"Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".
This quote has been attributed to Plato, oddly enough, in the blogosphere although this hardly sounds like him. Whoever said this matters not. This sentiment really rings true for me lately, and hopefully has at least sometimes guided my actions and responses. I used to belong to the school of “If they throw dirt, add water and toss mud” school of fighting. Not so much lately. You really do not have to attend every fight you are invited to, and non attendance is freeing especially when you try to imagine that the other person if fighting a hard battle.
We all have battles. Twenty pounds. A struggling marriage. Divorce. A sick parent, or one that has died. Money woes. A kid with a disability, a health issue, or just going through a stage. Infertility. Losing a pregnancy, or baby. Crisis of faith, health, hope, love and on and on.
And our battle feels worst of all, right? Because we are going through it. I know I do this a lot, get in my own head with my own problem and feel a little sorry for myself and start playing the “Nobody has it worse than me …” game which, by the way, has no winners and no real value. I do this anyway because I tend to forget what Momma Floyd always said: "Be grateful for your problems. Somebody is facing worse."
This is Sonali Deraniyagala, who on the day after Christmas in 2004, lost her two sons, her husband and her parents in the tsunami. Actually lost is too easy a word. They died. They all died. Almost every single person that mattered to her most was swept away as they tried to flee from a Sri Lankan beach. All of them died. Except Sonali. And in her perfect memoir, Wave, she captures the torturous pain of survival. This is not tragedy porn. This is truth, and a wakeup call to anybody to appreciate the basic little moments that are your life. In a particularly moving portion, Sonali writes about forgetting about being reminded of the chore of paying for school lunches.
"As I stared at the stub in Steve’s checkbook, I was held for a few moments in the coherence and safety of the life we had, when so much seemed predictable, when continuity was assumed. There would be more bills for Steve to sort out, more sunsets for me to be distracted by while he did just that. And as the wind gusted against those windows I saw how in an instant, I lost my shelter.
This is such a great description because this is, ultimately, what fighting a battle looks like, like losing your shelter and having to give up the dream of what you thought it was going to be like in your life. The book is beautiful for many reasons yet mostly for me because of what it required of the writer. This kind of personal honesty is rare.
Which is what makes the glimpse powerful.
Maybe, the most crushing page in the entire book is No. 126 where Sonali talks of regret in the moments and days and weeks after the tsunami. She did not look for them. Why is understandable: Her physical condition in the immediate aftermath, her fragile emotional one in the days and weeks ahead. Instead of clinging to this, though, she exposes the ugly underbelly of the shame she feels about this.
"But I was their mother, and I should have reached for them in whatever way I could, however futile or impossible it seemed. I did not, I abandoned them, and that sickens me."
She did not, abandon them that is. But the power of her speaking what feels like truth to her is transformative. Because anybody who reads that would comfort her and, by doing so, hopefully this is a reminder to ourselves. To be kind to ourselves, to let ourselves off the mat, to see how when you are fighting a battle mistakes are made. The key is only that you try.
I believe a word after a word is power. I believe we help each other when we share our stories, even the hard ones. Especially the hard ones.
Spring Break just ended, and thank God for that because nine uninterrupted days of parenting my 4yo exhausted me beyond measure. Or was I not supposed to say that? Of course, I wasn’t. I am supposed to type something about how precious and special each second is and how wonderful my “break” spent making memories was and nod along when other mommies tell me how amazingly amazing all of this doing and going and memory making really is.
Uhm, no thank you. That is not this blog, and I am not that mom. I damn near drove myself crazy this spring break until I was saved by strawberries. You notice I wrote drove myself crazy. My 4yo really was not responsible. I was the one who created the daily spring break fun list for us that included but was not limited to: 1. Cleaning out the garden beds. 2. Planting a garden. 3. Planting every single planter we had. 4. Making and painting homemade wooden swings for the front trees. 5. Soccer practice. 6. Tennis lessons. 7. Science Museum, Art Museum, museum, museum, library, museum. 8. Play dates. 9. Flashcards, Vivaldi talks and on and on and on.
No, this is not the fault of the 4yo. This is the fault of the Type A+ (as my dad likes to call me) mom still battling I-was-at-the-Super Bowl/Olympics-for-a-crazy-long-time guilt. What better way to combat guilt than with memory-making activities? Am I right? Am I right? Only kind of. The swings are cool. She loved going to the museum with my husband and I. What she’ll also remember, unfortunately, was how crazed mom looked because we only got done four of my five activities for a given day. And this would have gone on and on if not for my making a run for it going grocery shopping on like Day 5.
We have all been there, right? You say you need to go to the grocery store, even though you went like two days ago, just to have 20 minutes of non-activity. (Helpful hint: Have a plan. Because when your husband asks, what do we need and you start stuttering this is a dead giveaway of your actual plans to throw Fritos in the cart and then spend 15 minutes flipping through Vogue at the checkout counter).
It was walking through Tom Thumb that afternoon, about halfway through Spring Break, my epiphany came. It was those garbage-y sponge cakes, the little pre-made shells used for strawberry shortcakes. And I could hear my mom talking about how with just a little extra time we could make our own and they’d be so much better. I remember being so excited as she put strawberries and heavy whipping cream and Bisquick in the cart because that meant we’d be making strawberry shortcake for dessert.
I can see her now, slicing the strawberries in a bowl and throwing a little sugar. While those got nice and juicy, she made biscuits and when we were just about ready to eat she whipped the cream.
And then it hit me: That is a memory my mom made me with me. What we do once is a moment; what we do often together is a memory.
My best memories with my mom very rarely had anything to do with buying or doing or going. My best memories were those things she took the time to do with us regularly.
And so I went and grabbed strawberries and heavy whipping cream and went home, and chilled out (by my standards), and slowed down and made biscuits with my 4yo and hopefully a memory. They were yummy, too.
There is so much wisdom in this Ted Talk, especially now with this Lenten season upon us.
Confession: I love Lent.
Having ashes pressed into a cross shape on my forehead felt very solemn, very grown up, even as a kid. We were embarking on a journey together, my mom used to always say, and this was the sign we were part of a community much bigger than my eyes could see and up to something much bigger than giving up a vice food.
We did this, too, of course, this giving up of doughnuts or diet Cokes like everybody else.
In time, for a while at least, this became all Lent was—a chance to CTRL-ALT-DEL on any and all New Year’s Resolutions who had become stuck on the daily equivalent of the spinning pinwheel of death.
What I realized this year, as I thought about Lent and what to give up, was the things we really need to be giving up (anger, sadness, perfectionism or insert whatever ingrained longterm problem that has been haunting your life) do actually require help. They require community. They require love. They require God.
A closer relationship with God is what this 40 Day journey really is about anyway. And so we need to take on challenges that remind us what Jesus said: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I do not need God to give up Starbucks. Or wine.
Okay, maybe wine.
What I need Him for, what is impossible without Him, is to give up my anger about what is. That, I believe, is our work in Lent. Find what seems impossible yet necessary, and give up trying to take this on by ourselves.
Lean on God.
And yes, lean on those with crosses pressed into their foreheads—figuratively or literally. This is where this video seems appropriate. Because we all crave and need love and we keep going about trying to get this love in all the wrong ways, by winning it or earning it or proving ourselves worthy of it. And what we really need is some tenderness—from our friends, from our lovers, from ourselves.
The Beatles were wrong.
All we need is love that shows up in the form of understanding, acceptance, a second chance, a smile, a kind word, a commitment to show up for each other, a willingness to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated.
So that is what I am up to for the next 40 Days.
And I hope you join me because, frankly, we need as many people as we can to do this.
This is my 4yo riding her bike with me jogging alongside shooting videos.
It was magical.
Until she fell.
Then fell again.
And as we sat on the sidewalk after that second fall, she said the truest thing, the thing that only feels OK to say at 4yo. She said “I don’t want to hurt.”
So we had that talk, about how you can try to avoid hurt but then you miss the joy of the wind in your hair when you ride your bike, of swimming so far into the ocean that you no longer can see the shore, of falling in love, of wanting it so very bad that you are willing to work incredibly hard.
You miss the joy, the joy, the joy.
And even then you do not guarantee a lack of hurt.
The only thing you guarantee is a different kind of hurt, of not feeling, of not trying, of not daring, of not loving, of not hurting.
Because there is joy in hurt.
Hurt is actually the seed of joy where it sometimes begins.
And now watching this video, of knowing that she fell twice, of knowing that she got back on and rode all the way home, I wish instead I had filmed what she said before getting back on.
“I’ll do the joy, momma.”
Even when it hurts.
People ask me all the time what the hell I am doing covering sports. OK, women ask me. They do not get it. They do not get all the time, energy and money, mostly money, devoted to playing games. What I always respond with, what I believe with all of my heart, is sports is bigger than games.
Sports teaches us, grows us, helps us.
Sports, whether we play or watch, reminds us of what is possible, what we are capable of, the value of hard work and the power of failing.
And just when I start to forget, my path crosses with a guy like Doug Baldwin.
He plays receiver for Seattle, more than expected because of injuries. And in last week’s playoff game against New Orleans, he came down with a big catch, the biggest catch, a gutsy third-down call that sealed the Seahawks victory.
This is just background. What you need to know about Baldwin is he almost quit football while at Stanford. He almost quit for reasons, that at that time, felt real and terrible and unsolvable. He almost walked away because, frankly, it was hard. And he talked about why this week, why he almost did, why he inevitably did not and what he learned as a result.
You will want to hear this. Yes, you. Even if you do not like sports.
“All of you guys knows that Jim Harbaugh and I did not have the best of relationships while I was at Stanford, but all of that stuff is settled now,” Baldwin said.
Now here comes the gold from him.
"I was immature. I was a young athlete who thought I knew everything so we clashed at times. … It’s nothing personal against him, going back I thank him for the adversity he put me through so to speak because it made me who I am today. It made me a better person and a better football player. There’s nothing against him, nothing personal, it’s just a guy that coached me through college and you want to show him that I’m as good as I think I am."
There is so much genius in what this little wide receiver said, so much wisdom, wisdom won from adversity. I read this thing recently that the things that hurt us, the things that we think we can not survive are really just puncture wounds that allow the light to come in.
Here is the catch: It only streams in if we let it.
The real genius of Baldwin was he recognized his own role in this problems. He cleaned up what was on him, and let go of what was not. The part about it not being anything personal is especially instructive. He is not carrying it with him, and it feels good to be light.
Thanks for the reminder, Doug.
So I did something shocking on Wednesday. I took a yoga class. In Seattle. In a studio I had never been to before and where I knew nobody. OK, this is probably not all that shocking to you on second thoughts. This is mostly because you are not me. Being me means being so painfully shy that you would rather do nothing than something that might be embarrassing, and trust me everything is embarrassing when you are me.
I went anyway. And this is part of my practice of yoga, constantly pushing my limits of what feels comfortable. This is really f-ing hard work, too, because my natural inclination is to emulate the hermit crab.
Occasionally, on days like Wednesday, I am rewarded for not doing this. Because on Wednesday, I stumbled into a class led by Sean at Be Luminous who almost immediately began talking about our dirty minds. Not sex dirty (and really who still thinks sex is dirty? Holy balls, sex is amazing people). He instead was talking about our dirty, trash-talking minds, the voice in our heads saying you can’t, you aren’t, you will never be. He was wondering why we do not wash that whiny little bitch’s mouth out next time it reverts to telling us just how small and pathetic and embarrassing we are? Sean asks good questions.
Of course, my mind immediately raced to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman—an occupational hazard I am guessing. What you need to know about Sherman for all of y’all who do not know football is he talks as good of a game as he plays. He talks trash incessantly—before games, during games, after games, in your face, behind your back, as he’s devouring you, while you are beating him, always, incessantly, brutally talking. And I love Sherman for this, much like I despise my brain for this.
He is brutally honest, immensely entertaining and fiercely competitive. What you may not know, what his teammate safety Earl Thomas revealed on Wednesday, is all of this trash talking has a purpose.
"He’s so smart. Everything he says he is doing it for a reason," Thomas said. "When he’s over here, acting like a villain up here, he’s doing it for a reason."
The lesson from Sherman is simple: Do not waste your dirty talk. If we insist on talking dirty to ourselves, we damn well better have an end game beyond “Well … uh … I always have gotten off on criticizing myself”, or even worse, telling ourselves this is true. What we have to do with this dirty, trash-talking mind is instead channel it, use it, turn it into a motivational speech. Or do exactly what Sherman has done after being drafted much lower than his talent indicated.
"It fuels me every single day," Sherman said Wednesday. "Every day I look at the write ups people wrote. They say he is stiff. He has not ball skills. He has no explosion or instincts to play corner. I think about that every day. I look at the clippings. A lot of people are like don’t read your news clippings. I read them every day. Anything negative somebody said about me I use as fuel. I use it to make the chip a little bigger."
This fuels him. And this may fuel you, too. Only you know. My hope is that if you are going to talk dirty to yourself that you remember a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. Only do so if it motivates you. Only if you are like Sherman. And even then, I’d invite you and Sherman to join me at Be Luminous because I think Sean has a point, too, that dirty talking ourselves is a waste. Rather than feeding our chip, we need to be feeding our soul. With love. With acceptance. With “yes, you can.”
My flight to Seattle—yes, I am on my way back less than 72 hours after leaving—takes only slightly less than a billion hours. In the five range, if we are being sticklers for accuracy.
So I bought Gogo inflight, 90 minutes worth with an intent of blogging, catching up on email and diving into my bookmarked-articles pile. Of course, I “stopped by” Facebook just really quick, too.
And just like that 30 of my 90 Gogo minutes were Gogogone.
This was without a stop by Instagram or Twitter, another pair of internet rabbit holes that I frequently find myself descending further and further down when all I really had intended was to Google a QB’s completion percentage or to do a quick Gmail check or to forgo opening my web browser at all for writing. Yes writing, that thing I do because doing so gets me all fired up and alive and electric.
Only I do not write as much as I used to, or not as efficiently.
And what I have determined is a big reason why is Facebook, and Instagram-Twitter to a lesser extent. I have been so busy #wittilyhashtaggingmylife and “liking” your lives and then refreshing and doing all of this again and again that I have let some of my bigger goals take a back seat. To write a book.
To create a big-time, nationally read blog.
To yoga daily. To run. To play tennis.
To have lunch/drinks/phone calls with friends.
To be with my 4yo when school ends.
To cook more.
To read books, newspapers, blogs, To read because I love to read.
To have time to play Scrabble or talk politics or dreams with my husband.
And mostly to be fully present in whatever moment I am in.
So what is the big deal about 30 minutes of Facebook surfing? Nothing, really. Only I go down this rabbit hole multiple, multiple, multiple times a day. And this eventually cuts into how much time I spend writing, or at times how much time I spend with family because I have to write after dinner, or whether I delve deeper into this John Wooden biography I just bought, or if we get around to Scrabble, or if I am really there while lunching my friend on Monday.
When looked at from this angle, those 30 minutes really are a big deal.
In the words of Annie Dilliard: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
And my daily behaviors do not gel with my stated goals for my life.
So already, less than a month into 2014, I am having to revise my resolutions.
I am starting a little Facebook diet. My plan is to stop by once a day to post my blogs and columns, and check in on y’all. Because I do love seeing pictures of your littles and reading articles that interest y’all and just feeling like I am staying connected to many I do not see often enough and, unlike in some professions, social media is a decent hunk of my job. So there can be no signing off entirely.
What I crave, I guess, is moderation. And we will see if that is possible for me.
Revisions may be necessary.
And if you have not seen me for a while, liking your posts or telling funny 4yo stories or taking FoxSports 1 selfies for my book, just give me a call. Better yet let’s go to lunch. I am going to need a break from all of this writing and living I plan to start doing.
2014 is barely 10 days old and, already, I have traveled 3,729 American Airline miles. Advantage Platinum here I come. In fact, I have spent more time away from Texas so far this year than I have in and more, more, more awaits. Likely Seattle again. Then Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco or Carolina. Thne New York. Then Russia. I miss my family and my life, my dear friend’s birthday party and teaching/taking classes at my yoga studio. And doing all of this missing with a gloomy, rainy Seattle backdrop is downright depressing. This sucks, or this is what I keep telling myself as I watch my friends plan outings and talk to my 4yo on FaceTime and try to remember what room I am staying at at this particular Marriott.
As I walk this rainy city, though, I keep thinking of my friend Kelsey DLT who loves to say that while we oftentimes get caught in rainstorms both real and literal only we decide if we are cold and miserable. That is great coaching, right? What this trip to Seattle has reminded me of is, oftentimes, in this life, we have to be able to coach ourselves. Right there. In the moment. And having spent most of my life chronicling what coaches say and do, what I know for sure is they almost never sit around saying this sucks. This is not because their team was peachy. I did, after all, cover a 5-11 Dave Campo season. What coaches, always and forever pressed for time, understand better than anybody is your best use of your time is focusing on what you can do right now today.
What follows are five ways to coach yourself up.
1. Coach your own team. Former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, whenever asked about another team’s problems say, used to always say: “I’m up to my own ass in alligators.” His point was spending time envying what another coach had going on or snickering at his problems distracted him from his team, his goals and left him open to screwups. How often do we do this? How often do we gossip about another person instead of shining that light on ourselves, or envy so and so for having a perfect job-life-car-marriage-figure instead of being thankful for what we have and who we are? The first rule of coaching is actually very yogic—eyes on your own team (which in this case if yourself) because that is the only thing you can control and that is where the real change begins.
2. Watch the film. The joke among anybody who has ever covered Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is answer any and every question with: “I have to watch the film” JG is not alone. Lots of coaches use this in postgame talks. And while this phrasing is sometimes a crutch to avoid answering a question, before judging what happened and deciding what to do next, they do an honest study of what was, what worked and what failed, what to keep and what to discard. They watch the film. How to do this without a documentary film crew? Easy. Review your journals, your Facebook statuses, audit your friends and family and co workers. What you are looking for is what coaches do, moments in the game and in life when you were at your best, your happiest, that positioned you to get what you want most. Also look for what is not working, no longer serves you, is no longer true or just does not make you happy so you can fix or eliminate.
3. Do not be afraid to change your game plan. This is the key to football, how well you adjust and usually how you adjust on the fly. The goal is the goal in football—win the game. So there is no attachment to throwing for 500 yards or holding the other team scoreless. How a team plans to win is not important at all. What matters if they find a way. This is life, too, right? We have a plan. Maybe, it is to get married or have kids or own a coffee shop or be a sports columnist. This is the goal, and you have a plan on how to get that done. What is important is to check that film, a lot, and be willing to adjust. Sometimes we have to adjust because life says no. Sometimes we have to adjust because we wake up and realize, wait, that is not my dream any more. The most successful teams (in this case that team called You) are not afraid to audible out of what is not working to what will. This is not giving up on your dreams. This is merely giving them their best chance.
4. Play the game you are in, only that game. Like I said, I am in Seattle prepping to cover Seahawks-Saints on Saturday. Blah, blah, blah. What is interesting to note is they played just six weeks ago, and New Orleans got rolled. By Seattle. In Seattle. You know what New Orleans is not saying? Well, we failed last time so this is useless. You know what I never once heard in Seattle? This is going to be easy. What football teaches you, rather quickly, is if you are replaying last week’s game or looking forward to next there is a very good chance you will get your ass kicked in the now. No need for translation here. This is life.
5. Your toughest opponent is you. A good hunk of coaching is getting players to believe in themselves. Believe they are good enough. Believe it is possible. Believe it is worth it. Typing this I am reminded of possibly my favorite Dr Seuss line ever. It comes from possibly my favorite book of all time “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” "I’m afraid sometimes you’ll play lonely games too, games you can’t win because you play against you." The biggest indicator of your success is how well you fight the battle in your head between the voices saying “Try” and “Who are you kidding?” They are lonely fights, for sure, usually waged at your weakest moment like say when you are in dreary Seattle by yourself for a week. This is when you have to do what all good coaches do and pull out a pep talk, and not simply any pep talk. An episode of Friday Night Lights. Or Al Pacino’s speech about inches in Any Given Sunday (trust me on this). Or my personal favorite, Chariots of Fire. Pulpit scene. Or a simple reminder to Burn The Boats.
Every year for probably 20 years my first and biggest resolution has been to lose weight. As little as five pounds, usually 20 and in 2010 a daunting 40 that had been undealt with after having my now 4yo. And I did, lose weight that is. Whatever my numerical goal, I almost always shrunk to within spitting distance by various methods that I have detailed often for y’all yet bear repeating for comical impact.
Weight Watchers. Eating less than 1200 calories. Running, yoga, tennis. Sometimes all in a single day. Sometimes all in a single day while eating less than 1200 calories. I have taken fat-shaming photos of myself in a swimsuit, and bought every diet book known to man. I have eat vegan and Paleo, Atkins and low cal. I have done juice cleanses and Dukan diets.
And here I am in 2014, almost 20 years later, with 20 pounds to lose and thinking if I just make that my resolution, just start another diet, just restrict myself for a certain amount of time then “BOOM” 2014 becomes my finish line. All I keep hearing are the infuriating words of Dr Phil: How is that working out for you?
Not well, not well at all apparently. So why do I, a reasonably intelligent person, keep walking down this road? Because I want to be thinner. Not healthier. Thinner. I. Want. To. Be. Thinner. And I realize I am not supposed to type this, to feel this. I am supposed to be done with diets, evolved beyond what my scale says, blah, busy loving myself as I am, blah, blah, blah.
That is bullshit. At least for me. What I know for sure to start this year is I want to be thinner, and how I have gone about trying to do this has not worked. So my biggest and first resolution for 2014 is: Get my expectations up.
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells used to say this, and I heard what amounted to this message again from Chiefs coach Andy Reid when I went to Kansas City on New Year’s Day. Reid had taken over an awful team, a 2-14 awful team, a broken team and really any improvement at all was going to be amazing. What he was conveying to his team was “Be up to something bigger than just being better.” And as I turned this phrase over again and again in my head on my flight back, what he seemed to be saying to me was:
Be up to something bigger than being smaller in 2014.
The truth is, as much as I want to be thin and I really really desperately do, what my heart really desires is to write a book (Resolution No. 2) and to get a tattoo (Resolution No. 5) and add another kid to our family (Resolution No. 7) and renew my vows with my husband and build a great marriage (Resolution No. 12) and to go on two vacations with my family (Resolution No. 13).
This does not mean I am giving up on losing weight. Hardly. I started a 30for30 healthy eating pledge with two amazing and supportive friends in 2014, and I plan to be running and yoga-ing too. This is just no longer my biggest priority. My expectations for 2014 are bigger than being smaller. I am committed to being up to something bigger than losing weight. My problem year after year is not that my goals have been too big but rather too small. I had convinced myself if I just lost weight I’d be happy. What I am starting to realize is, maybe, just maybe, if I am happy, then I will not have weight to lose.
So happy 2014, y’all. And I invite you to join me in getting your expectations up. Do not settle for retread resolutions, for committing only to being smaller. Instead figure out how you can be bigger—in giving, in loving, in friendship, in marriage, in life.
For Christmas this year, I decided to give love notes. To my friends. To my family. To husband. To my daughter. I bought and made and baked things, too, but what I most wanted my friends and family to know was how much and why I love them. So I wrote them and told them and included them in…