Most of my mornings start with movement. Over the years it’s become a ritual, like coffee or brushing my teeth. And while my routine has contributed to my overall health and happiness, the communities and relationships that have come from the places I’ve showed up have been an equal gift. Whether it was and the crunch of leaves with my neighbors for morning runs, the smell of chlorine and steam rising off the pool, the feel of sand under my feet, or a hot yoga room that was dearly missed over the past year, the people that choose to ‘play’ with me have shaped my life and gotten me through the down days. Whether it was the hugs I got on the pool deck the Wednesday morning after we almost lost Matthew in a near drowning or the focus I found on the court after my nervous system began to decompress after my divorce, sports and the communities that are created by them have created a deeper understanding about the experiences of life and others. These places and people are my home away from home, the backbone of the lessons I’ve learned in life, an incredible gift to my outlook on parenting, and a place where my own compassion for the stories of others has grown.
Within our teams and sports communities, even if we all look like athletes showing up to compete, the happenings of life that go on outside the court are often what bring us together if we take the time to listen. Whether the game gives us a chance to forget our worries, pound out our frustration or feel the elation of flow that disconnects us from our thinking mind for a period of time, there are so many psychological benefits to competition.
I never would have thought that spending almost a year working to get Stanford sports reinstated would introduce me to people that I may otherwise never have met. I wouldn’t have found Mollie Reinhart and the Befriend Movement - connecting people by forging new relationships through compassion, and healing racial divides in Richmond, Virginia, and using sports as a common ground to understand each other better. We have common visions on opposite coasts - and an almost tragedy turned to triumph in sports brought us together.
The energy and understanding in the world changes when we tell our story and open our eyes and ears to the experiences of others. The worst thing we can do is assume anything, because we shut out the possibility of what we can learn when we take the time to drop our guard and listen. Ironically, it’s the work we do on ourselves that allows us to listen with more compassion to others. The better we know ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams, we create more space in the world for other people to do the same. We drop our guard only when we are comfortable in our own skin. It’s a maturity process that I hope for for everyone, with all of our bumps and bruises, we are all capable of this experience. The opportunities that sports have created for me to know myself better and connect my body to my mind and spirit have opened me up to a world of questions that I wouldn’t have had the courage to ask without the coaching, competition, success and failure I’ve experienced and I see that same spirit in so many other athletes when we connect. After last year, and as we get ready for Wimbledon and the Olympics, I’ll still be looking to uncover the story behind the story and root for the underdog every time, because the comeback is always greater than the set back.
With Love & Optimism,
Sometimes i wish i could push record on my nearly weekly therapy sessions because the lightbulbs that go off when I process my thoughts are so clearing. I’m proud that we have normalized the conversation around therapy in my home, helping my kids understand it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help or guidance has been one of my own greatest lessons. It’s hard to teach them what we can’t model and do for ourselves. I look forward to these sessions because it’s a time when I get to let my brain unravel and relax and most of the time I realize how much I do understand about myself, the world I live in, and what my gifts are. I know I’m curious, calm, and feel the energy around me…I also know I have a tendency to want to rush in and fix, try to help others to take the focus off myself, and that most of my procrastination comes from trauma that makes me afraid to express myself, and my therapist has a healing spirit who helps me work through this block.
One of my greatest fears is being perceived as less than authentic…imposter syndrome as they call it. As I walked with my friend Chrissy early Saturday morning, we were talking about this, and she laughed out loud
“You not being real is like you waking up short tomorrow…it’s not going to happen.”
Her analogy made me laugh and reminded me how important it is to have friends that see and understand us without projection or pretense and she tops for me in this department.
From its inception, my blog has been a day by day living thing…real to its core. Lately I’ve been having many great adventures and conversations that center around volleyball, community, and life, but not enough time to decompress and synthesize them, so last Saturday night I went to bed trying hard not to beat myself up for not writing something for my usual Sunday morning post. I’m such a creature of habit, I worry if I miss one that I might never write another blog. I used to have the same feeling about exercise, that if I skipped a day, my good habits would fall away. But the true test of being our greatest self is learning to trust ourselves in unknown and new situations; when to push harder and when to surrender to a different process. Sometime patterns need to be broken, sometimes the energy we need to sustain includes a break for ourselves. All the time we need to trust in our own greatness…because it lies within each of us and the fun part is discovering how to uncover it.
What does it mean to trust your greatness?
Understand you don’t have to do it all to be great. We don’t have to be the boss of everything, or know everything to say something. Our lens is different than anyone else’s, so why even try to conform? So while it feels like community connects in our sameness, our greatness is in our differences.
Know that greatness doesn’t mean great at everything, it means you know yourself well enough to understand what is unique about you. Yet another nod to nonconformity and your own original story, so create it.
Understand your triggers…but know the work doesn’t stop there or we end up in a deep pool of blame. We all have things that have built up some scar tissue around our hearts and while recognizing that is part of the process, feel it, name it, and find your own closure that doesn’t depend on the person or thing that pressed your button in the first place.
Trust that helping others discover what they are great at doesn’t take anything away from you. The world needs all the greatness it can get.
Believe that there is no conflict between true greatness and humble soul, if you feel it, don’t let someone else’s perception shut you down.
And the hardest part, both for ourselves and as parents, is to know that greatness requires both risk and failure. So if you set off on a path that doesn’t work out, trust there is greatness in the pivot, and then do the work to make it true instead of repeating an old pattern. To help make our kids great, they have to understand their own strength, and that is never realized if they don’t learn to do the work themselves.
Like that therapy I was talking about, the great thing about writing my blog is that it helps me set my own head straight and keeps me charging forward on my path. Hope it provides some inspiration for you as well to trust in your own greatness.
Happy Father’s Day to the dad’s out there, especially to my dad who has been both humble and great every day of my life.
Connection. It’s a word that lights up my whole being and guides the way I shape my days. It helps me capture such beautiful stories and teaches me everyday that we all have one, and we are actively telling them with every breath. Sports stories have inspired me for as long as I can remember. More than that, it’s the story behind the story…from Brian’s Song to Seabiscuit, the heroes journey wrapped up in the spirit of competition never fails to pull at my heart strings. From some of the greatest sports stories of all time to the ones that we will only know if we take the time to ask, and then sit back and listen, I connect the dots from person to person and universal truth to personal experience and through that learn so much about my own journey, and how to support other people on their path. Kindness, compassion, non judgment and inclusion…this is how we help people rise, have the courage to tell their own stories, and learn to be comfortable in their own skin.
I have so much gratitude for the magic and energy of a moment in time. I love when I get to see the arc of the story playing out, it happens when I stay present, don’t rush it, and just listen. When I’ve done that, I’ve learned to embrace the power of my own story and, as I connect it with the lives around me, my vision becomes clear. We all have this challenge and ability, and when we embrace it, we discover our greatness that doesn’t look like anyone else’s and learn that life is a collaboration, not a competition. Some would think that competitive sports would work against this mentality, but what if we could teach at the youngest ages how to combine fiery competitive natures with compassion, kindness, and inclusivity? What if iron could still sharpen iron while we support each other through life’s trials and tribulations. Those stories are the reason I came to New Orleans this week through the connections I have made with my blog with like minded people working to support young athletes in sport, but more importantly in life.
Since arriving in New Orleans on Monday for Louisiana Beach Week, I’ve had so many awesome conversations and heard so many stories that connect this amazing beach volleyball community. Culture shapes community and that’s why this one is so incredible. It’s so cool to see beach volleyball alive and well and growing at an exponential pace in places outside of California. I’ve heard stories from Mississippi, Tennessee, New York, and Florida to name a few… and even the Californians are venturing out of their usual sandbox to this place called Coconut Beach with its signature style of a little slower pace, more space, and where eye contact and a smile are a regular thing. To see the love of the game at every level, and people who come out with the intention of including everyone at every level who want to play and have fun together has completed my stress cycle in a way that makes me feel at ease and comfortable in my own skin. What a gift. This is how you grow the game.
Sports transcend culture and give us all something to root for no matter where we come from, what our beliefs may be, and remind us that there is always something to work and cheer for. The conversations and stories I have collected this week have shown me that intelligence and authenticity are not scared of the truth, they are curious about it. Stay tuned…The Optimists Journal is about to become part of a bigger venture, my new website is coming soon and the stories I have collected this week will all become a part of it. The mind, body, and spirit of beach volleyball is at the heart of how I live and breathe, and I want to bring it all to you. Stories of healthy athletes, parents & coaches communicating and growing the game but, most importantly, always striving to become better human beings. This is my vision and I’m seeing lived out this week in New Orleans.
With love & optimism,