New Year’s thoughts from the dojo

There’s nothing like sitting with a group of people for several consecutive years–hours at a time–in a steamy, sweaty dojo. Talk about getting to know your fellow human beings on an entirely new level.

My youngest recently earned his black belt in taekwondo. That means over the past few years, I have been in this dojo countless times to pick up, drop off and watch him test. You’d have to be a special kind of cave hermit not to get to know your fellow martial arts cheerleaders—and the students they cheer for.

Why should this interest you? A bunch of people you’ll likely never meet kicking and kiaiing?

Because the dojo is the best kind of social experiment. It’s really a lab for life. Hear me out.

Patience is not my strong suit. So, as I sit for hours on a hard bench, watching people-who-are-not-my-son testing for belts—I can get a little antsy. A bit perturbed. And I used to do so often. Until I turned my dojo experience into a learning lab.

Let the black belt testing commence . . .

Cassandra. Oh man, here comes Cassandra. Cassandra tests my patience if for no other reason than her uncontrollable tears. Cassandra cries when she prepares to test. She cries during her test, whether she is successful or not. And she cries after her test. I think it’s a mixture of stress, sadness and happiness all rolled into one big boo hoo fest. I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of my German mother in me—as in, suck it up buttercup. Tears are a last resort and even then—sheesh (unless you’re watching the P&G Olympic moms commercial—then crying is absolutely necessary).

So, as we sit and wait for Cassandra to stop crying long enough to read her essay on what earning her black belt means to her (part of the ceremony), I take a deep breath. There is a tiny bit of Cassandra in me. The part that thinks I can’t do something. The part that then does it. And the part that cries with joy that I’ve done yet another thing I thought couldn’t be done. I tap into that part, take another deep breath and wait. Her voice shakes and wavers, but Cassandra makes it through her essay. Phew. Her mother tells me Cassandra has set her sights on the US Air Force. Hmmm. My dad was WWII Air Force. I don’t believe they are big fans of crying in any form. Good luck, Cassandra.

And then there is the guy I call Old Man (only in my head, of course). He looks to be in his 60s (I learn later it’s only mid-50s). What possessed him to get his black belt eludes me. But, as he reads his essay, I realize it was something he needed to prove to himself. He is usually the one that misses his board break kicks multiple times. Today, he nails it. I think of all the things I now consider challenges as I age. And I think of how brave it was of him to take one on he could have walked right by. I shake his hand after the ceremony.

Next up is Timmy. When Timmy bounds onto the scene, I always smile. Very much on the spectrum, with a sky-high energy level and an attention span the size of a gnat, Timmy finds the present moment a great place to be. Always. I’ve never seen him complain or cry. They must remind Timmy to read his essay because he is just standing in front of the crowd smiling. Looking at all of us and simply happy to be there. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this pint-sized boy earn his black belt. There were days we were all sure he’d never remember his forms. I think of the time in my life when I did things just because they brought me joy. When my expectations were low and my energy was high. And I high-five Timmy.

I won’t bore you with the entire cast of characters, but you get the idea. Rubbing elbows with each other in this world can be tough sometimes. Especially when we are busier than we’d like to be. But we all mirror each other in some way, shape or form. When I can tap into the basic humanity that unites me with you, I can appreciate you no matter what buttons you push.

It shouldn’t be a lofty goal, remembering the humanity that ties us together. But in today’s world, it seems to be. I’m going for it. I think Cassandra and company would applaud that.



34 Comments Add yours

  1. Such loving, compassionate, gentle nudges….thank you!!! I have been getting triggered quite easily these days. “When I can tap into the basic humanity that unites me with you, I can appreciate you no matter what buttons you push.” I will keep such wise, loving words to ❤ ! Much L💖ve & Big, tight hug to you, Kristine!!! 🌛🙏💖🌟🌞

    1. candidkay says:

      Those triggers! I know my own all too well. But we’ll become bodhisattvas yet:).

  2. Amy says:

    Kristine, I love this! And I could have happily read your descriptions of every person in that class! I was sorry to come to the close of this post. You are an artist: you paint fine portraits in words! I agree with you completely that we all need to remember the humanity that ties us together. Thank you for the great reminder! Wishing you a wonderful 2018! xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Amy! I wasn’t sure if you all would stay interested, not knowing the characters involved:). Happy New Year! Wishing you every good thing this year . . .

  3. What a read! What a girl .. I was almost sitting on that bench with you. And Yes you are so right .. we do mirror each other in some way.

    1. candidkay says:

      I would have been happy to have the company on that bench:). Thanks for the kind words. And Happy 2018!

  4. I can imagine all those painstaking hours, so it’s great that you’ve got this perspective and taken away those lessons from it (along with a numb behind!)

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so proud of him for those painstaking hours! There were moments–particularly during his father’s illness–when he wanted to give up. And I’m so glad he didn’t:).

  5. Love your perspective on this and the reminder that we are all united in some way. If we just take a moment to observe, there really is so much we can learn. Happy New Year to you and your boys, wishing you nothing but magic and oodles and oodles of love in 2018!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I will take that wish and send it right back to you also! I am hoping that this year is nothing but goodness for you :-).

  6. So I thought Yeah, she’s kicking some butt at the dojo! And then realized otherwise. I admittedly almost stopped reading, so freakin’ annoyed with Cassandra, LOL. But the writing kept me going, of course. Always something to learn, even from the Cassandras. Happy new yr!!

    1. candidkay says:

      I should be kicking butt at the dojo! And yes, how did I know I would find a soul sister in you re: Cassandra? 😂 Thank you, as always, for the kind words. They mean a lot coming from you.

  7. After years of denial, I’ve accepted that I am a “cave hermit.” I generally tend to call myself as introvert because its more palatable, but deep down, I’m a cave hermit. Peopling is not my thing.

    However, the aspiring writer in me loves to observe humans in their natural environment. So when I am trapped in close proximity to others (holidays seem to be big “opportunities”), I get the appeal of being a part of genuine displays of character. – in limited doses of course.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that I have HUGE respect for the sweaty sacrifice you’ve made to support your son, and the other Dojo-dwellers.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think the cave hermits amongst us will be the ones to save the world, Gabe:). And I think it’s an energy thing. Check out Matt Kahn on YouTube. Your tribe is out there:).

  8. My kids didn’t do martial arts, but your perspectives here helped me journey back through memories to some pretty special times. Watching our kids confront challenges and grow through their experiences helps us understand and appreciate those people who are by their side during the adventures. Love this.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad I could take you down memory lane in a positive way. There were multiple times my son wanted to give up on getting his black belt. I rarely force issues like that, but I did force this one. It was in arena in which I felt it was very important for him to learn persistence. And it was rewarding for both of us when he did :-).

  9. Great example Kristine of how we reflect our shadows our pain and our joy in each other. Once we get how this school of life works, we can succeed on every level 👍🌈

    1. candidkay says:

      And as you and I both know, it is DEFINITELY a school:). Here’s to diploma time!

  10. Cindy Frank says:

    Hilarious, sweet, and totally on point! Loved this one so very much. Happy New Year, K!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Cindy! I’m glad you liked this one:). We all have our own dojo scenarios, even if it’s not the actual dojo! Happy New Year!

  11. That time of life when it no longer matters where others are at Kristine, but the appreciation of where we have finally arrived. Mind you, sweaty dojo’s will bring you back to the present occasionally, just to remind you how far you’ve come 😀 ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Sweaty dojos definitely keep me grounded:). I can’t imagine a different effect!

  12. Sparkyjen says:

    Fascinating! I bet now that you have turned your dojo experience into a learning lab, you probably have also sat up straight, leaned a tiny bit forward, focused your eyes, fine tuned your ears, opened your mind, and sniffed out forensics that would make the most seasoned CSI’s envious. Sensation!!!

    1. candidkay says:

      All of the above–but I am careful about sniffing too hard in the sweaty dojo:). Oh, I couldn’t resist . . .

      1. Sparkyjen says:

        Well…you got a chuckle from me. So there! 😉

  13. Dale says:

    Oh, I love this on so many levels, Kristine! As one who decided to take up karate at age 46 and made it all the way to my brown belt – I still chafe at the thought I didn’t go one more to black, despite my finished shoulder, foot…

    One of our guys got his black belt at 61! We are never too old to chase our dreams/challenge ourselves. To think Mick and I joined our dojo after watching our boys go through countless exams, passages, wood-breaking, feeling as impatient as you (though we had no Cassandras to speak of 😉)

    Happiest of New Year wishes to you and yours!

    1. candidkay says:

      I had no idea! Good on you for being so brave. I often wondered if it was hard for Old Man to test with the youngsters. I’m sure it was–humbling. But I have so much respect for him for doing it. And now I can add to my already heaping respect for you:).

      1. Dale says:

        Ah well… if my foot didnt give me issues, I would have gotten my black belt with my gang. Will always be a regret. I can speak for my (i like my proprietary attitude considering it’s been four years!) dojo- they take into consideration age when testing – pushing each tie their own limit.

  14. Bernadette says:

    Kay, if everyone would take the time, as you did, to find the face of the creator in our fellow travelers, we wouldn’t have to pray for peace on earth. It just would be.

    1. candidkay says:

      What a beautiful way to put it. I hadn’t thought of it that way! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

  15. Thanks for the compassionate reminders Kay. May we remember our shared humanity more often.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think we’re going to have to in order to survive! Here’s to level heads and hearts.

      1. Agreed Kay. Thanks for showing the way.

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