My dear friend Jami will be pulling on her tough girl pants next week as she prepares for her husband’s heart surgery. She’s been on my mind a lot lately, and it got me thinking about toughness. Mental toughness, physical toughness, emotional toughness. None of these have historically been my strong suit. I was not born a tough girl. Of course, I was an adventurous child, who undoubtedly drove my parents wild with dangerous escapades. But the slightest injury and I was surely a ball of tears on my Dad’s lap.
Even today, I am still exhilarated by the fresh reward of escaping shenanigans without injury. I peeshawed Gina and her watchful parents as they cautioned me against certain death as I insisted on clambering down the rocky Irish coastal cliff towards the ocean roaring below. I was alive with the excitement of making my way so close to the wild waves crashing below me – only slightly unnerved by the increasingly forceful winds blowing against the rocks. It was only later when I viewed the photos that I fully realized how dangerous my climb actually was. And my sweet husband, who knows how prone I am to misfortunate accidents, was NOT impressed with the amazing pictures. Weird.
I guess, I like to pretend I’m tough. I can easily wave off potential injury and toss caution aside in many (and likely stupid) occasions. But if I actually happen to injure myself, I can oftentimes be found crumpled and crying like a child. Just the other night Matt and I were wrestling around and bonked heads and you would have though the world was ending. Of course, maybe I was tired and cranky and maybe I had already told him we should stop before someone got hurt…but regardless I cried. Not a little. Ridiculous.
And then, last night, we had our second round of softball practice. And while I had thought that playing catcher was likely the safest spot for me – I was proven wrong by a lightening-fast, not-so-soft softball straight to the chin. CRACK! (It was an UGLY sound!) My teeth clenched together and before I knew what happened I was curled up on the ground just in front of home plate…the runner I was attempting to get out, safe. It didn’t take long for a crowd of my teammates to swarm in to check on me – nor did it take me long to realize I was going to have to pull on my tough girl pants and suck it up. Convincing myself it wasn’t THAT bad, I accepted a hand up but waved off the others…and impishly gave Matt a thumbs up so he wouldn’t think I was dying. Of course there wasn’t anything he could do – he was parked on the opposite side of the field from where I rested with some of my teammates. I could see the look of concern on his face as someone ran into the church for some ice. I knew he was searching my own face and likely wondering to himself if I might melt into hysterics at any moment. But I didn’t. My sunglasses steamed over. A few errant tears made their way down my sweaty cheeks. My hands were shaky as I felt the knot on the end of my chin begin to grow…but I didn’t freak out. I chuckled at my own stupidity. I made fun of my own feeble attempts to be a softball player and I let the team think I was tough. Surely I impressed the teenagers sitting next to me, right? Clearly all the men were wishing their wives or girlfriends were as tough as me, right? I mean, what other woman out there could have gotten clocked in the face like that and gotten up with a smile?
I must admit I feigned toughness last night. That ball to the face hurt like a you-know-what. I’ve never been punched before, or whacked in the face like that, nor do I ever want to again. It hurt to sleep last night. It hurts to smile today. My entire jaw hurts. While I sucked up the pain in that moment – I am a total whiner today…allowing myself as much Diet Coke as I want to sooth my aches and pains. Pathetic.
I guess I realized last night that giving in to the pain in that moment wasn’t going to do me any good. My teammate who threw the ball already felt awful. My husband on the sidelines felt helpless to ease my pain. And there wasn’t anyone to drive me home or put me to bed…it was up to me to take care of myself. Matt seemed proud of me on the way home – telling me I was tough and did a good job at not freaking out. I know that if I had completely melted down out there he would have felt terrible that he couldn’t just swoop in, scoop me up, and make me feel better. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit – I wish he could have.