The Optimists Journal - The Comeback is Greater Than the Setback
The signs and experiences have been there my whole life. Not in the boldest ways, but in ways that are unique to me…always there to teach me something. Sometimes I call myself a late bloomer because I reframed the phrase, slow learner. More often these days, I realize that I process life on a deep level, and it takes me time. As I get older, I see that as a gift that helps me stay curious and learn about myself and other people and what makes us all tick, and I love writing about it. One of my cool conversations on the beach in the last few weeks with an engineer turned coach explained it as “root cause”, I’m always looking for the why behind the story.
Lately, scenes from my own story flash through my mind that I haven’t thought of in years. 1988, Kochi City, Japan, Friendship Games…my first ever international travel experience and it was to Japan to play volleyball. Traveling with a team at 14 without parents opened my timid eyes to the world and was the best experience. Randomly at the end of that trip, our team ran into Karch Kiraly at the Tokyo airport and as we all recognized him and went a little teenage girl-crazy, he was gracious enough to stop and sign our tournament t-shirts and take pictures. I hadn’t thought of this story in years until I watched the beautiful play of Miki Ishi and Megumi Murakami on Thursday at 8th St. in Hermosa Beach. With all the turmoil in the world this past year, sports have been one of our greatest sources of unity.
I have always loved volleyball. I learned how much with every setback. A dive on the floor that tore my thumb ligament my senior year of high school and made me miss the whole season, my rubbery ankles that couldn’t take someone coming under the net and ended my walk on run at Cal Poly. There aren’t any championships marking my path, but each of these setbacks taught me more about how much I love to play and how to take care of myself, so I am able to impart these lessons to my life’s greatest work…Lauren, Luke, Kate, Matthew…as they learn to travel their own paths.
Since these early volleyball days, the challenges have run deeper. Healing from broken relationships, and near-death parenting experiences have only deepened my perspective on the game of life, and the things I learned through sports have helped define my own comeback story. One thing is for certain, life will deliver adversity to our doorstep, and we have to figure out how we will respond. This week I’ve been thinking about the integral parts of what makes our comeback stories great and sets us on the unbeatable path of greater self-awareness.
- Honesty with ourselves. We only find our way to alignment when we face our story head on. There is no going around the things that scare us, the less than stellar qualities that crop up as we try to protect ourselves and our egos, and the unhealthy coping mechanisms that rear their ugly head if we try to change the facts. Sometimes these circumstances are born of our own choices, other times, like in the case of injury, sickness, or accident, they are handed to us, but both are here to test our resolve to see if we can emerge stronger.
- It doesn’t matter how other people see you, what matters is how you view yourself. As humans, we can get so wrapped up in perception and end up trying to make things look a certain way. Rather than focus on how things look, we have to learn to live by how things feel. I don’t mean this in an instant gratification way that allows you to take the heat off and feel temporary relief. When we learn to live in the present moment, we are able to feel whatever that moment is there to show us, and with that skill, find gratitude for that moment’s greatness or the strength to notice what is uncomfortable and know that this too shall pass. It looks different for everyone, so don’t let what someone else sees define your path, just get to know yourself well enough to have the courage to define your own.
- Recovery takes downtime. Sometimes the conversation arises that pushing through isn’t always the right thing to do. Time and experience have proven this to me firsthand. It’s not always about toughening up, softening to the experience is a skill. I wish I would have known this before Lauren did three weeks of Junior Guards with a broken arm and she finally said “those pushups still hurt” … Whatever the difficult story is that is asking for our comeback, there is inevitably time when we need to sink in, give permission for the moments we need to rest and reset, and be kind to ourselves. For me this looks like a few hours reading a novel or long walks and conversation with a friend. It’s not always about the grind, recovery time gives the comeback story the respect it deserves.
- Share Your Story. There is so much universal truth in all of our comeback stories. We all wrestle with doubt, fear, and the ability to love ourselves as we are in the present. The hero’s journey is one and the same for all of us, played out on different stages. One of the most inspiring things I have gained from learning to be transparent about my own struggles is the ability it gives me to connect with other people. Honestly, I’m not sure there is anything more beautiful in life than these moments. If we don’t have the courage to show our human struggle, we will never be able to emerge stronger for having gone through it, and we find ourselves in cycles that repeat instead of transforming our lives. Share your story, I’ve found that most of the time we are met with understanding and a resounding “me too” (the good kind!). It gives our struggle another purpose and we end up helping ourselves and others at the same time.
I was inspired to write about the comeback this week because of the struggles that I have watched my oldest two go through in this wild year we have all endured. Trust the process, surrender to what is, and believe that the path with the present itself. Let’s go 'Save Stanford Mens Volleyball', we’ve got momentum, keep battling. Lauren, I couldn’t be more proud of your grind and incredible sense of self-awareness. Sometimes the fight doesn’t look like you thought it would, but if we follow our instincts and keep training our minds, bodies, and spirits, the comeback is always greater than the setback.
TASK: Write a Journal Entry.
Have you gone through anything that was negative at the time, but in hindsight you can see the silver lining?