Saying Sorry to Martial Arts Masters, Because, HALT.

Saying Sorry to Martial Arts Masters, Because, HALT. April 12, 2019

It happened again, as it always does: I bit off the head of the master. As in, of our boys’ martial arts instructor.

The one who got the belt.

He was trying to tell me that I needed to make sure to keep their belts secure, because belts are a big deal in martial arts. And I know that. I get that, I guess. But I also live with two small humans who have a certain order to cleanliness that is unmatched.

Hotwheels live alongside books about how babies are made. Dollar bills the boys earned pooper scooping the backyard are not kept in a piggy bank, as one would imagine, but wedged in between Desmond Tutu’s Storybook Bible and a picture of the four of us riding a bicycle built for four. Don’t even get me started on Legos, for decisions about where certain pieces of plastic designed to make big humans cry when we try and run across them like our eighteen-year old selves once did at the district track meet, are not for me to decide.

And apparently, neither are fabric belts for martial arts uniforms.

Before leaving to pick up Theo, Canon and I searched the house, high and low. We plumbed the depths of the bedroom, the garage, the laundry room, the living room, the dining room and the kitchen for good measure. We looked in between the cracks of the seats, and since Mama really, actually took the car to get cleaned last week, we wondered if the people cleaning our massively dirty car (the same ones who flung dirty looks my way every six seconds), accidentally threw it on the ground with the 900 empty applesauce packets and the two pounds of sand extracted from the industrial-sized vacuum cleaner.

Because by the time we arrived at martial arts school, only a single belt had been found. (For the record, we also located the uniform’s two pants and two shirts, which has got to count for something). When the boys finally stood up to go to class – both of them beltless, because actually tying a belt in the proper way might be akin to women actually walking on the moon someday – only one held the jumprope-like apparatus in his hands.

So, the martial arts master proceeded to have a little conversation, first with the boys and then with me.

And after said conversation – first with the boys and then with me – I proceeded to let him know that no less than half an hour had been spent looking for the blasted belt, and for the love of all that is holy, could he just extend us a little grace?

Then I huffed and I puffed and I returned to my conundrum of trying to figure out how to get from Oakland to San Jose when we only have one car and my husband needs the car for the weekend.

And in the midst of feeling frustrated – of wondering why we only have one car, of wondering why my girlfriends I’ll be adventuring with can’t just pick me up, of wondering why the Bay Area seems to have legitimate public transportation up and down the Peninsula, through the City and into certain parts of the East Bay, First World problems, First World problems, First World problems – I also remembered an acronym from Belinda Bauman’s recent release, Brave Souls: HALT.

H: Are you hungry? Becoming physically hungry can cause distraction from deeper issues that need attention, whether personal or relational.

A: Are you angry? Anger is often associated with a perceived powerlessness. When you feel you are out of control, you are tempted to fight or flee.

L: Are you lonely? Are you isolating yourself or having difficulty reaching out to your community?

T: Are you tired? Becoming too physically or emotionally depleted is dangerous.

And while I could have probably claimed all four letters of the acronym in that moment, I also recognized my anger – for it was an anger rooted in feelings of helplessness when I couldn’t seem to figure out a solution for how to get from Point A to Point B.

But adopting a posture of empathy – which is really the crux of Bauman’s book – means respecting the words of the master. Even if a little piece of fabric doesn’t seem all that important to me, it is important to him.

And part of honoring the human in him means seeking to understand why a belt holds so much weight, just as it means as issuing apologies for the snarky words that came out of my mouth.

So, we did. I did. And then, just to seal the deal, the boys and I cozied up with Words to Love By before giving one another a thousand bedtime kisses.

After all, our words matter deeply. But sometimes recognizing what’s hidden behind those words matters even more.

So, what about you? Have you used HALT lately? Who do you need to extend an I’m sorry to today? 

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