Don’t Wait for a Walk-Off

SPORT MLB BASEBALL

I’m not your typical New York Yankees hater. Meaning, I’m not a typical human being or baseball follower, because I’ve never really hated the Yankees. In fact, I have always found them to be quite fascinating and exciting, and an invaluable piece of American history. When my brother and I visited New York in 2006, we suited up in Yankees t-shirts and hats, scored some bleacher seats (in plain sight of my all-time fave, Mariano Rivera, in the bullpen), and scrawled on cardboard with Sharpie, “Wish you were here, Dad!” That photo brought tears to the eyes of my dad – a true blue Mariners fan, but more so respecter of the wider world of sports – the following Christmas morning.

Has the Yankees organization been embroiled in its share of scandals? Sure. Does its payroll ignite a whole new definition for the term outrageous? In most universes, yes. But sometimes you have to think outside the Bronx.

Last night was one of those moments.

It was Derek Jeter’s last home game after a remarkable 20 seasons (insert stats, records and rings here) with the NYY. And if you haven’t seen his bottom-of-the-ninth game-ending play and the emotional walk around the field that followed, stop reading this right now and come back after you’ve spent six minutes on YouTube.

My dad taught me to sound intelligent when talking baseball (Dad, it has been many, many years since I’ve asked someone which team they’re voting for, thanks to you). But more importantly, my dad has taught me – by modeling it – to get emotional about sports. They are one of the world’s most universal passageways to the heart of humanity.

And last night was a human moment. By now you’ve seen the video, so I offer no spoiler protection. Derek Jeter didn’t need that walk-off hit to seal his legacy. But once in a while, a near-perfect story gets the cherry-on-top of a near-perfect ending, and his last play at home was one of those moments.

Life is long, or so we hope, and in it we often find ourselves needing many, many chances (162 a year sounds about right to me) to set our record straight. That’s what I love about baseball. Like life, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to keep your batteries charged because you never know when you’re going to be called into extra innings.

You beat yourself up over the errors, the embarrassments, the mistakes and missed opportunities. Once in a while you might fly off the handle with some four-letter words, and you just hope those moments aren’t caught on camera.

At the end of life, like at the end of a long, long baseball season – let alone career – I think all any of us can hope for is that we batted above 300 and made some clutch plays where it counts. That our low points and bloopers are forgiven, and people see us for what we brought to the table. For how we inspired our team.

Derek Jeter wasn’t waiting for a walk-off win to feel content in his career. That was simply icing on the cake. It’s the cake we spend our whole life baking – adding and subtracting ingredients each day, making it taste as good as we can before we put it in the oven – that counts.

So don’t wait for the “Walk-off” of life – whatever that may mean to you – to make it count. You’ll probably never win the lottery, or receive a standing ovation in a stadium, or hear your song on the radio. Maybe you will, but more likely, it will be all the runs and hits and slaps on the behind from teammates that will make you look back at the end of your life and say, “good game.”

And that’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned from sports.

Well, those are the 500 words my husband wanted by 10am (600 and counting actually…). Hope you’re happy, Aaron. My face is still a little sticky from crying like a baby through that Jeter video, and my coffee has gone cold… but it was worth it. Getting emotional over sports always is.

***

photo credit

Higher Highs and Lower Lows

Dyrehavsbakken, Copenhagen

My husband and I got into a big fight two days after finally moving into our long-awaited “dream house.”

But to be honest, I would have been more surprised if we hadn’t.

Robin Williams’ laughter and smile were larger than life. They’re still painted in my memory and ringing in my ears.

But his pain was deeper than the ocean.

And parents, especially new parents, are thrust into the greatest joy, purest bliss and calmest peace of life with a precious new child…

So why do so many of them report suffering from the deepest sadness, most severe loneliness, and isolating ineptitude they’ve ever felt in their lives?*

The common thread in each of these scenarios is something that has taken me a long time to learn about life: with higher highs come lower lows.

With the house example, I’ve learned that even good stress is stress. The overwhelming work of packing your life into boxes and unpacking it piece by piece as you get to know and operate and secure each quirk and cranny of a foreign new place is unsettling, even if it’s also exciting. Add to that exhaustion, chaos and competing opinions about priorities and I’m willing to bet many a husband and wife have “gone at it” – in a way that’s far from the christening fantasy they envisioned.

Then there’s the raw, painful story of one of the world’s most beloved comedians suffering so severely he took his own life. I’m not a psychologist but I know many mental health professionals have said in the aftermath of this shocking death, that it’s often the people who smile the brightest on the surface, that are fighting the darkest demons inside. That smile is their armor; it’s certainly not their whole truth. High highs….low lows.

Finally we have the true roller coaster that is parenting. It can lift you, windswept, to breathtaking heights you never knew existed, and then drop you so fast it leaves you spinning and wanting to throw up.

So why does this happen and what can we do about it?

Well.

One more thing I’ve learned about life is there’s a hell of a lot we have very little control over. Like where our husband puts the coffee maker. Or the unbelievable number of times in a day our little one….fill-in-the-blank (Spits up! Wakes up! Cries! Makes me cry!).

What we do have control over, friends, are the expectations we set for ourselves, as parents and as people.

When we expect things to be picture perfect, easy and happy all the time – we’re setting ourselves up for a freefall into disappointment. How can anyone live up to that bar, set as high as a trapeze artist? I’m pretty sure the only thing new parents have in common with a trapeze artist is sometimes feeling like they live at the circus.

Expect yourself to be human. Expect yourself to do some things well. And forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned. Learn to be happy in your home with dishes in the sink, and a baby with spit-up on their onesie. You’ll wash them and change them eventually, but maybe right this second you really just need to pour yourself a cup of coffee or spend 5 minutes zoning out to E! News.

And that’s OK.

Hopefully once we learn to expect that life isn’t roller coaster highs all the time, the lows might even out as well, and we’ll begin to settle into something resembling – what do the trapeze artists call it?

Oh, yeah. Balance.

*PS –  I recognize and respect that sometimes these “lows,” when related to mental health are beyond our control and require the help of a trained professional, and/or treatment such as medication. If you are experiencing something you suspect could be a postpartum mood disorder, please know you are not alone, and you deserve to find the support you need. Here are a couple of resources available to you:

*Postpartum Support International of Washington:
http://www.ppmdsupport.com** has info on PPMD, list of recommended resources and Support Groups
*Peer Support Phone Line (a “warm-line” not a crisis “hotline” – support from women who have recovered from PPMD – if you leave a message, someone will call back within 24 hours). 1-888-404-PPMD

This essay was originally published on the PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) blog, Highs and Lows.

*photo credit

Why Not Me?

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“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
-Howard Thurman

What is your favorite feeling in the world?

Perhaps it’s the butterfly flutters of a fresh romance, those skipped heartbeats that come standard issue with a hopeful, sky’s-the-limit new love.

Or maybe it’s simple, quiet security. The comfort found in a safe home, knowing your needs are met, that your family is there for you and your life is just…stable.

Maybe you live for adrenaline-pumping thrills and have never felt more alive than when you’re risking your safety and giving your parents near heart attacks as you catapult out of a plane or volunteer in the Middle East.

Your favorite feeling could be wonder. It’s the reason people stop to watch sunsets, flock to the ocean, or lie under the stars. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that this life, and this world….are so much vaster than our own.

Freedom. Adventure. Devotion. Connection. Compassion. Pay attention to the feelings that make you come alive – they’re trying to tell you something.

I’ve known for years that MY favorite feeling – better than any drug or high or great romance or crazy adventure – is to feel truly, madly inspired.

I can single out a number of precise moments in my life that left me floored with this feeling. It has nothing to do with being practical or logical or having a plan – following your passion is about knowing that you can’t not respond to how something makes you feel.

Movies like The Blind Side and Precious have left me deeply moved, determined to walk through life with my eyes open to people who need help, compassion, encouragement, love… They haven’t led me to adopt a child or become a teacher, but my heart is more open to the endless ways each of us has the ability to help others, thanks to their stories.

There have been books I’ve read that have shaken and stirred me, that have engulfed me in their worlds so deeply I never wanted to emerge. These books make me want live a fuller, more aware life.

Now let’s talk about a feeling that we’re taught is bad, but can actually be good… to an extent.

I can’t remember what I was reading recently – it might have been The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown – but it spoke about jealousy not always being necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it can lead to bitterness and be destructive if allowed to fester, but the mere acknowledgement of our own envy, can actually be quite instructive in telling us something about ourselves and what we want (or want more of) in life.

I know what some of these moments have been for me.

There was a Christmas, maybe three or four years ago, where I distinctly recall standing in my parents’ kitchen, watching my sister-in-law tend to her daughter (my niece, and the first baby in my side of the family). It was a moment most would have observed as nothing more than mundane – walking to the kitchen sink with a baby on her hip or something like that. But I was so envious that she got to spend her days with this baby – that that was her life’s work. It wasn’t an “I hate you” jealousy at all (as toxic jealousy can become…) – it was an admirable, awestruck, “I hope that’s me someday” envy.

And today, after years of hoping and dreaming and planning – it is me! Imagine that! I would never change my decision to stay home full time with Anderson… maybe my division of time will morph over the years, but I will forever be imprinted by this season of staying home with him. That envy was telling me of a deep desire, and I didn’t ignore it – I’m living that desire today.

My latest subject of envy is the author Jojo Moyes, because I am still so freshly enamored by her profoundly moving book, Me Before You (I can’t even begin to do justice to a plot here – you simply have to experience it). Reading that book captured me in so many ways. As a reader (I devoured that book faster than I’ve gotten through a novel in recent memory. I felt like I was living in the same world – in the same home – as these characters). As a writer (I furiously scribbled pages of journal notes on insights gleamed from how Jojo Moyes structured this story and the writing tricks she employed that made it “work”). As a human (this story moved me to ponder love and life and death and so many possibilities in between…it was a reminder we only have one life…are we living safely in our comfort zone, or truly taking flight?).

So I envy her, because what I most want to do, outside of being a wife and a mother and a homemaker and a friend, is I want to write. It is what makes me feel most alive, and what makes me feel like I might have something to offer to the world, to myself, to my dreams.

I envy that this woman – this unbelievable story teller – gets to have a family, and also gets to make her living from writing books that change people’s lives and ways of thinking. I’m jealous that her husband brings her coffee and her laptop, and she begins to write, blurry-eyed, each morning from bed. Because it’s what she loves, she makes it a priority. And because her husband loves her, he does, too.

And now her book is selling millions of copies worldwide and being made into a movie.

As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s father taught him to say, “Why not me?”

Why not Jojo Moyes? Why not Jodi Picoult? Why not me?

Within hours of finishing Me Before You, I wrote to Jojo Moyes. It went like this:

I’m sure you get thousands of emails and don’t expect a reply.. but I just finished Me Before You last night, and I don’t have the words to express how deeply it impacted me.  I basically cried in the fetal position and couldn’t talk to anyone after it ended.  I will treasure that story forever. (I think it has officially de-throned my previous favorite book of all time.)You are an amazingly gifted writer.  If I could ever write something that touched others the way your book touched me, my life would be complete. Keep doing what you’re doing – you are a gift.

And then she wrote me back. It went like this:

Dear Beth,

Thank you for your email and your kind words.

I am so glad you enjoyed Me Before You as much as you did and I hope if you read any of my other books, you enjoy those too.

With all best wishes,

Jojo Moyes

So that was cool. And a reminder that she’s just a person – a brilliant, busy, professional writer person – but still just a person who writes in pajamas and responds to emails. So why shouldn’t she respond to me? Why not me?

So I want to write more.

I can’t say I don’t feel the least bit self-conscious by proclaiming my desire to write. Honestly, it feels like a luxury to be able to have a lifestyle and a space and a schedule and a husband that allows for me (encourages me! He would even bring me coffee!) to do that. I get that, and I am really, truly grateful. I am not entitled, but I’m also not apologetic, because more people need to do these things when they get the chance. Agreed?

Because I believe that if you have the chance to go for your dreams, you should. And how can I raise my child to believe that, if I don’t first believe that about myself?

So I will write. It may take me a few months, or a few years, or (hopefully not) a few decades, but one day you just might see my name on a shelf in a store.

Because really, why not? Why not me? Why not you? What makes you feel so inspired, so alive, so driven, that you can’t stand to merely sit in the feeling of it and not do something about it?

Go after your favorite feeling. Turn it into your reality. Because no one else will do it for you, and what the world needs most is people who have come alive.