Fear of Going Back (on Joy, Preserved)

A number of years ago, when my youngest was just two years old, our family took a trip out to pick blueberries.

It was an epic day. The sun was shining upon us, and our delighted boys tottered through the rows, filling their tiny pails overflowing with blue fruit, and staining their fingers with the pure goodness of it. We stumbled upon a public park on the way back from the farm – the kind in those (hot!) places that sprays water from the ground for kids to frolic. Those frozen delicious blueberries lasted us half the year, and we chronicled the moment in our Christmas cards. It was good.

Blueberry picking was on our “summer” bucket list, so I looked at our calender and made it happen last weekend. We made the long drive out to the farm with so many great memories, and got our buckets ready. Only there was nothing to pick. The main bushes had been picked clean, and what was left on the scraggly ones were either dried out, or sour and under-ripe. The saving grace was a strawberry patch adjacent, and we did fill buckets of strawberries, and ate ourselves full – only to find husband making jam at midnight since those berries were going off fast.

I gave sincere thanks to God that I kept from nodding off as I drove home, and we returned from the 4-hour round trip journey feeling a bit defeated, and a lot tired.

I almost wished I had retained that day in my memory, instead of trying to recreate the joy.

We are going on vacation in a couple of days, and if I’m being honest, I’m feeling a bit anxious.

You see, we’re going back to the place my husband and I got married – a special little out-of-the-way island on the East Coast. Nine years ago, the experience was magical. We spent a week on the island, celebrating and relaxing and entertaining close family and friends – and making our vows to each in other, in a ceremony that I was surprised (given how long we had already known each other) at how different it made me feel.

I’m afraid to go back.

I don’t want to compromise the joy of the place, or my memories of it.  I’m worried that it won’t be as good as last time (of course it won’t!). I’m worried that something will happen, an inter-relational blow-out, that will sit on top of (and black out) the good memories I want to keep locked in my heart.

Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) talks a lot about sabotaging joy – including discounting present joy by worries that something bad will happen. My fears of erasing the past are just another way of sabotaging joy. Wanting to lock away my good memories in a vault is hampering me from fully sinking into the joy of this day. Now.

And yet there’s something to be said for not trying to recreate magic. Because in the end, each day is a different one. And if I’m always looking back as my reference point, I will likely miss the present now.

So I’m going on vacation, even a bit reluctantly. And I pray that God will help me enjoy each unfolding moment. Just. As. It. Is.

Life, in Rhythm

One of the things I’ve come to love about my soccer team is that there aren’t a lot of subs. Occasionally that makes for tense moments to know if we even have enough women to play any given week (7 is the minimum). And of course playing with 8 vs. 11 can make things, well, fatiguing.

Now that I’m in a bit better shape (thanks Gretchen and Kathy, my running buds!) I love to play the whole 90 minute game.

There’s a rhythm that comes into it. Sometimes I get a slow start. Then, beating others to the ball. Getting beat and making adjustments to cover that player (we’re old but we’re slow: team motto). Resting when the ball is at the other end. Discerning the moments to accelerate, and those to jog and recover. Amazingly, in this ebb and flow, 90 minutes can go by quickly.

Our coaches’ coach from last week made another keen observation: international players have an advantage over U.S. players – because they grow up playing the entire full-length soccer game.  They have to play through fatigue, and do the hard work of keeping possession.  They learn to rest when the ball is “away”. Meanwhile in the U.S. our youngest players through collegiate level are taught to go full-out, then get subbed, and then come into the game again.

In other words, go full-out – chase that ball as hard as possible – and then get off the field. Repeat.

Don’t it sound like life?

I was feeling particularly burned out this week at work and was feeling the tempting (if fleeting) desire to quit completely. Make it stop. Step out.

Quitting is always a tempting option for me. I tend to overcommit myself, get burned out, quit all my commitments, go quiet for a while, start to feel bored/antsy and start the race all over again.

I’m beginning to realize that this life is more about rhythm than intensity.

Periods during each hour, each day, and each week of intense focus. Periods each hour, day, and week of play. Periods of rest. Periods of quiet waiting. Periods of acceleration and drive. Periods of renewal.

As a woman I often hear the words to seek “balance”, which can feel more defeating than not when it feels like all the things I’m trying to balance are hopelessly in disarray.

I think rhythm is the better word.

To fall into cadence with my day, with my week, with this season of life – and to seek out and note periods of rest, play and intensity into my daily flow. Not work until I drop, and then escape to Tibet for a month. But feel this flow and rhythm now, of rest and work and play in the middle of this. Now.

I often hear people say, including at church, that this life with God is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s true enough. But I’ll add that this life is like a soccer game, and if we can get into the rhythm of it, we’ll enjoy all 90 minutes of it.

Play with Joy, and Good Things will Happen!

Many moons ago, while I was playing rugby in college, we were called to an inspirational moment before a big game. I think it was our beloved coach Franck who said it first.

Play with Joy, and Good Things will Happen.

Our team took up the mantra like a scarf, wrapping it around our heads and and hearts. We wrote it on the back of t-shirts and we passed it along to the underclasswomen who followed us.

Last night I went to a soccer coaching clinic, and so I was delighted when the coaches’ coach started and ended the session with an ode to joy.

“Remember, it’s about Joy,” he said. “Above all else, the kids should love the game. Teach them the technical skills, yes. But if you show them the joy in playing with the ball, and playing the game, they will want to play on their own and improve.”

Ain’t it so, Joe?

Those things we love – they shine out of us. Playing rugby with my teammates, scoring a hard-won try, feeling the fatigue and rush after a long game – it was joyful.

Now I’m too old for rugby. But I played soccer today and I felt it. The joy of it. And then I came home to my family and felt awe and joy at the little moment of watching my youngest unzip his precious bag to place a bear inside. And seeing the curl of my husband’s hair as it started to brush across his forehead.

And what better gift can we give ourselves than pursuing those life-giving things that give us joy? Not numbing, or distraction, or haze – but moments of true joy? And would I? Could I? Perhaps even share that joy with others…

Play with Joy, and Good things will Happen!