Thankfully, the Hubs knows me. Really knows me. Has known me since middle school. Has hated, befriended, become interested in, loved, and married me. Not to mention those cute kids he helped me add to our family. So, he's seen a lot, and he's become a seasoned pro at handling not only me, but all of those scornful voices that are on constant replay in my head. He knows about friends I've had that weren't, and knows that amongst any condemnation of me in the past, I'm the most likely to be the first on the scene with a torch and pitchfork.
While I was very worried in the moment, I breathed a tiny sigh of relief when the baby's high fever prevented my attending the first day of class. By the time the next class rolled around (two days later), she was fever free, but I thought: "You know I should reeeeeally just stick close to home. Just in case. I mean, sure she's playing happily and seems completely well, but these things can't be rushed, right?" So, I conveniently managed to put off my comeback for another week. Then we were suddenly in a new week, and I talked up my return to Eric and the girls, just to psych myself up. My oldest got incredibly excited and insisted that I put on my gi and hakama, so that she could see it:
Li'l E was appropriately awed. She actually eschewed her normal Broadway stage projection voice for a quiet squeak of girlish excitement.
"Mama," she breathed, "you look sooooooo fancy...."
(Sweetest girl ever? I think so!)
"...like a waiter."
(She's very helpful.)
I folded everything back up and tucked it carefully in my bag. Then, I wandered about fretting over whether or not I was missing anything, whether the Hubs could handle the girls' bedtime routine solo, whether the baby would be too upset without me, whether the price of tea had risen in China. Eventually, Eric put my bag on my shoulder and gave me a firm and loving shove out the front door.
I blasted the stereo. I opened the sun roof. I reveled in being completely alone in my car. Then, I thought about arriving in class and failing. Failing completely and utterly and PUBLICLY. Failing all the friends and mentors who had spent so much time training me. Embarrassing myself with my post-partum, swiss cheese memory. Then my talent for overdramatics joined my nerves and I started texting Eric from the parking lot:
But you know what happened when I made mistakes? No one doubted me. No one was disappointed. Everyone was gracious and patient when I stumbled and enthusiastic with praise when I succeeded. Soon, I wasn't so aware of my heart thumping in my chest and my hands didn't tremble as I reached forward to perform. And I was reminded of what it is like to be back in a group of people that are supportive and kind. There are plenty of people who are quick to be witty at the expense of others, and I'm quite sure that I've been one of them before. When you're younger and know absolutely everything and are invincible, you're stupid enough to go for the laugh when other people make mistakes. It's only through making a wealth of your own mistakes (big, messy, humiliating, and painful) and being able to own and acknowledge them, that you can truly appreciate the people who are first to reach out a hand and help you back up. And then there are the people who tend to disparage out of some misplaced sense of competition. This can happen so often in a dojo, or in a work place, or just in a social circle. People feel the need to snipe and assert dominance. People that have sadly never realized the truth behind: The More the Merrier. Each of us helping one another to excel, simply makes life that much richer and full for all of us! We should hope to fill our lives with people who make us better, who challenge us. As my husband never tires of reminding me:
If you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong place.
I'm so incredibly thankful to have found a place full of people who realize that each and every person has something to contribute and that there is not one of us who has not had their "first day on the mat": that day when you enter as a stranger, not knowing what to expect, not knowing the rules of the game, not knowing where to start. And each one of us would do well to remember our own first days when interacting with any one. It has meant so much to me lately, as I find my footing in the "real world" again, to have people come into (or return to) my life who are willing to reach out a hand, to encourage, to teach, to befriend; people who I am quite certain remember so many "first days" and want to honor those who helped them or to be someone whom they wished they'd had. These are the people I most admire, most appreciate, and most hope to emulate. I always want to be a friendly face with something to share when I cross paths with anyone, especially on a first day.