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Tough and Sensitive


"I can get punched, kicked, elbowed in the head, face, legs, encounter fractures in my arms. Have my ears burning with inflammation, jaw dislocated, and keep fighting. I can have surgery with no anesthetics. But I care about others and my environment too much. So much, it's painful." I said to a friend. 

Years ago, I'd heard one of the guys in the fight gym say, "She's tougher than a two-dollar steak". It was after him witnessing my trainer gain angles over and over again on me, to kick and punch my legs, my body, my arms and my head, as I attempted a takedown. Whenever I got the takedown, I'd end up in his guard. Then he would begin his heel kicking to my legs and butt. I would fight till he'd say, "Now what do you see?" He’d wait, as I could barely move from the twenty-five minutes to sometimes nearly an hour of that type of sparring with no bell rung at set rounds.  Yet I’d find a choke hold, he'd opened up on himself for me to accomplish. To finish him. He then would say, "Good. Okay, let's do some padwork."

I continued explaining to a friend today, "And all I can say is when someone else is suffering it rips up my insides.  So, I'm tough, yeah. Maybe. But I'm sensitive to other's suffering.  Animals, plants, and people. I know sounds silly. But that is more painful for me than all those sparring sessions and physical damage I've encountered."

I wondered why. I used to say to this one fight coach, "God made me good." After my first sparring session with this new coach on a Memorial Day weekend 2014.  He couldn't believe my drive. I'd eat his punches and keep moving forward. I'm mentally trained like that.  It's my gears. Yet, when it comes to other people's plights, I'm overly compassionate.  And to a ridiculous degree. I had an UltraRunning coach who knew this about me. After he'd make me run after him for fifty miles, twenty-five through sand. I said to him after one of the runs. "You know what I hate about myself?" He looked. I continued, "I'm too compassionate."  His response the second time I said this was, "That's actually a great quality. That just might be one of the best qualities you have. " I replied, "Okay. But it’s painful."

 Many, Many years ago, I had this… I’ll call him the Voodoo Man. He was one of a kind. I was introduced to the Voodoo Man by Marathoner and long-distance coach, Tom Fleming. I had an injury, a gnarly hamstring issue that came out of nowhere and wouldn’t let go. It was over thirty years ago now as I look back. So, I called the Voodoo Man and set up the appointment to have the gnarly taken out of my left hamstring.

A hippy-like mellow voice answered, “Yeah. Sure.” A mere delay of the grooviest type in his vocal affect. So much so, you’d not ever think he was born and raised in New Jersey. He was like, ‘far out man’. As the hippiest people would say. Or some of us kids in the 1960’s would pick up on the latest, coolest hip sayings. Like ‘Wow man.’

The day came and I entered Marcus’ humble abode, a place he rented. Marcus, the Voodoo Man, was a true nomad. It was not so easy to keep track of the guy. However, I developed a good rapport with Marcus. In that, he would tell me what he was up to. Why he wouldn’t be available at certain dates and such. Meanwhile, I’d hear guys on our running team wonder where Marcus was. I’d reply, “Tibet. He should be back soon.” Yes, the looks I’d get. I was the Rainman. As my stage name goes. Actually, long before I had a stage name, as Tom Fleming began giving me the name. It was after Tom had seen the movie, ‘Rainman’, he then would identify with that name.

After about four years of getting to know Marcus in a few sessions per year or more. As well, as after tragedy struck me, hard within the first year after I’d met Marcus. Well, I discovered he could read my mind-body. Like every thought. I know goofy. Right? But really. And who to believe me, but Tom Fleming knew Marcus had this ability. Tom also knew I was tough. He’d witness me running catheterized, filled with infection, he’d shake his head. I’d be whimpering, in pain from the catheter and the infection for two weeks, to start anyway.  But I knew, not to let it take away from my training, work or practically anything.

And so, it arrived. Four years after getting to know me, Marcus came out with this. “You can be tough. But, that’s not where its at. You get me?” I nodded. He continued, “You can be tough, but you must be soft inside to survive.” I never forgot that. Those words roll with me every day. Like Wow man, every hour of every day, too.

As I changed athletic careers upon my husband’s insistence, flashforward nearly twenty years after I’d met Marcus. I ran a little less per week to become a fighter. As well, it was quite late in life, as far as athletics. And especially fighting is concerned.  However, I forged ahead. It was a mere thought when I was a little girl. Or as my husband had said in the past, “You were never a little girl. You were always forty-one.” I resemble that remark.

So here now, as our daughters have recently steered clear of competitive running and fighting, for the most part. Both are tough. One, is just like me in that sensitive arena. The other appears not to be. However, I have a feeling that she portrays the lack of sensitivity on the outside as protection.---Jody-Lynn Reicher


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