Four Questions to Ponder

Remember those games when you were instructed to give your first response without thinking too much? We’re gonna play. These questions are designed to stir you in some of those deeper internal ways that we tend to avoid or distract from day in and day out. Ready? Here goes …

Who comforts you?

Yes, we never outgrow our need for external soothing. I don’t care how old we get or how good we get at self-soothing, now and again we all need some tenderness from something outside of ourselves. Are you getting yours? Are you getting enough? Part of our self-care plan is the intentional building of our external resources. How are you doing with this one? Life is guaranteed to throw you some curve balls. Hope you got some soft places to land. You just might need them, especially when you least expect it.

Where are your safe spaces?

Do you have places (or folks) where you can let your hair down? Where you can relax. Take a big sigh and let go of the tension you hold in your body. Places where you don’t have to be anything other than who you are – thinking what you are thinking, feeling what you are feeling, being where you have been and looking ahead to where you want to go. In other words, this place gives you the gift of trust and therefore, safety. Got one or a couple of these? If not, you are lacking and need to do something about it.

What would you rather be doing or where would you rather be right at this moment?

Now, I know that sometimes we can’t make this happen. Maybe we can’t afford it. Or maybe we are too wrapped in adult responsibilities and commitments to be doing anything other than what we are doing right now. But the importance of this question lies in the fantasy – the longings and stirrings of unmet needs, wants and desires that loiter in the depth of our hearts. The question points to what might be missing or ignored that at some point, needs our attention. Or it will lead to resentment, acting out, emotional apathy, depression and soul death.

What hurt so bad as a child that you decided to stop feeling?

For most of us, it was not one moment or even one event, but rather a series of injuries that chipped away at our innate emotional spontaneity. But in asking the question and really allowing ourselves to answer it, we can trust that the answer gives way to a well of pain that might encapsulate our signature developmental stories. And these stories are the basis for a deeper understanding of who we are and how our lives have unfolded. And where we might need to revisit to begin or continue our healing.

Personal Essay: Hockey as Life

My teenage son is a hockey goalie. Now growing up where snow was an anomaly, hockey was not a sport I was familiar with. When it came to skating, we Southerners stood on wheels, not on blades. Call it lack of availability or just too damn cold. We left ice skating for you Yankees and Canadians. But somehow late in his childhood years, my son decided he wanted to be Brandon Holtby, the star goalie for the Washington Capitals. The kid calls, I’m gonna answer. So, we bought pads, found a coach and got a bigger car to haul all that gear. Three years later, he is the starting goalie on his high school team. (And I am happy to report that, thus far, all of his teeth remain intact, but I digress.)

So, I raised a son that gets a thrill out of flying objects being hurled his way. Great. But I have to say he is pretty good at stopping whatever comes at him.  He will contort his body in whatever position is needed to protect that goal. And it works, usually, the first go round. But it is the second shot that throws him off. While he is basking in his successful first block, the one he saw coming and prepared himself for, he is caught off guard by the rebound shot. And it often slips right by him.

And that is the moment that counts the most. The one we cannot plan for. The one that demonstrates our humanness at its most raw. The one we cannot hide behind script and plans well-made in advance. The one that reminds us again and again that the second that we think we have this thing called life down, another shot is coming at us and it just might find ourelves unprepared and exposed.  

Who are you when life catches you off guard? How evolved are your reactions to be respectful and relational when you don’t have the luxury of stopping to think about it? What lurks in your underlying character that quickly surfaces when you are left to just wing it and do whatever you can in the moment to stop that puck?

So, the puck gets rebounded. But so must my son. Being a hockey goalie means that there is no time for groveling in your mistakes. The puck goes in. The other team scores. My son is left sprawled all over the ice in his futility. But he better get back on his feet ’cause this game is going on. Yes, he let this one by and it will ultimately, fall on him. But if he grovels in his error and the inevitable upset towards himself, then he will be useless for the next round. And there will be a next round. He has to shake it off, pull his self-esteem off the ice and reignite his determination.   His team is depending on him and there are no other goalies. He is it. So, like the puck coming into goal after the rebound shot, he too has to recover his defeated spirit. The game is not over till that 3rd period buzzer sounds. No giving up. He must crawl back on his feet to get ready for the next shot.

Who would have thought that hockey would have been in my future when as a gal I was running barefoot in the creek catching crawdaddies? But as if often the case, life unfolds with its many surprises and I now sit bundled on the rink’s sidelines as a cheering proud hockey Mom. And I can think of no other place I would rather be. Watching this maturing man take a hit- sometimes with success, sometimes not – and then getting right back up to take yet another. I think I might learn something here – cold toes and all.