Family things

Since I realized that becoming like God was the only real important thing in my life (all else is just a way to get there), I’ve had one real goal: expand the people I consider “family.”

Obviously my parents and brother fit that place. My brother’s wife is mentioned only as my sister, because the “-in-law” thing just serves as a means of separation.

I learned this pattern from my mother, who is always trying to broaden her “family.” In her church congregation at home, she often finds a young mother desperately in need of help and becomes a local grandmother to her children. She’s done this many times, and often adopts a woman whose marriage is struggling. My mother’s support provides relief and assistance as both husband and wife struggle through learning to balance family, church, and military responsibilities.

My volleyball club culture is intended to support the families of our players, and I play whatever role the players will let me. Often, and most appropriately, this is the role of coach. If nothing else, I do that. But some allow me to be a little more, and ask for personal advice.

During this last season, I was in the throes of woe, and struggling to simply be the coach. My players–the ones who have allowed me to be closer than just a coach–reached out and asked me what was wrong. They recognized a connection that was personal as well as professional, and they wanted to help.

It took me a long time to figure out how best to tell all I was going through to teenagers, who I would have preferred remain blissfully unaware of the challenges and vicissitudes of life.But their parents had prepared them well–as I mentioned, the club exists to assist families–and they knew life was hard. As 15 year olds, their parents had chosen to let them struggle (which was a choice because monetarily they didn’t have to do that), and my players already had a mature framework to understand what I was going through.

I wrote several times previously about how difficult the season was for me. The players who supported me, and their parents who have not inappropriately shielded them from life did at least as much for me as I did for them. They were the extra bit of family I needed when I was alone.

1383469_10152903219909016_2485975622445596348_n

Lingering effects I never wanted

While I was at the lowest points of the depression I experienced, every morning was a struggle. Typically a morning was preceded by a night of less than adequate sleep, ending at 5 a.m., when I woke to eat breakfast and prepare to be to school by 7 a.m.

Every morning was filled with dread. Every morning was dark, difficult, and a struggle. Every day I wanted to give in and not leave the house. I was anxious about going, and I didn’t want to put myself in a place where that anxiety could grow and my feelings of hopelessness would increase.

Over time, those feelings became associated with volleyball–all vitality my passion for it brought was sucked completely out of me. It once was the haven to which I fled when the struggles of the day were over. Now it is the main trigger for depressive thoughts.

Now, I am mostly through the depression I experienced while teaching. I’ve had healing that allowed me to regain love for life and for moving and doing new and difficult things.

But my anxiety toward coaching volleyball remains.

I don’t want to think about the fact I have to coach a tournament today. I just don’t want it. I know I’ve written about hating volleyball and about having brief moments of enjoyment while coaching, but right now, I can’t convince myself to get out of bed and shower so I can be halfway presentable for the day.

And when I can get out of bed, I know I’ll have the same feelings in the shower–a place that once was energizing, not enervating–I did before school: dread, worry, near breakdowns, occasional, breakdowns. Nothing logically founded, but everything vividly real, nonetheless.

Volleyball brings me no joy. I feel the same way about coaching volleyball that I did when teaching school. Cognitively I want to enjoy it. I know I should. But I cannot convince myself to enjoy the experience, even though I know nothing unfortunate will likely happen, nor is there any reason to be anxious about it.

Eventually, I hope healing will occur. Possibly time and separation will heal the wound. In the meantime, I’ll do the same thing I did while teaching: force myself to get up and out and rely on my kids to provide some amount of vitality.

They grow up so fast

One of my players asked me a few weeks ago if everything is ok.

Lee J, are you doing ok? You’re not like you were last year. You aren’t as happy and don’t act the same.

Hearing that from a fifteen year old is a bit humbling. I don’t try to hide the fact I’m not the same, but I didn’t expect a teenager to notice (general self-absorbency, etc).

Since then, she and I have had some interesting discussions about why she’s more externally aware than most or her age group. Going through really difficult times will mature you very quickly. She’s been through more trauma and difficulty than any young person should go through, and although she says she lives with memories and struggles everyday, she keeps going.

That level of resilience inspires me. She’s encouraged me to care for myself, to overcome what I’m struggling with. Her struggles have forged her into a strong young woman.

One of the things I called her before this time was “kid.” I can’t do that anymore. She’s far more mature than a child, and calling her “kid” would disrespect her growth through her trials. Like any of us, she’s a person. She deserves recognition for her growth.

I didn’t expect to have a fifteen year-old inspire me the way she has. Kudos to her and to her parents who love her dearly.

A glimmer of light

A few weeks ago I wrote about hating volleyball. I’m not sure I conveyed the depth of feeling I experienced in the post. 

Very little about being in the gym is exciting or desireable. I enjoy interacting with the girls and it’s fun to see them make progress, but little else. 

Two nights ago I ran a practice where only six girls came. We focused on some very specific things, and they made some progress. 

There was a glimmer of light in my mind. I left slightly happier than I’d entered the gym. Maybe it’s possible to regain that love. Maybe the passion for it will return. 

That’s possibly dependent on me choosing to enjoy the time while I’m there and not expecting it to be entertained by volleyball, but actively engage in it and try to improve my attitude. 

I hate volleyball

I do. It’s just fact.

What was once the thing around which my life revolved is now just another thing I want out of my life.

What’s wrong with me?

This is not the reaction I should have. I worked for years to understand the game the way I do, but everything seems to be collapsed now. I think it’s connected to high school season. I think I took a mentality that didn’t understand enough and was unsure how to accomplish what I wanted.

So there’s that.

Some of it is probably due to residual disappointment.

But every single time I realize I have to go to the gym for practice, I just don’t want to.

Did my experience change my attitude? Do I associate many negative thoughts with those experiences? Is there a major aspect of trauma involved with what I went through? Absolutely. And that keeps me from enjoying it now.

Like everything else in my life, when I don’t have a passion for it, I push it away. This is less true for people, but became common as I was working on my master’s degree. At that point, I realized I had accomplished everything I needed to scholastically to give me a leg up in the world, so doing more than what I wanted was superfluous.

That’s why I started the volleyball club in the first place. I wanted to apply things I’d learned in an authentic setting.

To some extent, the same thing happened with teaching. I became majorly disenfranchised and knew I had to get myself out.

This pattern worries me, but I’m not sure what to do about it.

Lost time

Sometimes I get distracted. Last semester was an example of that. My life kinda went out of control after the last blog post. But I’m in a better place now. I suppose that type of thing happens to everyone.

But I don’t have that time back to use better. And now my final semester of grad school (I hope?)–next semester–will be harder than it could have been had I not gone off track last winter. But I wouldn’t really trade anything else in my life for where I am now.

I believe I know where I want to go. I know where I’ve been and I like it. I also know many of the roads I can take forward. Many of them I don’t like.

I’m grateful for revelation and inspiration as I try to find the paths Father has set for me. I’d prefer to have it laid in front of me, so I will worry less. But if it were, I could blame God, and He doesn’t work like that. I have to be responsible for my own choices.

It’s part of enjoying the journey.

I’m a sprinter

It’s simple, really.  I do things in sprints.  It’s part of who I am.  Distance running never held any draw for me (it’s strange cycling does, actually).  A lot of it draws from my hyperactive mentality.

I love new things.  I love to have new experiences and new challenges.  But if I don’t get through them quickly, the passion flames out.  For a while.  Then something triggers my interest again and I’ll do more on it for a while.

Sometimes this happens in a matter of hours.  Sometimes the sprint is a little longer.  But, dang, I’ll beat anybody in the sprint.  (Maybe this is why I don’t have a desire to be a computer programmer–barrier to entry and marathon mentality.)  I like things I can start and finish in the same week, preferably in the same hour.

Part of it likely has to do with the fact I have a lot going through my mind.  I’ve no way to measure this, but I conservatively estimate I have at least 50% more things pass through my thought centres than the average person.  So I like to get things done when I think about them, or when they are on my mind for a while.

Take today for instance.  I met with my thesis referee (I still have to ask him to be it), Gil Fellingham, Ph.D and sports science genius (that ESPN dude has nothing on Prof Fellingham!).  He had finished reviewing the second draft of my thesis regarding volleyball attack speeds.  He told me that I should make the edits he suggested and I’d be ready to publish it and defend.  He also said I should pare the paper down to submit an article to Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.

Then I met with Carl McGown, BYU’s volunteer men’s volleyball coach to discuss a study he’d like to do.  He told me to contact both my thesis advisors (Iain Hunter and Prof Fellingham) and get them to ask the BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe for funding for the study.  Went and visited Profs Hunter and Fellingham within the next 30 minutes.  Hey, it was on my mind.

Somewhere in here I went to class and spent most of it editing my 50-page thesis.  Because research (as a general topic) was on my mind, I passed by the Maeser Building–home of the Honors Department–to check in about submitting original research (in information systems) for presentation.  I got the submission sheet and returned 30 minutes later with my abstract and short description written.

Then I had to do homework for my research seminar.  Fun, but boring in light of the day’s focus on volleyball research.

Anyway, it’s just after midnight and I have finished the edits on my thesis and finished the first draft of the article to submit to JQAS.  What!? (Shawn and Gus style, of course. #psych)

Anyway, that’s how the night went (oh, and there was an indoor soccer match, a shower and an hour-long conversation with a girl in there, too).  Like I said, when something’s on my mind, I’ll get it done.

I’ll win the sprint, but balance was never my strong suit. :/

Genesis

And so school begins anew. There’s not much more to say than that. Basically time is split between good and better things.

Life is always easier when I prioritize. Best thing to do: wake up early (like 530) and read scriptures. For me, everything follows very easily after that. When I put the most important things first (chronologically) in my day, the rest of it flows pretty much perfectly after that. Not that there aren’t flaws that creep up, but all my priorities are straight.
So then I go to work. Laundry is so much fun. :) (Yes, of course that is sarcastic.) I work till my first class starts about 900 and then it’s off to the races.
The Lord blessed me a lot this year and so I am living one of my dreams: I am coaching a high school volleyball team. Like as the head coach. Yeah, crazy, eh? Crazier still when it takes about 20-30 hours of my week. But I love it. It gives me something to do and forces me to plan and execute my plans well. I get a lot more done when I am constantly busy. But then, doesn’t everybody?
Genesis really has nothing to do with anything but the first line of this post.
But a fun scripture in Genesis gives insight to what God looks like. (Yeah, whoa! God looks like something?)
Yup, Genesis 1:26-27 read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
How can God create something in His image if He doesn’t have an image after which to form us? He can’t; it’s impossible. Even for God. So the logical conclusion is God has an image and likeness. This isn’t completely conclusive that God has a physical body, but mix it up with some NT scriptures and you gotta believe it.

Blog? What blog?

[If you clicked on “Blog” and were sent here, it’s ok. Something is broken and I’m trying to fix it. For my most recent posts, click on the links to the right.]

So apparently when I get busy, my blogging decreases. And when I’m no longer busy again, then I forget I have a blog. Kinda sad, eh?

Well, it’s more sad when you find out that my blog is one of my bookmarks that is so prominently shown on my browser.
Nothing major has changed in the last four months (maybe that’s why I haven’t written–little to pontificate about). I still like women, volleyball, school, and religion. Maybe a few things have changed. I no longer live with freshmen and am now breathing the fresh air of social interaction with people close to my own age.
It’s fun to live where I do. What’s interesting is I am among the youngest guys there, but am older than most of the women in the complex. Yay for two year missions. While I may not agree that those years “don’t count,” (I think I had between four and eight years worth of memories) missions give guys a chance to mature and catch up.
Not that age should matter, but that’s another story. (One I might share a little sooner than December.)

Life and Sport

I have often thought there is a close relationship between life and sports. Each has it’s difficult moments and each, eventually (if you’re good enough), has it’s moments of ecstasy, over which you and your friends reminisce in the years following. A brief example:

When I was in grade twelve, I played volleyball. My team was good for our area and we had worked hard to be good (years of practice and many disappointments in previous seasons). We had experienced defeat, trials of our friendships (on and off the court), and teammates stupid decisions.
But each of those experiences pointed us to where we were right then: the team heavily favoured to win the league championships and advance (for the first time in 8 or 9 years) past the first round of the regional playoffs.
Often the reaction of the teams ‘at the top’ is to assume they already won the title and frequently they are upset by another, admittedly less-talented, team who has a greater desire (drive, motivation) to win. We knew this (and were frequently reminded of it by our coach) and actively guarded against it. We ensured that after each of our plays (whether we won the point or not) we celebrated. Thus giving the impression to the other team we had already won and breaking down their mental game.
In short it worked. Unfortunately as we entered the playoffs, we were so excited about hosting the game in our own gym that we didn’t prepare as well as we should have for our opponent, which came from a very competitive league, where 50% of that league’s schools made it into the playoffs (as opposed to our league which was lucky to have one automatic berth). Our lack of preparation and, perhaps, inability to envision anything beyond that game, led to us being routed in straight sets.
We just hadn’t come to play. We lost our vision of staying on top as soon as the competition became more difficult.
So also sometimes in life we lose our vision, we don’t understand our purpose, or we have no focus. All this leads to a lack of motivation which, by not propelling us forward, propels us backwards, into the ground. Often we underestimate our opponents (whoever or whatever they may be) and we are demolished, left in the playground with a bloody nose, scabbed knees, and a black eye. (Or in the gym, deflated, depressed, and crying–in front of the home crowd.)
The lesson is simple: know what your purpose in life is. Follow it doggedly. Don’t relent. When it tries to juke you, keep your eyes on its waist and tackle the sucker. Wrestle it to the ground and if it tries to get out send it a cross face. If you get knocked down and it’s running for your goalline, don’t just let it, cause like Forrest Gump it won’t stop. It’ll only get farther and farther away. Sprint after it, and make sure you get it.
Don’t give up.