This past few months have been really hard on my family. We had a plan to start off this school year. I took on more days teaching with a new class and subject. I am not teaching more classes but I am on campus more frequently, driving a lot more with more time away from home. I took on a new job coaching at Mercersburg Academy while juggling my regular freelance work and family. It seems like a lot but my mother-in-law retired and she planned to stay home and hang out with the girls, drop them off at school and pick them up. The first few weeks of the school year were running smoothly when tragedy hit. My sister in-law went from living with cancer to dying with cancer to gone from our lives in a matter of a month. Our lives have not been running as planned since the beginning of the end. We have been running between Hagerstown to our home 30 minutes away, up to Harrisburg and turn around to Mercersburg on a daily basis. Matt has been traveling weeks at a time with work, leaving me to edit and rebuild plans alone. We have juggled, we have flexed, we have altered and we have reinvented. It has been a lot for everyone to juggle especially for my brother-in-law, his young children and my mother-in-law. It has not been easy on anyone, everyone’s plans were thrown out. We are still dealing with the emotional aftermath and trying to find a balance that will help regain stability for everyone. I am honestly counting the days until soccer is over and normalcy can return for everyone.
The other day I was feeling down and stressed a bit overwhelmed with the world. It was only 3:30 in the afternoon but the day had already been chock full. It was one of those days that nothing seemed to go quite right. It was one of those days that I could hear KR begin to sing the lyrics, “Some days are diamonds, somedays are stone”. It was a stone day for sure, or at least I thought. I was cruising up Route 16, the sun was out, the temperature was cool and the sky was clear and crisp. I turned in by the big red barn where P, runs outdoor ed. It always makes me happy to pull in and see him throwing kayaks on the trailer, setting up for cross-fit training or getting gear ready for a climbing trip. Today there was trailer full of gear waiting to go in or perhaps back out on another adventure. The gravel road was not kicking up as much dust as I approached the soccer fields, the rain had saturated the ground and the grass was vibrant reminiscent of spring.
The girls had already pulled the balls out of the shed. They were lacing up their shoes, chatting about their days and trying to wind down their academic brains. They had a hard practice ahead of them. Our second league game was around the corner and we had a lot to prepare, tighten up tactics, and get their minds and bodies ready for a tough match over the weekend. I was still feeling off but as we moved through practice I forgot about details from the week, from the month as I could only focus on this very moment. The ball touching my foot, I am winded, the girls are not, shift my weight, turn my shoulder, I am taller they can find the ball, E moving in, M moving out, I hear my name, I pass the ball. I move off the ball and try to find space. W let the ball come to far from her feet, I snatch and weight for her impact. I love playing with W, she pushes me and she is strong. W doesn’t treat me differently when we play, she plays hard, she will tug my shirt, elbow my back and we run leaning into each other up the field. I can’t help giggle, it is something that happens a lot when I play soccer.
The practice is almost over the girls have gone through the drills and played hard. They ask for a game of World Cup to end the day. I quickly agree, it is my favorite game to play. I find E, my regular teammate for this game, we are Guatemala. Coach S, gets in position as the keeper, all the girls line up waiting for the first cross to come through. The ball is in the air, pairs are screaming their country while jumping up for the header. Another team is trying to steal the goal, just get a touch on the ball and it is our goal. The sounds are fabulous, crack of the shoe hitting the ball, the smack of the trap on their chest, the ping of the ball bouncing from the boot, the screams of the countries muffled by laughter and cheers.
E finds the back of the net first. We high five and scream Guatemala one more time and M and P, (team Djibouti’s pronounced Ji Bootie), are still rolling in the grass holding their stomachs laughing after the debacle of their last goal. W is from Nigeria and is not sure what to make of all the craziness but plays along amicably as the rest of the girls fling themselves in front of the goal as T, rips another ball into the air. The game is over they were called off to get ready for another academic event during dinner. They have to change and become presentable for the evening’s activities. We are all giggling as we clean up and smiles are pulled from ear to ear as we step of the field.
Before I came back to coaching it was rare that I would feel this free to run and jump and laugh until tears run down my face. When do we loose that? When do adults forget they need to play. I have always been a firm believer in the power of play and the power of kindness. I believe finding joy heals your heart and the others around you. Laughter is such a gift and I am so thankful to have so many around me that continue to make my cheeks ache and my stomach hurt from the giggles. I hope I never loose my understanding of the power of play.