One requirement of the Ultimate Black Belt Test, created by my mentor, Tom Callos, is to mend 3 relationships. As far as approaches to testing one’s martial arts abilities is concerned, this is one of the many reasons that the UBBT is a tremendous asset to the martial arts community. The expectation that participants face some areas of their lives that affect them on an emotional level, such as these relationships, is meant to create a deeper understanding of the value of the many relationships we experience and take ownership for one’s own role.
There are two relationships I would put at the very top of this list, my mom and dad. Now, many of you already know that my mom passed away in January 2015 … actually the night of January 13th. I remember that night as I got a call at 3:15AM from my step-dad and I could tell immediately what this call was about. Even as I type this, I find myself feeling the same feeling of a gaping emptiness in my heart that was once occupied by someone that was no more than a phone call away. A simple phone call that I did not make nearly often enough. I’m sure I’m not alone in the feeling that, when they talk to their parents, the conversation seems to go on and on, sometimes nearly ending only for another topic we act like we’re not interested in pops up and keeps us on the phone. I can honestly tell you that I would give just about anything to be kept on the phone for as long as my mom wanted and listening to her talk about whatever she wanted just one more time. One of my biggest regrets, that I can never repair, is my relationship with my mom. I was often too short with her, prioritizing my own busy life and whatever I had planned for the next moment over spending that precious time being present for her. I cannot change that time of my life, I can only learn from it and pass on that wisdom to everybody who values my opinion. You get on the phone with your mom. You stay on the phone with your mom. You value your time with your mom, for she will not always be a phone call away.
She was a genuinely beautiful lady and I am forever sad that she was not able to meet her granddaughter.
As for my side of the family, my dad is my only parent or grandparent still with us. We’ve had our own difficulties over the years, but I’m proud to say that, despite a number of years with little to no contact, we are rebuilding a strong relationship that I can be proud of. I will not let the valuable time we have left slip away nor will I let the distance between Portland and So Lake Tahoe keep him out of his granddaughter’s or my life. I can see the sadness in his eyes when he talks about all the important events in my life that he missed and that breaks my heart. There’s no way to get that time back, we can only take control of how we use the next moments. I am proud to say that he is in my daughter’s life and visits a couple times a year, in fact, he was just with us for the last 2 weeks of 2017 and Molly had an absolute blast with her papa. They played and read and listened to more Lady Gaga and Katy Perry than I care to ever repeat. It means the world to me to see him as happy as he is when he is with us. I can even hear a much happier person on the other end of the line when we talk on the phone, which we do multiple times a week. Martial arts is very much a part of who I am today and he missed quite a few of my milestones along the way, but he was here with me and my family for the opening of my studio. He may not realize it, but he is very much a part of who I am as well.
I would encourage all of us to take a deeper look at the relationships which we are a part of and take a mindful approach to how we deal with those. If there is someone you admire, respect, and love, but you’ve grown distant, bridge that gap by reaching out. If there is someone in your life who brings a level of toxicity either through their own actions or through the person you become when you are around them, mindfully decide for yourself if that relationship is one that adds value to your life and that of your family.
Our time here is finite, cherish and value it mindfully. This post was scheduled for 3:15AM on January 13th ... the moment I answered the phone 3 years ago and realized my mom was no longer with us.