The day before yesterday I was strolling down Lachine Canal when I saw a fat man with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu shirt. I've been meaning to practice this martial art, mostly as a yang counterpoint for my yoga practice, so after walking past him I debated if I should backtrack and ask him about it.
"Hmmmm, excuse me, I saw your shirt and wondered if you practice BJJ". He chuckled at the question "I've been practicing for more than 30 years". As soon as he turned around I understood I had made a rookie mistake in my assessment, he was not fat but extremely strong, muscles hiding behind a baggy t-shirt which still could barely contain the girth of his arms and his thick neck.
"I've been meaning to practice BJJ for a long time, and I arrived to Montreal recently, is there any place you could recommend for me to start out?", and that's how we started conversation. He was a black belt, Brazil born fellow. I said "wow you could probably take down anyone" and he replied "yes, but funnily enough it's not just about that, it's mostly about the people. You know? Good people practice BJJ". I grinned and felt the hairs on my arms stand up because this is a theme that has constantly eluded me: how and where do I find good people?
Good people must be understood not in opposition to bad people, I don't believe that there's bad to avoid good people I should hang out with. My understanding of good people is mostly energetic, they are people you can admire and learn from their virtue. And, as the Tao Te Ching claims: a bad person is a good man's job". In this understanding, _I'm the bad person.
At the end of our conversation I asked for a handshake and a hug. Our hug was awkward and I would punish myself a lot for asking for it. I see this pattern repeat again and again: if I push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable for me to do and it turns out awkward, I will relive the moment, feel the embarrassment again and again, say out loud "I'm so stupid"; but then an awareness observes the whole thing with compassion: the awkwardness, the embarrassment, the self-loathing, and I see that in this perspective of purely awareness there is no reason to be embarrassed, on the contrary, it requires courage to ask a stranger for a hug. If it's awkward it's ok.
The next day I was having second thoughts about attending, but I knew they were just made-up excuses for avoiding getting out of my comfort zone. I went to class. I saw a former yoga teacher of mine, but I was too shy to tell her "Hi Nuha, I was your student about a year ago". A man around my age was especially attentive to me, showing me how to tie my belt around my uniform, and then guiding me through practice. It was uncomfortable grappling with other men on the floor, but I was prepared for the physical contact from years of bioadanza, weightlifting and yoga. At the end of the session I was kinda meh I'm not sure I want to do this again. I went to the locker room where it seemed the guys were having a great time, but I felt out of place. I scurried away and left the studio.
As I was walking back home I came to understand here was the reason why I'm so solitary. I find people overbearing and I'd rather be left alone. But this is comfort zone. I wouldn't find them overbearing if I had to do this everyday. I would simply adapt, as I've adapted to the most difficult circumstances in my life. It's experienced as an aversion but I rationally know this aversion to be detrimental to... I'm rationalizing. Something superficial within me is uncomfortable hanging out with other people, something deeper, more primitive, yearns it.
I don't know what will happen. I don't have enough money to pay tuition. I don't know if I want to sign up. I'm still digesting the experience. I love my solitude. I want to meet people. I have contradictory feelings. I'm trying to separate the intuitions that come from fear from those that come from spirit.
It feels like highschool all over again.