In 2015, I retired from professional basketball and immediately cursed the Sports Gods (and why didn’t you make me 6'9 like LeBron?) for giving me a body to move and feel and compete with…
All the work I had put into training, into performing, into competing, into-into-into…
The motivation to find yourself, your ideal body, your happiness with your movement, and self-love of that moving body through time, the graying of hair, and aching muscles is a difficult task.
It is a game of cat and mouse until it isn’t.
Your idea that self-love takes work is so true.
I wrote this (secretly) while (secretly) reading/studying your amazing writing skills: “As a kid, I hooped all the time. I also kicked a soccer ball day after day, and dreamt of becoming Pele. I oiled my black and white Adidas Copa Mundial kangaroo leather and tucked them under my bed. I plastered a full size poster of Magic Johnson on my ceiling and dreamt of becoming an All-Star. I became First-Team All-State in basketball and soccer by the time I was a junior in high school. I would wake up before the sunrise and run up steep sandy dunes on the coast of Lake Michigan and push my body to the limit and then I would show up to play open gym with the adults and then dribble to my late night park as the Northern Lights danced green above me. To increase my athleticsm, the next day, I would arrive in the weight room and load 45 after 45 onto my barbell and snatch, clean, push, pull and heave my way to athletic progress.
I would do this day after day.
During my Kent State full scholarship days, this only worsened. I bled sweaty tears alone in the MAAC, wanting to become the greatest player to ever step foot in their gym; wanting someone to finally respect and tell me how great I was.
Except I never felt like I was the greatest.
I still don’t.
Now, it’s hard for me to run, bike, or swim 20 minutes a day, touch a weight, or get into CrossFit, the most competitive sport of the most fit athletes in the world (really is it?).
It’s sad really, that I felt less acceptance or respect, that I couldn’t find my father’s love or my mother’s guidance as often as I’d like.
But I was kid, and I didn’t know what divorce did to teenager’s need for acceptance and respect, or their insatiable need to be loved by a father.
My parents were there, quietly lurking inside their own minds and jobs and problems and divorce. Yet, I orbited by them, around them, and felt tides of anger that moved moons. But now, still, do I value and love myself above all else?
Now I must practice that self-love and self-respect to inspire myself again, but in a different way.
We must respect ourselves to put something into life we can feel good with and not feel the need to always do more.
Smiling and sweating is okay. It’s good after you do it over and over. Losing is okay too, especially if you are trying to be really healthy and take care of your body.
I have thought and thought on this, why men can’t smile and sweat and love themselves while they do it?
Because they want to win?
Because no one will love them if they don’t win?
What is their motivation?
Wait, winning can be a byproduct of self-love can’t it?
To be conscious and aware of your breath and body brings better performance, therefore more wins. Isn’t this counter-intuitive to driving yourself to the brink of destruction, to always wanting wins, and abs, and egos fulfilled?
But I feel tight, still, not always, just certain times; charging towards something I don’t own. I must practice the inverted feeling of needing satisfaction from others, from seeing a new muscle in the mirror, from scoring another point, from just loving my body for moving and acting on my soul’s behalf.
The wins come in small doses these days and there is less keeping score, and even when there is, I appreciate the other competitor for his efforts.
For being healthy and alive, vibrantly balding, and surely not living up to my body’s potential, I should sit and breathe and say, “Thank you for getting me this far, body.”
I just wanted to offer my experience and perspective, as a male, as a pro athlete, and more, because your words resonated with me. Self-love and winning, are they, can they be intertwined?