Lizzie’s commitment to volleyball has started to rub off on me in unexpected ways (I watched Aaron Rodgers make two hail mary passes and even though I had to Google “hail mary pass” I can now say I have officially watched an entire Packer game). When I watch professional athletes now, I think of their mothers. I have said this before. I know. I think of the long drives to practice in all kinds of weather. Little Aaron in all of his oversized football gear …
Yesterday I woke up at 4am to drive Lizzie to a remote location in Illinois for the second day of a tournament. I drove, while she slept, past farms and barns (with their wee early morning yellow lights on). I drove past white churches, still lit with giant white light stars from Christmas. I fell in love with the land (white scattered snow, white foggy pre-dawn sky, dark brown stick trees) and I sang John Denver songs and thought about Luke (because seriously, how can you listen to Leaving on a Jet Plane and NOT think Luke and Haley). I listened, the only car on the road, to Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel and Carol King. To me, any road trip reminds me of being three years old and lying in my parents lap on the trips from Missouri to Milwaukee. Pre-seatbelts. Pre-airbags. Singing the songs they played on the cassette tape of their blue Hornet makes me feel home.
Lizzie has the most amazing coaches right now. I am just in awe of their ability to truly teach. In general, she has had luck with finding good coaches, but every once in awhile there has been a dud or an “eh” kind of coach (she has only had one idiot). The match she has found in this team is so exciting to witness. She has grown so much and I am learning so much about life and teaching by simply taking it all in from the front of my car and a bleacher seat. My daughter has always been an emotional, heart on her sleeve, type of player, which I am learning is not always such a good thing. She had an emotional moment this weekend where her coach said in a super matter of fact tone, “Lizzie, if you cry, you are done for the weekend.”
This reminded me of my fourth grade math teacher, Sr. Joan, pulling me aside and saying, “Kelly, honey, sometimes you just have to cover your buttons.” I still struggle with this … wanting to save the world with an passionate tirade of “shoulds.” It also made me wish that if I cried, someone would let me go home for the day. I would live in my bed.
When Lizzie is practicing and she gets tired, her coaches keep throwing balls at her, and they scream, “SUCK IT UP.” It seems harsh, doesn’t it? It’s so true though. It’s so simple. You are gonna get tired. You are gonna want to give in. You are gonna have bad days. You are going to want to cry. SUCK IT UP. Push past exhaustion, push past pain, push past fear, push past doubt. Suck it up means “don’t give up on you.” I am not so much a sports fan, but as an artist, I am pretty happy to learn some lessons from them. I am happy to watch Aaron Rogers throw a miracle pass and finally understand that it wasn’t a miracle. It was a result of a multitude of failures.
We are a culture that doesn’t work hard enough at making men vulnerable, but at the same time, we don’t do much to teach our girls how to toughen up. We teach them to say yes and please and thank you and no (when it comes to their own bodies and boys). We teach them to be team players and leaders and princesses, but it seems to me that we do that while making sure they smile at the same time. What I like about my daughter’s athlete-self if that it came with mentors who have not just told her to cover her buttons, but they have taught her how and when to do so. They have taught her how to navigate pain, not to ignore it, and they have taught me that art and sports are the same thing.
I used to always share the Anais Nin quote with my portfolio students: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” What Anais Nin meant to say, I think, was “suck it up.” Leap. Make your hail mary pass.