The Zen Discipline of Accepting Myself through Acts of Being Ballsy

By Cordelia Storm Bickford.   I’m standing on the edge of the cliff. Sunlight in my eyes, waves crashing through my ear drums. I look below, thirty feet until Hawaiian...

By Cordelia Storm Bickford.


I’m standing on the edge of the cliff. Sunlight in my eyes, waves crashing through my ear drums. I look below, thirty feet until Hawaiian ocean off the rocky edge. I’m rearing to jump.I’m balancing on top of a metal railing. I focus my attention to the railing across the concrete walkway, ready to leap to and catch my balance on top of the other. The gentle balance feels like a ballet, a pas de deux with my environment. I look like a gymnast on a balance beam.

I’m standing at the edge of a staircase. Across the hallway is a window ledge and I intend to jump across to catch it. Then climb up through the window, and then play on the roof. But first, grab the window ledge.

I’m looking at myself in the mirror, hung in the hallway on the second floor. I examine any apparent body fat content, discrepancies in choice of attire. See the bags that are under my eyes.Isolated incidents what have you, these are memories of mine, connecting the baseline of whom I am; a continual inner mantra of questioning self-worth.  I continually ask myself, am I able?

I am A Woman:

To be feminine is to be insecure; this is the definition I’ve decided on.  Connecting with the feminine side is embracing vulnerability, connecting with the sort of delicate flower inside any of us.
For the longest time I’ve kept passionate effeminate whims to myself, for want of staying on top in this so-called ‘male driven society.’ As a child and adolescent I had always wanted to be a boy and furthermore expressed myself as a tom boy. Two years ago, while passing through film school, a question began blossoming – Do I fit in?
I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be attractive. To be good enough, to make par: Bulimia ensued, the rest is history. Well, really what I mean by “the rest is history” is long-story-short; here I am today accepting myself a little bit more as an individual. The eating disorder demon for the most part dealt with during months of psychoanalysis; what helped save me and reconnect with this once-buried female energy was the beginning of an adventure in a discipline of motility, Parkour.
But accepting a willingness to be feminine encourages a means to constantly look vulnerabilities in the eye, and this pressure can sometimes tumble into insecurity again. “Same shit, different day” to me means “same insecurity, new manifestation.”


There’s something ancient in our society that has taught women, for the most part, that outward appearance dictates self-worth.
I know it’s not as black and white as a feminist might have it, but regardless, and without going too in depth in the historical anthropological aspects what-have-you, I find when I get depressed and consider “am I good enough?” the second question to come up is whether or not I’m too large.
The mind then concentrates on where I feel like I’m carrying weight, in the hips and stomach. We pick out our weaknesses. I want to lose the weight not only feel better in my skin, but also to perform better in the sport. As insecurities creep in about training, in the back of my mind is, ‘well if I can’t perform well at least I can look the part’. Living within a culture obsessed with weight loss, it’s easy to get swept away in bad body image.


I am a Traceuse:

Years ago when I stumbled upon Parkour, it just seemed like a fun. Now, it has evolved to represent the St. George’s dragon of whether or not I am good enough. Taking that step forwards, moving over the gap, it’s the hope of being able enough to overcome. Once that fear is passed, the other fears in life may not be so scary. Parkour is the act of jumping, climbing, running, and vaulting to pass over obstacles. It has the outward shell of a daredevil sport, and the inner child of a Zen Buddhist; basically the most talented of traceurs and traceuses (male and, less commonly, female Parkour practitioners, respectively) enjoy leaping rooftops and jumping fences. But this is achieved by not embracing a foolish risk-taker’s mind but as a calculated, mind-over-body achievement. This is my hobby, but more so a lifestyle and personal discipline. Kind of like how the Samurai practiced their dual bushido of battle and poetry, we practice overcoming physical obstacles in order to be mentally strong.

The interesting phenomena of the few women who train bring about a new sort of dilemma. Trusting myself that I’ll jump the gap successfully and not hurt myself; often times for a woman has a prerequisite of tears. I remember when I first began training, my guy friends would not understand why I would lash out at them for trying to help me learn the technique, saying “come on, like this, it’s easy”. But in the back of my mind I’m screaming “no it’s not easy, leave me alone.” But I want it so bad; I want to be capable so badly it drives me to stay, leaning over the edge of a concrete gap hoping I’ll work up the courage to jump.

I don’t mean to display myself as incapable of the movements or not disciplining myself enough to achieve (here, again my fears of being portrayed as such shine through), I’ve had friends say, basically, ‘just push through it.’ It feels like, ‘get over it’. Get over your emotions and you’ll be fine, I’ve been told. But, like any conflict, this isn’t black or white, and yes, I do need to learn to understand my emotions in order to step back and let go of them.

There’s a short second you have when you can trick your mind into being ballsy, a small window of opportunity.
I’m standing, feet planted on the ground. It always comes down to this moment. At the starting line, feeling out when the gun will fire. Some days strong, some days trembling, it’s the only variable.

To stand and stare your demons front on shows how much we want it, that indiscernible progression and capability. I don’t really know why a person needs to challenge themselves, but there it is; an inner urge to keep moving through time. Got to keep the inertia going both mentally and physically; it’s a common conversation we have while training. If you stand too long looking at the gap, all your fears will rush up and it’ll only be harder and harder to lean into the jump. You have to stay focused, think enough to not be stupid, but think too much and self-doubt will consume you.

There’s a golden moment where success is most probable, hidden within the timeline flanked by thoughtless acts of stupid reassurance and then by being frozen in fear by self-doubt.  For men maybe, their issue is more so too much aggression. For a woman, it’s a constant battle to quiet your inner doubts and just do it, just move.  We could both learn a lot from each other to embrace a sort of ambidexterity in energies.

If to be vulnerable is to be feminine, then to be guarded is masculine.  We all have our self-doubts but how we manifest those demons are through different terms. Sometimes what seems like an achievement is more just the stupid determination to hide fear with a shield of strength. Though on the outside achievement with brashness might work to overcome the actual physical obstacle in front of you, but maybe it just grazes the surface of whatever inner dilemma is manifesting itself by the challenge.  To be dancing in femininity calls for times of inability and to see your demons screaming at you and though it sometimes leads to slower progression, every little step is like striding miles and miles.

That need to experience an inner balance is what drives me to practice Parkour. I can’t just sit back anymore, I reach out and I need to make the gap, grab the ledge in front of me and touch the other side. It’s simultaneously the scariest thing I’ve done in my life and most trying, beautifully beneficial movement I’ve found to towards inner strength and acceptance.

Originally posted in
Photo credits (from top):
2. Rebekah Hammond
3. Kellen Fujimoto,
ballsy [ˈbɔːlzɪ] adj Slang courageous and spirited [from balls meaning courage, forcefulness] adj. balls·i·er, balls·i·est Vulgar Slang  Very tough and courageous, often recklessly or presumptuously so.
Parkour Visions (previously named the Pacific Northwest Parkour Association (PNWPA)) is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle that teaches, builds community, and spreads safe and respectful training techniques in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.  Yep! is the place to go :)

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