It’s been a tough week in our country. It’s been a horrible week for elementary school children and their parents. It’s been a bad week for teachers. Once again, it is 4:25 in the morning and I am pacing the floors. I cannot sleep. I stand at the door of Boo’s room, just so I can hear the funny snoring noises that he makes. I stand guard against monsters I cannot see. I do not sleep. I don’t think many parents are sleeping these days, or teachers, for that matter.
Usually, I just write about Boo, sometimes about his sister Mouse. Today I will write a bit about me. Like Boo and Mouse, I am autistic. I was diagnosed at age 46 and some of the more ragged pieces of my life began to fall into place. At age 44, I first stepped foot in a dojo. Mouse wanted to join a friend who was taking Kung Fu through Community Ed. I signed her up and went to her first class. I instantly fell in love with Kung Fu. Something about it called to me. Mouse finished her first belt requirement and I signed us both up for the fall session. Unlike Mouse, Kung Fu does not come naturally to me. I really have to work at it. Children seem to pick up the moves with ease, for ladies in their mid-forties, it took a bit longer, but I persisted. That winter, we persuaded Robert to join us at the dojo. Six years later, we are all black belts and still a happy little trio. The black belt did not come easily. It took six years of work, through two major surgeries and a pandemic. Last winter, Mouse and I tested for our first-degree black belts and passed. That spring, Robert passed as well. When one first takes up Kung Fu, one gets a new belt every time one passes a test. As one advances. the belts take longer and longer to get. 14 months and 5 tests fell between my first black belt test and the test I took last night for my second-degree black belt.
I arrived at the dojo feeling virtually numb. My psyche had held all the pain and rage it had for over 36 hours and could hold no more. Robotically, I began practicing my two separate forms and my ten forms of self-defense. This test was a bit unusual, as I was double testing. Both Mouse and I wanted to earn our second-degree black belts before she left for college, so we chose to test twice in one night. She had tested last week and passed with flying colors. The dojo was filled with jittery children and adults, punching, kicking, jumping. I tried to slow down my breathing and center into the core of my being. A few minutes later I was called to the front to test. Going into the first form I stutter stepped, suddenly unsure of myself. Someone’s cell phone went off. Other students moved around me, intent on their own forms. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity and the form began to click. My breathing smoothed out and I leaned into the moves. I finished the first form and was encouraged to try the second one. I needed no urging. I leapt into the second form, spinning and punching. My body took on a life of its own. I finished the form and knew that I had done well. The last part of the test was showing ten different forms of self defense. This I did easily. I bowed to my instructor and he showed me my scores. They were higher than I expected and he was and I were both pleased. I moved over to a different corner of the dojo and began working on kicking various targets. I aimed all my rage, grief and pain of the last 36 hours into those targets. I jumped and kicked, jumped and kicked. I kicked out at pain, oppression and loss. I let my body express its righteous anger at so many lives lost. I could have practiced for hours, but too soon, our time was up. We were awarded our various certificates and belts and headed out into the spring night. The fresh air felt good on my face.
I had entered the dojo numb, unable to process any more emotions. My body came alive during my form, and I was able to leave my rage, grief, and pain on the dojo floor. I left feeling curiously empty. Now it is 4:46 am and I am awake. The demons of worry stalk around my head. When the sun comes up, I will take these demons for a long run. In the meantime, I have the company of my sleeping dogs and hedgehogs. Later this morning, I will write a letter to Keith Ellison. I want to suggest to him that in order to own a gun, one must have proof of insurance and be at least 26 years old. One cannot buy a car without proof of insurance. One cannot rent a car if one is under the age of 26. If one is a young adult male, one will pay much more for insurance. Why can’t the same laws apply to gun ownership? And why does anyone need a semi-automatic weapon? No one does. We do not live in a war zone. But, if such weapons are readily available, we run the risk of sending our children into a firing squad every day we put them on the bus, every day that we drop them off at school. Every day that I put Boo on the bus I throw a prayer into the void that he will be delivered safely back to me in eight hours. Millions of parents repeat this ritual every day. It is time for the need for this ritual to end. Our children and teachers should be safe in school. Full stop. No one needs to carry a gun. Full stop. This is not the time to remain silent or offer “thoughts and prayers”. The very idea is blasphemy. This is the time to take to the streets, to picket, to call, to write. 50 senators hold our country hostage. Their hands are deep in the pockets of the NRA. This is in a country where over 80 % of the population wants stricter gun control. Please join me in the fight. Do it for the countless lives that have been lost. Do it for the lives which can be saved. I left my rage and grief on the dojo floor. I gained new energy for this fight. Please, be a good human, join me.