“See your hand on the other side of it, Rebecca. Visualize breaking through it.” He held the pine board in front of me, his hands clasping either side.
The stiff fabric of my uniform, crackling as I cranked my elbow back; I was focused on the center of the board, staring down the knots of wood like the eyes of an opponent ready to strike.
I could feel the cinch around my waist. I usually tied my belt too tight. I was a teenage girl, determined to make my Tae-kwon-do uniform look slightly feminine. The black of my belt swayed with me, as I twisted my torso back and forth preparing.
See through it; see it through.
I curled the tops of my fingers down, leading with the heel of my palm.
See through it; see it through.
I drew my shoulder and elbow back, and on a sharp exhale, I launched the weight of my body through my palm, into the board: crack, split. The change from wholeness to destruction is unabridged. In that moment, you become part of it, inseparable, unable to grasp what was and what is.
My father stood smiling, a piece of board in each hand, his chest unprotected. We’d practice quite often, breaking boards. Until, I decided to stop seeing my discipline through and I quit.
I was progressing quickly at the time that I decided to leave. My teacher had appointed me as an assistant. I was given the opportunity to train directly under him. However, I chose to devote myself to other pursuits, like having a boyfriend and spending time with friends.
Usually, my parents would “strongly” encourage me to stick with things, but this, they supported. They knew: my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. My teacher was upset and gave me a lecture about commitment and setting an example for my brother and the students. I listened. Then, I bowed to him and said goodbye.
Years later, I saw him in line at the bank. We hugged and exchanged surface updates on life, separating to go deposit our earnings at opposite cashiers. He did give me the look: “oh, what could have been…” And, I gave him the look: “what is, is.”
Life is a series of seeing things through or quitting. How do you know when it’s time to take a bow, or break through and continue to stick with it?
My years of martial arts and sparring awakened the ability to trust my instinct and intuition: to listen and guard my gut and heart, and pay attention to the guts and hearts of others. Tae-kwon-do shaped me into a confident quitter. When I’m done, I’m done. There’s no separation between what was and what is; the decision is made whether I’ve broken through the barriers, or I bow out.
The times I decide to break through are the times I visualize being on the other side. My heart’s in it and it knows I’ll get there, even if I don’t know exactly how. And then, there are the times, that no matter how hard I concentrate, or how hard I work, I know that there is no part of my body, mind, heart or soul that will penetrate through, and I will end up injuring myself instead. That’s when I quit.
Quitting is the acknowledgment that what once was, is no longer desired by the heart. And, no matter how much force you apply to the board, it will not break, because, the heart has to be in that shoulder, in that arm, in that palm to see through it and see it through. ~Rebecca