The “Pain” Behind Those Carefully Masked Replies….

I’m going to take this time to dig into myself, be a little vulnerable, and write down some my past heartaches and my hurts. It seems so distant, yet so current. That dull empty feeling, I want to call it hurt and I want to call it pain, but those don’t quite describe feelings of such disappointed, so raw, so hallow, yet still healing from bleeding out. Bleeding out. What a funny phrase created for something so physical, yet so vivid in a metaphorical sense. Pain is a word describing something felt. It’s not actually something you can see … or so they say. It’s a chemical reaction from stimuli sent to nerves, firing to the brain letting it know there’s an injury or potential problem. But what about the pain that comes from heartache? What about that pain that is invisible inside you and your mind, but is an unbearable heavy weight you feel daily? What about that pain of depression? Anxiety? Sadness? Hey, even too much happiness can be overwhelming some times because we don’t always know what to do with it (aka “tears of joy”).

If you pay enough attention, you can see pain written on the faces of those around you. If you look close enough, you can see them “bleeding out”. From the moments you see them closing their eyes taking deep breaths. To the dull look in their eye that seems to fade a little bit more each day. That sparkle that stops twinkling. A bleeding out with every action that goes unnoticed or even intentionally ignored. Every twitch. That sad look in their eye as they reply “good” to your “how you doing today?” That robotic default answer everyone gives no matter what, because to say “not good” requires an explanation most might not want to listen to. Or even worse that awkward silence where they have to care enough to ask why? It’s an easy thing to do, it’s easy, yet incredibly hard going through our days giving these robotic answers to avoid these encounters of “caring” because those negative feelings are frowned upon or it’s inconvenient to listen to other people’s problems when we already have our own.

You ever go through those phases where something or someone took the life out of you? Where you dread going to sleep because you dread waking up and doing it all over again? Where every time you open your eyes in the morning it hurts all over again. Waking up from a numbness and light and pain flooding you again as reality hits you. Someone did this to me before or maybe I technically did it to myself. Someone made me, gave me that push to just go numb. They made me feel so much, I felt nothing at all. I laugh now at it, because I drove all the way back from Florida last year to be home with those I love and who truly care about me. I was holding in a lot and I remember just wanting to be held. Just wanting a hug from someone who loved and cared about me. I remember just looking at my dad and saying as tears flooded down my cheeks that I just needed a hug and he didn’t hesitate. It was long enough to make me feel better, yet not long enough to get awkward. Lol And.. that’s all I needed. I explained why I needed it and we joked about guys and stupid stuff. And I can honestly say that I never cried over that guy again since then, but what I realized after that was how blessed I am to have a Dad and even a family who I can be 100% me with. Who I can tell when I am hurting. Tell when I need a hug. Can cry in front of. Can laugh about those things and laugh those tears of “pain” out with, that I’d been holding in for so long.

It’s a huge release of pressure, when you can lay your guard down after you’ve had to hold it up on your own for so long. Who you fight your battles with matters. I now understand the phrase “That’s someone I’d go into battle with”. Because life is a battle. How you get through it depends on the people armored up beside you ready to take it on. I find myself filled with so much love whenever I’m around my family whether they be immediate or my amazingly huge extended family, because I know they’re the people that would go into battle with me and me them. My amazing, big hearted mom would bake me any emotionally driven food item I wanted before I could get “I’m on a diet” out of my mouth and I’d probably still eat it. My aunts would be on the phone with me in a jiffy if I needed them for anything. They’re at the foundation of ME and they’ll always have my back. They’re the people I can show my weaknesses to and they won’t use them against me unless it’s at a family gathering and the “jokes” start coming out. Then it’s all fair game because that’s how family works. Lol We find a way to laugh at the good and the bad (even at each others expense) because we can’t imagine a life without a bit of laugher in the face of it all.

I actually wrote this piece a long time ago, but I’m posting it now to challenge you look a little closer at the battles others might be fighting behind that mask they put on for every day wear. Behind that falsely layered response of “I’m good”. Be a little nicer, care a little more, see the little things unseen because life isn’t all Instagram or Facebook “Posts” to be and everyone’s just trying to get through life a little less damaged than what is already promised. Also, I don’t know about you but I really appreciate it when people notice the little things. It makes things easier when you know you have a few big hearted people out there willing to care a little extra and listen to you more than what’s “convenient”. Like the topic of a sermon I recently listened to talking about how we should to allow ourselves to be DISTURBED. It really made me take a look at how I go about my days and my interaction with others. Go out of your way; Give some love and you’ll more than likely find yourself receiving plenty of it in return. ❤

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

1 John 3:17

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4

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Update: From The Land Down Under…

Update: I’m in the land of oz again until September. Like coming full circle from when I was here 5 years ago. I love Australia, the culture, the people here, and Melbourne so coming back to play in their winter league wasn’t a hard decision. They didn’t really have to pressure me too hard to do it.

I get to see all my old teammates, friends, and adopted family members again. One of the many blessing I’ve gotten to experience traveling the world is making new, different friends and knowing people almost everywhere. It’s funny because I hadn’t realized all the “adopted” family members I’ve accumulated in my travels until my dad mentioned something to me the other day about how I seem to of made that a habit of doing that.

Starting with Australia: I have a older lady who considers me her adopted American granddaughter and she visits and brings her real granddaughter to our games sometimes. There’s also a family who took me under their wing when I tore my ACL for the first time. I met them randomly when my family came to visit and one of them was wearing ISU clothing. Turns out the parents actually used to be athletes at ISU! Small world! They let me babysit their three kids and spend time with them like I was a part of their family. It meant the world to me as I was post-surgery in a foreign country alone.

Puerto Rico: The couple who owned the house we were staying in lived above us. They took care of us and treated my teammate and I as family after two hurricanes destroyed the island and we were stuck there. Also, our neighbor Kathy who always looked so serious and spoke zero English treated us as a typical Hispanic Mom would. Making us lemonade, teaching us how to make lemonade and then scolding us for doing it wrong, telling us to move our car into her garage, making sure we were fed, etc. Etc. She was sweet in a motherly, occasionally scolding us kind of way. haha

Sweden: One day an elderly couple asked to sit at my table for lunch one busy Thursday and it turned into a weekly tradition of having lunch with my Swedish grandparents. They also invited me over frequently for coffee and Easter lunch with the rest of their family and real grandkids. They then gave me tickets to an classical Mozart concert which was an interesting, yet completely nap worthy experience I probably won’t do again. Lol They have no cell phone and the only way I can communicate with them is via their landline phone and the pen pal letters we send back and forth now. My Swedish grandparents told me to tell my parents that they did something right with me because I was a good girl. Haha My dads reply was “how’d that happen?” Lol

I was like, “ I know right?! You guys really did try your best to screw us kids up. From overdosing us on dimetapp, to the countless whoopings, to letting us play in raccoon infested buildings, to shooting our dog, Sunny, in front of me one bright, sunny day.”(Sunny had a tumor and needed to be put down… maybe just not in front of me. lol )Smh Farmer Tony teaching us all young… and Carma keeping us in line and busy with an endless amount of chores.

I am grateful to have such a huge, loving family back home who screwed me up, whooped me enough, toughened me up, and loved me just enough to mold me into a fairly sane human being most days. So for that, thanks Mom & Dad.

In honor of my bball journey coming full circle and reflecting on my travels. It’s an amazing feeling to sit here and be able to say I have family across the globe, even if they aren’t blood.

As of now, I’m living in a house with three other import players. Two guys who are pretty chill and my teammate from Venezuela who is helping me brush up on my Spanish. Our teammates and club people are all really nice and are a fun group, though I forgot how crazy and wild Aussies are. Practices are two times a week with games on the weekend. I just had an interview with a marketing group in town to work with them on the side. We will see if I get a second round interview invite within the next week. On top of all that, I’m still grinding through my second to last term of my MBA program and will graduate in December… hopefully. 😉 In the meantime, I’m just over here keeping busy and having fun while doing it!

Peace, Love, & Happiness ❤

Faith, Family, Basketball… In that Order…

My Swedish adventure is over. First stop back to the states was Gainesville, FL to finish up my 4th term of my MBA program through UF. Second stop, home. Third stop coming up, Australia. When I began this basketball journey I gave myself 3 years. I never thought I’d still be playing, but hey, you love what you love. Though it is a love-hate relationship. Throughout it all I’ve had my ups and downs with all my knee operations, natural disasters, mental trials, living alone in a different country, time away from my family, etc. etc. I love being good at this game I love, but in my time chasing… wait I think I can say living this dream by now; my relationship with it has changed in 3 pretty important ways:

  • First way it’s changed is my perspective and respect for it. As many of you already have come to realize, as you grow up you learn to value your time with your loved ones more than before. Nowadays I can say I miss my time spent with my family more now than ever. That could also be because I have a few, pretty darn cute, entertaining nephews and a little princess beast of a niece who I feel like I’m missing out on while they grow up. I guess you could say I miss their parents/grandparents too from time to time, but mainly those lil beastlings. Haha jk But seriously, when you’re young, exploring the world, and trying to establish your independence, you place less importance on your time spent with your family. As you get older you realize all the love and valuable time you’re missing out on with every second spend away from them. Priorities change, as you grow. Don’t get me wrong, I do still love basketball, but I do also question when I will give it up to enjoy those little ones before it’s too late and they’re all grown up. Before I look back wishing I was around more.
  • Second way it’s changed is my approach towards it is different. My mentality has gone from that stubborn minded, bull headed, play through any/all pain athlete to a more smart-minded, big picture viewing professional. I pay attention to how much I push my body and when it’s telling me I need rest. I’ve had to learn to stand my ground with coaches when they want me to practice or play but my body is telling me no. It’s like pushing a car to drive with no oil. You do more damage than you realize, no matter how badly you want it to work. Your body needs maintenance too. What most people don’t realize is that basketball at this level is a business. Coaches and clubs try to get everything they can out of us. That’s their job as the employer but they will try to squeeze what they can out of you. They paid for a player and they expect to get their money’s worth, but like any piece of machinery, we can break down unexpectedly. We have to learn to walk that fine line between being an athlete wanting to earn our keep, wanting to play, and realizing that our body is our only tool for the career we’ve chosen. Once it’s broken or all used up it’s done. We have to learn that we’re the only ones that are going to take care of our body the way it needs to be taken care of and we have to be smart about it. Learn to rest. Learn to say no. Learn that ball is only life.. until it’s not.
  • Lastly and most importantly, I’ve learned where my career belongs on my priority list. I’ve learned to let basketball take a backseat to my relationship with God. I believe I got knocked down a few times these past few years to be able to see if from a different point of view. Maybe I needed to be humbled a bit. Sometimes we go through the motions of our faith and we don’t realize when exactly we placed God in the backseat. Many of us begin to idolize certain things in our life without realizing it. We get so caught up in our jobs, that promotion, school, running around trying to keep our busy lives together all while let Him fall through the cracks. Maybe we start valuing our Saturday nights out on the town drinking more than we do making it to church the next day. Maybe we fall into a spiral of doing those things that make us feel good but aren’t actually good for us. I think that in the beginning of my career, I let my relationship with Him take that back seat. Basketball became my idol for while; it was my dream. It was that think I wanted more than anything. I got a taste of the WNBA, success, accomplishment, money, and I was putting more energy into that dream than I was into my relationship with God. I was showing more love to that basketball/the plans I had for my life, than I was showing to the man who died for my sins. And sometimes He just has to put His hand on us and tell us to sit down. Like Kendrick Lamar says: “Be Humble… Sit Down.” Lol 😉

On my mission trip to the Ivory Coast last summer we spoke about how easy it is as athletes to begin idolizing our sport. Identifying a huge part of ourselves as “athletes” and when reality hits us and we have to hang up that jersey for a different uniform, it hits us hard. We have to begin learning that there’s more to us than just the sport we worked so hard at. We have to learn that our identity as an “athlete” is a much smaller part of who we are than we thought. I’ve learned that basketball isn’t WHO I am, but it is a big part of who I’ve become. Having that ball ripped from me time and time again was God helping me get my priorities straight. He doesn’t want to be 2nd, 3rd, or anything less. He wants to be #1, because unlike my time as an athlete or your time with that job, hobby, other thing you put so much into, He is everlasting.

So what I’ve personally come to realize, is that ball isn’t actually life… even though it’s a big part of it and what I love doing. I mean, it is my career …but at the end of the day, beginning of the day, and throughout the entire day… God is life. Family is Life. And the love that comes along with realizing that, is worth more than anything else in the world. So while I’m still pursuing my dream, my priorities and my perspective has changed dramatically from when I first started. I haven’t been able to get in the zone and come up with a solid blog for a while, but this is just what came to mind as I tried forcing myself to put a little something on paper. My relationship with God and this sport, the reprioritizing of what’s important to me, and the ability to see the bigger picture beyond what’s directly in front of me.

Faith… Family… Basketball… In that order… ❤

 

Because this is what happens when you’re not around for family vacations…

You get voted off the island and they take cute family photos without you… cool guys…

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