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Happiness is…

Sectionals

It’s been a year since my brother got out of the hospital and I invited him to live with me. The past week has been a series of anniversaries of traumatic events, and in that series, today was the worst day.

A year later, I am having a stellar beginning to my academic year. Further proof of the benefits of practicing mindfulness–the reminder that all things pass, and ultimately you will be OK. I have also learned how to look for happiness when it seems as though there’s nothing to be happy about, and how to savor it when I experience it.

This year began with my tennis team advancing to sectionals. If you don’t know anything about league tennis, this is a big deal. It’s sort of like advancing to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And if you don’t watch basketball, then just think of it as a once in a lifetime experience.

One of the lessons on happiness that I often write about is that you never know how you will feel about something until you get there. I had always imagined that advancing to sectionals would be a joyful thing. And it was joyful, but it was many other things, too. That seems to be the general rule–we never feel just one thing. Instead, we feel multiple, often contradictory things. I was happy we won but it didn’t make me a happier person in general. I still worried about the same things, had the same insecurities. Winning didn’t make me less neurotic, and it didn’t change my life for the better. It was a reminder that, because all things pass, happiness is also fleeting.

During the weekend of the tournament I had the opportunity to get to know two players who I had never spoken to before beyond saying hello. Although they barely knew me, when I needed a place to stay, they invited me to stay in their room on the spot–which helped tremendously with my obsessing about money. Many of my friends helped in whatever way they could–negotiated a lower rate for my room, shared their food with me. It was a reminder that making meaningful connections with other people is the thing that brings me the greatest happiness. It’s why I have the job that I do. Why I captain so many teams. Why I want everyone go out to dinner after our matches.

In a few weeks, we will be off to sectionals, and I am excited about the chance to advance to nationals. I will enjoy the challenge. I will channel my inner warrior. I will go all out to win. But win, lose, or draw, I know that the time off court with friends old and new will give me plenty to be happy about. And after the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat fades, the friendships will still remain.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

2 responses »

  1. Christy, I feel compelled to share more with you on my experience at sectionals. I never in my life thought that I’d be going to play in a sectionals tennis tournament. But during the year I was in Alaska, I got the opportunity to play on a team that was eligible to go. We decided to go and hired the tennis pro to put us through a training regimen to prepare us. We worked hard, and were very excited. Then, just before we were to go in August, my husband accepted a new job in the lower 48. And of course, he had to leave on the same weekend that he had planned to go with me to sectionals. I had a choice to make, either go with my team and play tennis, or go with my husband as he made a job change. After consideration, I told my husband I felt like I had committed to the tennis tournament and needed to go. And it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I would probably never get again. He understood, so I went to Spokane with the team. I was really glad I did because the team was so welcoming and affirming to me. I was the newbie in Alaska and they took me on readily. I ended up becoming the “team mom” and the sort of back up coach/advisor, even though I wasn’t the captain. So many of the team had never played in a championship tournament, not even districts, because they don’t have that in Alaska. You go straight from local play to sectionals. So they were nervous and ubsure, and not used to the level of competition. But we had a blast, we played our hearts out in 95+ degree heat over three days. We didn’t win, but my partner and I did win our two matches. I was pretty proud of that, especially since I was 58 at the time. And this year as I’m approaching 60 I’m suffering injuries which leads me to realize I’ll probably never achieve that level of tennis prowess again. In hindsight, I was really glad I went. So this is your time to shine. Win or lose, enjoy it.

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