I’m pissed off. The center midfielder is lazy. To my growing frustration we’re constantly getting beat down the middle, meaning I have to keep running back to play defense and then reversing to sprint upfield to retrieve my goalie’s punt.
Eventually I decide that I’ve had enough. From the right wing I start trying to cover the hole. I run helter skelter, zig zagging across the field, working to play her position and my own. After a few minutes of this the coach pulls me out and takes me aside.
“What’s your position?” she asks me.
“Right midfielder,” I reply breathlessly.
“Why are you in the center then?”
“She wasn’t playing hard,” I start to protest, pointing at the field.
“It doesn’t matter what she’s doing,” the coach chides me. “You play your position and let me worry about her.”
I nod and head over to my water bottle with my head down, feeling chagrined.
It’s been years since that scrimmage, but I still remember what my coach said to me. I also remember the relief I felt when I was put back in. It was so much easier to play just one position. What a gift to have my area of responsibility spelled out for me so clearly. My job was to play right wing. The center midfielder’s job, for better or for worse, was to play center midfielder. The coach’s job was to manage the team.
At times I still get caught up in thoughts about how other people should be behaving. I think doing so is part of being human. After all it’s easier and safer to point a finger at someone else instead of taking a hard look at ourselves. However, the cost of taking this road is that we miss out on our own lives and the possibilities therein. In my soccer example I was leaving an empty space on the right side of the field every time I ran to the center.
When we pay attention to our own lives we are situated in our locus of power. I could talk until the cows come home about how I wish a relative would change and nothing would ever happen. Yet I could decide one day that I would like to take better care of my own health and well being and something would immediately begin to shift. I find that when I focus on my own actions life becomes simpler, sweeter, and more manageable, just like it did that day on the soccer field.