For an open person, which I consider myself, I am feeling the limits of my willingness to bare my soul. These days, I move through many feelings in the course of a day, a week. I am reflecting on who I am, what I have done in my life, what has given me satisfaction and what has not. What matters to me. The job I have lost was not a good place for me to be– almost ever for the time I was there– though I can see that I learned and got to do some very interesting things there. It’s a gift, really, to have this time with my daughter, my partner, to have studied so intensely for my Bat Mitzvah, to get to put my mind on this reflection.
I am thinking of my own life and about the invisible threads around my life and each of our lives. What did my class background teach me about who I could be–what would be valuable things to do and what would not have been acceptable? I think that for a Jewish girl born 10 years after the end of the Holocaust– I am coming to understand how heavily fears and worries about security were passed down to me and how intensely these shaped my thoughts about what I could and would do– work-wise. Would I have been a poet had there been no Holocaust? A teacher? A weaver? I don’t know.
I am struggling to write. My days are full of so many personal thoughts and feelings and I find myself pressed am up against a spot where I am not sure how deeply and how personally, I want to share– yet those personal thoughts and feelings are so much of what there is to share at this time– more so than at other times. I pulled out the computer and I sat down this afternoon– because I want to practice, practice, practice. So that is just what this post is– practice. Practice trying to say things when I’m not sure what to say. Practice keeping going. Practice.
Our 4th and 5th grade girls started basketball season in the past five weeks. My partner is coaching again, and there were three weeks of practice and then a game, their first, last Tuesday. This year, my daughter is on the team. She wasn’t old enough last year, but she is now. It’s a big deal for her and a big deal for me. I never played organized sports of any kind. Many, many fears– feelings of not being good enough, asthma, the fact that I was a slow runner and (I know I said it already) many fears, shame, embarrassment and a very strong feeling of not wanting those struggles to show openly– all of that kept me from playing sports.
As I watch girls now, and have watched for many years, I regret that there was no one to help me back then– to be kind and understanding about the weight of the fears that stood between me and sports, but who would have lovingly insisted that I not give up. Not giving up seems to be a key theme that I am exploring in this interesting time in my life having lost a job as a 50+ -year-old woman. How does one not give up? Can you go back and fight to rework– emotionally– the places where you already did give up? I cannot go back and be a grade school or high school girl again playing basketball. But maybe I can undo the spot of giving up–way back then.
The game on Tuesday was interesting and complex too. I really wish I could wave a wand and do away with the vicious competition in our world– the assumption that competition, rather than learning, cooperation– is the “way of the world” and that young people had better get used to it. There are several very skilled 5th grade girls on our team. There are several 4th grade girls who have clearly never played this game recently and are obviously just learning– my daughter among them. There was a huge set of issues around race and class that played out in the gym that I will not write about here.
What I will say is this. Because it is our news and because it has bigger meaning. My daughter got to play on Tuesday. In a gym, with shouting parents, a referee, and a team, also a team of young girls, who they didn’t know.
I watched her and saw her, then myself at her age, then her again, more clearly. We have things in common– she is timid in certain ways. She gets embarrassed easily and that line between embarrassment (the kind you can laugh at) and humiliation (the kind you can sob about) is a very thin one–too easily crossed. (By too easily, I mean, I feel for her, I hurt for her– not that she is too sensitive or too anything.)
But she is definitely not me. First of all she is, simply, not me. Then there is the fact that she is on the team. And she played. With four teammates, five opposing players and that gym full of shouting parents, sisters and brothers and coaches. She often didn’t know where she belonged on the floor and you could see her waffling between wanting to fight for the ball and hoping it wouldn’t come her way– but she played and she laughed and she ran and she got right in front of the opposing players and defended– just like you’re supposed to. I could tell she was scared– but she did it. They happened to win. And I know you’re not supposed to say this, but this year I hope they don’t win every game as they did last year– I wish they would just ditch so much of the competition all together. But in any case she played her first game–though I never have. I too am getting ready. Practicing.