I trained, I fought, and I performed incredibly well. But I drove the seven and a half hours home and suddenly found myself miserable. Periodic moments of joy interspersed with hours of listlessness, frustration, and anger. I haven’t been able focus.
It already seems weird that I’m a competitive boxer. Me: a 45 year old suburban working mother of three. And I am happy that I fought well, but now I’m also pissed that I lost, wondering if I’ll lose again, wondering how to get another fight, bored to not be training, not hungry now that I can eat anything I want, etcetera.
I satisfied my most painful food jones immediately after the fight (two vodka tonics — thank you, Amy Green — and two Bojangle’s biscuits) and that was the end of my celebration. Now I’m having trouble focusing on my workday. I’m keeping my happy face on, but I finally admitted to friends that I feel like a freak.
What is wrong with me?
Here’s what I know. I’m driven, I’m competitive, and I’m an experience junkie. I obsessively collect experiences, joyride the storm of intensity, then recline in my mental armchair to try and parse what I’ve just been through. But this time I’ve been stumbling in circles, feeling bereft. Over a hobby, for crying out loud.
But my friends are wise.
I haven’t ever met a single one of the women quoted below, but for a while now we have been frequenting each other’s blogs and chatting on Facebook.
Malissa at Girlboxing is also a fighter, and trains at Gleason’s in NYC. She said there were chemicals like adrenaline and dopamine involved, and she also said this:
I often feel the “letdown” at the end of most big projects I work on.
I liken it to some of Elias Canetti’s observations in his book “Crowds and Power.” His basic thesis is that as we gather to participate in something that is outside of ourselves such as a sporting event, political rally, or concert, we break down many of our usual physical and emotional boundaries as part of becoming “one” with the event.
Just think of a big championship match and how united one can feel with the crowd. We tolerate the crush of people, the loud noises, speaking and sharing with strangers. But on the way out our barriers return; we feel irritation at being jostled, annoyed by conversations, and so on.
After we complete our own goals we are let down precisely because we no longer have a reason for sustaining the alternate paradigm that we put in place to accomplish the task in the first place.
Margaret, at Conjuring My Muse, is a writer. She recalls having the same experience after the hard push to publish her first novel. She also uses the word “junkie,” which I had been turning over in my head but was initially uncomfortable saying. But she took it all in stride.
As an adrenaline junkie, I find I experience this whenever a big moment has ended or cooled down. I can’t say I was ever shocked by it. It’s just my nature. And it doesn’t last long because I’m always on to the next big thing pretty quickly.
To tell you the truth, I think it’s a biological/psychological self-preservation mechanism. Some of us are “wired for sound” and we’d just keep doing the Energizer Bunny thing if we weren’t knocked down like a Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot every once in a while. I’m accepting of the letdown when it comes. It lets me refuel, and my brain simmers with future possibilities.
I would imagine that most people have experienced it at one time or another.
Amy, who blogs at Wait For It, has been a competitive weightlifter and is now testing out boxing.
We reach heights, as you did the other day, but then life goes on. We can’t sit at that height–we have to continue. You’re prancing around in the spotlight one minute, and doing laundry the next.
Last month I was one of four track leaders at an applied theatre conference. Initially, it freaked me out to think that people were paying money and traveling a distance to learn from me. But I worked hard and it went really well. Came home not quite on a high, but certainly feeling mature and wise.
I go to do my shift at the Y that Monday; I’m cleaning machines, and this woman leans down, gestures toward her treadmill and says, “Do you mind? I’m finished.” Meaning there’s no need for her to wipe down her own sweat if I’m ready at her heel.
I’m thinking, A couple of days ago I was a big wig, and now this.
A year ago I would have said that I need all of life to be always on, always full. But now I kinda like cleaning the equipment and knowing that I also can, do, and will
accomplish greater things.
I loved Amy’s image of leading the conference, then cleaning at the Y. Perfect. That’s me wiping down equipment, although I have to admit to my inner junkie’s nervous scanning for the experiential equivalent of a drink or cigarette, desperate to fix my situation.
God knows I’m privileged. Snug in my house with my kids and my computer and my HVAC. It’s embarrassing to be caught complaining. But as Malissa says, this is part of the human story. And like Margaret, I will try to let it help birth next thing.
Meanwhile, like Amy, I’ll be cleaning.
Image by modomatic on Flickr