Reinventing Myself, Growing Stronger in Spirit

Women'sBasketball_Mar1978_K29V-3-78_ACCESSAs a child in the Land of Lincoln, I grew up emulating Wilt the Stilt, the 7-foot African American NBA star, and dreamed that one day girls would be allowed to play basketball. As a first generation Title IX athlete, I came of age in 1972 along with the law that revolutionized women’s sports by mandating equal opportunity for girls in publicly funded schools.

I fought so hard to be recognized as an athlete that it didn’t seem fair that my professional team in the USA declared bankruptcy, my French club banned foreigners, and when I finally found a home playing ball in Germany, a car accident ended my career in instant.

I have fought back from broken bones, shattered dreams and dashed hopes and cried a river of tears over lost abilities. I never ran down court again; instead, I paced on the sideline as a coach.

When I was growing up, I dreamed of having five children, a whole starting line-up.  I carried two babies safely into the world, but lost three en route.  Instead of becoming bitter, I did what my grandfather and father did, I coached other people’s kids.

When my professional basketball career ended, I intended to run marathons, climb mountains, sail the seas, but with busted knees, a wrecked back and bad karma, my body failed me.  So instead I teach teenagers, read books, navigate the Internet.

And I rewrite my story. One. Word. At. A. Time.

I intended to conquer the world straight up, instead I spend an inordinate amount of time flat on my back. I can no longer run, jump, play, but ever the athlete, I still walk, swim, stretch.IMG_2184

Every morning as I face a new day, I pray for strength, patience, resilience, faith, and hope. Faith abides. Hope trumps all. Hope endures.

Pain makes me set my jaw, as my eyes become glassy with anxiety. How long will it last? How can I minimize the intensity? Pain interrupts my best-laid plans and interferes with my long held dreams. Pain rules.

Yet I roll out of bed every morning and move. One. Step. Forward.

Chronic pain may subside temporarily, but it comes back to haunt me. Over time it wears down resistance, breaks spirit, zaps energy, steals joy, robs the soul.

With pain as a partner, only a fine line separates triumph and despair. A warm hug, a strong handshake, a kind word makes all the difference. I reach out to my global community in Switzerland for inspiration drawing strength from the student who greets me with a genuine grin, the colleague who offers a cup of tea, the sister who calls long distance just to say, “thinking about you today.”

Endurance is an attitude. In spite of setbacks and losses, I am in this for the long haul. Instead of focusing on myself, I concentrate on others. I write a note to the friend who lost her mother, I cheer for the girl who made a basket, and I console the student who failed his math exam.

Every time I am knocked to my knees AGAIN, I pray for the courage to keep on, keepin’ on.  I whisper my worries to the wind and shout thanks to the skies because I know without doubt,

“My peeps, got my back!”

Bring it on, LIFE!

The girl who dreamed of slam dunking, now lives above the rim, suspended in air over the Atlantic with one foot in both worlds.Image 33

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Posted in inspiration, relationships, social view, sport.

35 Comments

  1. Pat, you are a trooper. Your truths jump off the page and pull us in. I am so encouraged by your strengths and FAITH! KEEP-A-GOING, ex-pat, and know you can lean on me from across the waters:)

    Blessings,
    Clara.

  2. Sis,
    ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING! (that and having your peeps leading you, behind you or carrying you!) Your courage, resilience and hope despite the cards you have been dealt in life inspire me and so many others!
    Keep on Journeying through this incredible Life! So blessed to have you in my Journey! Te amo!

    • As writers we have a hard enough time finding the right words at the right time. Don’t you just hate it when they get sucked up into cyberspace.

  3. Pat, you are such an inspiration to us all. I feel bad when I whine about something petty and unimportant, especially when I reflect what you and so many others go through on a daily basis. You are a real trooper and and example to us all. Thank you for your wonderful words that encourage us all. Keep on keepin’ on and I’ll get your back anytime I am around for you.

  4. Pat, thank you for this inspirational post! We never truly know what difficulties another person shoulders, do we? To think about young Pat, dreaming lofty dreams and hoping glorious hopes, only to have them dashed to the ground could be heart-rending. BUT to hear “the rest of the story,” with its endurance and persistence and determination, is amazing! All I can say is, You GO, Girl!!

    • Thanks, Debbie. Amazing, too, how we can draw strength from the words of fellow writers. Today is our only guarantee and even though I have been in a situation where I lost everything, I still sometimes forget to seize the moment.

  5. Sis, without a doubt….your unwavering courage, your fight and determination, and your incredible attitude in the face of repeated adversity contiue to inspire me. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I just look to you as an example of the resiliency of the human spirit. You never fail to amaze me. And, yes, your siblings will always have your back.

  6. Hey Pat, your words never fail to inspire, as does your tenacity. I salute you oh battle-scarred woman of strength and spirituality. Draw courage and warm hugs from family, friends, colleagues and students whenever you can. Meanwhile, take a hug from a friend far far away who is feeling your pain for a moment. Love Rach xx

    • Oh how this battle-scarred ol’ bod would love to have one of your big hugs right about now. Thanks my woman warrior friend for sending one long distance via your words. Miss your dancing feet tapping on the floor above the old gym.

  7. Patty, Feeling intimidated by you and your fellow author friends’ prolific style of writing, I will simply say:
    Yockway, BFF!

  8. Pat, you’ve got an inspirational story. Thank you for sharing. You have not let life sideline you. Know that you’ve got fans still cheering you on.

  9. Inspiring! I find it so helpful to hear about athletes who find a way to do something when one thing doesn’t work.

    • Thanks, Alexandra. I think we are all probably more resilient than we think, but it is not until we are tested that we know how strong we are really are.

  10. Life does hand us lemons that just can’t easily be squeezed into lemonade. I deeply appreciate that you keep going despite the pain of so many setbacks. But you’ve kept going, and that’s ultimately what shows the character of a person. It isn’t how we handle success, but how we handle adversity that defines our character. You are a person of very good character.

    • Thanks, Chloe, as you said, “It isn’t how we handle success, but how we handle adversity that defines our character.” I learned that very same lesson from my Coach Grandpa and Coach Dad and I try to pass it on the athletes and students I work with.

  11. What a beautiful post, Pat. I’ve had stretches of time when I’ve been in constant pain, and I know how terrible it can be – though nothing like what you’re dealing with every day. And your positive attitude, despite what you’ve given up, is so inspiring. Really loved this.

    • Thanks, Sharon, and I hope you, Chloe, Anne, the founders and the rest of the talented, dynamic GenFab gang know how much you inspire me every day through your words. Write on, my friend.

  12. I am sorry that you suffered a serious accident. But, wow, you have really fought back, survived, thrived and learned a lot that you can share with others. Amazing story!

  13. Thanks for sharing not only your wonderful writing, Pat, but your spirit. Life with all its aches and pleasures, disappointments and joys, loneliness and friendships – that’s really life in it’s full glory.

  14. Pat, thank you for sharing, you are a great inspiration as many have told you, it’s is one thing to be told, but truly know that! You have such a great way to share, and me knowing your family and being here in Illinois and knowing you started here, is all that more meaningful…You keep inspiring!!

  15. Pat, each post of yours gives me insight into your amazing life — as a trailblazer, athlete, teacher and mother — and I enjoy getting to know you better and better. I echo the comment so many others have made: you are an inspiration. I am thrilled to be connected to you and I hope someday our “real life” paths will cross.

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