When my daughter turned fourteen the thing she most wanted was to go to a Sonics game with three of her friends. At the Tacoma dome. This wouldn’t have been a big problem for anyone else. But for me it was hard to even think about.
I wanted to give her her greatest wish, but ever since a nervous breakdown some years before, it was a challenge to keep my cool whenever faced with very large crowds. I never knew when I’d start shaking or stuttering. But I decided it might be time to let go of past limitations and push myself a little.
When the day came, we piled into the car, made our way to the Tacoma Dome and into the stands. It was fine. I was fine. Lots of happy fans getting ready to see a basketball game between the Seattle Supersonics and the New Jersey Nets. Got the girls all set with their hot dogs and fries and sodas, and settled in.
As the game got underway, I was astounded by the world of basketball. Holy mother of God, this was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen! Having never been to any sports event before, maybe it was beginners luck that I got to see a particularly exciting game. They kept trading the lead, never more than 2 or 3 points apart. If you follow sports of any kind, I’m sure you live for this kind of game.
Eventually, it got to be just on the other side of too much for me, so I told the girls I was going to go walk around, and I’d be back before the game ended. I went through the concourse, where, interspersed with the horrible fast food places and the merch stores, there were actual restaurants, one of them had real tablecloths and everything. Me being me, that’s where I landed.
So there I was, sitting in front of a plate of pasta and a glass of wine, watching the game on TV. And two revelations hit me at once, right between the eyes.
I would hear a muffled roar (the actual game going on a few yards from where I was sitting), and a millisecond later, I’d see what the roar was about on TV. A little voice in my head whispered, Tina, Wake up! You’re watching a game on TV for which you bought tickets to attend live. You can do this. Get back in there.
There’s a saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This was proof. It was a dead on picture of how I show up in life. I’m there, right? But only kind of. I mean, I bought the ticket and everything. Only I don’t let anything touch me. I sit at the cloth covered table eating overpriced food, and experience the safe, curated version of what other people are letting themselves be slayed by in the moment, in the flesh. Time to get back into the game.
The teams were neck and neck all the way to the very last. But only one team got the sugar. Listening from the restaurant, I’d watch the Sonics score and hear the roar. Then moments later, I’d watch the Nets wrestle the ball back into their control and score a mind-blowing three-pointer, and — crickets. Nothing. It happened over and over.
The biased responses reminded me of something I do internally. When I screw up in life, there is a Greek chorus screaming, jeering, holding up signs, judging, pointing, shaking their heads, saying, “Yep, that’s you all right.” But when I do something right, or maybe even spectacular…Nothing. Absolutely no sound. No praise. No acknowledgment even.
There’s a full house for my fuck ups. But you can’t give away tickets to my goodness. Do you know what I’m talking about?
I made my way back to the seats where the girls were and stayed with them through the end of the game. The Nets won by six points. 112 to 106.
But I was the biggest winner.
I’d been ushered back into the world of direct experience.
And I’d been given a peek into a habit that had been cutting me off at the knees for decades.
It’s twenty-five years later now, and although it’s still something of a struggle, my good points get much more air time these days. There’s an advocate inside me, fighting for them. And as for direct experience, life is so much more fun now.
Show up for your life. For real.
It’s going to be over so fast.
Tina Lear is a writer, yoga teacher, and mother of three really interesting humans. She founded the Long Island Dharmata Sangha and is currently navigating the liminal world between her past and her future. Doing her best to be in the present. She lives in Floral Park with her beloved wife and their very small but mighty dog, Ruby.