As 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.
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.