Sunday, September 11, 2005

Making Peace With Soccer

Yesterday I went with Rey to take a group of BUILD students (two of which happened to also be College Track students) to a San Jose Earthquakes game. Now, I gotta tell you. I love spending time with my kids. Spending time with soccer? Now that is a whooooole other issue. She and I have a a history that is much more complicated then most friendships.

It started out with AYSO. My brother was 5, I was 7. He was naturally gifted at the sport, I was not so much. Bottomline, by the end of my first practice, I knew this was not something I would be doing a lot of. It wasn't until my first game however that I ran screaming from it. In my 7 year old brain, the girls we were playing against were towering giants. My soccer coach, whose name I do not remember, in their infinite wisdom made me a goalie. And I stood there and ducked as 8 goals sailed through my goal post. I was devastated by the end of the game and asked my parents to never make me return. My brothers team in the mean time, was league champs. And it didn't get much better then that.

Soccer was the ultimate division of "Karla is the brain" and "Gabriel is the athlete". Now looking back as an adult, I see we were much more multi-faceted then that. I believe to this day that my brother is naturally smarter then me. Don't get me wrong, I am no slouch. I work hard to make up for what I don't have in natural ability, I make myself very informed of the world around me, I have musical abilities (not talents, just abilities) and I have an emotional perception far far ahead of any member of my family tree. But, in short, my brother is waaaay smarter then he ever gives himself credit for. He's just so busy undermining and not believing that, he doesn't really see it. To this day, I blame soccer (and you know from time to time dad) for this. I blamed her for my artistic abilities never being developed. I blamed her for my brothers lack of confidence. I blamed her for never allowing me to be the apple of daddies eye.

I spent every Saturday of my life from the ages of 7 to 17 on a soccer field. I cheered, I yelled and I read books while my brother got anywhere from exhaulted to berated for his performance. When I stopped going to games, it was the family rift of the century. I was no longer the good daughter of yesterday, I was the abandoner. Because Soccer ya'll was a family member. And you just do not choose anything over family.

Now don't get me wrong, I had some great moments with soccer. We were close from time to time. I saw so much of it, at some point, I probably could have coached it. Good days were good days. It was the most time my family and I ever spent together. It was the only reason we ever traveled. It was even responsible for the first time I ever laid eyes on a college campus. Falling in love that day, as I did so completely, changed my life. I saw my first crush on her fields. I learned the love of reading on her green grass

I've never had the need to make peace with soccer. My brother stopped playing in college (another massive turning point in our families history) and I moved away from it, from them.

Yesterday, I revisited her. Given the events of the last two months, I really did understand how difficult this was going to be. The assault has made every event a challenge to walk into for some reason. Whenever I get into my car, its a matter of bracing myself for the next place I have to be. It can be excruciating. Going to a stadium, around lots of people, predominantly men, many of which have had beer... well it felt scary. However, I had the kids, I had Rey and I had soccer. I knew those three factors would get me through okay.

I found joy in the sport I had forgotten all about. I saw her for what she was. I had grown and learned to accept her for the joy she provided. I thanked her for the sense of competition she gave me. I forgave her. Forgiveness after all opens space for love and I have about all the anger and resentment I can take as of late. Most of all though, she helped my kids laugh. She helped my kids be free. She helps them be kids and I really have to pay my respect to anything that can get that done.

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