No, it’s not about toaster waffles.
Yesterday I was blessed with a great opportunity to practice my serenity and also reflect on some problems I have had with the character defect of ego. My son plays on the top level competitive soccer team in his league. He is one of the weakest players of the 18 on the team, and since they field 11 at a time and they are beyond the “equal playing time” age, he does not get a lot of minutes. My wife is struggling with this greatly. She had one of her particularly bad rants about this last night, but this blog is not really about her. In the past I would have thought that I could “fix” her thinking by gracing her with some of my infinite wisdom and flawless logic about the situation. Then, when my attempts failed, I would be wounded by her anger and words, feel I was unfairly blamed, and become angry and resentful. This of course would lead to a further explosion that wasn’t really about the original situation and the death spiral would begin. I am happy to say this didn’t happen last night. I was calm, I was was careful to say enough so that she didn’t think I was ignoring her, but not enough to take ownership of her emotions or try to fix her problem. The thing I felt the best about was that I wasn’t completely doing this through clenched teeth, when I do that it will eventually get me. This time, I felt like I was really on the path to accepting something I couldn’t change. Oh, it wasn’t completely natural quite yet, I had to meditate a bit and think carefully about my words, but I felt progress.
The second thing I got out of this was the chance to reflect on myself a bit. You see, this soccer situation used to get me as well. My “bottom” came when I stalked across the field after one game to accost an assistant coach about my son’s playing time – possible I had a couple of brews in me as well, don’t remember, but not unlikely on a warm summer afternoon. Followed it up with an email to the main coach (not present at game), of course blaming the assistant. On a side note, I do remember being “buzzed” when I wrote the email. I know that, because I can remember thinking what a fucking genius I was to be able to write such a thoughtful and politically correct email and still get my point across – while buzzed (see The Chameleon). A couple of days later, although I still felt like I was “right”, I felt horrible about it. Right or not, I realized I didn’t want to be “that guy”. I believe that I dealt with this issue before my sobriety, I am now accepting of the situation. However it is only now, in recovery, that I truly realize what was at play…
It was EGO, pure and simple. It was not about protecting my son, as he WANTS to stay on that team and knows he can drop a level down anytime he wants. It was about my ego being hurt, me feeling inferior to the other parents because my son is the sub, me assuming they were looking at me and judging me for this – as if I were the center of their thinking, me not being able to feel superior as I deserved, and me needing to blame somebody else for my emotions. Although I feel I have mostly dealt with this, I am grateful for the insight, as it will help me continue to change the kind of thinking that I now realize is really bad for me.
Competitive sport is a great equalizer. It will repeatedly over-inflate your ego as well as crush it to pieces, for parents and players alike. One day the best player on the team, the next day the guy who made the mistake that cost the championship game. You can avoid it (as my parents mostly did), you can use it as a vehicle for blaming others for your or your kid’s failure (as I did), or you can use it as a great life-lesson to take responsibility and bounce back tomorrow. What do you choose?