This weekend, my daughter and I went to our first ever lacrosse club meeting. She was encouraged to play by a classmate and has been trying to find a spot on a sports team since she moved out to Snohomish.
For me, this was foreign territory in many aspects. One, I’ve been an athlete my whole life but never played lacrosse. And, two, this world of sports “clubs” was also unfamiliar ground as my own childhood sports career was more or less governed by YMCA or City athletic programs. The “select sports club” was not a thing for me in small-town Kansas.
So, here I am, excited about my daughter playing. She’s strong and naturally athletic (she gets that from her mom, of course.) However, she hasn’t been in the select program for things like softball or basketball, so she has been severely disadvantaged this year as she has tried her best to make the teams for these sports at her middle school. And while it has mildly affected her self-esteem, its mostly been just leaving her (and me admittedly) feeling left out and unable to enjoy the thrill of athletic competition and the comradery that comes from being on a “team.”
So I have come into this new opportunity 100% supportive and ready to do whatever was necessary to foster her.
However, by the end of the first club meeting of the season, all of the excitement was replaced with feelings of being overwhelmed.
There was the pitch to volunteer to help at the games. Between the games. The fundraisers. Etc.
There was the practice schedule. And the team building events. And the extra practices that aren’t required but are really good for your kid – you know, if you want them to be successful. And then the games – we didn’t even get to the game schedule. But they will be on weekends. Oh, and tournaments.
I was being consumed by the old familiar feeling of being trapped.
All I could think about as the meeting progressed was “I don’t have time for all this.” I’m a single mom. Two teenagers. And I don’t define myself by them. I define myself by me and what I do.
I glanced around the room at the other parents – couples mostly – and thought to myself “These people take for granted how good they have it...”
And then I’m feeling resentful. Because I didn’t want it to be this way. I didn’t want to do this alone. And I’m pissed.
But mostly, through it all, I was feeling afraid that now, after having just pulled myself out of a relationship where it was "us" and "him" but rarely "me", I’d have to give myself up again. I would have to put me, my needs, my goals, all on hold so that I can do this for her.
In the end, as we were heading to the door, I stopped to introduce myself and to thank the organizers for their work. In return, I was being encouraged to volunteer my time to help. I replied, “Well, we’re new here, and I don’t know the sport.” To which it was a very kind “That’s okay. We can show you!”
I smiled and said I’d think about it but my smile hid the fact that I was fighting back the tears as my chest was getting tighter and my world was shrinking.
My schedule I had already planned for the next month was completely re-written. I found appointments that would have to be rescheduled and overlaps that would require me to be in two places at once.
The extra time I had intentionally placed in my life - the time I’d been using in the last several weeks to do “my things” finally – writing for one – was fading.
But, for anyone who is going through the efforts of healing themselves – really healing themselves, there is recovery time that is needed too. And that is because going through the intentional opening of old, poorly healed wounds so that I can be stitched back together again the right way, has been emotionally exhausting.
And I’ve needed spare time – alone time – to buffer my kids from having to watch me go through it. I use the weekends that the kids spend with their dad for this. But now all I could see was this time slipping away from me as well as I saw every weekend on my calendar being filled.
The meeting showed me that, while in many regards, I am stronger today than I have ever been, in some places, I’m still paper-thin.
On the walk back to the car, I warned my daughter that I was feeling overwhelmed. I couldn’t say it without my voice cracking. I don’t want her to know I feel this way because I can’t have her ever believe it's about her, and that I don’t want to do these things for her. But I had to tip her off that I wasn’t feeling well so that anything I did or said in the next few moments or hour would have the right context with it.
She gets it though. She shouldn’t have to, but she does. She says that her friends have offered to give her rides to practices. And while that should be a relief, all I can think is that they will want something from me in return. So, it won’t help me in any way – it will only delay the payment for a bit.
Transactions – my life has been filled with them. I don’t ask for help because I’ve learned everyone wants something in return. No one just “does” nice things for you. Even if you don’t have to repay with the same, such as carpooling, the repayment comes in other forms of obligations, such as forced friendship, future favors, etc..
But it’s the “I’ve done so much for you, but you just take advantage of me.” weapon of choice for some people who need leverage at all times. They are either direct with their feelings, or passive-aggressive, applying it with guilt and shame. And those are the people I’m most afraid of now and not sure I can spot them all yet.
We went to the gym right afterwards because I needed to work out the anxiety and soothe myself. I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical, and my hands were ice-cold the entire time. My mind racing. My chest is still tight.
It took hours – HOURS – to fight off the “trapped” feeling. Writing this was actually how I started to re-center. It pulled me from my hijacked state of emotions thanks to my amygdala and right into the pre-fontal cortex region of my brain which is where rational, executive thinking happens.
But the scales finally tipped later that night when I took my daughter and her friends out for a trip to West Seattle, and a nighttime drive through downtown Seattle. It was my daughter’s 13th birthday. I started out tense, because of the experience earlier in the day but then allowed myself to watch and enjoy the joy my daughter was having with her friends. They were awestruck all night long.
(Photo Credit: Amee Quiriconi. All rights reserved.)
Her happiness made me truly happy.
And I knew that there was more of that to come through her experience with the lacrosse club. And that by doing this, I am capable of using my creativity to figure it out. I know I can still do me and be there for her.
See - no one ever actually asked me to give myself up. That was old fear talking. Not reality.
And in the end, I have to have faith that it will add more happiness than what I fear it will be taking away and lean in.