Posts Tagged sport

Permission to Try

A while ago, I was chatting to a friend and happened to mention that I loved horror movies, especially when I was feeling low. She looked at me in horror. ‘Why?!’ she gasped.

I honestly didn’t know how to reply, because I couldn’t quite understand the question.

I don’t know if it’s still true (I suspect it is), but when I was younger, it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be really passionately into something. Be it a hobby, interest or whatever struck your fancy in a big way, it seemed that unless that topic was currently ‘trendy’ – and therefore permissible – you could expect to get mocked for it. So you quickly learned to keep it quiet.

A classic example is Dungeons and Dragons, which was widely derided for many years after launch (despite its popularity), but is now ‘cool’ because those nerdy kids grew up and are still enjoying themselves. Thus others are finally drawn in though curiosity rather than put off by derision.

I’ve never understood why someone being really keen on a subject should have to push that down for the sake of their ‘image.’ When do we learn to mock others for things they enjoy? I think the nearest I came was having a laugh at my brother for his football-madness, but our whole family had that – I always took a book (or two) wherever I went, unless I wanted to sit with them watching two groups of men chase a ball around a field for 90 minutes. Fun for many, not for me.

I still joke with him about ‘Doing A Sport’, by the way. It’s not malicious at all, as I love seeing my nephews enjoying it as they get older. I really wouldn’t want to tell anyone what they can and cannot like! My technically-correct explanation of the Offside Rule (‘that man’s in front of that other one and he shouldn’t be’) shows how daft I am, if anything.

It’s interesting to take a step back to consider why some things are permissible and others not. So many social rules fly around gendered roles, for example: historically, women were looked down upon for reading, because they might Get Ideas. Let alone Playing a Sport (still true).

I love that we’re now starting to really dig into the irrationality of such invisible laws, which seem to originate in the schoolyard. At some point (hopefully by adulthood) an individual can stop, think to themselves ‘Hang on…’ and realize that the thing they love is for a valid reason.

I mention my ribbing of my brother and his football because he has been known to do similar to me about my Paganism. He used to call it ‘That stuff you do’, until he came to my Handfasting and saw what the Stuff was for himself. It’s not for him but he gets it, and I’m glad.

At every single such event I’ve ever attended, regular folks have approached me to tell me how lovely the ceremony was, and how they’d never realized. I do wonder what they imagine Pagan Ritual to be, but it’s always lovely to share The Stuff I Do with others in an open way, so they can see for themselves. Not with a view to recruiting at all – people can make up their own minds about that! Just demonstrating.

If people ask me for introductory information about something I love, I try to help them understand and hopefully inspire a little. It’s always a true pleasure to hear others speak on such topics. Personal passion is a wonderful thing.

I’m writing this today because allowing myself to feel deeply about certain things is something that’s been on my mind recently. What I am allowing myself to have or to do. What’s permissable – and if not, why not?

I’ve been reviewing books to share my opinion and also help authors and small publishers. Genre fiction isn’t always ‘cool’, but if I liked it, I’ll say so. It’s up to those reading the review if they pick up the book themselves or not.

I’ve been watching makeup videos on YouTube, and debating playing with colours again. The greater part of a year spent in lockdown means I’ve been making do with basic primping, but I want to remember how fun it is to dress up. I love my dark red lipstick, and will have to wear it at home for a while… but that’s ok.

What do we allow ourselves to do, or not do? Why avoid things that we love for the sake of what others think, or what we feel we ‘should’ be doing? Those awful social expectations, codes and rules…

This isn’t about anarchism or chaos. This is simply about pausing to ask ‘do I really want to do this?’ when you know the answer is Yes.

Because right now, we need to give ourself permission to enjoy what we love. Explore new languages, cultures, topics, genres, games, pastimes. What can we do to brighten the days during lockdown? Bake, read, play, craft, dress up. Even play D&D with friends across Zoom, which Himself and I will be doing tonight.

I feel as if sometimes I’m relearning what I love all over again, because the depression brings back those playground voices that tell me I can’t, shouldn’t, will look stupid, etc etc.

But what if I try?

Wintry blessings, my friends.

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Serbia – Day 4

(As previous, originally published on my Patreon. I’m at home right now 😊)

I have my first cup of tea since leaving England. A Yorkshire fighter brought dozens of Yorkshire teabags. And we found milk. I am happy.

Despite best intentions, blogging has not been possible in recent days, due to immense busyness and lack of wifi signal. I am currently sitting on a bench by Camp UK in the middle of Smederevo Fortress, typing this to upload later. Also listening to a multitude of languages and a group of minstrels playing not far away.

Life has been frenetic. Without all the modern gadgets we take for granted, Camp UK is incredibly focused on what it’s there to do – so at any moment, I see men working to clean their armour, work to repair dings with a small anvil and much-used tools, and women returning from fights, sweaty and either happy or frustrated.

I commented to one of the team that I can now see why Himself finds it so hard to sum up what happens at these events when he returns. Because EVERYTHING is happening, all the time.

I managed to find a quiet space, in a tent on a friendly squaddie’s cot. It’s been helpful to be able to retreat when things get overwhelming, but I’ve actually found the friendly atmosphere so lovely. Even if someone does badly in a fight, teammates are there. They may agree that Yes, You were shit – but get better and get back in there. (!)

One team has notably been losing, but perhaps not helped by their focus on 100% positivity. ‘You did great, that was fantastic!’… even when they haven’t. Flaws are ignored, mistakes glossed over. So they continue to lose and get angrier each time, crying ‘foul’ because it’s clear they ARE the best! Everyone else just doesn’t realize! Except they aren’t, and by missing that truth, they can’t get better. There is a very clear lesson there. Weakness is not failure. Be aware of and take responsibility for your flaws, and work to improve them – or they’ll remain, and you’ll be left wondering why.

Otherwise, the sense of many nations coming together in shared sport is something I’ve never quite experienced before. Someone was saying that football has its own atmosphere, but this is so different, because of the nature of the fighting. Rugby’s the nearest thing that we could think of: fighting together with full awareness of risk, but absolute willingness to commit, body and soul, as an individual and as part of a team.

I was also chatting to the Chilean team Captain. Initially, his friends at home had said ‘You’ll come back in a coffin!’ Because everyone thinks that this sport is crazy! But year on year, they’ve improved, gained more support, and people are now congratulating him on doing this and representing them.

Yes, it’s scary. Real weapons and armour, real risk. But absolutely balanced by the unity and fulfilment of what is being done.

I’m very proud of these men and women. So glad to be able to be here and be a part of this, even as just a supporter. I think we’ll be returning home happy.

UPDATE: Night has fallen. I’m writing this looking over a field of dropped armour and campfires, singing and laughter.

Team UK has beaten France to win Bronze in the 30v30 fights! Guess who was sitting in the ‘supporters’ stands surrounded by French folks. But still managed to get a Serbian family cheering for England 😂

So much of this is about shared experience. There’s (obviously) aggression in the lists when fighting, but all of the supporters cheer each other as enthusiastically as their own. The sense of fun and shared good feeling is visibly (and audibly!) crossing borders, and I absolutely love it. We need not be defined by lines on a map. We can fight in sport and then help each other up to fight again tomorrow.

Only one sour note: I was chatting with an Argentine lady Marshall. She was watching from the stands because apparently the (Russian) organisers had forbidden all women from Marshalling. Her husband was waving to her from the field. It turned out she’d trained with Himself a few years ago, and was very proud of her job, being ‘Mother’ to the fighters.

I’ve noticed a certain attitude to women here, and it makes me both nervous and sad. Some places still have to move into the 21st century, it seems. But we battle on, with those wonderful men who stand as our allies.

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