Acknowledgment Of Strength And Courage

Acknowledgement of Strength and Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

—-Lao Tzu

Lately, there has been a request to identify strength and courage from within myself.  And, honestly, the answer is not very easy for me to identify nor to convey.  I haven’t written since early April and couldn’t have written if I had wanted to.  Sometimes I seem to get lost in my own world not knowing how to get back to the present date and time.  The words “strength” and “courage” seem to be ones of perception rather than having a concrete definition that fits most people and situations.  Hang in there with me.  I promise there is a point.

One of the more difficult things in my life has been to accept compliments.  The ones I did get from perpetrators always seemed to have some form of abuse attached to them.  Growing up and developing as an athlete I regularly received compliments from my coaches.  I not only developed confidence but the discipline and hard work were always worth the effort.  I received compliments from my parents, the parents of friends and teammates.  When the compliments began to take on a more sinister tone and action from some people, I began to fear the very thing that only years before seemed to propel me into a healthy confidence and feeling of safety.  Kind words, in their own way, can now cause instant fear and embarrassment unseen to the naked eye.

IMG_0262

You can point out that survival of all the abuse is an example of both strength and courage.  However, my stance is simply that I did what I had to do to live.  Is this a great example of minimization? Well of course it is.  But emotionally this is truly how I feel about my story of survival.  So…..to identify examples of each I am forced to look at these things from another angle.  I identify these by looking into the heart and eyes of my alters.  This has truly been a process that has now led me to a position and attitude of gratitude.  Trust me, it has not always been like this.  For years I’ve been stuck continuing to try and deny the depth of my mental problems and diagnoses.  And what this has led to for my system are feelings of denial and minimization of their strength, courage, bravery and existence of them both individually and as a group.  This has led to anger, resentment and a whole lot of unneeded and hurtful chaos from them at times. They have had a general feeling of being unneeded and unwanted after years of wading through a life of blood, sweat, tears and the evilness of others.  They have never wanted a  war medal but rather just acknowledgement of the abuse and their efforts.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

—August Wilson

Me and “my team” or “my guys” as they are commonly referred to are not expendable.  These children, teens and adults stepped into some very frightening situations when my mental and physical limits as an individual had been reached.  Their actions often times with accurate precision led to self-preservation with the ultimate goal to preserve life.  Their strength and courage doesn’t seem to have limits for which I’ll am eternally grateful.  Their existence was created out of fear, pain and necessity. Mel will tell you that there have been times when physically and emotionally I shouldn’t have been able to function on any level.  But you could also look up and standing before you would be someone who seemed to be functioning almost completely normal. The quest for my education while undergoing abuse, sometimes daily, is a stunning example of this very thing.  Now several years later the answers as to how this was even a remote possibility are very clear.  My guys stepped in and helped to make sure that my goals were achieved despite always being told that my dreams were nothing more than under achievable pipe dreams.  To me, they are a living testimony of strength, courage and bravery that cannot be matched.  And maybe my story is changing from one of survival to one about redemption.

“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one.  From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We don’t ever know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.”

—Isabel Allende

#thispuzzledlife

Play Ball!!!!!

Play Ball!!!!!

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.”
–Phil Jackson, Basketball

In my years of playing sports, I was fortunate to have many different coaches each with their own unique styles of coaching.  I never had one coach that didn’t know how to effectively motivate me.  Their styles of coaching, however, were as individual to them as I was as an athlete.  When most players “age out” of a league inevitably a coaching change would also occur.  Luckily, I was able to keep the same coach for the majority of our summer softball league through high school. Playing varsity sports, however, came with new coaches and a new level of maturity as a ball player.

Anytime a player, for whatever reason changes coaches, that event becomes a brand new period of adjustment.  You have to develop the confidence and trust in the new coach just like the new coach has to develop the confidence in you as a player.  You both go through similar phases at individual speeds.  As a player, you watch your coach to see if his/her actions are congruent with the words they speak.  You watch to see if your coach’s words are truth or just empty promises that are spoken out of convenience.  Likewise, the coach watches behaviors of their players both on and off the field. They watch to see how individually motivated you are to play and to be a “team” player depending on the sport.  They also want to see if you’re going to put forth 110% effort or just try to skate by half-assed.  They look to see if you’re loyal to the sport and your individual game.  Having an “off day” isn’t the same thing as few players perform perfectly all the time. How you recover and are motivated from an “off day” is what differentiates the good players from the great players who develop into champions.  Through these observations you both have to decide if the person before you has the potential to be a part of a winning team.  They also watch to see to what extent team unity has been developed.  This is also when the coach sees if the “team” or individual is in need of some type of remedial work sometimes starting again with simply fundamentals.

players respond

In the game of my life things are incredibly similar.  “Coach” and I have gone through an adjustment period with not all of it “fun” but necessary.  She agreed to take this player on without having much information about the extent of prior coaching and essentially with an “AS IS” label among many others.  She would use her gentle force of discipline to teach this hardheaded player HER way of playing.  First, though, she had to determine at what level of functioning this player was performing.  She determined that a previous coach a few years ago was quite damaging and was too controlling to develop the trust with this player. It damaged the player almost for good and didn’t allow for growth of anything but resentment for future coaches and the hurt and pain that wouldn’t leave anytime soon.  Despite the rough shape of her new recruit, coach has seen worth where some others have not because this coach refuses to put down a horse for having a broken heart.  She knows that what this player needs is to start back with the fundamentals which include love, compassion and above all…..TRUST.

Coach knew that this player was hurt deeply but with time, patience, consistency and a relationship lacking in judgment this player might just begin to melt and the potential that waits in the shadows might one day be achieved just like she had envisioned.  Coach also knew that this process would be a marathon not a sprint and that both parties would have to be willing to believe that the process could work.  After all, a win is still a win even if it’s not done gracefully.  The biggest statistic that this player carries in her portfolio is that 199 times she has fallen and 200 times she has gotten back up. This player couldn’t and still can’t even begin to imagine the potential but coach can and that’s all that matters, as long as, this player is coachable.

fearless player

Practice after practice and with trust building on both sides coach began to see what she had initially envisioned for this player.  This player has shown that she works hard for every play and gives her all in practice because she hungers to be a champion again despite what she has been told and the already failed expectations of others that has left her with a broken spirit.  Coach saw that this player had aggression that needed to be tamed but would never hurt her again like some previous coaches did with invalidation.  Coach knows that on the other side of this untamed aggression and with additional love and consistent discipline is an incredibly loyal champion waiting to emerge.  How does coach know this?  Because she can see that covered by a sometimes nasty shield of aggression is the heart of a champion that is currently keeping her player alive.

Today begins the ball season that this player has been practicing endlessly for even when coach hasn’t been watching.  These “opponents” who are unnamed are those “teams” that left this player for many years scared, hurting and dysfunctional despite her best efforts.  This player is finally entrusting of her coach to stand side-by-side and to play against these opponents as she has been guided and will continue to do so until victory is achieved. The battle wounds will be plentiful and falling down will inevitably happen as this is part of being an athlete. But she’s determined to win or die trying.

She is told who her first opponent will be and she begins to shake with fear.  Her coach gently reassures her that her ability is there but that she is the only one who can execute for she is the player and that is her job.  Coaches teach and guide.  Ambivalence rolls down her cheeks for fear of yet another failure and this player takes the field to lead her team, as the team captain, like she has practiced many times.  But not without turning to look back to make sure her coach is still there as promised just one more time.  Standing there is her coach in the shape of that familiar and long sought after diamond.  And once again this player has the confidence to show her trustworthy coach that she is indeed coachable.

Coach nods with one more sign of encouragement and hollers…..PLAY BALL!!!!

“Coachable people seek out those who speak truth to them, even if it is a painful truth, because it protects them and it makes them a better person and leader.”
― Gary Rohrmayer

#thispuzzledlife

Put Me In Coach

Put Me In Coach

“Teamwork requires some sacrifice up front; people who work as

a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests.”

—Patrick Lencioni

I will be the first to tell you that the first few months of living with the Longhorns has been anything but easy.  A lot of internal resistance and external confusion has left its mark all in the name of “safety.”  A tremendous amount of fear sufficiently keeps everything and everyone trapped almost in a place of purgatory.  Too scared to make THE decision or any decision for fear of putting everyone at risk.  But yet she puts everyone at risk anyway.  Our fearless yet dictatorial leader doesn’t know what to do and has tears for the guidance of her dear Sarah or Coach Nick.

The firm yet comforting messages from the opposing chair says she has something up her sleeve in her fairy dust bag.  Just something I call the “just where  ‘what I needed not wanted’ information is kept.”  Our current 13 year-old tyrant does what most teens do when fearful, frustrated and tired of everything….kicks and screams with claws and venom towards any movement both good and bad.  This almost symbolizes her own conflict of wanting and needing to be both right and wrong.  Others live in total fear of secrets alone.  And still others yearn for the day when peace will be achieved.  And, yes, there are those that also say, “I do it! I do it!” all for just one more flavor of chap stick.  And then the non-verbal all feeling soul that cannot seem to be comforted. And then one that continues to grief over the loss of her prized coach wanting nothing more than a job and/or a goal to focus on.  The grief and stress can be felt down to the smallest of nerves ever being exposed and in need of a therapeutic root canal.

together

I can feel something in my mind and body stirring unsure whether or not it could be anxiety or maybe just gas.  Still unsure of where I got the feeling but it was as if Sarah was saying, “Dana are you finished making a mess yet?! You always have been hardheaded. Don’t you see your way isn’t getting you anywhere?! Quit fighting the process. Work with it….all of you.”  Fairy dust was flying all over the place and wheels were turning in the opposing chair.  I always get the “Oh Shit” feeling when she says, “I’ve got an idea.”  You know that things are about to ‘get a little more real’ on some level.  Anticipation and newest ‘gut messages’ have you praying that you make it back to the house on time.

What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.  She says, “Read this out loud.”  Reluctantly, I receive the paper not knowing what lesson the fairy dust had just created.  The message reads, “We are going to learn to work together as a team WITHOUT abuse and WITH love.”  Almost like my dear coach was standing by whispering in my ear, “It’s been a while but remember I was the coach but now SHE is the coach. It’s ok. It’s time.  Your team needs you!” I admit that when I felt his words of wisdom, I had a lump come up in my throat.  Because I remember lessons about being a team that said, “There’s no one person bigger or better than the TEAM. You each have to do your individual jobs but you win as a team and lose as a team not as individuals.”  From off in a dark corner I see the tired and worn down athlete perk up like she had just been called up to the big leagues saying with excitement, “Put me in coach!”

teamwork

Everyone covers the playing field, even the little guys with their chap stick and cheap plastic gloves run onto the field not knowing their new jobs or positions on the field.  Even “grumpy pants” grabs a glove with a smirk and goes as coaches have all spoken in their own ways.  Taken aback by this new coach/old coach moment and bracing for the overwhelming fear about the unknown and overall safety of the system, that still fierce protector let’s out almost a pre-emptive sigh when she asks Sarah, “Mom what do I do?”  Her response was “Dana ask her and then follow her guidance. This is where you move beyond FEAR headfirst into TRUST even if all you have is the size of a mustard seed.” She again questions, “But how do I keep us safe?”  Her final words of wisdom were, “You do it together.”

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and

sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

—Mia Hamm

#thispuzzledlife

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen.

 The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

—- Vince Lombardi

I’ve always spoke very highly of all the coaches I played for now 20+ years ago.  I’ve always had that strong connection to them regardless of how much time has gone by.  Now if you want to know how I get motivated, let me know that “I have a ballgame to play and my team needs me.”  My life as a ballplayer took on some of the most raw feelings I’ve ever experienced.  Being an athlete was about more than just a game, it was about the entire journey of learning fundamentals and evolving into an individualized athlete with a heart of a champion.  Here’s the story of a man that knew exactly what to do to help me step my game up as an athlete.  But what he didn’t know he was creating for me was a way to survive.

Nicholas “Nick” Kolinsky was a ex-football player who had a heart as big as his frame.  He is still and will always be a legend from the South MS area.  He was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to MS many years ago to play for the 1962 championship football team from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He stayed around that same area met the love of his life and raised one beautiful family.  His youngest daughter, Nikki, and I would be teammates for several years.

This man was surely a legend in the city but for me the term “legend” would take on a whole other meaning.  I would meet coach Nick sometime in the early 1980’s.  I had play some form of “coach pitch” softball for a year but this was “real” softball, as I saw it, because we had tryouts.  I was an okay player but nothing was serious and I was having fun.  We had the tryouts complete with coaches from the league and their notebooks looking on and taking notes.  A couple of days later my parents and I got the call that I would play for Nick’s Ice House and my coach would be Nick Kolinsky.

This big and loud man would laugh and smile in a way that you just instantly know that he was different than most people you meet.  His happiness and love for life, his family and now this young softball team was infectious.  You never had to ask me if I wanted to go to practice.  I would sometimes walk back to the vehicle with my heart crying tears because I didn’t want practice to end.  I ate, slept, breathed and fully saturated myself with his coaching as much as I could.

Coach Nick

He pushed me but in a way that I wanted to play at my best.  He always told us as players, “You will perform in a game the way that you practice.  Winners never ever give up.  Every play and every ball you catch or hit effects everyone on your team and  they are your family.  You leave it all on this field.  If at the end of the game you have played the best you could and you left it all on the field no matter what the score you will always be a champion in my book.”  He knew how to motivate me.  I instantly took some of these lessons with into now a 42 year-old womanhood.

Every athlete has a difficult night where things just don’t seem to work.  You misjudge balls.  Your hit timing is just off and you begin to worry if you even have any eye/hand coordination left.  It was these times when coach would say to me, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw!”  It wasn’t earth shattering to be “off” for those games but disappointing it was.  He could somehow tell when I needed that “compassionate coach” side and he always encouraged me.  He would bring his big “man size” body down to my child size self and look me in the eyes with compassion and said, “Keep going baby.  These kind of nights don’t last but you have to keep pushing through them.  Don’t you give up!  Do you hear me?!!!  You leave it out here on this field no matter how much you have to give.  Your team needs you.  If you get scared and don’t know what to do on those bases KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.  I’m right here and we will do this together.”

Now to most people this interaction might not have been that big of a deal.  To that developing child and athlete, that was all I needed to hear.  He didn’t say that he would be there to do it for me.  He said, “I’m right here and we will do this together.”  From that day forward, I played with confidence and have faced every obstacle knowing that he would always be right there.  He had no idea what those positive interactions would do for me as an adult.  Every single time I had to pick myself up from one of life’s unfriendly occurrences, I always heard my coach saying, “Charlie get up!  Your team is depending on you.  The game is not over yet. Get back over here!”

charlie hustle

Charlie was a name that Coach Nick gave to me because of the way that I played.  He always told me, “You play a lot like Pete Rose.  You have some of the best hustle I’ve ever seen.  From now on you will be called Charlie Hustle.”  As long as there was daylight and the “want”, “need” and “will” to continue was there he would stay after practice and hit me additional balls to help me sharpen my skills.  Our team seemed almost untouchable.  It wasn’t just me who would benefit from his coaching.  We practiced and practiced hard every single practice.  Lolly gagging was not allowed by him, other coaches or the other players on the team.

After ballgames it was nothing for him to load up the entire team in the back of his pickup truck while we cheered going riding through the city like we were national champions.  And to me we were.  I’m glad that he gave me a foundation of self discipline.  It might be in only a couple areas of my life but it took and I’ve never let go of many of his life lessons.  We were told very seriously, “that being a winner is not given.  You have to put the work in and even then you might not win the game or the battle.  It’s the same with life.  You give everything you have all the time until there’s nothing left to give.  That is a champion!” He gave all us players a t-shirt that had his business logo on the left chest.  But on the back it said “I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS”  He told us as a team that those shirts you have to earn to be able to wear them.  Until I graduated high school, I was known by my nickname Charlie Hustle and I wore that shirt with pride.  I always wore that shirt under my uniform shirts throughout my high school career as a kind of balance and piece of my coach right there with me like he had promised.

Because of the impact of his compassion in my days of being a child and developing athlete, I have survived many different situations.  I worked hard to live through a lot of things.    I reconnected with him after this many years.  I was contacted by one of his daughters via Facebook to tell me that his health was declining.  On one of our trips back to Petal where he and his family lived the whole time I knew them.  I walked into the house where he was sitting and his eyes lit up.  “Dana!!!”  He chuckled. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him and said, “Coach I’ve missed you.  Here’s my family.”  I don’t know if the tears fell like they’re doing now as I write this.  But shortly after Marshall pooped on his lap he wanted to talk about old games from when I played ball for him.  It was like one of the most beautiful times as a child had been resurrected by the gentle giant that had become a gentle old man.  I called him several times since that visit and each time we spoke he had a even more difficult time speaking due to a failing heart.

nick's boys

My beloved coach passed away July 5, 2016.  The grief is so great that it’s taken until now to be able to write about such a great man.  The towns of Petal/Hattiesburg knew when this man passed away.  For me it was like a new national day of mourning.  The pain of the little child inside had me disappearing inside myself.  My athlete has never stopped mourning over his loss.  Anytime you ask me about this guy I called Coach Nick I tear up but not out of sadness.  I tear up over the gift I was chosen to receive.  That was just gratitude rolling out of my eyes.  Since trauma has had such a big impact on my life more than once I always wear that shirt into a session with my therapist when I need his encouragement.

Ironically, as the universe would see fit, I met the one who would be the next big coach in my life only a month later.  This time things are different.  Now I’m not in the fight for a win in a game, I’m in the fight for my life.  And everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Grateful again?  You bet I am. I will find a way to succeed because I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS!

Below are links and newspaper about this guy everyone knows as The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  Please take a little time to read about this man that both South Mississippi and I loved.

 

 

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/local/hattiesburg/2016/07/05/hattiesburgs-nicks-ice-house-icon-nick-kolinsky-dies/86728744/

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/sports/college/southern-miss/football/2016/07/13/cleveland-nick-kolinsky-jack-lucas-had-special-bond/87010864/

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hattiesburgamerican/obituary.aspx?pid=180567264

#thispuzzledlife