Just a few years back someone asked me:
“If you could live anywhere, where would it be?”
Even by this point in my life, I had traveled the world, but I quickly answered,
“Fresno. I love it here.”
I loved my home, my family, my friends, my church, my kid’s schools, my routine...complete with friends to have coffee and wine with, a Masters swim team, and a coach that put his heart and soul into our workouts as though we were training for the Olympics.
The thing about sports in my life, is that they have been a great outlet, and also a huge source of regulation. I got the nickname Turbo from my marathon running friend Michael the day I showed up at a Saturday morning swim practice, mad as hell about something, and, at the end of a 3500 yard workout swam 20 100’s on the 1:05. Not bad for a 35 year old recreational swimmer - and I left all my rage in the pool. The first time I was able to recognize flow state was when we swam a race 100 at the end of practice, no dive, just a wall start, and it felt like i was gliding above the water and I finished with a 1:02. The thing is, all of these significant and meaningful memories to me, even dating back to high school all tournament teams, Valley Championship losses that no one except the players and the coach remember, and chalk full of goofball injuries like torn thumb ligaments and severely sprained ankles that have left me with almost no dorsiflexion in my right foot come without any fanfare or major championships. But it doesn’t mean that they didn’t help train a championship mentality.
The growth comes with the process, not the result.
Life teaches us the lessons that we are ready to learn. I wish I had the mindset that I have gained through my yoga practice in my younger athletic days. Yoga has taught me not to run from discomfort, like the kind you face when you want another breath racing for the wall but shouldn’t take. It teaches me not to attach to outcome, and let it define who the world thinks I am. Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to calm my overstimulated nervous system with my breath. I am not one of those athletes where nerves work in my favor. The calmer I am, the better the focus and the vision, and that comes with breath work. Wish I knew that fact a little younger.
Now, I’m raising my own athletes, and I get to use what I have learned to train them. There is a big difference between using my hard earned knowledge to parent and living vicariously through my kids athletic experiences and I check myself on it frequently. I consider myself lucky to still get so much joy from the sports I get to play at 44 and can separate that from any success or challenge my kids my face. Today, this idea of process over result mentality doesn’t always hold true in the world of single sport club athletes, scholarships, and coveted championships. I have nothing against winning...I actually like to win a lot, but, I know that the bigger lessons I have learned have come in the face of adversity, in learning to trust my own gut because of my ability to process life on a highly sensitive level, and feel comfortable in my skin. These are the things I want the younger generations to learn from their athletic careers, no matter where they take them.
My athletic journey has two distinct periods of time, the first was one of a timid, tall, athletic kid who was literally afraid to stand out. The second chapter of sports in my life started when I got cut from the Cal Poly Women’s Volleyball team.. As a late walk on at Cal Poly, I had very little leash to get injured. I had already missed my entire high school senior season because of that torn thumb ligament and was significantly behind in skill from my Southern California counterparts. Then that typical and terrible volley injury when someone comes under the net and I was the lucky one to come down from a block and land on her foot sidelined me...and ended my career. But, I got just enough college level experience before that fateful cut to feel how much I loved to work hard, get better, and feel the blissful endorphin payoff. So, I let that ankle heel and pretty much never missed a workout for the rest of my college days. Self motivated, I lifted weights, could run 10 miles with ease...I still miss those SLO backroads, and came to understand what exercise did for my body. I went on to run half marathons, one marathon (checked that one off the list) and swim in Masters swim meets and open water races, the latter while raising four little ones. And now I’m lucky enough to get to play beach volleyball multiple times a week.
Our bodies hold on to the stories of our life and we have to find healthy ways to release them. Four pregnancies, a near drowning for my youngest, autism, divorce, these are just some of the stories that my body has harnessed and I have learned to release through swimming fast, breathing deeply on my mat, and pounding volleyballs into the sand. They each serve a freeing and secure purpose in my life because I have learned that I am my only competition. I win when I find calm, trust my gut, and beat back fear by doing what I’m scared of. And I use my mind body connection to keep it all clear.
So, as I get ready to take my first born back to start her college athletic journey as a athlete on the TCU women’s beach volleyball team, and my second born goes through the recruiting process and I will drop him off at school in just a year’s time, the way I have learned to process and shape my experiences is paying off for the kids I have the honor and joy to raise. Our journeys are all connected, they don’t begin and end solely on our terms. We are meant to use our trials and hard fought wins and losses to help others find their own best story.
This is why I write, and speak. Sports has taught me a lot about how to live my life, but in recent years life has taught me how to get better at the sports that I still love to play. Today, the game is life…and I will settle for nothing less than my own championship.
I’m coming back on September 17, to my favorite neighborhood, at Fig Garden Swim and Raquet Club, a place that holds a special place in my heart, to talk about “The Game of Life”. Come join me in this conversation about how we build confidence, find flow, and live our best life on and off the court. Tickets are available at www.theoptimistsjournal.com