking out the podcast in addition to the book.
In BJJ news: NAGA is coming up in a few weeks. I still need to register.
Last winter I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. I ended up reading on accident, almost. I didn’t have a book to read at lunch one day and my coworker, Amelia, was kinda enough to let me read her copy. I borrowed her copy at lunch for about a week until I bought my own and we both set out to read it so we could have a mini book club.
Reading the book in tandem was fun experience because we each had different reactions to the book. Amelia loved it and I was underwhelmed. I felt that there was a lot of buildup with very little pay off at the end of the book for the main characters. I didn’t think it was all bad; I just wanted more for such a long book! I thought the world building was amazing and how the setting revolved around there being to worlds. Amelia and I loved it so much that when things start going awry or getting weird at work we refer to it as “Full 2Q16”. We also started to apply it to our lives outside of work.
Anyhow, I took this book to my local book exchange so I could buy Walden and the guy working the counter loved but also noted that I am not alone in my feelings and suggested another Murakami book. I just don’t remember which. I
In other news, training has been going well. My gym is hosting a smoker this upcoming Friday and this year grappling matches are included. I haven’t heard from my coach if I have match but fingers crossed! I’m still a little scared and anxious from the last tournament but the only way to improve is to confront those fears.
I decided to name my blog Books and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because prior to taking up BJJ, whenever someone would ask me what I like to do for fun or what my hobbies are, my answer was always reading. This was usually followed by one of my least favorite questions ever, “What kind of books do you read?” Internally, it’s followed by a groan but usually end up muttering something about reading a little bit of everything which isn’t untrue.
Lately, I haven’t been doing much reading at all. I read several books at the end of last year and this year have only managed to complete one so far, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was my introduction to Hunter S. Thomas and I really enjoyed it. I just hate that it took my so long to read. It’s a short book but I spent about four months on it, just reading a bit here and there. I’ve been a weird reading funk lately.
Right now I’m working my way through Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. This is one of those instances were I saw a movie and absolutely loved it and was delighted to find out it was a book. I loved the movie and was pleasantly surprised to see how this story compared to Tess of the D’Urberville’s, also by Hardy. Tess of the D’Urberville’s was a good story and my reading of it also had it it’s origins in a movie I had seen based on it but it was so depressing and took forever to read. I had to keep taking breaks. Anyhow, I’ll update more on my current when I finish and perhaps go into further depth about both novels and their accompanying films.
I haven’t wholly decided how I’m going to incorporate books into this. I don’t think full on reviews would be very fun to write but maybe I’ll stick to my observations of the book, how it makes me feel, and things that I can relate it to. I may also delve into some of the books from last year that I still think about it.
Hopefully, my postings will be more regular. I had intended to chronicle my adventures in BJJ and post about my first tournament and the lead up to and a round up of my first year. I’ve since competed in two tournaments and jiu-jitsu birthday has already passed! They may still be worth a post .