while i’d broken my habit for blogging, i remained fairly dedicated to tweeting [while there was a quick sabbatical this fall, that was due not to my dedication but rather my old, now vintage, iphone]. this saturday i tweeted about the ufc fight. my boyfriend is a dedicated fan to the sport of mma, and by association, have become somewhat interested in it as well. the act of fighting, however, and moreover, watching the fights, i have many concerns about. but, like with any social activity, there is certainly some good hidden beneath the beatings and blood.
usually, i have no stake in the fights. as i sit there with my boyfriend, at whatever restaurant or bar, i prefer to have some quiet time. while he first worried i was bored, i assured him that sitting quietly, anonymous in a crowded, loud space is one of my most thought-inspiring spaces [i’m great in airports]. but this past saturday’s fight was different. i was trash-talking, swearing, and name-calling just like the boys. this fight was different. one of the fighters this week was different. and because of him, i had a stake in the fights.
and then i had a panic attack and lost feeling in my whole body.
one of the topics i became interested in academically last semester was that of shame. i found that it is the leading cause of all violence and personal/social illness. feelings someone might have about themselves, feelings of inadequacy, of failure, of pain, often result in poor outcomes for the individual and those surrounding them. they act out on their shame in ways that they think will bring them some resolve to this emptiness–bring some respect, love, or protection.
i became specifically interested in what this idea of shame, relative to economic advantage, had on an individual’s health. how striving for some material gain, or realizing it was outside of your grasp, could throw off your ability to feel good about yourself and others. shame is incredibly apparent in situations of violence, but what about those areas where it is not so apparent? i am interested in those who are victims of this shame and violence, mainly homeless youth. from my own struggles, i realized the importance that one intervention, one spark of belief in oneself could have toward restructuring your entire worldview. i began to develop a curriculum for creative-writing to use with two of the area shelters in denver. writing is not only a skill that provides you with some economic stability–in the way of job skills–but also, overall confidence and consciousness of oneself. it helps you to overcome the struggle of shame. if i could help create some spark, it would help empower these youth to end the cycle of shame and violence they had been forced into. it would give them a means and a hope for survival.
‘you’ll really like this, and its done really well too,’ my boyfriend told me, referring to the docu-profiles ufc put out about different fighters, usually competing in the title fight. ‘you remember that one guy, who is always such a dick,’ he turned to start the video on his desktop, ‘now i get why. and you’ll probably say that you could have predicted this due to his demeanor, but still.’
i sat on his lap with a tupperware full of pre-grilled chicken and brown rice, having just finished a giant bowl of raw spinach and broccolli. i had just begun getting serious about my tri-training, and was craving protein. mark followed the sport like most follow college football, but as a very intellectual, nerdy mechanical engineer, had a different respect and admiration than most affliction-wearing-applebees-eating-politics-ignoring-meatheads. it was one interest i worried about when we started dating, but then learned of his view of it and could understand. as someone who took to boxing early last year like white-on-rice, i too saw the athleticism of these fighters is amazing and worthy of respect.
the profile was of nick diaz and the guy he was going to fight. nick grew up outside stockton, ca., a city struggling economicall to this day. his family moved around a lot and he never fit in with his classmates for various reasons and grew to become permanently on the defense. pushed to fight others, daily, he had to fight to stay alive. eventually he was going to drop out of school, unwilling to back down, but tired of the struggle. while being recruited by gangs, he instead turned mma fighting and was able to change his daily life but not his daily struggle.
as fighting had always meant survival, it was no different now. he did not make friends with other fighters, nor ever speak their praises. beating them down meant surviving, so he had to win. and so he was an asshole, but that didn’t matter to him. he didn’t want the spotlight. he just wanted life.
i wouldn’t say that nick’s life was shameful. that shame was something that was his own doing, no. for no reason at all, he was forced to feel like an outsider, forced to feel different, was disrespected and unloved by his peers that teased, ridiculed and enticed him to fight. and so, he used fighting as a way to combat these ill-notions and prove that he was in fact worthy of respect, worthy of being seen as adequate, as normal, and worthy of love. even as his profession, this need to prove himself worthy was still his main motivator for fighting and winning. losing would mean more than it would to your average athletic competitor. losing would mean that everyone who had ever belittled him had the right to do so. losing would mean he had not survived, he was dead.
mark was right, i could have seen that due to his demeanor [and my expertise as a budding social scientist].
he had lived a life of violence, as a victim, and now violence was his only tool to ensure survival.
i liked nick. i was even inspired by him, not only because he is an incredible endurance athlete [and triathlete] but because he found an outlet that allowed for him to find some self-worth, which few too many individuals find. but i worried for him. i worried that one day, he wouldn’t win and his whole idea of self, of life, would crash. forced by others to only view his self-worth through fighting, if he lost he’d lose himself too.
i suffer from ptsd, which means i lived through a traumatic experience that shook my whole life, that ripped the rug out from under my feet, that made me groundless, that left me questioning everything i had ever known about the world and myself. this confusion, is never really met with answers. as an individual suffering from ptsd, you can’t just put the puzzle back together again because there are no more pieces, there are no more puzzles. i felt akin to nick diaz, both groundless, both searching to prove we are worthy of life and love. success for him, would be success for me because i couldn’t witness his breakdown, couldn’t witness him question his worth, his value. it would remind me too much of my own questioning. the night of the fight, i was nervous.
i grew more and more nervous as the fights wore on. the last of the five, i had been ready to see him fight all night. his survival, was now tied into my own. by the fourth, i had lost feeling in my right hand. i tried to ignore it, pretend it was pins and needles. the fighters entered the arena, stonefaced intensity. hate you could smell through the television. past the growling face, i new deep down, nick was kind and intelligent and all of those good things you strive to be, and was going to fight, just as he always had, to prove that he was. when the fight started i couldn’t move either hand, couldn’t feel them. he fought all five rounds, taking some hits and landing others. all in all, nothing too hard from either side as they were both standing, leaving it up to the judges to decide the winner.
and then they announced it, and the numbness crept up my arms. nick had lost. they doned the over-the-top belt on the other guy and the ppv cut off as the bar switched it to music videos. nick had lost.
all the boys were closing their tabs and returning to topics they chatted about on non-fight nights. i was quiet. still half-numb. we walked to the bus. teasing me, his friends continued their trash talk of nick just for laughs with one another. i didn’t respond. when we got to the stop, we got off. the numbness was growing up my arms and legs. mark lagged behind saying goodbye and i just started walking to the apartment. and then i ran. i had lost feeling in my feet and my whole arms and needed it back. nick had lost. he was falling apart and now i was falling apart. i was dying. i kept running. in my snow boots and below freezing weather, i still was running faster than ever. i needed feeling back. but it wasn’t coming.
mark helped me back to the apartment when he finally caught up to me. put on my pajamas and lifted me into bed. kept his arm around me, though i couldn’t feel it and told me i would be ok. when i told him, i was numb, he got it. he knew how i had internalized nick’s pain, how it was a trigger for my own. how his struggle was the same as mine, both damaged and groundless, feeling like the nothing we were cast as by others.
eventually, my mind went numb as i had fallen asleep. the next morning we didn’t talk about it. i don’t know what happened to nick. what he said or did, what he didn’t say or didn’t do. i just know that he is hurting and struggling to make sense with nothing to stand on.
i think we are both done with ufc.