“We write our own destiny. We become what we do.”
I guess the first thing you have to be able to do in order to find your “backyard game” is remember what it’s like to be a child and what you loved as a child. I can think of a few things I loved as a child. I loved reading. I remember being so excited about reading books. I remember losing myself in books and becoming characters and elaborating on the story as I played out my imaginary story lines. Which brings me to my second love – writing. I used to write and write and write when I was younger. I kept journals. I wrote letters to friends that we saved and re-read months and even years later. I wrote stories. Writing was fun, but it was also an outlet. A way to get out everything I was feeling without losing it emotionally. I sometimes still write for that reason. This blog is being written partially for that reason. But, I would like to read and write more than I do. And I must admit that the only reason I don’t is because I am distracted. I am distracted by television, by the internet, by reading blogs (which IS reading, but just not of the same sort as novels or biographies or short stories, etc.), by reading email, by trying to keep my house clean and by focusing on what is WRONG in my life rather than what is RIGHT in my life. And I am tired of all those things.
So, let me just say that my childhood had some awesome things about it, but it also had a lot of really hard things in it. I had an alcoholic dad and a mom who, years later, found out she was suffering from some pretty serious thyroid, anxiety and other health issues – so she was constantly anxious (both because of her physical state and because of my dad’s alcoholic state) and often depressed. I had a core group of friends, but I was never popular and was often the butt of jokes by the more popular people. I was “nerdy” – constantly having a book in my hands and never wearing the right clothes. I struggled to convince myself that my lack of popularity didn’t matter. It was almost a badge of honor for me to not fit in. But, I often was upset by it.
I also loved sports and dance when I was younger. I swam from the time I was 3 years old. It was where I could shine and be one of the cool kids (because I didn’t go to school with most of the people I swam with, so they didn’t know my more bookish, non-stylish self from school). I was a talented swimmer. People wanted to be on relays with me. I loved swimming for that reason and because it made me feel good about myself. And it was a guaranteed couple of hours away from the craziness that was often happening at home. Swimming is one of those unique sports where parents can’t really communicate with you while you’re doing it. And I really liked that aspect of it. Dancing was the same. I was pretty good at it and I loved that I could be this person who was graceful and beautiful (wearing makeup for shows and pretty costumes) that I could never be while at school. As I look back now, I lived totally separate and much different lives between school and my extracurricular activities. And those extracurricular activities probably saved me from becoming a self-hating individual.
Since becoming an adult long ago, I have found other things that I like. I like most of what I do in teaching – which is my full time job – although I seem to do less of what I love in it (talking to and mentoring students) and more of what I hate in it (grading and disciplining students) as of late. But, I have become somewhat of a recluse. I don’t really have many friends (I never did, but I always had a tight-knit group of friends who did a lot of things together, and now I don’t have that), I have a daughter with some major health issues (heart transplant at 4 MO, tricuspid valve repair and tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy at 3 YO, and with a suppressed immune system and some residual lung issues she has lots of smaller illnesses that land us in the hospital or stuck at home for days on end), I have a husband who works in a city that is 3 1/2 hours away, so he is gone for half of every week, I have a habit of breaking dates and not going to social events because I feel inadequate or judged for something or other, and I often play the martyr in my life quite well.
So, I am often a bit self-loathing. I compare myself to others constantly and often find myself coming up short against them. When I think about it – I have done the opposite of what this blog is about. I have not only NOT found my backyard game, but I have instead settled into my role as “loser” and embraced the title. I am sure that most others would not recognize this description of me, because I am good at covering it up. I am good at pretending to still feel those feelings of pride and self-love that I did when swimming or dancing, when in actuality, there isn’t much in my life that provides that for me anymore.
Geez…could this entry be more of a downer?!? Well, yeah, it probably could. But, I’m going to end it on a positive. I think I can identify a few of my “backyard games” – which is, after all, the first step in playing them right? If you can’t identify them, you certainly can’t play them. But, yeah – my backyard games would be:
1. Reading – anything and everything and as much as possible.
2. Writing – again, anything and everything and as much as possible.
3. Swimming – but, I hurt my shoulder, so I can’t really do this anymore without causing myself considerable pain.
4. Dancing – God, I miss dancing. When I got to college I would go dancing once or twice a week and it was such a release. I love dancing – dance classes, dance clubs, line dancing, just dancing to music in my living room. It is such a great feeling.
So, those are my backyard games – and out of the four of them, I can still do three quite easily. So, here is my challenge. Finding a way to not only “fit” these in, but to actually commit to “playing” them seriously. Reading, writing and dancing. I want to focus my life on these three things.
Of course, my life still has to include things like caring for my daughter (who I seriously love), spending time with my husband when he is at home (doing something other than watching TV would be nice), helping out with my family (my mom is going through chemo right now and my dad has pretty serious dementia and my older sister is their main caregiver right now and is totally exhausted – she is not playing her backyard game at all either), and of course doing my job (even the parts I don’t like). But, there is so much time in my life that I “waste” sitting in front of a computer screen or a TV screen instead of playing at life.
Now to figure out how to make it happen. I have never been very good at maintaining changes in my life. But, I do feel like I’ve never really focused on something like this – I am usually focused on “fixing” something about myself. But, this is not that. This is doing something that will provide me with joy. And joy is what I really need in my life right now. True, unadulterated (perhaps un-adult-like) joy.
This blog is about seeking. It is about my journey from self-sabotaging and sometimes just plain misery to finding a place of joy…finding my “backyard game”. The title for this blog actually came from a commentator on a baseball game I am watching. There was a discussion about a player who was struggling earlier in the season and his dad told him, “just find your backyard game,” meaning find that place of childhood joy when playing was playing and not work. I love that thought. I want to find my own backyard game. I want to find that place where the joy is in the experience, not what you achieve through the experience. In order to do this, I think I need to do a lot of things. And I’m sure there are others out there who are seeking as well, and maybe, like me, are unsure what they are seeking. So, maybe this journey will be of some value to others. Maybe it won’t. But, at least it will be recorded here for me to see, reflect upon and hopefully realize the joy I’m looking for.
I can remember the joy of playing games in the backyard (even if they did not revolve around baseball) and I hope to recapture that joy and childlike peace. Come play with me…