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Why I Love Sports

So I’m sick again. Which really sucks. I thought there was some unspoken rule that you can only get sick once per season. That if you spent a week of your Christmas break in quarantine with nothing to do but watch bowl games and knit until you develop carpel tunnel syndrome, you paid your dues to the virus gods. Apparently I was mistaken.

Since it’s just me and my inner critic, I spend a lot of time trying to alleviate my guilt about having to cancel all my therapy appointments and being unproductive. It’s not my fault. I have to put myself first. At least I don’t have a terminal illness. Life isn’t about being productive. At least I get to watch tennis and basketball.

In an effort to obsess about something more positive, and as a tribute to March Madness, I thought I’d share my top reasons for why I love sports.

1. Athletes are the best reality TV celebrities. I have much more admiration for Roger Federer for his athleticism, his demeanor on and off the court, his love of the game, and the way he handles his celebrity status than I do for Kim Kardashian. Who somehow is able to obtain sponsorships and ample media coverage despite having no talent that I’m aware of.

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2. Bonding time with my friends and family.  My brothers drive several hours to come to Charlottesville to watch UVA football games, and we’re not even good. Last weekend my friends came with me to the ACC tournament to cheer UVA on. Even though we lost, we had great conversations, ate a lot of junk food, and have a good picture to show for it.

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3. Rivalries. Ordinarily I am all about compassion and accepting differences, but sports is the one place where I allow myself to villanize Virginia Tech. It’s almost as much fun to watch them lose as it is to watch UVA win. And when we play each other, I have a chance to witness both of these things at the same time. Tech may have won in football, but UVA beat them twice in basketball. So take that, Hokies!

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4. Sometimes I win. When I started playing tennis again 15 years ago, I wanted to find out what I could accomplish if I gave it my all. But I had pretty modest expectations. I didn’t think it was possible to actually win tennis tournaments. I didn’t even know it was possible to compete as a team. And I definitely never imagined that I would be on teams that would advance to districts. For someone who doesn’t consider herself an athlete, that’s pretty darn good!

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5. Sometimes you hit the lottery. Last year, when no one was paying attention, UVA won the ACC regular season and tournament championships. And we got the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This year, although sports analysts acknowledge that UVA could win it all, no one has chosen them in their bracket. But that’s OK. It may be a long shot, but that’s why we watch sports: there’s nothing like the thrill of victory that’s against all odds.

So Go Hoos!

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Psychological Energy Conservation, Part 2

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Despite the psychological energy conservation plan I came up with several months ago, I’m still struggling with the crash and burn problem.

I spent another weekend feeling exhausted and ended up canceling the plans I had been looking forward to. I no longer allow my inner critic to torment me by telling me that I’m just being lazy, because why would I be too lazy to go to a costume party and play tennis? Still, it’s frustrating to spend the entire weekend lying around the house watching TV.

To make matters worse, as soon as I have a little bit of energy, I try to do too much, because I feel like I’ve wasted so much time. And guess what happens? I burn out again, and the cycle repeats itself.

It helps that I have a blog where I have made public declarations about how I’m going to be more proactive about conserving my energy. And I have made some improvements. I am better at setting limits in my relationships. I try to go to bed earlier. I eat more mindfully. But there are other areas where I am still in denial. These include:

1. Hosting. I hosted a Halloween party that I obsessed about for weeks because I have a small place and I never cook and I had to do everything by myself since I’m single. Then my parents came up on Friday and we had another karaoke night, when ordinarily I would be spending the evening unwinding. For some reason, I didn’t think that trading rest for karaoke would affect my energy level.

2. Tennis. In my mind, tennis should not be tiring because it’s fun. In the summer I played 4-5 times a week, but now that I’m working, I only have the energy to play about 3 times a week, which my inner critic does not want to accept. But my body is like, too bad! That’s all I’m doing!

3. Football games. My brothers and I have season tickets, and this year they have been able to come to more games, so I really look forward to going. But it’s an all day affair that ends up affecting my entire weekend, because I don’t have much time to get anything done. Which means I’m really tired the following week. Again, this came as a surprise to me, even though it makes perfect sense.

4. Blogging. I know that blogging takes up energy, but once again, my inner critic is like, why should you be tired? You’re just sitting there typing and reading blogs. How hard can that be? You should be able to write 3 posts a week. But lately two posts a week is all I’ve been able to manage. Otherwise it starts to feel like a job rather than a hobby.

So I guess the lesson is that, while it’s important to have things to look forward to, fun things are tiring, too. Which is probably obvious to all of you, but it is somewhat of an epiphany for me. Guess I need to factor that into my energy conservation plan.

Angels and Demons

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I thought of something I can say to the part of me that tells me I’m undeserving. In fact, I say it all the time. It’s “Shut up demons! You don’t know me!”

People usually think of that little devil on our shoulder as the part of us that tells us to do something bad, like “Go kill that person!” Plus some less extreme things, like “Call that ball out! You’ll win the game!” From a mental health perspective, the devil tells clients to do things like “Get black out drunk instead of staying in to study. And then miss your therapy session so you don’t have to talk about it.”

Sometimes that little devil will disguise itself as the angel and will try to make us believe that we are doing something good when we are actually hurting ourselves. Things like “There are people starving in the world, and here you are eating all of this food that someone else needs more than you. You really shouldn’t be eating at all.” Those are the most insidious messages of all.

When I was depressed I went around yelling at my demons all the time. They were constantly telling me that I should kill myself for stupid reasons. But I didn’t want to die. I knew it wasn’t coming from me. So I would literally go around the house telling the demons to shut up. Which I found hilarious.

My psychiatrist, on the other hand, did not appreciate my sense of humor. When I told him I had started yelling at my demons, he did that stereotypical psychiatrist thing where he just looked down and wrote something on his legal pad. Probably something like “She’s f@%ing crazy!” But whatever. It worked. All that warrior training paid off.

I was really tired on Sunday and Monday. I had been obsessing about my Halloween party for weeks because I have an anxiety disorder. I am in the midst of the busiest part of the semester and rarely have an hour to myself, unless someone doesn’t show up. I’m playing on two tennis teams and am captaining one of them. And the weekend before I drove 4 hours to watch my beloved UVA team blow another lead to lose the game, which was both tiring and depressing.

So for once, when I needed to sleep all day on Sunday and a good part of the day on Monday, I did so without beating myself up about it. Without trying to will myself to be productive. Without telling myself how pathetic I am for being so tired, when the average human being wouldn’t be. Instead, I tried to take care of myself. I would ask myself things like, “What do you need right now? Are you hungry? Do you need to go back to sleep? Would it help to take Advil? How can I make you feel better?”

Sometimes the little angel on our shoulder tells us not to do bad things. But more often, in my case at least, it encourages me to be more loving to myself. So I’m going to counteract messages about being undeserving with love. And by yelling at my demons.

Some Things Never Get Old

A few months ago my brother called to tell me about a baby bear spotted in the parking lot where he lives, which is quite an anomaly because he lives in the city. He also sent me pictures and video clips. And he cracked himself up making up additional fake bear sightings: the bear was also seen going to Starbucks buying a coffee, having a beer at the local bar, etc.

He had the same obsession with bears as a kid and made similar jokes that were primarily funny because they made him laugh. Even though he is 38, he is still a kid in many ways. He continues to see the world as though he is experiencing it for the first time.

I was not able to share his excitement about the bear sighting, but there are things that I never get tired of. This weekend I went to districts with one of my teams, and even though I didn’t win and my team didn’t win, I am happy. I feel blessed because I had the good fortune to experience some of those things that never get old. My list includes, but is not limited to:

1. Winning. I know winning isn’t everything, but it sure feels good when you do. Even though my team didn’t win, one of the local teams did, and we got to share in their victory celebration, which is almost as good. Especially when the celebration involves food. Plus UVA won, which means we have already tied our 2 wins from last season. And it was an upset against a top 25 team, which makes it even sweeter. Plus Switzerland advanced in Davis Cup this weekend, so I’m happy for Federer, too.

2. Tennis. When I started playing tennis again 14 years ago, I was obsessed with it. I played at least 4-5 times a week–sometimes 2-3 times a day–and would drive to different cities to play. I played in every league and tournament. I feared that at some point I would grow tired of it, but I think I’m even more obsessed with it now than I was back then. One of the members of the winning team is in his late 70’s, and he still loves tennis. He is still competing, still winning, still talking trash on the court. I hope I am fortunate enough to be just like him when I grow up.

3. Shopping. Ok, I know this one is superficial, but it’s true. I love shopping. I got to buy cute tennis clothes, which is something I don’t have access to ordinarily. And they were on sale. Not half of half of half, as my mom prefers, but still a pretty good deal. And I’m going to wear my new outfit to my singles match tonight. I will probably lose, but I will look good doing it.

4. The Beauty of Nature. On the way to the tournament I drove through the Rockfish Valley. Initially I was so anxious about getting lost that I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. But when I entered the valley I was in awe of how beautiful it was. It was absolutely breathtaking. I never get tired of the beauty of nature. I never tire of looking at the sky at sunset. Of the changing of the seasons. These are the times that I have those moments of clarity. These are the moments that bring me closer to God.

5. Friendship. One of the things I love the most about tennis is the friends I have made and continue to make. This weekend I got to spend time with some of my closest friends and reconnect with old ones. As I got to know some of my teammates off the court, I felt like I was meeting them for the first time. Spending time with friends, getting to know people better, and adding to my tennis family never gets old.

It really is true that some of the best things in life are free. Except for shopping. Shopping is never free. But a 30% discount on everything in the pro shop is pretty nice, too.

Some things never get old

Hard Core Fan, Part 2

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Sometimes being a loyal fan is downright painful. Today UVA and Roger Federer are both playing. Right now I’m excited about it, but while I’m watching, if the games are close, it will be torture.

A few nights ago Federer came back from 2 sets and 2 match points down to beat Gael Monfils. If I just wanted to see a good match, I could have enjoyed myself. Instead, I was praying the whole time, asking God to let Federer win. I know this probably isn’t a good use of prayer, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thank goodness he won.

The only problem is, the chronic pain in the back of my neck due to stress returned the following morning. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Hopefully, I will watch two more matches before the U.S. Open is over. If they’re close, I may have to schedule a massage next week.

UVA had an equally stressful match last week when they played UCLA. Even though it was the season opener, we had the lowest attendance ever because we only won twice last year. But my brother and I were there, being the loyal fans that we are. UCLA was #7 in the country and have a quarterback who was a Heisman candidate, although he may not be any more. Even though we were 21 point underdogs, we had a chance to win at the end, so of course I resorted to prayer to help the team along.

We lost 20-28, but it was as close as you can get to a win without actually winning. In fact, UCLA  dropped to #11 in the polls. I have never heard of a team dropping so far after a win. Apparently barely beating UVA is equivalent to a loss–which makes us look good and bad at the same time.

Despite the pain in my neck and the time spent in fervid prayer, these are the moments you live for when you’re a hard core fan. Sometimes your loyalty pays off and you get to witness a spectacular comeback. Sometimes you drive 2 hours and sit in the rain for 4 hours, only to watch your team lose the 8th game in a row.

But as with all things in life, the joy is in the process. In the anticipation of the match up. The possibility of an 18th grand slam win or a bowl game bid. And regardless of the outcome, you get to start all over again, with another game to look forward to.

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Starting Over

In my post on breakups, I talked about how sad it is that at the end of a relationship, someone who you once loved and chose to spend the rest of your life with could become someone who you hate and don’t recognize anymore.  How can both of those things be true?  Was this other person always there, lurking beneath the surface of the person you thought you knew?  It’s hard to reconcile. 
 
But then sometimes those two people who hated each other are able to put the past behind them and try again.  I am all about forgiveness, but if someone hurt me that badly, I’m not sure I would be able to give him a second chance. 
 
First of all, there’s the issue of trust.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I can be too trusting.  However, once I have been wronged, I never forget it.  And every time I remember what they did, I get upset all over again.  Starting over would require leaving all of those past grievances behind, and I’m not sure my memory and my obsessive nature would allow me to do so. 
 
Then there’s the issue of whether I could trust my judgment.  If I thought I knew the person the first time and I was wrong, how would I know if I were reading the person accurately now?  Ordinarily I’m pretty good at reading people.  But sometimes I can be in denial–especially if knowing the truth would mean letting go of the relationship.  Could I trust that I would go into it this time with my eyes wide open?
 
Granted, sometimes it’s not about an error in judgment.  Some people are really good at hiding.  But that’s scary, too.  If he fooled me before, would I know if he were hiding now? 
 
And then there would be the opinions of other people.  Which I know you’re not supposed to care about, but I do.  Would they think I’m foolish for giving him another chance?  Even if they didn’t tell me that they disapproved, I would know.  I would feel it.  And it would be hard for me to share anything about the relationship with them.  I would feel ashamed, even if I were trying not to care about their opinion.
 
Despite these reservations, If I had to make a prediction about what I would do, my guess is that I would give it a shot, because I’m an optimist.  That’s what allows me to cheer for a losing team and to believe I can come back in a match when I’m down 0-6, 0-5.  I believe in miraculous comebacks.
 
Sometimes people are afraid to try again because they’re afraid to get hurt again.  That doesn’t usually stop me.  If they hurt me once before, it’s not like it would be some big shock if it happened again.  And if I survived it the first time, I could survive it again.  And then I would know for sure that it can’t work. 
 
Plus, no one can predict the future.  No one knows for sure what will happen.  Love requires a leap of faith.  Yes, you may fall, but without taking that leap, you never get anywhere.
 

Angels

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on angels, but since I’ve been feeling down it didn’t really fit my state of mind. But then “It’s a Wonderful Life” happened to be on last night, so I took that as a sign that I should go ahead and write the post.

For a long time I wasn’t sure what to believe about God. I was raised Catholic, but a lot of the beliefs of the Catholic church were not consist with my idea of God. Although Pope Francis is changing this, to some degree.

I read lots of different books to try to find God. As I mentioned in a previous post, the books on Near Death Experiences (NDE) were the ones that were the most helpful. For one thing, they are poorly written. The authors have clearly never aspired to be writers, and often they didn’t want to write the book at all. So writing a book about their near death experience didn’t seem like a ploy to get published.

The most convincing of these books was “My Descent into Death,” by Howard Storm, because he went to hell before he went to heaven. Who would admit to that? Plus, throughout the book he continued to argue and complain to God and never seemed particularly pious, which made his account seem even more genuine.

Storm dedicates an entire chapter to angels at the end of his book. I have always liked the idea of angels but did not realize they were so numerous and so involved in our lives. I thought we might have a guardian angel and that there were a bunch in heaven, singing and rejoicing when we arrived, but that’s about it.

Storm says that angels always want to intervene and help us but aren’t allowed to do so unless God gives them permission. And when people with NDE’s come back to earth and are depressed about it, usually because they have sustained horrible injuries from their accident that take years to recover from, angels appear to them to give them encouragement.

Even research shows that praying for other people helps. My theory is that when we pray for someone else, God allows angels to intervene. So now most of my prayers include angels. If I’m having a really hard time, I ask God to temporarily send me a few extra angels to get me through. Or if someone I know is suffering, I tell God to send that person one of my angels so they can have extra.

And of course, when UVA is losing, I occasionally resort to prayer and ask God to send an angel to help them win.

The winter is always a hard time for me, because most forms of depression are affected by lack of sunlight. Plus I am still getting used to being alone and having to be proactive if I want to see anyone, and I don’t have much energy to do so. And this holiday I don’t have a lot planned to look forward to. Ordinarily, even if I’m feeling depressed, I can still get into Christmas. But not this year. I haven’t even bought my gifts yet, and usually I am compulsively early about everything.

But there’s still time, and I’m hopeful that at some point something will kick in and I will be able to embrace the holidays with the enthusiasm that I apply to all of the things I love. At least that’s what I pray for.

And if you believe in angels, feel free to ask God to send a couple of extras my way.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Harvey Frye