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Get Down…Get BackUp!

I fell down 8 times today. Got back up 9.

I’m falling a lot lately because I’m back in Texas for a few weeks this summer.

Motivated by empty nest boredom, a trite crises over approaching my 50th or perhaps just

bucket list checking, I was somehow moved to sign up for Texas Rollergirls. Their

clever marketing strategy includes hosting information tables outside local Austin bars

and music venues. Aware that intimidation and inhibition are easily softened by a few

longnecks and good music, they entrance onlookers with empowering feminist swagger

complete with “no excuses” Rollergirl names and outfits.

Meeting these women and considering unearthing my junior high roller skating prowess

elicited an intense recollection of exhilaration. Accompanied by the promise of

progressing from a “Primer” class to potentially trying out for a team, was the added

delight of getting to pick out my very own Rollergirl name and aspire to someday have an

official trading card! Not to mention eventually getting to hit someone! I’m in!

After a trip to “Medusa’s Skates” in Austin, TX to acquire the requisite “Fresh Meat”

package for my first class, the enormity of what I’ve committed to set in. Derby skates –

check! Helmet – check! Knee pads (uh ok) – check! Wrist guards (huh?) – check!

Elbow pads and padded shorts (wait. What!?) o.k. check. What could possibly go


This is not your childhood roller skating! During the first class, I was thankful for every

bit of the protective gear I wore and wondered why they didn’t require more? I only fell

a couple of times but still came home with a bruise that resembled the map of the new

world on my backside and a slightly swollen ankle. Ambling slowly and stiffly, the

intensity of pain didn’t peak until day two. And the early Sunday class time was kind of

a bummer after a late Saturday night out on the town (remember those longnecks?). I

mean who wants to set their alarm on a Sunday? And did I mention the “Blood Shed”

practice warehouse with no air conditioning in 100 degree average Texas summer heat?

Yeah, after that first practice I was……HOOKED!

Hooked yes, but not entirely daft. The realization of the true damage I could do to this

aging body gave me pause. As the next class approached, I decided to make a concerted

effort to be a more tentative. I focused and tried REALLY HARD not to fall down. And

I didn’t fall, not even once! As the class ended though, I felt disappointingly less

accomplishment than I had experienced the week prior. Less exhilaration. Less pride.

As I removed my gear, hobbled to my car and drove away I pondered this emotional anti-

climax. I had set a goal to not fall at all and I achieved that. I was less bruised and

battered, maybe a little less embarrassed. But in not falling at all, had I cheated myself of

gains and progress I could have made? Had I robbed myself of the pride of knowing I’d

left everything I had on the track?

“It’s not whether you get knocked down – it’s whether you get back up.”

– Vince Lombardi

Falling down is “failure” by any other name. Fear of failure is a natural tool that any

Darwinist will tell you is designed to sustain self-preservation. In today’s world, that

may mean fear of risking a safe, comfortable job to vie for one more challenging,

fulfilling and ultimately rewarding. Innately, the idea of stretching oneself for more

potential gain is simply not worth the risk of falling further behind or subjugating our

current state of safety and security.

In roller derby, fear of failure exists literally as an involuntary survival technique,

designed to keep you from experiencing real injury and pain. Forget the anguish of

heartbreak, the sting of a demotion; this is true physical pain and as thinking, reasoning

animals, we are not made to seek or naturally embrace it.

I had to acknowledge, however, that if I wasn’t falling down I wasn’t pushing myself

hard enough. I wasn’t growing as much as I could. I wasn’t trying hard enough. The

next two classes I fell more frequently than needed. In my last class I made real progress.

The moments I forget that failure is inevitable now come more frequently, and I can quit

imagining the fall and that it is going to bring me pain.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”

– Coco Chanel

I’ve always been inspired by the style, independence and self-made success of Coco

Chanel. I’d so admired her I’d fancied the nickname “Coco” for some time, but alas it

held no other personal relevance nor did it, as a nickname, compliment my given name.

We can’t really choose our own nickname so often I “joked” with friends and family to

call me “Coco”, only to be dismissed. Even when asked by my daughters, “Mom, what

do you want to be called when you are a grandmother?” I answered without hesitation

“Coco!” “Yeah,” they said as they rolled their eyes in exasperation, “We’re not calling

you that!”

But now I’m a Rollergirl (in training), and a name must be chosen. So a name that

resonates is coined, “Coco Loco”. No, you can’t really choose your own nickname,

except in Roller Derby. Because in Roller Derby, there is no crying, no whining and

rules are made to be broken!

Yeah, I fell 8 times today. I consider that an improvement over the 4 I fell last week.

Some days I forget that failure is inevitable, some days just seeing someone else fall

knocks me off kilter and sets my boldness back three steps. But I’m reaching, stretching,

trying, pushing…and the best part about falling is finding myself each time I get back up.

“There is no way to reach your potential if your aren’t FALLING DOWN.”

–Bonnie Kay Browning aka “Coco Loco”

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