It has been just over two months since I spent a couple of nights with my son in the hospital, wondering if life would ever be the same. It was a miracle, and remains one- even now 60 days later that life could be so much back to normal. For all outward appearances, except for a significant scab on the back of his head, my son is pretty much back to life as usual. But when I watch him compete at his favorite sport now, I witness a tentativeness in him that wasn’t there before. He recognizes it too, and knows that playing scared is not really playing at all. “This is normal,” I tell him as he boils with frustration. “Recovery is a path.”
This is true not only about physical injury and illness, but also as a result of broken relationships. Many people opt out of dating altogether after the break up of a relationship. It is easy to lose confidence in our strength, and finding our resiliency is something that becomes a practice rather than a given. I witnessed this recently with a friend who caught her boyfriend with another woman. Even as she gained a newfound trust in her intuition, she lost some of her spontaneous ease and openness. She questioned her ability to trust her judgment about others and she struggled with her sense of being loveable and enough. Her path back to a full heart was up and down; some days were full of possibility and others full of despair.
The best advice I have for my son on his path came from my friend. She didn’t want to get stuck in her loss and forget the joy and fun that her last relationship held. Her decision to find and expand the places in her life that reminded her how easily and spontaneously she moved through life was an intention that she had to commit to no matter how she felt that day. The other choice she made was to have the courage to experience her feelings. She didn’t run from her grief or allow it to turn into long stories about what had happened. She just cried when she needed to and laughed whenever she could.
My repetitive chant as my son walks away to practice is “Just have fun.” He knows that his real game is found in the moments of carefree abandon with the ball, when he has nothing to prove and is open to everything around him. He nods and swaggers away. It is harder for him at 14 to experience his feelings. He gets flooded in disappointment with his performance or frustrated that he hasn’t hit his growth spurt. I am glad for the times that he lets his tears out and I try to be available for the moments when his feelings get airtime.
Living with a tentative heart is like a life with one foot out the door. The tragic thing about living from this place is that you never really know what is possible. A relationship with two people wholly committed to working it out bears no resemblance to two people wondering if they have the courage to stay. Same with an athletic life, as my son would testify; playing tentatively tends to draw more injuries to you. A game is only as good as the full presence of all the players. Playing with one foot out the door is like giving your opponent an easy win.
Creating the intention to live fully and without hesitation from your heart is the gate to a different kind of life- one that always feels like winning regardless of the outcome. It has joy built in.