Panic is not a Plan
|April 15, 2023
|Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized
There’s this drill (and all variations of it) that I *bleeping* hate that apparently has some value in teaching me to play polo because it’s a favorite of one of the student instructors, who we are going to call “Boss.”
Tag on horse back.
Sometimes there’s ribbon in the mane of the other person that needs to be grabbed and sometimes you just need to ride up next to that person and touch them with your leg (welcome to polo where horse to horse and body contact is not only encouraged, but essential to game play). Other times there is a protector who’s whole mission in life is to obstruct your path to the hapless target and you must evade this defender before you can pounce on the target (who is generally fleeing like a good little prey animal).
I hate it.
I’m not aggressive enough. I’m not fast enough. I don’t like the sudden sharp moves required to pull off either successfully defending or attacking.
My block and hatred of this is 100 percent mental.
This *bleeping* drill has caused me more melt downs this season than any other exercise.
Actual real tears and sobs (mine. but probably on the behalf of my instructors too) have been shed during and after this exercise, as “Boss,” a person half my age and twice my ability stares me down and asks me to dig a little deeper, be a little braver.
Except I’m not brave.
So when my opponent shoots off at a gallop and runs around like a headless chicken, apparently without regard to life or limb, I shut down, give up, and wonder if I can stop breathing and fake trying for the next 2 minutes that I’m supposed to be chasing down this person or evading them.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
Last week, to my horror, as the next drill was described it was the Gad-awful *bleeping* variation of tag drill again.
The minute I realized this, whatever fun and relaxation I was experiencing during the lesson immediately left my body faster than fresh pizza at an aid station at mile 75.
I didn’t want to do it.
I wanted to opt out.
I stated this fact to my partner for the exercise that also happened to be my *husband.
Then, with my brain stuck on loop-segment-and-repeat, I continued to state this fact to him over and over and over, panic boiling out of my chest and tears soon to follow.
Matt, looking concerned about the catastrophic melt down of his partner
in crime in sport also naively believed he had the solution.
“So tell her that you want to opt out.”
“She won’t let me.”
“You’re 38 years old. You can opt out.”
“I can’t. She’ll just tell me to ‘Do me a favor and be brave’ and then make me do it anyways.”
“Do you want me to tell her?”
I shake my head no and walk over to start the exercise before things go further.
Because here is the truth.
I could opt out.
I don’t have to do this.
I can see the hesitation on Boss’s face. She is on the edge of making a decision and I need to take some ownership of what’s going to happen next.
“I’m doing it. Let’s go.”
Nothing in my brain or body wants to do this exercise.
Some deep drive is making me do it anyways, something that’s even deeper and stronger than my incredibly loud and adamant lizard brain that is screaming that I will certainly die or embarrass myself if I proceed. That deeper part of me knows that this is why we take lessons and pay for other people expertise. Because without that, we won’t practice the things that we are really bad at, that we hate, or that scare us. If I’m not going to show up and at least go through the motions, then why show up at all?
I have no expectation that this time is going to be any different from the last three times I’ve done this exercise. Survive and look like I’m trying. That’s the goal.
As I hand off my mallet before the drill, I ride past Boss. She says, “You know how to do rollbacks right? Just do a roll back any time he gets close to you.”
And with that we started.
But something had changed.
I had one task. A life line. I literally had no other plan except panic and cry so I gave Boss’s plan a try. Roll backs whenever Matt tried to intercept me from my prey.
I did the first one. Bam, I’m behind him running in the opposite direction, all clear and target in sight.
Here he comes again. Bam. Roll back, slip behind and I’m on the other side, clear again. Oh……….
Again. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
“I feel like I’m cutting a cow” I hear Matt yelp.
I pointed out that he just called his wife a cow.
Change direction. Evade. Change. Until at last…..I’m free, running down my now undefended target, having left the defender in a dust cloud of roll backs and direction changes.
The whistle blows and we are done.
It also turns out that success and a break through of something that seemed completely hopeless brings a joy and relief so sweet that it makes the previous struggles seem insignificant and absolutely worth the reward on the other side.
I still don’t like tag drills. But, next time I think I can manage it without tears and a meltdown. It turns out that having a plan is better than panic (yes, I know. This is only a revelation to me). More importantly, having a plan is a pathway through panic and to the lessons to be learned. Thanks Boss.