This is me, Tina, being fully seen by the photographer. Intense. Confident. Calm. I am all of those things and much more!
As for many, most of my life I have been defined by labels. Some, not all, I’ve given myself, but each has pigeon holed me into roles that don’t fully allow for who I am to shine through. At a young age I learned being a tomboy with short cropped hair, who loved wearing a green sweat suit and play in the dirt versus play with dolls, landed me in an odd situation. While I wanted to play football with the boys, they told me ‘no, go play with the girls’. Who, had picked long field grass bunches and were cheerleading from the sideline. Ugh, I couldn’t think of an activity I wanted to do less. I vividly remember walking to the fence, kneeling down and slowly, oh so slowly began to pick the long grass. If it took long enough to make bunches, recess would be over and I could return to the classroom where, for the most part, we played as equals.
Fast forward a few years and I’m in the dugout between innings, with a kid’s shirt wrapped into my fist, his feet are dangling above the dusty floorboards. This little punk had been picking on me for a better part of the baseball season and I couldn’t take it anymore. To my mother’s horror, I took my Dad’s advice, the next time it happened I picked the kid up and told the him to leave me alone, then let him fall amongst the feet of the boys who sat stunned in the dugout. The stunt worked and the bullying stopped, though I would never be accepted by my male teammates.
I have always been an intense competitor. Competition satiated a fierceness that has no place (for a female) off the field. The sports arena offered a safe space, rewarding those who dug deep, got dirty and pushed their limits. Thus, I flocked to any competition I could. Until in college, I realized my life was one ongoing competition. Any small task was seen as a game where, either you won or you lost. Now most times the only one aware of said game was myself, but damn if someone didn’t take it seriously, and damn if I didn’t berate myself when I lost.
As an athlete, the mental game is key. The secret sauce to professional athletes over amateurs is their ability to tune into ‘the zone’; to quiet the mental chatter in order to focus. Natural talent, and dedication to physical training is imperative, but it is the mental game that plays the lead role at the elite level. Here I was, quietly competing for everything, while the record on the turntable ‘Negative Self Talk’ played on repeat. Unfortunately decades later, this platinum record still gets more air time than I’d like to admit. The phrase, ‘old habits die hard’ is real.
The Pendulum Swings
So when I saw this photo of myself, immediately I was like ‘damn girl, you look intense!’ Part of me hated the photo for its raw portrayal, because deep down inside I’m still that crop haired tomboy who’d rather get dirty, and who loves a good competition. Once I moved west, and surrounded by the laid back attitude of athletes far more talented than I, things changed.
Fast forward 12 years and the pendulum has swung far into the opposite quadrant. Competition has taken a backseat to the efforts of a deepening yoga practice, the fruits of which have changed my life. Though in the last couple of years it has become apparent the inner fire, that intensely burned for many years was a mere flicker. The time had come to ignite this power center once again. But this time, do so with grounded clarity. To come from a space of cool, calm and collected instead of full tilt full time.
“Once the moon has been made steady, the sun can be made to rise.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
A fitting passage that infers once we are humbled, grounded and calm, then may we draw in life force energy, igniting our inner fire and spark for living a vibrant life. For when fire burns, it burns bright and illuminates as well as intensifies all in its path. May we all subscribe to the daily practice of finding balance. The balance between egotistic and confident, competitive and calm. Between unmotivated and intense.
Thank you to Tom Lebsack of MOTphotography for capturing this beautiful essence of me.