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The Ghost of Aikido Present reminds me that I need to get to the dojo to take ukemi for a classmate's 5th-kyu test. We've practiced for a few weeks, and I keenly feel that pressing responsibility to be there for him. Time ticks by on the clock, and yet my boyfriend's family insists that I go clothes shopping with them. "It'll only take a little while," they assure me. "You'll definitely make it there in time." We waft past meaningless rows of fresh new clothes on hangers, and while they pick out their choices to try on, I impatiently tap my toes, waiting for them to be finished.
The Ghost of Aikido Past finds me back at my house when class is about to start. Reaching panic mode, I grab my car keys and dash for the door, only to come to the realization that the dojo is not located near my workplace but is for some reason part of the San Jose State University campus where I used to train. So used to the world of an interior wrestling gym that is my current dojo, I had forgotten the old place—proud sequoias standing tall, lush leaves blanketing the second-story dojo windows in shade; sunlight streaming through the branches, and the crisp, clean-straw smell of the Zebra mats. Only one problem with the SJSU dojo: last-minute parking on campus is usually next-to-impossible. "It's ok," my boyfriend reasons, "your classmate will find another uke. There's no way you'll get there in time." Dismayed, I realize he's right as I glance at the clock. By the time I manage to find parking, class would probably be over.
The Ghost of Aikido Future whispers in my ear that not only have I failed as an uke and have broken my promise to be there, I am going to miss the Black-Belt Demos put on by the yudansha. In our dojo, the different belt classes rotate every month to perform a demo of material on each of our next tests, and Black-Belt Demos are especially fun to watch because of the intensity, artfulness, and technical precision of the techniques. "No!" I think as the images whirl to abyss, "Not the demo! Please, just give me this day back. I need to do it differently. I need to re-live the day."
And that was when I woke up a la Ebenezer, a beautiful new day to greet me with birds chirping outside my window. It was still another three days until test day at the dojo—I had the day back and then some. There's a moral in this, aside from an unnecessary reminder of how much aikido means to me, aside from an irrational ukemi anxiety, aside from the haunting frustration of not knowing where to put my car after I arrived to my former college campus full of memories. And, yes, even aside from the petrifying nightmare of missing the chance to see a Black-Belt Demo. So often, our dreams blow the smaller things out of proportion until they seem unmanageable and out of control. Those dreams of falling as you wake with a start upon impact with the cold, hard asphalt. Those dreams of driving normally until you suddenly realize your brakes are out as your car skids downhill and gathers momentum. Those dreams of "I can't" and "I won't" replacing the possible reality of "I could" and "I will."
It's true—training four days at the dojo, using my vacation time to train some more at an aikido camp, and coming home to late-night dinners—don't leave much time left over for a social or family life. Sometimes, the guilt sets in; I know I should try to tear myself away from the dojo before dark, reserve my weekends for something other than keiko and weapons class for half the morning. But the Ghost of Aikido Future is hinting to me that even if I reverse my priorities, that sense of guilt doesn't go away. It's just a different kind of guilt, and another kind of unhappiness. And it also tells me that I need a new perspective on things. I need to stop making the aikido and the personal go through a tug-of-war for my time and attention. Like rivaling siblings, they need to learn to co-exist, to get along, and to even like it. Because they both make up the most essential and the best parts of me. Because I need to stop thinking, "Aikido in my life," but more like, "Aikido is my life."