Breaking Up is Harder to Do

If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing! You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle, and we’ll go inside and watch TV. –Homer Simpson (The Otto Show–Season 3, Episode 22)

The above quote pretty much sums up a good portion of my life and the fate of a good many things I’ve tried. Granted, there were some things I forced my way through that ended up not being worth doing–for example, reading all of Ullysses; all of Finnegan’s Wake; all of War and Peace; and getting good at Civilization II and Civilization: Call to Power (although those last two are debatable; also it’s debatable whether any one actually reads Finnegan’s Wake or simply experiences/survives it. As someone in the book says: bababadalgharagh
takamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoor
denenthur-nuk–and that’s a direct quote).

This is especially true with sports (and some artistic activities). I quickly reach the plateau where you have to start learning the hard stuff and practicing it again and again. I’m not one of those guys who gains motivation to do better from failure–interestingly, a lot of the guys who did didn’t mind failing in school, but if they failed on the football field they were driven to do better. I, on the other hand, start rationalizing reasons not to keep doing the sport–and I’m really good at coming up with those excuses. Pretty soon, the running shoes and track spikes have been put away next to the basketball shoes and the baseball glove and baseball bat (which are next to the art book and the calligraphy brushes and one or two woodcarving projects).

I remember early on forcing myself to go to calligraphy class on Tuesday and karate class on Friday. Eventually, after a series of cancellations by both me and my teacher, I stopped going to calligraphy and started going to karate on Tuesdays instead. After I moved to Tokyo, I delayed finding a new dojo, but after a year or so away, and some weight gain after my ski injury (another long post that I’ll save until winter) I had no problem getting back into karate–even after I re-injured my knee.

I still feel the urge not to go, especially right now when it’s hot and muggy and I’m performing with great crapness in my style (that’s a technical term). Today I was running through excuses–I’m sick; I have a migraine; a migraine is making me sick; I’m busy; I’m sick of being busy and it’s giving me a migraine (see, told you I was good at that) and instead decided to just go and slog through it. (I was good half the lesson and dreadful the second.) I’ve even learned to force myself to go to practice during exams because even if I do badly, the exercise helps relieve a lot of stress. As I may have said before, I never want to go, but I’m always glad I went. (Actually writing these daily entries can be a lot like that, too…)

This is the secret I never got when I was in junior and high school or college playing intramural soccer: sometimes just turning up is enough to make it all worth it, even if your lack of skill gives the coach hives and mild heart attack. At the very least, it gives you something to write about. Or as someone says in Finnegan’s Wake: Lord, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low.

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