Losing – that great, hard, necessary teacher

I felt a real mix of emotions today.

“Name the colours, blind the eye”, goes an apparently Chinese proverb that I read in Beyond Biocentrism some weeks ago. The point the authors were making was on the inherent undefinedness of much of the spectrum of the experience of life. “At a linguistic level, separate things exist only if we have a name for them. In turn, this makes us miss most of life, and very definitely comprises a more confined experience than perceiving oneness.”

Easier said than done, gentlemen. What if the experience involves watching your cherished child lose his very first football match – drubbed 0-6 – in his new school? On a field that brought back stark memories of the previous game I had watched on it, in the summer – of his brother, slotted as one of the last two bowlers in the cricket match, failing to save his team from losing?

I had started a post then, which I never managed to write. I saw it briefly in my draft notes, when reviewing my lecture notes a couple of days ago. That came back to haunt me as the tears that came to Conrad’s face today and the dispirited shoulders of his teammates slumped low brought back the pain of watching Blake bite back his agony in the aftermath of his match defeat, just some weeks ago.

There were attenuating factors. The team they played against today comprised boys whom had mostly been together since nursery. Their cohesiveness and teamwork were blindingly evident against a motley crew of boys whom had only known one another for less than a week. And Blake – the final score came from the cumulation of everyone’s efforts, of course; he took it heavily, having been assigned last to bowl, but this was luck of the draw, and he had to face the pressure whether it was “fair” or not. It is what it is.

The script is not supposed to run this way, though, is it?

I’m a subtle writer; I wear our pains lightly and with grace. It doesn’t come naturally to me to write anyway else…to make a hue and cry, or to wax lyrical about the cracks. It does not strike me as necessary, nor helpful. But.

I went up today primarily happy at the thought of seeing Conrad again for the first time since he left last week. It feels so long ago already. And to add to the cocktail of emotions above – the distance between us has already started to stretch.

He has already started to grow up. In less than a week. The team was waiting while he tied his shoelaces. To expedite I offered to help. “No thanks, Mama. I can do it in my own.”

And so he could.

His face crumpled as the post-match briefing finished, and I could finally walk towards him, my arms waiting open. But he clarified, even while he unfolded into my hug: “I’m not being a spoilsport, Mama, I promise I’m not…I’m crying cos one of the boys kicked my leg and it really really hurts.”

As we headed towards post-match tea, he spotted a taller competitor in front and volunteered, “You’re from Cheam. You guys played well today.”

No. He is heading opposite of a spoilsport.

I came back home, to find his first-ever letter waiting for me in the post. He wrote about his eager anticipation of the match, today’s match, that they ended up losing so badly. My heart twanged reading it. Learning his prior state of mind made what happened today feel even worse.

And yet – in the sting of defeat he was able to behave with such graciousness.

How do you describe how it feels, when someone you love so much and have gotten yourself so used to being the primary source of comfort for, starts demonstrating that he is now capable of sorting himself out?

Without your help?

Even though you want to comfort him?

You are no longer quite so…needed?

I had an engrossing conversation with the sister of an old friend at the Club tonight, now a good new friend in her own right, happily so. One of the topics was on the relation between coaching and mothering.

I had plenty to share. But right now, I am specifically grateful that coaching has taught me how to have the courage to ask questions to which we don’t have the answers.

Because sometimes, perhaps there *are* no easy answers. In fact – to expand on Lanza and Berman’s point that I quoted in the beginning of this post – maybe sometimes, there are not only no answers, at all, sometimes there *ought* not to be any answers that come. To justify, rationalise, cut down to easy digestible intellectual size, to be *explainable*. Rendered harmless, toothless. Impotent.

Sometimes the very practice itself *is* to stand unresisting, right in the face of these gusts of wind and rain, right in the midst of shifting change, and –

Let it be.

Let it happen.

Let them grow.

Let them go.

Some things they can best learn on their own now.

Trust them.

Easier said than done. But simple is not easy. And somehow, this new perspective I am playing seriously with – that I miss most of life in its magnificent spectrum of undefinable shades when I attempt to grasp and control and name it, instead of opening myself fully and to accept it as it is, paradoxes, mixes, cocktails, strange bedfellows and all… – helps me, I find, in the doing of it.

And that, in turn, lets me attune myself better to being what they need me to be…not necessarily what I want to be for them.

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