On Football and Life

I went to listen to Steve Almond discuss his newest book called Against Football. It wasn't so much that I am a passionate hater of football. More precisely, I was wondering what a former fan of the game had to say about how he arrived at the topic. Steve is a talented writer who has really forged his own creative writing path. I knew this book was not a diatribe in the formal sense....I knew it carried some weight. What he said was that it really came down to the fact that he was ashamed of his love for the game despite the growing evidence that football harms people for life and that the industry itself does little to protect those who play it.  Furthermore, he said, "We need to write about what brings us shame."

This stopped me so much that I scribbled it in my notebook.

I looked up the official definition. Ashamed: embarrassed or guilty because of one's actions, characteristics, or associations.

I started thinking about all of which I feel shame for--times when I did not speak out are only the tip of the iceberg for me.  Here is an incomplete list:
1.  Yelling at my kids.
2.  Leaving the house when I am angry.
3.  Digging up the past 
4.  Forgetting my parent's anniversary.
5.  Being overweight
6.  Watching my daughter get sick and not being able to stop it.
7.  Asking my husband to interview for a job that did not deserve him. He made himself vulnerable by admitting to some problems he'd had and they did not treat him with kindness and if I think too much about this, it still can make me sick. 
8.  Believing in feminism while I stay home to raise kids while my husband is the primary breadwinner. 
9.   Having a garden but buying Quick Trip pizza because I wanted a night off.
10. Sending my son to Boy Scouts though they don't really support gay rights as a national organization.
11. Not attending funerals of people who were important to me to important to someone I love.

I am not saying these make sense. I am only saying that my shame comes from something not ringing true for me in each of these things. 

So Steve got me thinking about how shame arrives when what we believe and think and feel does not line up with our actions.  One of the speakers I heard last weekend said this very thing. She was discussing living a life of integrity. When what we do and say and believe all line up, we are walking in that sweet spot. Something wasn't ringing true for Steve and that is when he began his closer examination of football, it's culture, and so on.

And yet walking with integrity at all times is hard. I mean, I don't think it's always hard. I just think that our world has really gotten haywire- we trend, you know? There is a trend and we jump on or off ,and we just don't really think it through. Everything has become so political- food and football and feminism and religion and school. Somehow it ends up being a right or left thing, and yet isn't all just a human thing?

We are full of dichotomies.We are black and white and grey. And I mostly feel grey. I have rarely drawn a hard line in the sand for anything. It was my biggest struggle as a teacher and lately, I have had to develop a hard line for my son. He's in a phase where his tone toward me is less than respectful. I simply cannot tolerate it and because I love him more than anyone I want more out of him. He needs to be constantly corrected and there are ramifications for him. I want him so badly to see how he hurts me and then get it so he simply stops.

But lessons are hard to learn and they keep coming at us until we get them and I am not in charge of his time frame. I want to be and that is my lesson. My impulse is to feel shame for his behavior and yet, it is his behavior and not mine. I can teach and he can learn...or not. His behavior does not fit into the life of integrity I wish to live and yet all I can do is stay the course and pray that he will join me. 

I admire Steve for just plunging in and investigating and trying to go forth in a way that speaks of integrity for him.

That is our journey, right? To figure out a way that rings true to us and for us and deep inside us and then, have the courage to live it.

Who knew I would get all that from a brief talk about football? But lessons are everywhere if we are paying attention and I guess that is just part of it......paying attention.

Seeking, Part 2

So I have been sitting with all I heard a week ago, ruminating and wondering what rises to the surface and curious about what has stayed with me.

I am re-reading my notes and here are just a few things that stand out:

We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.

Your life is always speaking to you, but whether we are listening or not is up to us.

You are co-creating your life through the energy of your intentions.  In other words, what you put out you get back.

I could take any one of these things and write for hours, but really I think I will just let those statements sit with you.

What each of the speakers was trying to do in his or her own way was to get at each of these.


Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote  Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, spent her time talking about Joseph Campbell and the hero's journey. What she realized is that while there are no examples in historical fiction or mythology of a female hero, it does not matter. When she decided to leave her first marriage, she realized she would have to be her own hero. The other point she drove home is that a hero's journeys is not without struggle. It is not a romantic straight line to happiness. It is bone deep work with ups and downs and when you are true to your deepest longings, you can hurt others and make mistakes because your journey is not theirs. Yikes! Hurt people? Who wants to do that?  But you forge ahead anyway because if you are listening to what you know and believe and feel to be true about you, you will manifest what is meant to be yours. When you are working with the universe to get what you want, things will appear.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

This isn't physic hokey-pokey. I think it's just part of people really following the path they are meant to follow. I also think that if you are paying attention, what you need is often right in front of you.

Sometimes, though, we get confused with wants and what is really meant for us. This is a hard lesson to learn at 12 and 36 and 45 and beyond.

Gilbert's own journey did not involve marriage, life in the suburbs with 2.6 kids and a dog. Something else was calling to her and it took a very hard knock for her to get this, but she says the universe was whispering all along in her love and zest for travel and quests and journeys inside through her writing. All of this took her far away from the kind of life she imagined would be required to raise a child and so she made the difficult decision to leave her husband and set off on discovering the truest version of herself that she could find. This moment in a hero's journey is called Crossing the Threshold. For her, it was a prayer on the floor of her bathroom when she realized she could not go one more day living a life that was not hers.

She wants us to pay attention to those whispers, those nudges, those moments that make the hair on our neck stand up or our head tilt to one side in a question, or cock our eyebrows up in surprise. Those moments are there if we are open to them and they are there to give us information about what moves us. We don't have to cross the threshold in a big and dramatic way. We can simply follow it in the way that we are meant to, but often as imperfect humans we get too caught up in the shoulds. Being true to you involves no apologies and no shoulds, but it isn't easy.

First you have to be willing to ask the question, and then you have to be willing to consider the answer. You may not like it because it can involve some unraveling of a life you already have and that, of course, takes work.

Women with families often lament, "Who has time for this?"  But her challenge is this--we only get so much time. How you are going to spend it is entirely up to you. Really. You.

We are co-creators of our lives which means part of it is in our control.

I am only starting to unpack this week. I am ruminating. The notes are copious and profound, but I haven't stopped reading them. Everyday I take out my notebook and I thumb through it until I stop on a word or a phrase that catches my eye. I am talking to friends who want to know more and I am working with a woman who feels as passionate as I do about really asking these questions. It's all really big and good and hopeful and very hard.

But it's worth it because we only get one go 'round. Why not do it in the way you want? Really, why not?
Be the hero of your own story-answer or ignore. It doesn't start until YOU start.

Seeking, Part 1.

Five months ago a dear friend and I were chatting on the phone. She was going through something very difficult and her head was spinning. I was feeling overwhelmed because Big Man and I didn't have a certain future. I didn't yet know if I should start packing or register the kids for summer camps in Winona. Stress was high for both of us in very different ways.

We needed something outside ourselves to pull us forward through some difficult days. I had seen that Oprah was advertising a Live the Life You Want weekend. I wondered out loud, "Could we go?" She said, "Yes. I will book it!" We looked at locations knowing it didn't matter where we went, only that we went. We chose a weekend in Auburn Hills, Michigan because the timing worked best for both of us. Because my finances were uncertain, she booked the tickets and our airfare before we fully understood what we did and before we could change our minds.

We kept this little plan to ourselves for a very long time. We weren't trying to lie or hide anything. Yet even in the midst of a time when neither of us felt like we could see straight, we knew that this thing was just for us. It was just about us and the journeys we found ourselves on and it wasn't going to be Oprah giving us a new car. It was going to be about us facing the fact that where ever we were, we, ourselves, had put us in this moment. And without speaking specifically about this, we each kept it tucked away inside ourselves. This is mine, I thought over and over again. If I talk about it, people will cast a judgement and for once, I do not care at all what others think. More than that, I don't want to field disdain, jealousy, or questions. This, I thought, is only for me. Jessie did the same 

And so it was the exact carrot we needed. It pulled us through some tough times and I confess, I forgot I had even signed up. She'd say, "Can you get the hotel?" and I'd think," For what?" and then laugh. Oh yes. We are going away. Alone. Without kids or spouses...just us. 

I know some people find Oprah too much. Big Man likes to make fun of her magazine. "Whose on the cover this week?" he'll ask, but I know what she is about. I listen when I can to her Super Soul Series and I have heard her enough to know that really understanding, seeking, trying to discover your purpose is something that matters enough to her that she created this class/weekend to help others.

She spoke without pause for two hours on the first night. She wove her own personal stories into the essential message that this life as a human is a gift. For so many reasons, it is just as likely that we could not be here or show up in a different form. We could be a rock or an ant or a piece of grass. But each of us in this LARGE STADIUM filled with THOUSANDS arrived on this planet in human form. Despite the size and numbers, it was quiet. You could hear the people breathing next to you and it seemed as if her words just dropped onto each us, settling into our hearts, expanding our brains, filling the empty spaces we were seeking to fill. It was a moment full of life. 

Set into the context of time and space, this gift of our own unique life seems small and yet she believes that because of this amazing chance that we showed up as human, we have an offering. Our purpose is to heed the call of our lives. We are deadened so often to the call. We get caught up in life drama that we forget to listen and pay attention.

Sitting next to Jessie was an 80 year old gentlemen accompanying his wife. This was a dream come true for her and yet he was in it as much as she. He laughed, he danced (yes! we all danced), he listened and learned and felt happy to be receiving the messages.  I was inspired by his presence, his interest, his desire to be willing to keep learning and to not stop asking the questions....why am I here?

I have some clear ideas about why I am here. I have goals and I feel called to act on them, but I am easily derailed by the business of life. It would be an understatement to say the last seven months really knocked me for a loop. It seems there is never a right time to go for what you want. The only time, ever, is now. I have also spent much of life feeling bad for being so "sensitive", so overwhelmed, so easily irritated and bogged down by all that life seems to offer.  

What I was seeking was a shift in my thinking. I knew I needed to learn how to see things differently, in a more positive way. To see my attempts at stumbling as just experience. And that was a big lesson from the first night. Any perceived "failure" is really just information. It's a lesson in what did not work and an opportunity to self-correct. 

And so I am on a big self-correct mission inside my head.

I am thankful for that pinprick of light on an awful April day when what I wondered out loud was really a question from a very deep space inside me. I asked and we both said YES! to something we did not completely understand. Though I didn't exactly know what I was seeking, it seems the universe did.

There are many lessons from the fourteen hours I spent with some truly gifted seekers so generous in their desire to help us all along on our own quests. I will share more as I sort through it, and yet I know what I can capture with words will be inadequate because I am only just getting started. But the important part is that.... I started.