I was never a tennis player. I ran around a tennis court with my Dad once. It was some time right after high school on the open courts in Griffith Park. I remember having no control of the ball. I kept swinging my arm up and sending ball after ball over the fence walls and being the person to chase them all. It was just exhausting. I hated the experience. I’m sure there’s a really bad poem about that day on my hard drive somewhere. I’ll spare you the angst.
Take that same ball and include a dog willing to run around and it has a whole different feel for me. I actually enjoy throwing the ball and watching a happy dog chase it down before it lands. It comes back a slimy mess of drool and it comes back with the expectation that the game would continue. You throw a ball for a dog to chase and there is an exponential growth of energy and excitement.
That poor ball though, right? You reject it. It lands and then comes back a mess. And yet it comes back. It bounces back. (Just grab it before the dog gets to really start chewing.)
There are lessons here.
I know more than one cancer survivor. The word “survivor” sounds very different from who these people are to the life they lead. I have never met a survivor that wasn’t thriving. I have never met one that was afraid to say the important things. I have never met one that wasn’t stronger than they thought they could be, brave in spite of their fear, or courageous through all of their physical pain. They have mastered bouncing back.
I know more than one person that has gone through a failed relationship and the bounce back isn’t pretty. I spoke with a woman last week and our experiences were similar. Bouncing back was a long and hard journey that wasn’t a bounce from relationship to relationship to mask what needed healing. At the end of the road we both came out stronger, but at the lowest points, even our mothers had a hard time seeing our pain.
We know how to be alone.
We’re not afraid to be alone. We even celebrate moments alone and you can’t threaten us with leaving. At one point it was terrifying to hear the sound of an empty home. It’s possible to find a way to be comfortable sitting at a table for one in a crowded restaurant on date night. We know the devastation of a relationship that has ended and taken our dreams and expectations with it. We know how bad it can be and we know we survived with strength we didn’t know we’d find. Most of the encouragement I had in the beginning was that I am stronger than I think I am. It was and is true. Who knew? Others that have been through it knew because I sure didn’t. It’s something you find out once there is no one around to rescue you but yourself.
We know how to roar.
We have learned how to listen to our own voice and we’ve found the courage to speak for ourselves. We do what feels right because we know there will be others willing to share their opinions without support and we know at the end of the day it’s our choices with the weight in our hearts that will allow us to sleep or keep us up all night.
We know it can always be worse.
Finding your way through a life-change can knock the wind right out of you, and just when you think you can stand on your feet again, the ground shows you it can swallow you up without warning. You’ll hear about friends going through a rough patch and you won’t be able to fully empathize because you know it can always be worse and you know it has been, but you are stronger for it and you can get through it. You offer the nuggets of hope that helped you through the worst of it and laugh at the rest because that perspective shift is the control you needed to launch you past the pain.
We know how to ask for and accept support.
We know when to set our pride aside. It feels terrific to know we can do it all on our own,but sometimes we can’t. It can be really hard to ask for support and humble ourselves, and know help doesn’t look the way we want it to and it often comes at a cost, but we ask for and accept support anyway because we know we have to.
We learn that it isn’t always about us.
A week ago I was humming to myself. It was one of those Mariah Carey songs that end up in ranges that even dogs couldn’t hear. I was humming badly and someone walked in on me in the office kitchenette. I was embarrassed and tried to excuse myself but the woman walking in the room didn’t even hear or really notice me. In her head and taking up her full attention was the world that sees only her as I was in my world that saw and cared about everything I did. Our worlds would have never met if I hadn’t stopped her to draw attention to the fact that I expected her to see me.
The world that crashed around me was my world. In the beginning it was ugly and I was emotionally bleeding all over Facebook and to anyone that I thought cared about me. Some friends saw more than they wanted to. Some friends didn’t see or know anything. Other people wanted the juicy details and my personal hell of a side show. Given space, some people will still really care, but not enough to be present. Maybe they’ll offer space because they don’t know how to react. Maybe they have no room for someone else’s pain. Given time, will the opinions of others matter?
We know how to bounce back.
The thing about bouncing back is you are first launched. You are thrown far, and land hard in a way that throws you in places and ways you would never choose. You end up covered in things you would love to wash off and you accept that some of it is shame and part of that shame never belonged to you.
Shake it off. Newton’s 3rd Law tells us every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Live boldly and prepare to be launched. You were born to fly.