Well, It’s been a few weeks…I’ve had to figure out what to do with this pain. I found out I have a 5mm herniated disc on my L4/L5 vertabrae, it’s the most physical pain I have ever felt, including four child births and three foot/ankle surgeries, so it’s taken me more than a minute to breathe through this one. Pain stifles my creativity and pain medication does not agree with me. It makes me sad, and sick. Add that to not getting to play volleyball or go to yoga and it feels like a self imposed quarantine. But that’s what I’ve learned, the healing happens and the inflammation subsides when I slow down instead of trying to push through. So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve been humbled by the people who reached out to see if I was doing ok, it’s amazing for me to see the connections that I have made through writing and it always feels good to know someone is thinking of you, so thank you;)
Thursday I had to get a prescription filled at CVS and when they said it was going to take 20-30 minutes, I walked outside and decided to buy myself an ice cream. I hadn’t eaten much of anything because of the pain and, all my life, when my stomach isn’t right, vanilla ice cream is my go to. Right away I noticed that the line was filled with mom’s attached to little kids in Catholic school uniforms who had just finished their first day of school and my life passed in front of my eyes. The little girl in front of me had a first day of kindergarten sticker on her shirt and my little girl who used to be an afternoon kindergartener in a Catholic school uniform herself had just called to check on me and tell me to be careful with my back. Somehow she’s a Movement Science major and a junior in college. Facebook and Instagram are filled with first day of school photos, from kindergarten to college, and no matter how fast the time seems to have gone, some simple rules of engagement have stayed the same.
Be inclusive, not exclusive. I’ve had conversations with this theme with people from grade school to college this week and have learned this first hand in my own life. We can never expect to get the most from ourselves or anyone else if we don’t create communities where people belong to something bigger than themselves. We never get bigger or better by making someone else feel small or not included. It’s a memory I have that goes all the way back to preschool playgrounds and childhood sports teams (yes, I remember so many details from that far back). And if we are honest, in the end, the only thing we get by being exclusive is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness in the end. Community and connection beat elitism any day of the week.
Work to be your best, it leaves little time to judge anyone else. This has come up a lot lately, there seem to be so many different labels and segments that society, culture, or the news want to put on us. It feels like so much time is spent commenting or presuming what other people are doing, thinking, or feeling, when we are so much better off taking people at face value and charting our own course to whatever next great place we are meant to go. Being who we want to be in this life takes a lot of time and energy, judgment of anyone else and the road they want to take is a waste of time. Choose who you want to be around, and let the rest of it go.
The more we love the simple, the grander life will be. If there is anything I know that I have taken inventory of as my kids have gone back to school, it’s the feel of normal life, of waiting in lines, driving them places, and making plans. We know what it’s like to have things taken away from us that we never would have dreamed possible, so maybe we have a healthier grasp on the simple things that are really important. Good conversations, dinner with our friends, watching sports we love…these are just a few of my favorites. I’ve learned not to chase the next thing, because the truth is the stuff is never enough, but the people and experiences always are.
For the pain I have felt the last month, it’s been good to know that the things I have learned that have brought me through difficult emotional times can also bring me through physical pain. Deep breathes, gratitude, and asking the right people for help (I’m getting better at it) are lightening my load and freshening my outlook. Next week Luke and I are off to Spain, a trip I didn’t see coming, and now it’s almost here. Working on decompressing, my spine and my life, and enjoy it a little bit more, because our time, our health, and the people we love are enough and I’m determined not to take any of them for granted.
With love & optimism,
A picture popped up on my phone from Facebook this morning, one of those “five years ago today” memories. It was the year I skipped 6 man and drove up the coast with the kids. I wasn’t in the mood to play that year, staring down a divorce I didn’t want, but, looking back now, I remember that trip being an incredibly healing time. Me with them, in charge, confident, keeping my own schedule and creating the experience that I wanted to create. Instead of feeling sad, it felt free, like a massive decompression, a shift in my nervous system that let me breath deep, move slow, and believe I was going to be ok…away from the guilt, shame, and failure that I had been feeling. I was moving through it, and we were supporting each other through the tough stuff. It felt safe and real and I discovered that there aren’t two feelings I treasure more, because real love can be found in this place. It was my first adult realization that to get where I wanted to go I had to move through the pain.
Whether physical, mental, or emotional, pain comes to teach us something.
C.S. Lewis said:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains…”
Different than the emotional pain I had to find my way through five years ago, the pain I have been experiencing for the last three weeks is physical…sciatic nerve pain that leaves the deepest dull but persistent ache down my left leg most of the time. It’s only been three weeks and it has given me the slightest perspective on what chronic, nagging, pain does to our minds and spirits, it’s so much more than physical. It makes me want to go home instead of out, afraid that I won’t be able to do the things I love to do, makes my temper short and my mind foggy and then try and figure out what to do to get better. I stayed off the court for a few days and only felt worse, so I went out and played, and felt better. My blood needs to pump, I feel better when I’m moving. I’ve consulted all my trusted sources who help keep me feeling good from my massage therapist of 14 years Olga, Frank, my sage of a chiropractic orthopedist, and Amanda my amazing acupuncturist. I even had my therapist, who is also a trained Reiki healer, help me move some of this stagnant energy out of my body. I already spend a lot of time thinking about how grateful I am that I can have these cherished people in my life, they are all so much more than practitioners, they are my friends and we’ve built a bond on the path to health and healing. I can’t wait for you to hear from them in the conversations coming with my new website. Each one of them provided their healing ways and little by little this week the pain is getting better, but it’s not close to gone.
Just in time, I checked my calendar and saw that my last Reiki training with the most incredible group of women was set for this weekend. Since December, I have had the privilege to sit with a group of healing spirits once a month and learn about Reiki and other forms of energy healing. It’s hard to describe the peaceful and accepting feeling these women create, but tonight it takes me back to safe and real…no judgment, no secrets, no agenda, except to bring healing to body, mind, and spirit. And collectively they worked on my hurting leg and hip with their healing hands, and the stories, blocks, and battles that my life has created were part of this process. Pain is never about one thing, it gets its hooks in us and digs in deep and manifests in ways we could never anticipate. And while there is strength in carrying on, the love and healing is found by accepting and moving through it. If I can help you with Reiki healing, let me know. It really is amazing.
Yes, Monday I have a doctor’s appointment to get this hip and leg of mine checked out…but without the past ten days integrating these practices, I would only be treating the symptom, not the source of my pain. Too often these days, this is what we try to do; end the suffering by dulling what we feel. The stories of our lives live in our bodies, it’s our job to check in with them and find a safe space to work through them for ourselves and because pain has a ripple effect that lasts for generations. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you, I have learned a lot from mine this past week.
With love & optimism,
The Olympics have me deeper into TV and news than usual. As always, there is so much to cheer for, be proud of, and inspire us for whatever our game of life looks like, and the one thing I know for sure is that we never know the whole story of the journey that put any of us in the shoes we wear today. The same goes for these athletes. Whether it’s Simone Biles withdrawal from competition, Caleb Dressel’s medal stack and the vulnerability he showed in one of his post race interviews admitting how hard this past year has been, or the unbelievable story of Jake and Taylor’s beach volleyball partnership as it became Jake & Tri and they took the court for their first match with only two practices under their belt, the story behind the story is always what interests and inspires me more than any medal or result. These athletes remind us of what is possible, but their road comes with intense pressure and grind that only few in the world can understand. I hope that what comes from this Olympic experience, played out under the most unimaginable circumstances, without fans and families, and indecisive tests that can end the road for them in an instant, is an awareness for the need for support from early in a promising athlete’s career. The task of developing a whole person in the vacuum of trying to becoming the best in the world is immense, but the real lessons we learn from the success and failure we experience as athletes have the potential to create amazing human beings.
In this day and age, athletes at the Olympic level are intimately tied to the business of sport with endorsements, financial gain, and their livelihood is on the line. Consistent greatness comes with a price tag and the financial distress that can come with having an Olympic dream is immense. I’ve heard it quoted on my favorite podcast that the average Olympian finishes their Olympic run $150,000 in debt. These stories have been a reminder to me this week that no one is meant to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and none of us can reach our potential alone, even the best in the world. The struggles we have seen become part of their heroes journey and show us that success doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Watching the American medley relay team, made up of four American teenage girls, support their anchor who missed out on the gold by .13 seconds was an inspiring picture of what support from the inside looks like. No matter what the story, how can we integrate the whole process of becoming instead of holding the physical performance, the end result, and mental health as separate parts where one has to be sacrificed for another? As spectators, we can meet the stories of these high performing athletes with empathy and compassion knowing the kind of pressure they are under and the inspiration they provide for us. And then I realize that if we did that every day with everyone we meet, how much greater the connection with the people around us would be. If people feel like they have to watch out for themselves because no one else has their back, human connection and our sense of humanity is lost.
People say to me all the time, you are so open with your blog and what you write about. I write to clear my head, and so my kids will have an idea of what their mom was thinking about. I don’t want to be a mystery to them when they reach an age where it becomes relevant to their experience. My greatest hope is that it helps them understand themselves better even if I’m not around. I want them to understand that they are so much more than what they accomplish or do in a day. Armed with the understanding that not everyone has earned the right to know everything, vulnerability and candor have helped me create connection with people that inspire and teach me from the highest levels of sport and have helped me learn more about myself and the world. I can’t imagine keeping it locked up inside, it’s the greatest reason I have for my optimism.
What I have learned in my life is that success stories are not perfect pictures, they are real, marred by cuts and scraps and even deep daggers to our hearts that change us, the question becomes will we have the courage to wrestle with what lies beneath that story and will we be the ones who choose not to judge the stories of others that we think we understand even though we have never walked a mile their shoes. These Olympics are the games that will inspire me for all the reasons that they have since 1984, and for so many new reasons because of the struggling humanity that is on display. The better we know ourselves, our boundaries become clear, and we meet the stories we encounter with more compassion and less judgment, and that is a win every single time. This last year and a half has shown us how independently strong we are and in the same moment how much we need each other for connection and growth…it’s not an either/or proposition. We are never alone in the struggle if we have the courage to let it be seen.
With love & optimism,