So how did I decide when and how to get back into it?
Partly it was just waiting for a point in my IVF schedule where I knew I would be able to train, as hard as I wanted, for a few months. (I'll have to take a break again when we get to the stage of putting embryos back in and hopefully being pregnant.) But a lucky coincidence helped me out-- right about the time I was coming back, one of my favorite acolytes of my instructor came for a three-week visit. He's a brownbelt just about my size, with a personality and charisma fifty times his size. So I decided I wouldn't miss a moment of his teaching. (Our usual instructor, Paulo, is back in Brazil while his wife has a baby and they're packing up to move to Texas permanently now. And Donald has been busy with work for a while.)
I have really enjoyed getting back on the mats and I think some of the secrets of my success are as follows:
3. I told everyone that I sparred with, and everyone I partnered with, that I was rusty, old, fat and out of shape, and just try not to tear my head off, but to feel free to work on whatever they wanted to do as I was sure I was back to whitebelt level. In response, I got a lot of positive reinforcement, encouragement, and even the whitebelt guys didn't try to tear my head off. I knew I wasn't in the right place, physically or mentally, to be going 100%. Some people were willing to pause and say, come on, you remember, hip out! again! Sometimes I needed the reminder and it was nice to get the feedback.
4. After I'd been back about two weeks, I took some privates. It gave me the opportunity for one-on-one correction and instruction, following up on new problems and new areas I want to work on. (I have two new guard passes, answers to the berimbolo, and firm resolution to play butterfly and X guard whenever possible. Hot damn.) And the visiting brownbelt was perfect for this-- it financially rewards him for taking time away from the school he runs in Ohio, but also he's my body shape and size, AND he's phenomenally positive. One thing I know about myself as a student: I crave positive reinforcement. I will move heaven and earth to earn words of praise. It feels SO good to do something new and hear someone yell "YESSSS!!! BEAUTIFUL!!!" (even if they yell it in your ear.) So when the going gets tough-- I mean, when it's 7:20pm and my couch seems like it might need some holding down-- I remember that I EARNED that exclamation, and it makes me want to try to get more. Whether it comes from someone yelling in my ear, or from getting a sweep, or getting a hug from a teammate, that feeling of happiness is fresh in my memory and more rewarding than relaxing at home.