Had a good day yesterday. We made plans and followed them, but around that we just went on a long and random path. The day took us to all kinds of places, and we enjoyed ourselves. The only downside was my recurring foot issues cropping up again. I spent the day trying not to limp, and stealing every chance to stretch out my calves.
Being an ageing martial artist makes you think often about all the lessons you’ve learned. Tweaks and aches in the morning have all been earned from a lifetime of injuries. Some were pure accidents, but most were from being stupid. You like to think you’ll stop being stupid as you get older, but you don’t. You just get less stupid. Wisdom is less about learning new things than it is about learning not to do old things. Of course, nothing is more stupid than people who think they are above any kind of idiocy. Bullying and snobbery seem to have reached new heights of acceptance these days, by cloaking themselves in subtlety.
My broken body and scars are all the grades I’ve received in the lessons life has taught me. Whether those are passing or failing grades? That’s only ever for me to know. Reality TV taught us to mock and emulate, but it teaches us nothing about how to live. The simple act of noting that someone is worse than you does not make you a better person.
I’ve learned so many good life lessons in my martial arts practice. None of them have had anything to do with self defense or beating people up. I’ve learned how to cope with the person right in front of me, and the whole range of emotions they can act out. I’ve learned to be humble. I’ve learned that I’m the same as everyone else, no matter what I might think. I’ve learned that not one damned thing makes me better than anyone else. People I’ve dismissed as crap can kick my ass. Complete bastard monsters can do the kindest things when you least expect it.
The process of stupidity pays off in ways that people just don’t understand, and that you can never plan for. I spent thousands of hours doing stupid bone toughening exercises, and then I finally stopped doing them when I gave up believing in chi and energy flow and all that other stuff. Then I dropped a seventy-five pound anvil from chest height onto my instep, and it bounced. My foot hurt, but nothing broke. And I learned about micro-fractures and the increase in bone-density than can result.
My life has been unplanned, and will continue to be. Not, of course, by any choice of mine. At any given moment, I think what I am about to do is intelligent and wise. It usually is. But I’m not in control of what might happen to make that choice look stupid in hindsight. I am in control of how I feel about that. And I know that same thing applies to everyone. I’ve learned to strip myself of the righteousness of thinking people should know better. I’ve felt the shame of doing something wrong when I thought it was right, but nothing burns more than the shame of thinking I knew something about another person, when I didn’t. Righteousness is a twisting knife that I’ve been happy to let go of.
It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. Like all martial arts lessons, it came at the cost of pain. I still have the scars, and I still sometimes reach for that knife…but the scars and pain usually remind me to put it down. Usually. I won’t be perfect until I’m dead, and finished growing.