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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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Conspiracy Theories

Last year one of my players accused me of being part of a conspiracy that was designed to keep him from becoming a captain. For those of you who have never played league tennis, being a captain can be a crappy, stressful, ungrateful job that people have to bribe you to do with gifts, money, and parties. Most people would rather have root canal than captain a tennis team. No one would try to prevent someone from becoming a captain.

The conspiracy theories that people come up with in tennis are even more annoying than the head games¬†people play to try to win. Earlier in the week I had to reschedule multiple matches because it rained for 3 days. Rain is a captain’s greatest enemy. Two out of the three matches were fairly easy to work out. But I spent 2 days arguing with the other captain about rescheduling the 3rd match, because every suggestion I made was perceived as some devious attempt to sabotage this captain’s opportunity to advance to districts on one of his other teams.

Let me tell you a little about districts. You do not get a million dollars for advancing. In fact, you have to pay a fee to play at districts. And since we do not have sponsors like professional tennis players do, you have to pay for hotels and travel expenses. And do you know what your prize is for winning your local division? A hand towel that you can only use one side of, because the other side says something like “Mixed Doubles Champion” in some scratchy iron-on that hurts your face.

I still try to win, of course, but I don’t care enough about winning to devise elaborate plans to sabotage the other team. As I mentioned in my post on loyalty, most of the time I don’t even have winning teams because it’s more important to me to play with my friends. Sometimes I care more about eating out afterwards than I do about the match itself. Sometimes I’m downright surprised when we win–which I admit is probably not a good thing.

Another conspiracy that people get all worked up about is coaching, which is illegal in tennis. Her boyfriend/husband is waving his hands. I think he’s coaching! So what if he’s coaching? He’s probably giving her some advice that she can’t do, anyway, because that’s what partners do. They tell you to do things like come to the net when you hate playing at the net. That’s why they fight on the court when they’re together. That’s probably why he’s in the stands and she’s playing with someone else. And even if he is coaching, she still has to execute.

People have accused me of being too trusting, and I admit it did not serve me well in some of my relationships. And perhaps it doesn’t serve me well in tennis, either. Perhaps I could have won more matches if I had followed my opponents into the bathroom to make sure they weren’t coaching. Or if I stacked my lineup and kept it top secret until right before the match and had extra players warm up and put them all on different courts to confuse the other captain. Perhaps I would be more competitive if I didn’t assume that most people are primarily out there to have fun like me.

But I choose not to live my life that way, even if it costs me a few wins. I’d like to think that if I live my life with integrity, it will pay off. And even if it doesn’t, at least I won’t be paranoid and miserable while I’m alive.

Memory

I love the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I love the idea that even if you take the memories away, the love between two people remains. And I like the message that we must experience pain in order to experience joy. But lately I’ve been wishing I could erase the painful memories from the past 10 years.

Let me first say that I am thankful for my memory, lest I be struck down with dementia for being ungrateful. It helps in my job because clients expect you to remember everything they’ve told you from the first session on. And when you see 30+ clients a week, that’s a lot of stuff to remember.

The most painful memories help me to have more compassion for other people’s suffering. When I was depressed, I could not conceive of any possible value that could come from my pain. But now that my brother is depressed, I am better able to help him because I know what he’s going through. You’re not afraid to sit with other people’s pain once you know firsthand how lonely it is.

My memory also helps me capture the intensity of my feelings when I write about my experiences, which hopefully makes my blog better. I am guessing that most writers have good memories and intense feelings. But sometimes it can be a tough combination. That’s probably why writers are so neurotic.

Lately there have been some memories that I wish I could forget. Or at least remember without feeling like it’s happening all over again. It’s almost like having PTSD, reliving these hurtful experiences every time they pop up.

Yesterday I remembered how my first husband told me while we were separating that I have a heart of gold. He said it was the happiest day of his life on our wedding day and the saddest day of his life when we signed the divorce papers. How can you feel that way about someone and still choose to leave them? What good does it do to have a heart of gold if it doesn’t help you make a relationship work? In a way I am thankful that he was loving through the entire process, but sometimes I wish I didn’t remember how I felt at all.

The letting go process in my second marriage has been just as painful. It hurts just as much now as it did 4 years ago. It still makes me cry. Every step we take away from each other renews my sadness. When will this grief subside? That whole one year estimation is a bunch of crap. I wish I could just forget the past 4 years–all the pain and all the stupid things I did to try to ease the pain that just made things worse.

The only memories I would miss from the past 4 years are the first trip when my mixed doubles team went to districts, getting Federer’s autograph at the Cincy tournament, and UVA’s basketball season this year. Which makes me seem like some superficial sports fanatic, but it’s true. In my defense, part of what made these experiences memorable is that I shared them with my friends and family. I’m sure there were other positive memories worth holding on to during that period of time, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Right now, all I remember is the pain.

The only good thing about this second divorce is that it helps me understand how you can love someone and still let them go, even when it breaks your heart. I’m not angry at my first husband any more for leaving. I understand why he did it. It doesn’t alleviate the pain of either loss to realize this, but I have a better appreciation for how complex love and marriage are. That’s something.

Today I’m not able to do the things I try to focus on in my blog–practice self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. But maybe tomorrow I’ll feel differently.