I would like to have a little discussion about frustration; something I know lots about. My observation so far about ‘expectation meeting reality’ goes a little like this: 1. What I hope will happen 2. What will probably happen and 3. What actually happens. These are worlds apart and this is the curse of expectation.
I’m partaking in a very unconventional JiuJitsu trip – it involves travelling around the world (as a beginner), immersing in different gyms and cultures. It is not a particularly sensible or logical idea but I wanted to do it and that felt like a good enough reason.
I travel alone but I do not train alone; I also rarely feel alone. In a sport like Jiu Jitsu, even though you may not befriend people, you are very close to them. I laughed at this last statement because although I meant metaphorically, there is of course the obvious consequence of doing a grappling sport where you will spend most of your time being squashed and contorted. I regularly spend my training hours with my face either engraved into a training mat or underneath someone’s sweating belly. In short, you get to know your training partners very well, in a very short space of time.
In most sports, your character will get revealed very quickly – and this is one of the things I love about JiuJitsu. It has revealed many things to me, amongst which is my lack of patience and lack of ability to formulate realistic expectations of pretty much everything. This is strong fuel for frustration.
I’m doing two things I have absolutely no idea how to do. Firstly, JiuJitsu in a slightly unconventional way and secondly, writing my first book. Probably I can liken this to waking up in the middle of the night, spinning on the spot for 5 minutes then attempting to run in a straight line. This journey whilst it is probably the single best thing I have ever done in my life, is littered with frustrating moments which usually take two formats- 1. I don’t know the problem and therefore cannot fix it. 2. I know the problem but can do nothing about it. Actually both of these things have solutions. The former solution is to identify the problem and the latter is acceptance of the situation, which you cannot change.
I like progress – for me this is a huge motivator and source of happiness. There are MANY moments on this trip, where I feel no progress and often a regression of progress! This last week in Brazil, my brain simply could not and would not comprehend Portuguese, jiujitsu or even speaking and writing in my own language. It was like regressing to a 3 year old, without the fun. I couldn’t communicate with anyone or anything – which is difficult, confusing, isolating and frustrating as hell. From my experience, moments of inertia are transitions between learning curves and the genesis of those delighted ‘ah-ha’ moments. I am not an academic authority on learning but I can’t help thinking confusion and frustration play a pivitol role in assimilating and processing information. Perhaps it is a way to shut some doors so we can be open to new information and new ways of doing things. The necessity of contradicting emotions crops up again and again whilst navigating this trip – you cannot have one without the other. You can’t learn and improve without some frustration and stagnation. In that knowledge, I think I can now befriend a little of my Achilles heel. It starts with having a healthy respect for time.
One thing I’m certain of is things are not going to work out the way I expect, they are not going to work in the time frame I expect. Some doors will close, others will open. Things are going to go wrong before they go right but somehow I also know everything is always working out, that everything is exactly as it should be.
I did not count on spending so much time in Brazil. I didn’t expect to be quite so overwhelmed with the difficulty of Jiu Jitsu. I didn’t expect to be constantly so terrified and scared of injury. I didn’t expect so much generosity of spirit from complete strangers. I didn’t expect to laugh so much. The list goes on and on.
And so, whilst the unexpected continues to happen I realize ‘faith’ becomes essential – the glue that seems to hold my occasionally very frazzled head together. Faith is a little bit like magical thinking because it is the belief in what has not come to pass and what you cannot imagine. For me, cultivating faith is a battle worth fighting for. It gives me hope and just a little bit of hope is a powerful thing.
So for now, I will do what I least want to do – sit back and enjoy the chaos of non-progression.
FCN Ambassador Bianca Thomas is on a global journey competing and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Bikini Fitness Bodybuilding. With a strong academic background in Molecular Biology (MSc) and Strength and conditioning (MSc), Bianca is currently writing her first book called ‘Life Lessons From Sport’ which will be finished in September 2016. The theme is how emotional and mental wellness ‘can’ and ‘should’ go together with competitive sport.
Originally from the UK, Bianca is currently travelling the USA, Brazil, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, Belarus and Mongolia aiming to train and compete in Jiu Jitsu in each Country. She is a big believer that sport should be used to improve lives and wants to share the knowledge she is learning along the way to mentor and support others.