Something extraordinary happened last weekend. It was the 2015 Women’s World Cup Draw. I stood behind our couch ironing clothes as my 14 year old sat before me glued to the television. The broadcast opened with a panel of former and current female soccer elites. Their anticipation and excitement for the draw matched our own. We were within minutes of knowing how the first round of matches would line-up when I felt an all-too-familiar lump in my chest. It’s a physiological sensation I tend to get when an unexpected emotion is about to surge through my body and being. I couldn’t completely discern the emotion in those moments that tears began to well up in my smiling eyes. Was it gratitude? Anticipation? Joy? I wasn’t quite sure…but I know what you’re thinking- Really? All of this emotion over the Women’s World Cup? And the answer is YES. And not exactly.
I must disclose that I did not really grow up loving soccer. I was an athlete in my early years, no question about that. I spent most of my time in dance studios, including the one my mom owned for a period of time. As I approached middle school, I discovered I was fast and strong and tall and determined on both the basketball court and the soccer field. My father had a brief basketball career extending beyond college to the professional realm of European sports. My mother was a dancer, turned aerobic instructor in the eighties before beginning her career in nursing (I should mentioned she competed in Rebok’s National Aerobic Championship when I was still in elementary school). So it was sort of in my blood, but I never really landed and settled onto either the dance floor, the soccer field or the basketball court. Looking back, I was probably most physically suited for soccer, but by the end of my eighth grade year, when it was time to anticipate athletics in High School, one of my girlfriends asked if I’d tryout for cheerleading with her. With little personal direction and having an adolescent-hormone-bathed-brain that already identified the amount of attention the cheerleaders received from the male athletes, I hopped right on that train heading no where good. Thus marking the end of my athletic opportunities. Though, I should mention (or brag) that I did later play on an adult co-ed soccer league in the beginning of my marriage and also went on to fulfill a bucket-list item when I danced for a hip-hop company after having my first two babies.
I promise there was a point to that personal narrative detour. As I stood at my ironing board that morning, peering at the screen that was showcasing such strong, talented and beautiful female athletes, it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall a single strong female role model from my childhood memory. I’m not suggesting that there weren’t women worth admiring and looking up to when I was a developing girl, but I don’t recall being exposed to any that awakened my heart, strengthened my hope or focused my dreams. I pondered for a moment how my life may have taken a very different path had I been witness to more female narratives of greatness back then. In a split-second I was overwhelmed with the importance for girls to WITNESS the possiblities for their lives. We need more women in the pulpit. We need women in governement…yes, we need a female president. We need women’s voices to be present in the media. We need women’s sports to be televised. We need coming-of-age stories that showcase a female narrative. We need Oprah. We need Katniss Everdeen. We all need more women.
Nearly three years ago, my husband drove our three older girls to Utah so they could watch the US Women play in a friendly against Canada prior to the Olympics. Alex Morgan was being interviewed just before the game was about to begin directly in front of where my girls were all sitting. It was a moment they will never forget. We realized then that we would need to be intentional about exposing them to the narratives of a multitude of strong, determined and talented women, but my heart aches for a time when such intentionality is no longer necessary. I long for the day that women’s narratives hold equal weight in a world where they carry half the sky.
My 3 loves taking a photo of one of their heroes (standing behind a fan with a ridiculously large hat)!
Friendlies! We are finally ready to release our first ever 3 Therapists Chat it Up Video Blog! It’s a little lengthy (a whole 28 minutes)…but we invite you to join us for an evening discussion about our blog name, the books we’re currently enjoying and our thoughts on community. Please excuse our technical glitches and our silliness (clearly we amuse ourselves and one another). Let us know what you think and what you’d like us to discuss in our next video chat.
For the last five years, my schedule has been anything except consistent. Graduate school class times changed every semester, internship hours varied and licensure and supervision was accomplished at everyone else’s convenience. I don’t remember a single week where I did the same thing everyday. I never went to sleep at the same time, or woke up at the same time; never brushed my teeth at the same time or took a shower at the same time; never worked the same hours. And we, as a family, never ate dinner together at the same time each day. Now that I have reached the primary goals I was working so hard to achieve, I am, among other things, master of my own schedule and have decided to get back into the rhythms and routines of daily life that I have been missing for far too long.
One of the rhythms I have always longed for is to have a morning routine. I used to pray that I might be a morning person. “God, I promise if you make me a morning person, someone who greets the sunrise with a smile of anticipation, I think I could rule the world…on your behalf, of course.” I thought that getting up in the morning and doing all the many things I needed to do before everyone else awoke would set me up for success. Once, I even bet on myself and asked my mom to pay me if I managed to get up at 6:00 AM every morning for a month. She took the bet, knowing I have never been that someone who greeted the day with a smile, and won. I did it for three days and then realized my nice warm down comforter and soft cotton sheets were worth more than whatever trinkets I could buy with my prize money. I was even so convinced that not slumbering my life away was the key to happiness that one time, I took a large blue stick of chalk from my children’s sidewalk art kit and wrote in gigantic letters across the top of my bedroom, “Wake up, O sleeper! Arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). Alas, the mantras, the bribes, the gimmicks and goals never brought about a change in my behavior. Something else, entirely, did.
For the duration of my time in school, Karl was the one who did all the morning duties. He got the kids up, dressed, fed and packed their lunches for school. I would either be out of the house before everyone else’s alarm went off, battling rush-hour traffic to get to school on time, or sleeping-in from having stayed up far too late writing a paper. Day in and day out he kept the house in order while I was off pursuing my ambitions. I honestly took for granted all that was being accomplished while I was either asleep or away. But this year, I was home on a few mornings and recognized the toll it was taking on Karl. He had been doing it faithfully for five years and it was wearing on him. It’s not that the tasks themselves were difficult; it was that being “on duty” from early morning through the day until evening is physically and emotionally exhausting. At the end of the evening, when I got home from doing all that I had taken responsibility for and wanted to verbally process the day, he had very little left to give to me, emotionally. Who could blame him? He’d been keeping all the plates of life (kids, budget, cooking, planning, scheduling) spinning as well as working a full-time job.
I’d like to say that it was only compassion, or altruism, or a servant’s heart that led me to change my behavior. But I would be amiss to not include self-interest as well. I saw that if I could take over everything that needed to be accomplished in the morning, that would mean spinning a few plates so Karl wouldn’t have to. He could take time for himself first thing in the day and be set off on the right foot, and then, likely have something left to offer me in the evening. So, I asked him to train me. Teach me everything he did in the morning and the order by which he did them. We wrote things down on a white board and made checklists and I shadowed him for the first few days. Then, with every ounce of courage and determination I could muster, I set my alarm(s) to get up early and get all things accomplished.
I’m happy to say that I have been doing this for a month now, and while I cannot conclude that I am a morning person, this very simple change has effected my entire days. The rhythm of getting up at the same time sets my day in order. Getting up early makes me tired and ready for sleep at an appropriate evening hour. I feel like I get more accomplished because I start of feeling accomplished by 8:00 AM. And in the evening, Karl has mental, physical and emotional room to spare. But what I’ve also found is that I don’t need him to have that much room. My personal agency in changing our daily routine has filled me with a sense of value, worth, contribution and ability that has allowed me to believe that there are many things I can already do for myself.
Who knew that a simple change could bring about such wide dividends? Well, I did. But I had no idea how to make those changes. Turns out, it happened rather organically. When the need became great enough, change became necessary and only then, possible.
So, in summary, I guess if you want to change…find out what it is you really need.
Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.~Anne Lamott in Help Thanks Wow
I think about death a lot. That is probably not the way you expected an after-Thanksgiving post to begin. But it’s the truth. Though it’s difficult to recall my mindframe pre-near-death-exeperience, I’m pretty certain I did not think about death as much back then. Perhaps these more frequent thoughts are related to some residual post-traumatic stress. But maybe not. Perhaps it’s because every which way I look there is something reminding me of our mortality as human beings. From recent public conversations about the young woman who opted to end her own life rather than allow her inoperable brain tumor to run its own course of cruelty, to an episode on Grey’s Anatomy, there are reminders of death every single day. Maybe the increase in thoughts is simply a reflection of aging. After all, the older we grow the more loss we are likely to encounter.
About six weeks into my recovery from Briella’s birth, I drove to work for the first time. I was initially surprised by how natural it felt to be heading back to work, driving the vehicle I’ve spent much of my life maneuvering around. Just as I was about to turn onto the off-ramp from the highway, I was assaulted by an imaginary image of the car in front of me being flung into my windshield. My brain registerred the possiblity of another car being struck and sky-rocketing into my direction and apparently thought it was something I needed to be prepared to handle. The imagined and envisioned scenario jolted my heartrate and left me breathless, but it was not the first indication of my post-traumatic stress. Up until that point, I had also been experiencing dreams almost every night where I was unexplainably draining fluid out of every pore of my body. The dreams felt so real that I would wake up and ask Brian to check to see if there was anything dripping down my back. Considering the amount of blood I lost in both surgeries, the retention of nearly 50 pounds of fluid that my body shed over the course of the two weeks following, and the tubes I had coming out of my body to drain urine while both my bladder and my ureters continued to heal, it wasn’t that difficult to discern what my brain was trying to process in the late hours of those restless nights. But this new fear of cars flying through my windshield was not as easy to explain away.
Thoughts of flying cars have morphed into far more horrific scenarios of which my children or husband are the primary victims. It’s as if living through trauma, an experience where I came face to face with my potential finality in this bodily form, caused a breach in the protective armor many of us live encased within throughout much of life. I think the armor is constructed by equal parts of denial and hope. Denial keeps the inevitable reality of our end and the end of those we love the most at a safe enough distance to function relatively unfazed. Sure, we all know that we will dies someday, but knowing by way of an idea is a very different thing from knowing by way of experience. Hope sustains our life as it compels us to travel further and further down a road we trust will lead us to joy even in the midst of potential tragedy and sorrow. Denial and hope, the two are very different things…or so I’ve learned over the past couple of years.
In my case, denial took the greatest blow in the aftermath of my trauma experience. I’m not sure I will ever be able to live in bliss with that psychological defense mechanism again. I now have an intimate knowledge of how quickly and unexpectedly my own life or anyone’s can come to an end. So how do I function in the midst of this new knowing? My capacity to function now directly correlates to my capacity to live in gratitude. It was gratitude for my life that sustained me during the months of painful recovery. It is gratitude that comes upon me like a wave knocking me off my feet when I’m sitting in the theater watching the production of Once next to the love of my life. It is gratitude that welcomes the tears shed after hard conversations with my oldest daughters about life and love and sex and beauty and shame and struggle. This gratitude thing isn’t about just feeling lucky. It’s about feeling like EVERYTHING is a gift. EVERYTHING. Every day. Every moment. Everything. I am not always able to live out of this place of gratitude – hence the days I don’t function as well. But learning how to practice saying thank you to the source of life daily has been my saving grace. Thanksgiving has moved its way up towards the top of my favorite holiday list over the past couple of years because it’s a day that simply invites us into the practice of gratitude. Let’s hope the spirit of Thanksgiving carries us all through the rest of this holiday season.
Check out our pinterest page for gratitude practices.