Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Hidden Coward

Recently I thought I’d solved most of my “issues”.

By that I mean my self pity, my reluctance and my desire, like many others, to revel in the sanctity of a safe zone.

I mean: I’d published a book slagging off my former employers; I’d refused a Caution for saying a borderline rude word on social media and made the police look like fools; I’d taken gradings in Krav Maga up to level 5, something I once thought would never happen. Above all I’d told the woman of my dreams how much I loved her and finally put to rest the kind of mental and spiritual gymnastics that would reduce me to a misanthropic wreck for weeks on end.

I genuinely believed that my courage was something I’d polished up to a shine and could now walk around proudly. I had tempered my ego so I no longer felt the need to stand my ground every time I was threatened or insulted and was able to take the more “sensible” action sometimes, without feeling like a wimp.

And then I applied to do the Krav Maga Kids Instructor Course in Haifa Israel and I thought my fears were banished. I’d applied and been accepted to do training in the heartland of Krav. I was going to fly out there and spend 5 days training under the tutelage of none other than Zeev Cohen, second highest Krav practitioner in the world. Graded at Master Level 1 and the creator of the official curriculum for Kiddy Krav.

It was only when I actually got to Haifa, proud as punch of being in the same room as the E camp (Expert levels 1 to 4 grading, equivalent to black belt first to fourth dans) that my realisation dawned.

I read years ago that within all of us is our “inner child”. We have this from when we are actual kids, right up until we die. If we don’t keep in touch with that side of ourselves then the child will always be there, frightened and unable to cope within a world of adult responsibilities. Author and spiritual guru Louise Hay stated that talking to our inner child through meditation is one way to reassure him/ her that life is safe and nothing to be scared of.

I was stood in a room, with guys way above my level who as recently as 2 years ago I would have been in dumbstruck awe of. The UK and Dutch national directors were on the floor, as were the top three highest ranked instructors in the world (Master level 3, Master level 1 and Expert level 5). They had one week’s training followed by a day long test at the end of it all. Expert levels can ONLY be taken in Israel and you cannot, unlike Practitioner (levels 1 to 5) and Graduate (levels 6 to 10) tests, simply turn up for the exam after avoiding the build up. This was always something that had seemed like SAS training to me. Scary, hard and almost incomprehensible. 

Being within the same 4 walls as these guys made me realise once again that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is scarier than my own imagination. They weren’t muscle bound demi gods, fighting above flaming pits of molten lava before an audience of baying, bloodthirsty nobles. They were normal guys who wanted to excel (albeit ones with extreme cardio fitness). 

I hold the rank of Practitioner 4. I have done for over 2 years and while I took level 5 and failed it, and have had both a broken finger AND a knee operation to put me out of training for months…I have been recently telling myself that maybe I can just rest on my laurels. After all, I had risen higher than I EVER thought I once would. 

This was and is, the hidden coward.

This last 3 weeks I have had a roller coaster of emotions due to one specific situation in my life. I am on holiday in three separate countries, Israel, Moldova and Greece, before I return to the UK in July. Someone I care about more than anyone else outside my family, and who I haven’t seen for many years, is in one of those three places and recently hadn’t been in touch after weeks of regular contact. My roller coaster of emotions took off again, telling me that things would never be the way I wanted them to be. The paranoid, hidden coward was telling me that 2 weeks before we were meant to meet was just the way my life happened to be, i.e. unlucky and full of woe. The voice went on to tell me that I should cancel my flight to that particular country and just forget all about it. 

But…I’d been a coward for too long and I was determined to face this.

So last week I went to the darkness and quiet of my Haifa studio flat (with the air conditioning off as it made me cough) and went looking for where exactly the coward was hiding. And eventually I found him.

In a stone casket in a dark cellar was a younger version of me, no more than about 10 or 11. As I moved the lid off the casket this version of me yelled out in fear and started to cry, petrified of daylight, human contact and the risk of actually caring about something other than sleep and staying alive. I pushed the lid all the way off the casket and spoke gently to my younger self, reassuring him that there was nothing to fear and that while life could be scary it was worth it in the end. Eventually I soothed this decades old version of me and when I looked again he’d vanished.

I met my friend and within 24 hours of meeting, the pain I’d carried in my left knee (of all places) suddenly vanished. I’ve had this ache for years and now it’s gone. My friend put this down to good food, exercise and being on holiday. I’m not so sure. I think it was all of that plus finally letting go of my belief that I could never be ALL THAT.

I now want to excel in Krav Maga. I want to enjoy every moment of life. Tell my friends that I miss them, read books until dawn and get drunk on wine all day Sunday in good company. 

And I will always love you, regardless of where you are, what you do, or who you're with.

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