Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait (Karate-related)

Almost ever since I got my 3rd Degree Brown Belt (3rd Kyu) last May I've been gunning for getting my 2nd Kyu this May.  I've been working really hard all school year and have grown by leaps and bounds.  I've had minor epiphanies where things have finally clicked into place and several "Ah-ha!" moments.  It's been great!

However I feel it's taken 5/8 of the school year to get up to the skill level I should be at for my current rank.  Logically that's only allowed for 3/8 of the year to continue to move forward into the skill level required for the next rank.

It means that if I tested next month (and there was never a huge amount of resistance from the instructors save one), I feel I'd pass...but just barely.  And since I don't want to squeak by on tests anymore, it means I'm not ready to test yet.

Since formal classes end when the school year does, my next opportunity to test again won't be until October. 

For some people that six month gap would be demoralizing after working so hard for a specific goal.  For me though it's a huge relief.  It means I have six more months to tighten up my self-defenses (some of which I've only done in class once or twice), improve my kicks (maybe even finally manage to pull off a serviceable flying side kick), and discover even more subtle nuances in our hand-to-hand defenses (which we call "one steps").

I'll have more time to develop and perfect the hand and foot combos I need to come up with for my test (which I actually haven't even been able to put any time into yet). 

My katas - which are by far my strongest section - will only get better.

Though I feel far more confident about being test-worthy by October than I ever did for May, a lot can happen between now and then (namely involving my father-in-law).  Still I plan on continuing to work hard, throwing as much time and effort into this as I can. 

As I've said before, the reasons why I push myself so hard are a little nebulous, even to me.  What I do know though is Karate is a very fun activity for me.  I enjoy pushing the physical limits of my body.  I acknowledge that Karate probably isn't the ideal martial art for me personally (my temperament and build are better suited for a Chinese style like Tai Chi or Wing Chun Kung Fu); yet I love it, probably because I have to work hard at it.

So here's to hoping for a productive summer and a solid test just in time for my birthday!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Death Doula

It's often said that those who work in the birthing field usually wander over to end-of-life care and/or hospice work at some point. 

I found that rather odd at first until I stepped into that role myself.

My work as an in-home caregiver to an elderly quadriplegic gentleman opened my eyes to the fact that the dying need just as much compassionate care and support as women in labor do.  Both are dealing with incredibly powerful transitions that can make one feel terribly and desperately alone.  Just having another person present at such a time who isn't directly involved in the situation can help immensely, even if all they're doing is sitting there offering the laboring woman or the dying person their undivided attention.

This is the role I've been taking lately with my ailing father-in-law (Dick).

Dick has been dealing with prostate cancer for a few years now and it's finally looking like the end is near.  He's maintained his independence and mobility right up to about a month ago.

From that point on I've taken a much more active role in his care, from helping him get into and out of bed, to assisting him with his medical care and hygiene, to things as simple as offering various foods that may entice his waning appetite.

I'm not a trained nurse, but with the caregiver background I've been able to handle his care with far more knowledge than the average person; allowing him to stay at home far longer than normal circumstances would have permitted.  It's also enabled me to remain calm through the minor emergencies that had cropped up while he was home; this I feel has been incredibly important to his overall well being.

Just an honest smile; undivided attention and lack of pity, fear or disgust goes a long way.

He needed to transfer to the hospital two weeks ago and he moved up to the hospice ward late last week.  Since his move out of the house, I've made it a point to visit every few days, bringing him his mail, chatting with him and reading books of a spiritual nature aloud to him.

It's not my job to make medical decisions for him or try to persuade or dissuade any choices on his part.  My role has been purely emotional support, to be an anchor of calm normalcy in a tumultuous sea of unknown.

It's been an absolute honor to perform this function for him; to assure him he's not going to die alone.  To me, this is the greatest gift I can give him.

I've had the opportunity of being a birth doula four times and each experience has been wonderful!  Universe willing, I hope to attend more births in the future.  However I'm finding that being a "death doula" can be just as empowering and satisfying as well.