No, I don’t mean a “you’ve been naughty” slap. Or a “stop that” slap. I’m talking about the practice of volleyball teams to slap hands with each other when a point doesn’t go their way. (Of course, nobody else finds it interesting, so I have no photo to go along with this.)
I have a hard time tearing myself away from Olympics coverage, which means I wind up seeing sports I’d never watched for any length of time before. I’ve been struck by how supportive volleyball teams are. After every point that goes their way, they huddle and clap each other on the back or shoulder. After points they lose, they make a point of going around to almost every player and slapping palms with them, as if saying, “alright, next one,” “we’re still good.” No matter what, they affirm that they are in it together.
It’s part of the rhythm of every point, with every team that I’ve seen.
Which makes me think about failure and disappointment in my life. I tend to make a big deal out of them. I stew about them for a while before I say anything, and when I do say something, I’m rather emotional (this may be an understatement). And then I mull it over afterwards. This takes a lot of time and way too much energy. Maybe that’s why the matter-of-fact hand slap looks so appealing: no emotion, no recrimination. Just an understanding that failure happens, it’ll happen to all of us, we have another chance to not fail in 30 seconds, meanwhile, I’m here for you.
I’m focusing here on those hundreds of little failures: anger and irritation flaming out, saying something that unintentionally hurts someone you care for, not doing something you say you’re going to do. I need to work on being more matter-of-fact about these. On giving myself or my loved ones the equivalent of a simple clap of palms together to acknowledge that this whatever didn’t work out the way we’d hoped, but we’re in it together, let’s get ready for the next thing.
There have been times I’ve done this well with the kids, when I’d send us all to our rooms without a big fuss when it was clear we weren’t working well together. But I didn’t do so well yesterday, when both my kids sprung sudden school activities on me that required outlays of money and time and which they’d never done before, so I let my irritation and anxiety get the better of me. Not horribly, and things will work out fine with both things, but I don’t like how I handled it. I need to give myself and the kids the hand slap and move on.
I might try to cultivate this for bigger things, too. As regular readers know, my family left our longtime church two months ago. It still makes me very emotional; I still cry during every church service we aren’t at our old church. It’s not a crime to cry in church, of course, but I’d like to stop being so actively sad so I can better get ready for the next thing. Because the next thing is upon me. We start at a new church soon, my husband in an official capacity, and I don’t want to give the new people the impression that I’m not happy to be there — because I am glad to be there, I’m still just sad about the other.
Do I need to work on the volleyball hand slap approach? Or is that impossible while I’m still grieving the place I left?
Let me throw in another analogy, just to keep things interesting. In my favorite summer TV show (other than the Olympics), So You Think You Can Dance, dancers are put in partnerships that last about half the season (unless one of them leaves the show and partnerships get shuffled). Some of those pairings have amazing chemistry from the beginning, some pairs have to work up to it. But then, when they reach the top 10, partnerships get switched every week, and every week they have to do their best with someone new. The winners are those who can make any partnership, any style of dance look good.
I had great and immediate chemistry with my prior church partner, but I can’t be with them anymore. I have a new partner. It isn’t the same as the old one, but it’s got its own style. It’ll do some things better, other things not as well. I need to give myself fully to this partnership, learn its strengths, and do everything I can to make this successful, which, in my terms, means that I serve God’s people and bring glory to God’s kingdom.
We’ll see on Sunday whether I managed to analogize myself out of crying.