Tag Archives: curling

A Tale of Two Birthdays

That's my dog - another essential part of my family, of course.

On my birthday last April 15, I was in a convention center-turned-ocean of volleyball courts at an away tournament in Reno. I was coaching the girls’ club team I had been with for the previous five years, and somehow I had been saddled with carrying in the ball carts and ball bags. Some accident of the way our carpools had shaken out, I think. There were about a bajillion volleyball teams there, plus the coaches of those teams, plus the parents and families of the players, plus the officials and tournament staff.

Husband was in Alaska starting his new job. My best friends were mostly in California or Ohio, living their regular lives. My immediate family was in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, respectively.

In spite of all of the people who were physically around me at the tournament itself, I felt so terribly alone. Now I’m not a huge birthday person — I don’t need to be showered with presents and feel the need to have big parties. But at the time I remember thinking to myself and telling Husband on the phone, “All I want right now is for someone who really loves me to hug me today.” I found myself crying and wishing to be anywhere else in the world near a loved one. (For the record, the day ended well and memorably, thanks to my fellow coaches, who insisted on birthday fun — I am grateful to them for that, more than they know.)

I wasn’t then, nor am I now, concerned at all about adding years to my life. With age comes wisdom that I cannot have any other way, and I appreciate that fact. But at the time and on that day, I was slightly petrified of the unknown future: how was I going to make it through 2.5 more months living apart from Husband? And finish packing up our apartment essentially by myself? And figure out where to live and what to do in Alaska once we did move? Thinking about all of that was overwhelming, and having a birthday only emphasized that feeling of inevitable, uncontrollable change.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, another April 15 in a new year. Husband and I were down in Anchorage, and we were curling together in a bonspiel (read: curling tournament) with family friends. After two victories and one loss, we lost our last game, but that was completely overshadowed by how much fun it was to do something together, to laugh and joke with our teammates and opponents alike at both the great and not-so-great shots. The drive home was beautiful, given the advent of Alaska spring and our 12+ hours of daylight that are continuing to increase each day. Plus we jammed to some of our old CD mixes in the car — does anyone even do that anymore? A simple day with my most favorite person — no gifts required.

We still have lots to figure out going forward, but right now I’m not petrified the way I was a year ago. I have had a year to learn the virtue of “surrender,” as my great friend just wrote to me, even while facing a whole plethora of new challenges and uncertainties. I actually have a better sense of myself now and an ever-growing appreciation for the gift that is my family community, made by blood and by bonds of love & friendship that time and distance apart only strengthen. I understand better that making crazy, unexpected leaps sometimes is just part of the process of living a full life. I remember telling my friends that my plan before moving to Alaska was to just “flow with the Universe,” and so far the results have been solid. What a difference a year can make.

Every birthday I am more certain that the present I always want and wish for is time with my family and friends. Sometimes that time comes on un-birthday days, and they are no less special then. Reading the cards that arrived in the mail today reminded me yet again that I already have everything I need: Love in its best forms. And that holds true no matter where I might be in the world on April 15.

Curling Notes

Monday – Just for Fun League: I like playing on Monday nights. It’s low-pressure, has a wide range of ability on the ice, and gives me much-needed practice. This week I let the competitive part of me get in the way of having fun… And I don’t think the only other woman on my team enjoyed me as a teammate. Whenever I tried to help her sweep the rock harder, she seemed to get frustrated and give up, which in turn annoyed me more because I felt like I was doing more work. And I couldn’t get out of my own head after missing a few shots. Instead of focusing on the next round, I continued to anticipate repeating my mistakes. Shockingly, I repeated my mistakes. (sigh)

Wednesday – Dinner League: We only had three players instead of four. Our communication level was much better, but our execution was lacking. We got down early, stayed down, and spent too much time lamenting the fact that we were losing to this particular team instead of doing what we needed to do. Lesson learned on the ice, but thankfully socializing before dinner was lovely.

Thursday – Competitive League: I was invited to play as a sub tonight, which meant I was throwing lead. It is possibly my favorite position because I either have to shoot draws or relatively simple take-outs, and the rest of the time I’m a good soldier who sweeps as I’m told to by the skip. The competition level is much higher on Thursday nights, and the strategy of the game is much clearer when everyone on the ice executes well. Not wanting to stick out as the weak link on my team, I definitely had to step it up. Tonight was by far my best performance, even though it was my 3rd loss of the week. We were competitive as a team, and we all felt good about how it went. A few different decisions here and there could have turned it in our favor, but that’s part of playing the game.

Curling is a funny sport — throwing rocks down sheets of ice while teammates sweep the rock. It’s one of those sports that you have to watch to understand, and it got a ton of coverage in the 2010 Olympics. Since moving to Alaska, we started curling in the fall, and I think I have found my new lifetime sport. It is, perhaps, one of the most team-oriented team sports I have ever experienced. Why? Because no one can hide. Every person on the team has to throw two rocks every single end, and everyone on the team (other than the skip) has to sweep. In other words, there is no hiding the weak link, and one really excellent player can’t carry an entire team. As I learned in my Curling 101 session, there are only two things under my control during each end: the two rocks I get to throw and my attitude.

It’s going to take time to develop control over the rocks I throw, and I’m practicing that every week, obviously. It sort of amazes me that I spend my days at work trying to have a good attitude and trying to teach kids about having excellent social skills, yet I can still manage to be a lame teammate sometimes because I want so much to win. I know that goes back to my desire for “best” status, but tonight I managed to find the right balance between focus and enjoyment.

Maybe curling is just a game, but I have always thought that sports offer clear metaphors for life. Stay in each moment, enjoy the process, do your part to support the team… and always come out a winner, regardless of the final score.