How weird is that? I wasn’t glad he was sulking, I wasn’t glad he was crying, but I was glad he got mad.
Let me back up. My younger son was on his first soccer team last year, and while he loved being outside and playing with his friends, he showed little to no interest in the game itself. In fact, at one point, he literally sat down on the field during a Saturday game, folded his legs into lotus and began to meditate. (Okay, the yoga teacher in me was waaaay proud, but the mom on me was worried he’d get trampled.) He is a lover, not a fighter. He’s my Ferdinand – he’d rather sit in the field and smell the flowers than chase after a ball any day.
So imagine my surprise when my boy said he wanted to play soccer again this year. “I thought you didn’t like it?” I said. “I LOVE it! You HAVE to sign me up,” he countered. Um, okay.
After the third practice, with tears in his eyes, he told me, “Mom, I don’t think soccer is my thing.” I have to say that, at that point, I agreed with him. I had watched him pick a blade of grass during that practice, and study it intently, while the ball and his teammates went to and fro.
We talked for a long time about the search to find his thing - that he’ll try a lot of things on and that some will fit and some won’t. That the search will be life-long and that what will keep it all interesting is to never stop challenging yourself, to never stop learning, to never stop believing that anything and everything could maybe be your next favorite thing. I told him that often times, he’d learn more from his struggles than from the things that come easily.
That said, a commitment is a commitment. We talked about it and he agreed. My boy had made a promise to his coach, to his team and to himself. He would need to finish this year out. Practices came and went, games were won and lost. He came to realize that once he was involved in the game, paying attention, and doing his best (at whatever level that was on any given day), that soccer was kind of fun. Maybe not his passion, but fun.
So Saturday was the last game of the season. My son’s team was down 3-0. Then it happened. Our goalie stopped a shot, but the ref said he was behind the goal line. My boy did not agree. Like Ferdinand sitting on the bumble bee, my boy got all riled up. He pleaded with the ref and when he was subbed out, he pleaded with his coach. He sulked. He even kicked the dirt. He was mad.
While there were certainly conversations to be had about sportsmanship and the relative fairness of life, I had to smile. He got mad not because he sat on a bee, but because he actually cared. He had learned enough about the game of soccer to have an opinion about a call. He had gained the confidence to even challenge the ref. And when he knew that there was no changing his team’s fate, he was all the more upset.
All of this is a perfect metaphor for how I hope both my children will live their lives. That they will try and learn new things, that they will confidently share their opinions, and that they will be fully present in whatever they choose to do. They’ll feel both the pleasure and, yes, the pain that comes from risking their hearts, because when you truly care, you can’t have one without the other.
In yoga we seek to find the balance between these kinds of opposites: joy and sorrow, strength and flexibility, intense effort and non-attachment to the results, to name a few. But at the center of all of this is taking a risk to try: to get up and attempt to find balance in your body, and your mind, and your heart. And to know that today’s outcome is not the goal – that the search, the journey, the practice itself is the only purpose.
My son is a true yogi. As such, he was able to feel the pain deeply without shying away, to breathe through it, and then, most importantly, to let it go. After a nice, overnight savasana, he was back to his sweet, happy self. And I would venture to say that his heart is even stronger, even more open due to the weekend’s heartbreaker. Who knows what his path or dharma will be in this life. All I know is that I’m looking forward to witnessing it all and cheering him on from the sidelines - no matter what field he chooses. Or what flowers he chooses to sniff.