A teaching from Pema Chodron has been rumbling around in my head and conversations over the past few days. It says, to paraphrase, that if we are somewhere we think we don't want to be, there must be lessons there we haven't learned yet. This teaching helps me when I'm feeling stuck, but certainly frustrates me when I really want out, now!
It's been on my mind because I've been using it with walkingstick in regards to his soccer team. Walkingstick is a natural athlete who picks up new sports skills quite easily and invests a great deal of energy into learning the rules and skills of any sport he tries. He is also very competitive, strives to do his best, and wants to win. Having never played soccer before, we put him in a rec league thinking it would be a good place to learn some skills and have some fun. Perhaps it was a good idea, but not with this unfortunate team.
To put it bluntly, the team he plays on does not have a chance of winning any game, EVER! Thus, fun has been hard to come by for our very competitive boy. As I discussed the fiasco with my dear friend yesterday we decided this is a perfect storm of kids with limited abilities, even more limited investment in the game, and a coach who means well but can't seem to find the spark to unite and motivate this team.
On several occasions walkingstick has wanted to throw in the towel and quit the team - and I totally understand. He's frustrated on so many levels it would take a dozen blogs to cover them. I've empathized and strategized with him and given him space to vent. Then, I've guided him to find the lessons available to him in this difficult situation.
One of the most important lessons we've discovered is that he has to set aside his original goal of winning. By letting go of this expectation he is less frustrated when they continually lose...by huge amounts. It also gives him a little glimpse into noticing that there can be fun in the journey, not just the outcome.
He's shifted his focus to learning what he can from this coach, observing his opponents to find new skills, and enjoying the endless running - which is one of the things he loves most about soccer.
He's also learned that he can be compassionate towards kids who don't have his athletic ease and enjoy who they are rather than what they can do.
Pretty big lessons for an eleven-year-old.
When he looks back at this experience in the years to come I hope he will see his growth, perseverance, and courage in the face of adversity. It's not easy for any of us to hang in there when the going gets tough, but remembering that there is something to learn from every challenge can help to shift our perspective and bring optimism and openness to how we face it.
Take a moment to look at your own challenges...can you change your perspective and see what lessons you are being offered?