All work and no practice makes Vivi a dull girl. Well, dull is probably not quite right, but it makes her a very restless, anxious girl. Our league scheduled a break around the holidays — it might have been the longest consecutive time we’ve gone without practicing since I started derby. As part of the league’s board of directors, I approved this, while inside I was screaming: “Nooooooooooo!” What was I going to do without practicing for more than two whole weeks?! This might sound like insanity. But it’s actually the opposite. Practice is what keeps me sane.

A forced break is probably not a bad thing, especially for someone like me. I confess, it was nice to be able to have a few guilt-free Thursday nights out, to spend an entire Sunday lazing about. But, still, in the midst of all this holiday R&R, a part of my brain was fixated on a date: January 8. It was the Tuesday on which I was to make a triumphant return to training. I could finally strap on my skates, whirl around the track and hit some people! And then I got sick. (Record scratch.) With so much crud going around, it wasn’t a terribly big surprise, and I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make it that Tuesday. But I didn’t make it on the Wednesday either. And I realized during my continued quarantine how much I’ve grown to need that release that practicing provides. This nervous energy started percolating within me as the week progressed. I felt anxious, almost panicky. I felt a little sad and lot listless.

Someone recently joked to me after learning a bit about my taste in literature: “What anti-depressants are you on?” My response was: “Roller derby is my anti-depressant.” I was trying to be funny, but it’s fairly true that derby serves a major mental health function for me. It’s a kind of release I don’t get in any other avenue of my life, and I’m actually not talking about the “release” of hitting people. A lot of derby girls like to say things like that, that the physical aggression is the stress valve. Though that may be the case for some, that’s not it for me. It’s experiencing the relief from my monkey mind, it’s finding my Zen place, where it’s just my body performing the task at hand and all other thoughts and interior chatter just float up into the ether for awhile. I love this feeling. I’ve become addicted to it.

So I was nearly bursting with excitement that I was well enough to attend practice that Thursday. Wouldn’t you know it, the first thing we did was 25 in 5? But I was like: bring it. I exhaled all that nervous energy I had been generating over the three weeks without practice as I sprinted around the track. All truly felt much more right with the world after that.