Saturday, April 19, 2008

Judo, Success and the Meaning of Life: Because I love it

As one gets older, it is probably normal to ponder the meaning of life, and evaluate one’s own choices. Is it true, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, that all is vanity, we live, we die and that’s pretty much it?
Yes I graduated from college – thirty years ago, and my mother was very proud of me, but did it really change the world all that much? I won the national championships a few times, but someone else has won them for the past twenty-four years.

All in all, life has been good, but there are signs it is more than half over.

Life really changes. I remember a time when the rhythm of my life was governed by the U.S. Senior Nationals, I started training January first with a plan to peak in April. I also remember the first year that the senior nationals were over before I even remembered they were in April. I was in graduate school studying for a Ph.D. and the time just slipped by. Earning a Ph.D. was a great experience in many ways. My doctoral advisor, Dr. Richard Eyman, a true mentor, passed away a few years ago.

Margot Sathay was a great judo player. When I lived in Japan, she offered a matwork class at the women’s division of the Kodokan. Three of us came religiously, me, Michiko Sasahara and Hiromi Fukuda. All three of us won world medals. Probably the biggest thing she did for me, though, was tell me when I was planning on dropping out of college in my senior year and staying in Japan that she would not teach me and that she would talk to Osawa and tell him not to let me work out at Waseda any more either. I went back home, graduated from college, got three more degrees and never saw Margot again. She taught me an incredible amount of matwork and she kept me in school. She really did change my life, but, to her, I was just one of a thousand people she taught over the years. She died a few years ago.

Diane Pierce (Tudela) was my hero when I was young. She won more judo matches than any American in history up to that time, won U.S. Grand Champion (the winner of all weight divisions) when she was only 125 pounds. She taught me a tomoe nage juji gatame combination that I won countless matches with and she taught me about facing life fearlessly. Diane survived a bout with cancer many years ago and is now a great-grandmother.

It was an honor to be coach for the Nanka girls team and gratifying when they won the national championships. My fellow coach that year, Steve Bell, passed away about a year ago.

There have also been mistakes and awful times. My husband died, and although he left behind wonderful children and permanent memories, he is still dead. To the people who say that it will all be okay after a while I can only reply that “a while” must be longer than thirteen years. I have made stupid decisions in everything from during matches, to kids I could have coached better if I knew more at the time, to decisions in my professional life which, in retrospect, should have been pretty obviously wrong to anyone smarter than a hamster.

Yesterday, I was writing a program using some relative rare features of a programming language, something that I had been wanting to learn better, and a task just happened to come across my desk that required those. As I was working, the thought crossed my mind,

“I love what I am doing. This is exactly what I want to be doing at this minute and they are paying me for it. This is amazing.”

Thanks to Margot for not letting me drop out of school.

Today, I was doing matwork at the training center and in the middle of it, I thought to myself,
“I love this. I love my life.”

Over seventy years ago, in the book, “How to be happy, though human” , W. Beran Wolfe

"If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day."

There is an old Spanish proverb ,
"There is no happiness; there are only moments of happiness."

In many ways, directly and indirectly, judo is responsible for what has made me happy. Maybe that is the real meaning after all.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog, it's truly a great reflection piece. The crossroads in your life and the positive results your decisions have enabled you to achieve are great food for thought. It's impossible to tell whether or not our decisions at any of these points was the path that would reap the most returns; You could of been more successful in Judo and returned to school a year or two later ect ect ect. I guess the true measure of success is your thoughts in reflection. I myself am at crossroad in my social/educational/working career and I've chosen the opposite path from yours, lets just hope everything will work out. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A 'meaning of life' Google Search served up your post, and since I love 'connecting the dots' of my life, I just had to stop by to say thank you for your wonderful post.

"Life...more than half over"...I'm a member of that club! I am a middle-age, menopausal, unemployed, single gal who still doesn't know what I'll be when I grow up. BUT...I'm loving every moment of this amazing, scary, yet oh-so-fun journey. Not knowing life's outcome is half the fun...if not more.

Getting "set free" after the dot com bomb hit put me on a new path of discovery and exploration ... That moment absolutely changed my world and my thinking on my role in it. And I also became one of those people who just had to write about it. (Never thought that'd happen!)

As my simple way of 'giving back' and saying thank you, I'd like to offer you (and all who read this) a free gift copy (pdf) of my book. No strings attached...really! Just e-mail your request from my web site (below).

Maybe the secret is never growing up...keeping our imagination fed daily! Thank you again for the post.

take care,
Louise Lewis, Author
No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!

Jason Struck, CSCS RKC said...

another great 'journey' journal...

check it out if you can!

Anonymous said...

How do you escape from sankaku when tori gets you on the ground?

Anonymous said...

You are self-absorbed with yourself, and you are unable to discern it.