Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote (and have quoted it before -- see: March #GoTheDist) for its possible interpretations:
(1) Don't follow the path because it's easy, has signs, or lampposts
(2) Don't be pressured to follow in other people's footsteps
(3) Be generous and allow people to borrow your path while they're looking for theirs

It's this third interpretation I want to write about.  

In March, I signed up at LA Boxing for personal training sessions with Pat to see was advisable given my back injury.  After a month, he gave his blessing and I started going to the group classes in April.   I did a few bag classes before something caught my eye on the schedule:  boxing technique on Monday night and sparring on Wednesday night.  The technique class sounded like a good idea for a new person and sparring had been one of my favorite parts of taekwondo (you didn't know I did that in college, did you?).  I was dubious, though.  I didn't know if I could keep up with the people in the class, or that they could be mindful/gentle regarding my back. 

Enter RP (not her real name/initials).   Before I even saw her land a punch I knew she was the real deal:  committed to fight sport, dangerous in the ring, and not to be trifled with (I wouldn't want to mix with her in a dark, dimly, or even well-lit alley).  I could see the focus in her eyes and the intention in her movement.  Unlike many of the girls in the bag classes (whose punches looked like epileptics swatting at flies, my apologies to both epileptics and flies), she wasn't there just look cute and burn calories.  I didn't know whether I should try to prove my toughness with her or to beg for mercy.  

Luckily, I didn't have to do either.  She was experienced enough to see that my feet had the grace of drunken Bambi and my arms the manual dexterity of a tyrannosaurus in a straight jacket.  RP could see my face wash with confusion when Randolph issued instructions that my brain couldn't quite process.  She broke the movement down and translated things it a way that made sense to me (not just the "how" but the "why" of the movement).  In other words, she played by the rules (i.e., leave no one behind).  To this day she helps me improve as a boxer by pointing out what I'm doing wrong, and even sometimes what I'm *gasps* doing right. 

But RP did something even more important for me:  over time she told me about her injuries, her rehabilitation, and how she literally fought through some of the pain/injuries.  I'm not talking about a twisted ankle or a broken nail.  She is familiar with the kind of pain I routinely feel and then some.  She also told me how she let none of it stop her.  Her grit (or "the ability to keep trying while there is still opportunity to succeed") and determination did something no one else could do for me -- she told me there was a path back from being injured and was generous enough of spirit to show me that path.  

RP has an important fight coming up soon.  I can't wait to be in her corner cheering her on, not just out of camaraderie (the true feeling that when we help each other that everyone benefits), but as she is living proof of what I hope to be true for me and what I hope to be true for all of us waging battles for our own health and wellness: 

(1) that winning or losing doesn't happen in the ring at the sound of a bell (or at the gym, or in a race)--  that the difference between winning or losing is the choice you make long before you enter the ring when you know you can utterly demolish whatever adversity or adversary comes at you;

(2) that doctors aren't gods -- they're just people with some education, prescription pads, and fancy machines -- they cannot tell you who you are, how strong you are, what you are capable of, and that only you can measure/define your grit (there is no medical test for resilience or your ability to fight for yourself); and

(3) that it does get better, that you do heal, you do learn, and after the first punch to the face, you do learn to keep your hands up. 

There are times when people have thanked me for inspiring them (usually because of my candor, skill with words, self-depreciating humor, or facility with a spreadsheet) and I find that truly humbling.  However, my intent here is not to humble RP or have some gushy girlcrush lovefest (as often I see on Twitter and around the FitBlogs).  I'm just trying to state the plain fact that I'm impressed that there's a woman in my every day life that is more badass than I am, and I have much to learn from her. 

The only way I can adequately thank RP is to stay on the path that she has shown me by never ceasing to fight even when I'm feeling frustrated, defeated, outmatched, or just plain tired; by continually making the choice to believe I am strong enough to face (either offensively, defensively, or both) whatever life has to throw at me; and by supporting all the people who mirror and support the ideals listed above. 

[And yes, I'm totally going to bed saying to myself "one day I'm gonna be badass just like RP..."]

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<3 Robby