Play for Her


“Today’s the day,” he said, as he stood next to my mat.


“Come on, let’s go,” he said, not giving me a chance to change my mind.  “Clasp your fingers behind your head.”I placed the crown of my head on my mat and clasped my fingers together as he had instructed.   

“Kick your legs up.” I kicked my legs up into his hands and he lifted them straight into the air.  He held my ankles, firmly at first, then lightly, and then he let go of his grip entirely.

My legs began to sway back and forth.

“Don’t talk yourself out of it,” he said.  My mind raced, the thoughts not particularly encouraging. 

The “I can’t.”

The, “How is this possible?”  The, “I’m gonna fall!  I’m gonna fall!”  Until my yoga instructor interrupted my shaky stream of consciousness.

“Don’t think about it. Just do it. Steady…steady…excellent!” After 10 years of trying, I was up in my first unassisted headstand.

For a second, anyway. That “shaky stream of consciousness”  mouths off at me more than I probably realize.It comes in many forms and is typically preceded by fear, but fear in a form so subtle, that I don’t always recognize it as that.

It’s caution. Is this headstand safe?  You’ll fall!

It’s self-doubt. This writing isn’t very good. Maybe I ought to cancel this blog post.  

It’s rationalization. Is that really a practical decision? We have these conversations with ourselves repeatedly and often, yet how many of them go unnoticed? How many of these unnoticed conversations have we based life changing decisions upon?  Have you ever watched your thoughts?   Have you ever really listened to how you talk to yourself?

Would you ever talk to anyone else the way you talk to yourself? If you were on the sidelines, watching your best friend run her first 5K, would you tell her that she wouldn’t finish?   If she were writing a book, would you tell her that her efforts were futile?    If she were starting a business or going back to school, would you tell her she would fail?

My guess is you wouldn’t.  My guess is that if you were to talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself, it would be considered rude.

My guess is that you’d lose a friend.

I was recently reminded of this quote from Mia Hamm:

“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of
practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love
with the game and never looked back.

Big ball

Play for her.”  

All of us were once kids with dreams.  Maybe our dreams are the same now, or maybe they’ve changed. In a perfect world, we’d believe in those dreams the way we did when we were children.

Once upon a time, before the thought of failure entered our minds, we were invincible. We were in love with possibilities.  We were brave. Some days, I lack faith in the person I am today, thanks to the clouded visions we often have of ourselves due to fears and past failures and misguided perceptions.

Yet, when I think back to myself as a fourth grade girl in coke bottle glasses, hashing out the details of her first novel in a Harriet the Spy marble notebook, I have no choice but to try.  She had a vision of what life would be like.  Who am I to rob her of that vision?  If someone talked to her the way I talk to myself, she would scoff.  There’s no way she would buy into their negativity.

 When we don’t have the drive to try for the people we arr now, when we’re ready to sit out or quit or just plain give up, think about yourself as a fourth grader and what that fourth grader wanted from life.  She’s counting on you.  How could you possibility let her down?

Go on now, play for her.

*This post was inspired by Christine’s post, “Am I a Hypocrite,” which I had cited as one of my favorite posts of the year.  Please come back on Thursday when it will be my honor to have Christine as my first guest blogger. 

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Play for Her — 44 Comments

  1. Oh, I just love this. “My guess is that if you were to talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself, it would be considered rude.”
    I want that on a plaque to remind me…because that is so true.
    My inner 4th grader thanks you for writing this post. –Lisa

  2. Well that was well put. We negative talk all the time to ourselves, but we’d never let our kids get away with that. We’d never encourage our friends and family in negative talk. Good reminder to take away. No more “I can’t”…who says we can’t anyway? We can do anything we have a mind to do!

  3. Beautiful beautiful post Ilene. The 4th grade version of yourself would be proud of you! The idealism and just plain wonder of being a kid gets lost so quickly as we grow up and it’s a shame that we don’t get in touch with that more often as adults. I look at kids playing sometimes and think to myself that I’d love to feel that kind of crazy excitement about anything I’m doing right now as a grown-up. Then I remind myself that that’s what I’m doing each time I sit down to write. And that’s what you’re doing too. 🙂 By the way, kudos on the headstand! That’s on my fitness bucket list this year and I still don’t have the courage to pull it off. Way to go!

  4. I have never seen that quote before – and now I will never forget it. The negative self-talking voice is loud one, it’s hard to drown her out sometimes. But when I think about the inner fourth grader, I realize I don’t want to let her down either. Wonderful post, Ilene!

  5. I actually teared up reading this because I am so close to that little girl who was writing books at 4th grade (I swear that is when I started, too) and yet so far. So much of life has gotten in the way of fulfilling my dream of being a writer, including fulfilling the dream of being a teacher. I miss that little girl with the thoughts of conquering the world…so unjaded…such pure joy. Hours spent in my room writing and writing. This post is so, so very inspiring. I need to be kinder to myself and more encouraging. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. I love that quote from Mia Hamm! I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. So true and awesome. And something to try to remember as we are adults. I tell my kids not to do the negative self-talk, why should I allow my self to do it?

  7. This is my struggle. Totally. I am so outward focused– for praise, admiration, attention– that I end up sad and depressed if I don’t get those outward things. I want to play for my inner kid who loves to write or work or run or mother. And the negative self-talk…I am a work in progress.

  8. I often think growing up and facing the world has changed my perception in many negative ways that lend itself to the negative self talk. The history of failures. The record of wrongs. The losing streak… and the cruel awareness that life isn’t fair and I am not the ideal I dreamed. But I also learned along the way, truths that now inspire thoughtful insight and wisdom that has prepared my heart for reality. And in so doing, I have adjusted those fourth grade dreams into 40 something dreams… they are better. They are stronger. And as I step forward with the love of the game, I am more confident and more aware of how it’s played. I realize that it’s not about the win, but the game and how I play it.

  9. How exciting to be having Christine as your guest blogger!
    I have to remind myself all the time to watch how I speak to myself. I find that I’m much more harsh to me than I am to anyone else.
    I’ve been working on this actually. Being more kind and considerate to me. This morning I got on the scale and realized I packed on 20 pounds in the last few months, but instead of beating myself up about it I reminded myself that I am more than my weight. It’s been an awfully stressful winter, and I know have the tools to turn it around.

  10. I remember so well the first headstand (and forearm stand!) I did on my own. You just realize, finally, that you were the one holding yourself back the whole time. Lovely post. xo

  11. Such a great post. Yes, we’d never talk with a friend the way we talk to ourselves. I’m actively working on stopping those kinds of conversations, and they are HARD to stop. Because despite the fact that it takes up such a small part of our brain, it’s a powerful piece. And you know what? I can’t beat up on myself when I fail to disarm that inner negativity, either … because it just keeps spiraling down.
    Better to think of the little girl in the 4th grade. 🙂
    (BTW, I’m reading Harriet the Spy with my son right now, who is completely smitten.)

  12. I could not agree more about kids and their enthusiasm. I see it with my son – playing Legos is the best thing in the world! Playing soccer is the best thing in the world! Going to the town pool is the best thing in the world! I want to learn from that and channel that and love every minute and get excited about whatever I’m doing.
    As far as the headstand goes, if you can get with the right instructor, you will be up in 30 seconds and never look back. I promise!

  13. Thank you Kim! I think we need to make a pact to quiet down those voices. But it’s hard, I know – when we’re practically conditioned to talk to ourselves that way!
    I don’t want to let my inner 4th grader down either. I love that quote – because it totally reminds me of the kid that’s still inside of me – and I want to honor her, you know?

  14. But, AM you ARE a writer. I know I’ve read about you working on a book – which is great – but in the meantime, you are getting in your writing practice via blogging. The blog writing is a great exercise. It’s not in vein! Blogging has actually gotten me back to fiction writing. It took a year and I don’t typically give it more than 30 minutes a day, but I got there. I am glad this got you a little closer to your 4th grade girl – and I hope that starting right now, the two of you walk hand in hand as you pursue all of the things that mean the most to you. xo

  15. OH, Chris, I love your last sentence – that it’s not about the win but how you play it – yes! yes! yes! And I also do believe that we need to adjust our dreams – more importantly to me than holding onto those same dreams is holding onto whatever dreams we have in our hearts today.

  16. I gained weight this winter too – for the first time since having kids, actually – and I was pleasantly surprised with how I’ve talked to myself about it. I still want it to come off – but it’s not “defining me” as it would have a few years back – you know? Life is so much nicer when we let up on ourselves some!

  17. Seriously? I’m crying just a little bit right now. I had so many dreams and aspirations when I was young. I wanted nothing more than to be a dancer and I gave that up. It took be about 20 years of self doubt to regain the courage I once had as a little girl. I think about this all the time. What I’m doing. I’m playing for the girl that wanted me to be a different woman than I became. I want to be the woman I always wanted to be. I want that little girl, the girl with the dreams, to be proud of me and where I’m going.

  18. I do absolutely adore this post Ilene. There’s so much here and I’ve been working hard to quell those negative voices in my head. It’s freaking hard. But really, I look at my oldest son and I see so much hope/joy/enthusiasm/possibility and I’m a bit jealous to tell you the truth. He’s just happy, you know? My husband and I were talking the other day about the inevitable teasing and bullying that will come in time, especially with boys, and it breaks my heart to think that he will lose that. But then again, is it just me putting my own worries and concerns on him? I love that Mia Hamm quote too. It makes my heart swell. Thank YOU for writing such a beautiful post inspired by my humble words. xoxoxox

  19. I often give people the best career advice, but I never give it to myself. I’ll tell people that they’re totally talented and smart and they’ll make something of themselves. I have struggled to think the same way about myself. It helps to know that other people may feel about me how I feel about them. That I can do it..

  20. An unassisted headstand? Wowee-you go girl!!
    Having that little yippy voice in your head certainly isn’t a help, having had one in residence for most of my life. *Sigh*
    Your point about turning it around and saying the same things to a friend is powerful. My immediate response was “Of course I couldn’t imagine being anything but encouraging!”
    This is a great post on letting go of fear. A lot of that going around this week, and always a good read. 🙂

  21. Oh, Christine – I was so inspired by that post of yours and I understood it. I got it 100%. Because I toggle with my own voices all the time – but I am trying – little by little. And I do want that little girl enthusiasm back and I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t all have it! xxoo

  22. My 12-year-old recently sent that quote to me via text message, and it said so much to me – it reminded me that even though fourth grade isn’t that long ago for her, there is that little girl she’s playing for. She sees it even at age 12. I often see myself as my girls’ age, and wonder how the 12-year-old me would get along with my 12-year-old daughter.
    And thinking of such things keeps the 12-year-old me alive inside me. It’s important. I feel far less able to doubt myself if I remember my fourth-grade dreams.
    Awesomely beautiful post.

  23. Is that not the most inspiring quote ever? And I’m impressed that your daughter has the insight to understand it at the age of 12.
    I’ve never once thought about how my 9 year old self would get along with my 9 year old daughter until I read your comment. We would be different from each other, her, tall, athletic, and outspoken, and me, the chubby, nerd-ish bookworm, terrible at sports. I don’t know if we would have hung out together, but I think she would have been kind to me. We would have bonded in the library, sharing our opinions on the Nancy Drew Mysteries and the Chronicles of Narnia. It makes me proud of her to think about that.

  24. Oh what a great analogy. My yoga instructor keeps telling me that headstands are mostly mental. But I keep saying I can’t. I hate that I do that in other areas of my life,too.

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