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Monday, April 9, 2012

IMPACT Is Also for the Cynical

Karla Kate
February 2012 IMPACT Chicago Core Program

I’m standing in a tight circle with eleven other women and I’m unraveling a ball of lavender yarn, tossing it to a woman across from me, and saying all the things I like and admire about her, even though I’ve only known her for about twenty hours. We all take our turns doing this—unraveling, tossing, complimenting—until the yarn has transformed itself into a web in the center of our circle, connecting us both literally and figuratively.

This is the kind of scene I picture taking place at a summer camp or maybe vacation Bible school. My cynicism starts to surface and I’m thinking that these touchy-feely, kumbaya, chicken-soup-for-the-soul games are meant for young girls who are just learning to face the world, not for grown women who think they’ve already learned.

Yet as I stand there in the circle with my IMPACT classmates, listening to them describe each other’s strengths and watching their faces soften and glow as they do this, I look down at the lavender web we’ve created, push down my cynicism, and I think, Okay, okay. This works.

I registered for the IMPACT Core class to learn self-defense, not to share my emotions and life stories, not to hold hands in a circle before a fight, not to express how I felt after a fight, and not to—you guessed it—toss a ball of yarn to someone and tell her what I think makes her strong. I usually resist this kind of approach.

The thing—and it’s a great thing—that makes IMPACT work, however, is that it’s not just about learning self-defense. It’s about finding and using your voice. It’s about opening yourself up in order to face your fears. And it’s about opening yourself up in order to recognize the beauty in you and the beauty in others.

I told one of my colleagues that I had recently completed a self-defense class, and her first response was, “Oh, yeah, I took one of those through the park district last year!” And then, of course, I had to describe IMPACT to her.

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