Pitch Perfect

You know what I think about every day? Everything I’m NOT doing.

It’s exhausting. And annoying. I try to think, ‘You know what, Lindsay, this could be the last day of your life. You could die. You should really enjoy every minute you have.’

But that thinking just gives me more anxiety, because now not only am I not doing ‘enough’, I’m also not appreciating my entire life. AND I’m thinking about dying, which always ends up in a morbid rabbit hole of fear and sadness.

What is especially bringing this up right now? I think it started when field hockey season ended. I said, all season, that as soon as field hockey ends, I’ll be able to concentrate more on my writing. And also, focus on saving money to pay off all my debt (which is a lot).

Field hockey season ends, and I’m like, fuck, I don’t know what to write about.

Besides the writing (or lack thereof), now that I’m not coaching, I have all the time in the world to work at the restaurant and make money. Which brings up another thing: all my co-workers – who are great – keep asking me, ‘So, what are you up to now that field hockey season is over?’ And I’m like, fuck, what AM I up to now? I don’t know! Nothing! I suck at life!

Unfortunately, I am realizing more and more that I really hate working nights. As a server who works from about 4pm-midnight, there’s this feeling of dread that I have the entire day leading up to that 4pm start time. It’s not just dread, it’s like I have to save my energy for work, like I can’t really focus on anything else except that I have to work later. It’s a weight, is what it is. Or maybe it’s just an excuse, I don’t know.

Would I be happier if I worked during the day? Would I be more productive with my writing? Would I live a healthier lifestyle? Would I be less stressed out? I don’t know, but I’m leaning towards a solid yes.

I can’t wait for the day when I’m making money from doing things that actually bring me joy (like coaching field hockey, for instance). It doesn’t have to always be fun. I just mean that it should be fulfilling, challenging, inspiring, and push me to my creative limits. That certainly is the goal.

For now, I have to find a way to work at a job and make money, while also finding the motivation to keep writing. Just keep swimming.

It doesn’t help that Christmas is coming up. Christmas is the most amazing time of the year and I ALWAYS overdo it. I love buying presents and making a million cookies for people. When I tell Steve my “ballpark” for how much I’ll probably spend for Christmas-y ‘things’, his eyes bug out. Then he laughs, because thankfully, he always thinks I’m adorable.

When I get frustrated with my job, Steve always so genuinely tries to help come up with a solution. My favorite is when he says, with a most serious face, “We need to figure out a way for you to monetize lip sync.”

I mean, really. He’s just the absolute best.

Private Parts

Dr. John Sarno’s 2001 book, Healing Back Pain, explains that knowledge, education, and acceptance of the TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) diagnosis will lead to not just management of pain, but freedom from pain. “The knowledge is the effective cure.”

He goes on to say that, “One does not have to eliminate tension from one’s life. It’s not changing one’s emotions, it’s recognizing that they exist and that the brain is trying to keep one from being aware of their existence through the mechanism of the pain syndrome. As long as you are preoccupied with what your body is doing, the pain will continue.”

Sure, sure, sure, but what am I supposed to do besides believe in this diagnosis??

I google TMS and my continued research leads me to another book: Think Away Your Pain by David Schechter, M. D., released in 2016.

I listen to the sample, and Schechter’s voice seems clear and easy to listen to, so I order it. I like the start of this book, because he gets right to bullet points. I like bullet points.

“An important strategy is a review of daily reminders. 12 key thoughts. It is suggested that at least once a day, to set aside 15 minutes when one can relax and quietly review them.

  1. The pain is due to TMS, not to a structural abnormality.
  2. The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen depravation.
  3. TMS is a harmless condition, cause by my repressed emotions.
  4. The principle emotion is my repressed anger.
  5. TMS exists only to distract my emotions.
  6. Since my back is basically normal, there is nothing to fear.
  7. Therefore, physical activity is not dangerous.
  8. And I must resume all physical activity.
  9. I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain.
  10. I will shift my attention from the pain to emotional issues.
  11. I intend to be in control; not my unconscious mind.
  12. I must think psychological at all times; not physical.”

A lot of the patients described in the book have debilitating back pain, where they can’t do much physically and/or they avoid physical movement. My pain isn’t this bad. I still work out. I do avoid high intensity workouts and classes because I feel like I get too worked up, but I still can do them.

So I do. It’s one week before Steve and I leave for Napa for his cousin’s wedding. I’m not doing a diet to get ready for this wedding (as I might have tried to do in the past), but I will commit to no drinking and yoga every day. (I end up going 6-for-7 on both).

This means, I have to do whatever yoga classes fit in with my schedule. I typically only like Hot Power Fusion, because it’s most like bikram style/holding poses, but I used to do yoga sculpt. I don’t like it as much because there’s a lot of flow movement at the beginning and I do feel my anxiety rise during class. (Also, the best teacher in the world moved away so she doesn’t teach the class anymore.)

This week, though, I decide to push through and just do it. I tell myself that it’s OK to get anxiety and that it’s not going to hurt me. Basically, I try to talk myself down from getting too anxious during class.

Whether or not it works, I don’t know, but it sure does feel good to work out in a hot studio almost every day for a week. Combine that with the no-drinking and I am feeling good!

Unfortunately, the more I listen to this book, the more I become infuriated with the narrator. First of all, he takes these weird, long pauses after words when it’s not the end of a sentence. His pauses are nonsensical and annoying. Also, you know when you’re talking to someone face-to-face, and you know they have dry-mouth because you can see that gross white stuff forming at the sides of their mouth? That’s what I imagine this guy looks like, because he keeps making this swallowing noise like he needs a glass of water. Take a sip of water, dude! But the absolute WORST part, is that I can literally hear him TURNING THE PAGES. Are you kidding me?? This is Audible. This isn’t some lame recording you made for yourself. I paid for this. I have never listened to a book where I was so distracted by the poor quality of the reading. I can’t get through it! I’m getting so frustrated, and so anxious, which is the exact opposite of the purpose of this book!

I have it up to 1.5x speed, but it’s not enough. I bump it up to 2x speed. It’s a little too fast, at first, but I get used to it. It takes out his weird pauses, and I can’t hear the pages turn. Problem solved.

Schechter really likes his lists. He goes into the 7 Lessons of Pain:

  1. The source of chronic pain is often the nervous system and brain, not structural injury.
  2. The context and the interpretation of the pain by the patient and its perceived significance, are crucial.
  3. Psychology and education can change the mind/brain and cure pain, not just manage it.
  4. Pain does not always mean disease or damage.
  5. The severity of the pain does not always correlate with the severity of the condition, or the potential for damage to the body.
  6. Pain, sensory signals, are a two-way street. Mind/brain plays a crucial role in what you feel.
  7. Mind/body pain keeps coming back until you are firm in your belief that there are no physical causes.

The more I listen, the more I think that it’s kind of repetitive. But somehow, it’s repetitive in a good way, like it’s becoming more and more ingrained in my head. I’m not sure how long it will take to actually make a difference. There are some examples of people learning about the diagnosis and feeling better that very same day. Mazza is a prime example. She felt better just by reading the book!

I don’t like these examples because I do not fall into this category. Sarno says to give it 2-4 weeks, so I will keep trying. And by try I mean, self-talk, telling my brain that the pain isn’t real and I am in control of my body. I’ve also started to recognize that every time I start to feel pain, I am feeling anxious about something in my life. For example, I start to feel pain when I’m driving, because I think every car on the road can’t see me, and is therefore going to hit me.

More from Schechter: “Your negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, stress, grief, anger, and panic, trigger real changes in your brain. Your mind/brain sets into motion changes in the mind/body linkage, that cause nerves to send pain signals, or to amplify existing sensations inappropriately. This is TMS.”

It’s been two weeks since I first started reading about Sarno’s work. I am shocked and incredibly happy to admit that my neck and back feel much better. I won’t say that the pain has completely subsided, but I truly feel so much better than I have in a long time. Doing lots of yoga and cutting back on drinking definitely helped, too, but this self-talk stuff is actually doing something to me. It’s kind of crazy.

Inception

After three trips to the chiropractor, I’m still in pain. I really like what Dr. Tony does while I’m there, and there’s definitely some temporary relief, but it’s not enough to justify paying that much money once a week.

A friend refers me to this book: Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. The friend is Mazza, my burning-man-yogi-half-baked-spiritual-meditative LA friend. She tells me it’s done wonders for her back issues. She actually says, “I rarely have pain, just from reading it.”

C’mon, are you joking?? You don’t have back pain because you read a book?! That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe it.

The book is on Audible. I immediately purchase it and start listening.

Well, first, I listen to the sample because I have to like the narrator. If I don’t like the narrator’s voice or the way he speaks, I can’t get through it. This book is read by the author and he sounds old and shaky. The audio itself sounds old and shaky, too, as if I’m listening to a record or something. But it’s only three hours and 23 minutes, it has great reviews, and if I put the speed up to 1.5 as I do with all audiobooks, it won’t be as hard to get through. Also, my back freaking hurts!

Here’s the gist of it. Dr. Sarno explains the phenomena of TMS, which stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome. Since I can never remember that, let’s call it the other acronym – The MindBody Syndrome.

From the Mind Body Medicine website:

“TMS is a common and treatable diagnosis for back, neck, arm, pelvic, and other types of chronic pain with no clear structural cause (benign pain). Healing comes from learning to shift focus from physical to psychological, break dysfunctional neural pathways, and process emotions differently. The symptoms are very real, but the cause is not what is expected or typically looked for by most doctors.”

By the third hour, I’m kind of annoyed. This guy has been going on and on and on about TMS and what it is, and scientific terms and OTHER ways doctors try to handle it and prescribe it. He keeps giving examples of people with pain and how they’ve tried everything but haven’t felt relief until they’ve seen him. But he’s not telling me what the heck I’m supposed to do about it.

Finally, at hour three, I’m getting worked up and even more anxious because there have been zero answers and shouldn’t I be feeling better by now??

Then things start to become clear. Sarno has been explaining TMS and its effects and giving examples, because the first step to dealing with TMS, is being educated about it.

I roll my eyes. OK, I get it. I have TMS. I’m educated now. GREAT. Now can you please tell me what to do?

More from the web:

“Step 1: Accept the diagnosis.

A key to getting well from TMS is understanding and believing the diagnosis! The TMS pain process occurs, we believe, in order for the unconscious mind to hide “unacceptable” emotions. It is a form of distraction. When this TMS process is exposed, the symptoms begin to resolve.

“Step 2: Think psychologically.

The second part of the treatment process is learning to think psychologically, not physically.  By this we mean focusing on emotional tension and your internal response to external events and not on prior, conventional, mechanical or so-called structural explanations for your pain. We also teach a cognitive system of blocking, then shifting attention that is very effective (a form of self-talk).”

Let’s say I believe all this. I mean, I do, actually. I really hope that its true because it means there is a way out. It makes sense. I have had continual back and neck pain for years, but doctors always tell me I’m just fine. I hate when they tell me I’m fine. I’m not fine. How are you not finding something wrong with me?!!

When I think about it further, and think about the onset of my pain, it does tend to occur when I’m feeling anxious about something. I always start to feel pain before I go to work. Going to work at a restaurant feels like a trigger for stress. It’s not what I want to be doing with my life, I feel trapped, and I’m not looking forward to it. Once I’m there and working, I’m fine, but it is interesting to notice that the pain doesn’t just start for no reason. There is a link between my pain and anxiety.

This could be my answer. I start talking to myself, saying, ‘The pain is not real, I am in control of my body.’ I say it out loud to Steve, too, but I can’t help but smirk when I say it. Because the problem is, I’m still in pain.

So I believe that my pain is a product of my mind. I still don’t know how to fix it. Sure, I guess it is slightly comforting to know that there isn’t anything structurally wrong with my body, and that I am OK. But Sarno’s saying that I’m repressing some emotions that I don’t want to deal with. How am I supposed to know what those “unacceptable emotions” are??

I’m going to have to read another book…

The Sandlot

Sadly, field hockey season has ended. We finished 6-1-3. Not too bad for our first year! I really am so happy with how it went, overall. This felt like my first real team, and it was a big team – 23 girls – with a real mix of skill level. It was challenging in so many ways, but also way more fulfilling than my past coaching positions.

Here’s what I learned:

Coaching is way more fun – and almost seems easy – when you’re winning.

Our first loss doesn’t come until the end of the season, and it’s a loss in the worst kind of way. Not only do we lose by a lot – 5-0 – it’s also to a team we had beaten the first time around.

Yea. It’s awful. I actually want to cry when the game ends. Instead, I call Courtney to tell her how much coaching sucks when you lose. I truly feel like a loser. When I tell her we had way more corners and way more shots on goal, she assures me there was nothing else I could have done. Thank God. She knew I needed to hear that. To talk me off the ledge.

We exchange stories, which is really just a vent session, and I hang up the phone, feeling a little less terrible.

With a team of 23 girls (that’s a lot of girls) at very varying degrees of skill level, I really, really need a full-time assistant.

First, let me say that I have an awesome assistant, Coach Seymour. Unfortunately for me, she’s only part-time, because she has her own middle school team to coach. I only have her two days a week.

There are many reasons why an assistant is so important. With an assistant, I can split the team into two groups. This way, everyone is moving, everyone is playing more. Also, I can split them up by skill level, so I can teach basics to the newbies and more in-depth concepts to the veterans (I use that term very loosely). I can also have my assistant work with the goalie, because that’s a weak point of mine. I also don’t have to do every single drill to cage, because I don’t want my goalkeeper sitting around doing nothing. I can also split the team into offense and defense, so players can work on things that make sense for their position.

But the most important reason I need a full-time assistant, which I don’t realize until the very end, is simply, support. When I have Coach Seymour, she supports everything I do, everything I say. When she’s not there, I’m on my own. Me against the entire team, and sometimes it gets overwhelming.

I get so stressed out all the time. I want to rip my hair out. I feel crazy. Then, when I see Coach Seymour, and tell her about it, she always responds with a clear, level head, that I’m doing it right. Actually, she thinks I should be way harder on them.

Coach Seymour reminds me of how I was right out of college – taking no shit and no excuses. I have tried all season to find a happy medium, but have second guessed every decision that I’ve made.

Appreciate the good attitudes, and don’t focus on the bad ones.

It’s so easy to get flustered when players just don’t care, but most of them do. Really, they all do care, but there are moments. I take it so personally, and get so pissed off, when what I need to do, is look at all these other respectful and committed players who truly want to learn and understand the game, and be appreciative. I’m lucky that I have so many of these players, at every practice. I honestly do not have a single player on this team who is disrespectful. They might have disrespectful moments, but they’re not disrespectful girls.

Next year, next year, next year.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself. Next year will be different. Next year, they run more. Next year, I only allow players to be on the team who can fully commit. Next year, there’s no such thing as equal playing time. Playing time is earned through attendance, effort, and good attitude. Next year, practice is more important than games. Next year, I have a full-time assistant!

Individual improvements are nothing short of awesome.

So, so many moments. My favorites occur after a player does something awesome, and she stands up straight and looks at me – either like, ‘Did you just see that?’ or like, ‘Did I just do that?’ And it actually sends chills through me. It’s so exciting. 

The girls’ mental health is important above all else.

More than ever, this season has taught me that field hockey should not be a stress motivator, but a stress reliever. These girls have so much stress, and so much anxiety, and so many other things going on in their lives, and I find myself really trying to be present and in the moment when I look into their eyes, and ask if everything is OK. They seem programmed to say yes, everything is fine, and they really can handle a lot, but I’m trying to be more sensitive and understanding to everything outside of field hockey. It’s not easy, and it’s not what I’m used to, but when I think about the big picture, I would much rather these girls have a better and more realistic perspective on life, than get a field hockey scholarship to college (but that would be awesome, too).

Whip It

I’m at work Sunday afternoon, setting up the patio. The tables and chairs aren’t exactly heavy but my neck and back have been especially hurting this week, so I must be making some weird movements to stretch and relieve the pain. Caitlin sees me from inside and walks out, laughing. “Are you OK??”

I’m slightly embarrassed because I know what I must look like. The pain has gradually gotten worse over the past ten years. I’ve always thought it was strictly anxiety, but now I just think it’s a sort of constant, with varying degrees of pain. It started mostly in my neck. I’d try to make it feel better by tilting my head from front-to-back and side-to-side. I didn’t even realize I did it so much, until Lmonny pointed it out. She was basically acknowledging that she knew I did it because my neck hurts, but I remember feeling a little embarrassed because I didn’t realize how noticeable it was. I also wasn’t aware that I was doing it so much.

I thought I found my relief with bikram yoga. All the poses stretch my spine and make it feel so good when I’m doing it consistently. I can feel the difference. But lately, I’ve been doing yoga at least five days a week. Mostly it’s on my own, so it’s not in the scorching hot studio, and I’m not doing all the poses, but still, I’m stretching my spine almost every day and the pain is not subsiding.

I tell Caitlin a little about it. She has multiple sclerosis, so she really experiences pain in the spine. She swears by this chiropractor in town.

I’ve always had mixed thoughts on whether or not to see a chiropractor. Some people swear by them and some people swear them off. At one point when I was having some pretty bad pain while living in LA, someone referred me to a doctor in Santa Monica. I spoke with him on the phone and really liked him, but ended up chickening out because I was too scared, and I’m sure I decided that the pain wasn’t so bad that it was worth the money.

Now, Caitlin is talking this doctor up, and I’m hesitant. She tells me a story of when she was younger and her Mom fell pretty bad and went to see a chiropractor. He completely messed her up and made everything worse, so it was a very long time before Caitlin decided to go to a chiropractor. And now she can’t stop raving about him.

I look him up. Not only is he a chiropractor, he does acupuncture and massage as well. I figure I’ll give it a shot. Maybe he’ll decide that I don’t need any cracking. Maybe I just need some needles. Either way, I need something. Yoga and my acupuncture mat are just not cutting it.

I call to make the appointment. His receptionist answers the phone. “Good afternoon, this is Linda, it’s a beautiful day at Dr. Peter’s office, how can I help you?”

I’m not sure if this is awesome or super weird but I decide that it’s awesome, for now, and book my appointment.

Linda greets me when I walk through the door. She’s a sweet, older lady with thin-rimmed glasses. Very grandmotherly. She shakes my hand and introduces herself. Goes over my paperwork that I’ve already filled out. “Oh, a field hockey coach. That’s fun. Not only a coach, but field hockey.”

I fill out some more paperwork, then Linda takes my blood pressure. She smiles at me. “Are you a Charlotte Roller Girl?”

I laugh, surprised by the question. No. (Apparently, Charlotte has a roller derby team.)

“I only ask because all the girls on the team have very muscular arms. And you have very muscular arms.”

I laugh again as I look at the wall to see two Charlotte Roller Derby Girl posters.

“Dr. Peters is a sponsor for the team.”

Oh, that’s cool. I continue looking around the tiny office. There is a framed picture of a guy with a mullet, and another certificate-looking-thing that also seems to recognize mullets.

What’s with the mullets?

Linda takes her time. “Have you met Dr. Peters yet?”

No.

“You’ll understand when you meet him.”

I have no idea what this means. Linda takes my blood pressure, which for my whole life has always been great. Not good; great. It’s weird how people always seem surprised when they take it, like, ‘Oh, very good.’ Linda takes it one step further. “It’s perfect!” She turns the screen to show me, as if the numbers mean anything to me. “Really, it’s perfect!”

Linda says I can pay now. It’s weird to pay before the appointment, but I go with it. As I’m paying, a man walks through the door. Average to short height, dark tan skin and jet-black messy surfer hair under a baseball cap, sporting shorts, a T-shirt, and sneakers. He starts moving a heavy box just inside the office door and I think maybe he’s a physical labor worker for the company.

Linda says hello to him and then to me, “Here’s Dr. Peters.” I haven’t seen his face yet, but now he turns to me and immediately extends his hand; big, charming smile on his face. “Hey…. Tony.”

Hello. I shake his hand, firm and warm. He continues lugging the box – I can see what it is now; a mini refrigerator – into his office. He explains. His son splits time with him and his ex-wife. He lives there with his two step-brothers and they’re always stealing his food – he likes the healthy stuff – so he asked his Dad to get him his own fridge for his bedroom. Totally understandable. (But if I know how siblings are, he might want a lock for that fridge, too.)

Dr. Peters – or I guess I should call him Tony – leads me into his office. I make it very clear that I’m nervous about seeing a chiropractor, so we first talk to go over my history and points of pain.

Then we get right to it. Tony explains that acupuncture is great, but he always likes to be hands-on for at least the first two visits, to loosen up the muscles and tissues, making it easier for the needles to do the work. “More bang for your buck,” he says.

Fine by me. I lay on my stomach first. I’m a little surprised when he starts at my calves, but I guess it’s all connected. It’s not a massage and it’s not a crack fest – although some parts do feel good like a massage and there definitely are some cracks – it’s more applying pressure and rubbing the same spots over and over – “loosening up the fascia.” Some of it hurts, some of it feels good. Tony does a great job of communicating what he’s doing, keeping me in the know. I appreciate it. A lot of spots are trigger points, and can send sensations to other parts of the body. He asks me if I feel it anywhere else. Sometimes no, it’s just the spot where he’s pushing, but some spots, I can feel it start to tingle all the way through to my pinky finger.

Tony finds some really tight spots – one in my mid-back, close to my spine on the left side, but most in my neck. Once I flip onto my back, he finds a lot of these spots on the front of my neck. Everywhere he presses on my neck hurts, but kind of feels good at the same time, like I know it’s relieving future pain.

I also tell him about my ribs. No one ever has any idea what I’m talking about when I say I have pain under my ribs. It’s on the sides, and when I push in, there’s a sharp pain. He touches the spots, and it feels tender. He says he can do work on them, but I’m already going to be pretty sore from everywhere else. For some reason, I’m more hesitant about my ribs than anywhere else. I think I’m afraid that it’s really going to hurt, so we decide to save that for next time.

Then he comes around to the top of my head and picks it up with both hands so that his fingertips are at the base of my neck. As if reading my mind, he tells me, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to crack your neck, just going to stretch it.”

When he presses on my face – near my sinuses, my cheeks, temples, jaw line – I’m surprised how much it hurts. I thought it would feel good, but again, he’s not massaging. He’s pressing. Apparently, these are major trigger points, and because I clench my jaw at night, all those muscles in my face are overworked.

When it’s all over, there’s very good news – my spine looks OK and I’m able to move easily. It seems like whatever is wrong is totally fixable. I’m relieved.

Tony tells me to do a little yoga today, and to keep using my acupuncture mat. He knows I work with Caitlin at a wine bar, so he lets me know that red wine would be good for me, too. You know, all those anti-oxidants, and of course it’s a relaxant. “Maybe not a whole bottle, but a glass or two is OK.”

I really like this doctor.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

It’s amazing how much coaching a field hockey team has changed in the last five years. Back in my day, coaches and players did not text each other. It was inappropriate – and weird. Now, coaches HAVE to text players. We use an app, so it’s not regular text, but still, it’s texting. I can’t get used to it. I try to be as direct as possible, but I would much rather talk to them face-to-face.

Funnily enough, what I do remember when I played high school field hockey, were the sleepovers at the coach’s house. Once a season, Ms. Decker would have the entire Varsity team sleep over her house. We’d have pizza and soda, do Circle of Love (where everybody tells you what they love about you and most of the team cries), then stay up late talking and messing around and laughing and having the best time ever while the coaches hid upstairs away from us doing who knows what (…).

THAT was normal. And here’s the kicker – they still do it! So, sleepover at the coach’s house is normal but texting is not. It doesn’t make much sense, but this is my reality.

Anna Rose suggests that I have the entire team sleep over. I picture it: 23 girls in our loft apartment, pizza boxes stacked on the kitchen counter, sleeping bags strewn on the floor, and Steve, uncomfortably standing by.

Obviously, Steve would not be there. He’d have to spend the night somewhere else for the night, but it is a funny picture. What the heck would I do with 23 high school girls in my apartment for the night? It seems ridiculous.

Regardless of texting and sleepovers, I’m constantly trying to put myself back into my high school self and see things from a player’s perspective. But it’s just so different now. My coaches were tough and (sometimes) mean and practices were always hard. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I thrived in a strict environment of competitiveness and doing whatever I could do to make my coach proud. Do you think I liked sprints? No, of course not, but did I try to win every single sprint just because I wanted to win? Yup.

Just because I did well in high school with tough coaches doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have succeeded with another type of coach. I always thought that I liked to be pushed by coaches with negative reinforcement and people always getting on me to do better. But maybe it would have been nice to have some straight-up kind, encouraging words. It would have been nice to have been asked how I was feeling. It would have been nice if coaches were happy for me to go on a nice summer vacation with my family.

Right out of college, I found myself coaching other people the way I was coached. Because I knew it worked, or at least it worked for me. But I don’t think so anymore.

I definitely struggle with finding the balance between being stern and being kind. I want to instill discipline, commitment, accountability, competitiveness, drive, time management, and a love for the game, but I also want field hockey to be a place of fun and release. I want it to be a safe environment where players feel like they can talk to me about anything. I want them to want to be at practice every day.

As soon as practice starts, I am all field hockey and I don’t want to hear about their daily lives (sometimes they need to be reminded of this when they’re talking about school in the middle of a drill). But before and after practice, I listen and learn. It’s not much, but if you want to have a conversation with a high school girl, you might want to know the following:

1. Your “Ship” Name

This stands for your “relationship” name. A la Brangelina. The girls talk about their Ship name like they care more about the name than the actual person they’re dating. When I ask what Steve and my Ship name would be, one of my players, Morgan, thinks for a moment.

“Leve.”

I scrunch up my face. That’s a terrible name.

“Yea… they’re not always good.”

2. The way a person asks you to the dance is more fun than the actual dance

Just as the Ship name is key to a successful relationship, the proposal is all that matters for the Homecoming dance. I thought asking a person to a dance was hard, anyway, but now, it’s an event. Guys seek out girls to make a grand gesture. It’s usually a surprise, posters and puns are involved, and it’s always caught on camera for the world to see. 

3. Parking Lot Security Guards take their job very seriously

I didn’t grow up with any kind of security in the parking lot, so this is completely bizarre to me.

Only a few days into school, one of my players storms onto the field, ready to tell a story to her teammates. I can’t do it justice through writing, but every time she imitates the security guy, she makes her voice very deep, and it’s hilarious.

“I already have something to complain about. I got my parking space suspended for a week.”

Why?

“Because my music was too loud.”

WHAT?!

“Yea, this big man walks out to my car and he’s like, in his walkie-talkie like, ‘Sh, 3-6-3, we’ve got a situation here.’ And he walks up and knocks on my window like, ‘Roll it down.’ So I roll it down and I’m like, Hi, sir, is there something wrong? And he’s like, ‘Yes, your music is way too loud! That’s a violation! Your parking spot is suspended for a week!’

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

“Yes! And I didn’t even have all my windows down! And there was no profanity or anything!

That’s ridiculous!

“Yea… His teeth were all jacked up and yellow so he probably just hates his life.”

Amelie

Coffee: America’s favorite drug.

According to WebMD, “drinking coffee throughout the day seems to increase mental alertness and clear thinking.”

Duh, that’s why we love it, but, “Coffee can cause insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, increased heart and breathing rate. Consuming large amounts of coffee might also cause headache, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears, and irregular heartbeats.”

I’m doing a no-coffee experiment for seven days. I’ve done no coffee before but only to substitute it for green tea. This time, I’m really trying to cut out the caffeine. Why? Because of sleep and anxiety. It’s frustrating because I like the pick-me-up effect of coffee, but not the neck pain/struggle-to-catch-my-breath effect of coffee. Also, maybe it’s effecting my ability to fall asleep at night.

The reason I have not been able to try this in the past, is because it’s not like coffee is bad for me. Coffee is good as long as you don’t put a bunch of sugar and cream in it. I’ll either drink regular coffee or espresso, both with almond milk. I look forward to it every morning. With my coffee in hand, I can start the day and get right to my writing.

Day 3.

As usual, with an experiment, it feels like I’ve already done this for five days. I feel sleepy and I really want something to wake me up. Instead, I drink water with apple cider vinegar, or a glass of grapefruit juice, or a La Croix (because they’re all the rage).

After I write my pages on the balcony this morning (the weather has been absolutely gorgeous in Charlotte and I want to take advantage of as much time outside as I can), I come inside and immediately lay down on the couch with a blanket. Steve asks me what I’m doing and I tell him simply, I’m tired.

“Maybe this isn’t a good experiment.”

It’s only five minutes before I’m up and we’re making breakfast (fried egg on toast) together, and I’m defiant.

It’s fine. I just laid down for a minute. The food will give me energy.

To be fair, I did completely mess up the experiment yesterday. The night before, I decide to take one of my sleeping pills. I haven’t touched the things in over five months, but for some reason, I think I need it. I’m not thinking about my no-coffee morning. Idiot.

Even though the pill is only supposed to last eight hours, I’m a zombie for pretty much the whole day AND I have a terrible headache during my entire field hockey game.  

On the plus side, even after being so tired all day and taking an hour afternoon nap, I still fall asleep fairly easily at night. 

I wake up today feeling great, but now as I sit here writing, sleepiness falls over me. If only I had some coffee to give me a little kick.

Day 4.

Steve and I wait for the elevator with our new neighbor, Aaron. Nice guy. He asks us what we do. Steve and I look at each other, and Steve tells me to go first. I find myself embarrassed as I say, “I’m a field hockey coach. And a writer.” Like I’m a fraud or something. Like I have no business saying I’m a writer.

Steve notices and we talk about it in the car. He tries to make me feel better, telling me that once field hockey season ends, I’ll have more time for writing, but I am feeling absolutely horrible about myself in this moment. I hate feeling this way. Sorry for myself, stuck, in a rut, like I’m not good enough, like I’m not doing enough, like I’m a hack. I try to get over it, but the feeling lingers.

Day 5.

This has definitely been more of a struggle than I thought. I thought that I’d miss the taste and the smell and the simple act of drinking the delicious hot beverage. But more than that, I really do miss the energy it gives me. How in the world do people get energy without caffeine?

I was really hoping that the feeling coffee gives me would be mostly in my head. Like when I think, ‘I need some coffee,’ that in reality, I don’t, and I just like the idea of something giving me energy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I have wanted to take a nap every single day this week. No joke. I’ve only actually taken a nap twice, but I wasn’t happy about it. I don’t want to take a nap a few hours after I wake up. I want to be getting shit done.

Thankfully, I have field hockey every day, so no matter how tired I am in the morning and afternoon, I am brought back to life at 4pm. Being outside and coaching never fails to wake me up.

Also, I have been falling asleep at night more easily (not staying asleep, but falling asleep). 

Usually, Steve doesn’t understand it. We’ll be downstairs watching TV and I’ll be so, so tired. We decide to go to bed, and as soon as I’m upstairs, I’m giggly and wired and want to play. Steve is bewildered. “You were just so tired!”

Day 6

The past three days, I’ve been having some aches and pains in my upper legs, hips, and lower back. It hasn’t prevented me from doing anything, except relax and sleep. If I’m moving, they don’t bother me, but as soon as I stop, it’s like this weird pressure and achy feeling and the only things that feel good are stretching, massage, or any kind of pressure at all. The first night it was really bad, and I couldn’t sleep. I found myself trying to lay with my legs bent underneath me, in a way that stretched my quads to the max. That was ridiculous; I couldn’t stay in that position because that hurt, too.

For my birthday, Steve got me this acupuncture mat. It’s so cool. I lay on it sometimes before I go to bed. It covers my entire back and it’s covered in sharp, needly points. It makes my body very warm and gets the blood circulation going.

At 5:30am, when I can’t take it anymore, I decide to try the acupuncture mat on my legs. I lay the mat on the bed and lay my butt and thighs on top of it. The sensation of the needles in my legs quickly takes over the aches and pains and soon, I’m fast asleep.

Yesterday I feel fine in the morning, but by the afternoon, I feel the aches creeping back in, and by the time I get home from practice, the pain is back in full effect. I fall asleep on the acupuncture mat this time, but at some point during the night, I remove it. By the early morning, I’m tossing and turning again because I’m so uncomfortable.

Steve is worried about me. I tell him it’s fine and I’m sure it will just go away on its own, but he always worries because I still don’t have health insurance (I missed the deadline so I have to wait until the new year).

Later I work on my blog and do some more research on coffee.

Dr. Michael Traub, a past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, says “Quitting coffee “cold turkey” can cause mild to severe headaches as well as nausea, anxiety, fatigue and depression, lasting for several days.”

Oh… Could there be a correlation between my leg pain and coffee withdrawal? Is that considered fatigue? Also, maybe this has to do with why I got so down on myself the other day, which is kind of how I’ve been feeling about myself all week! AND why I had such a terrible headache the other day and I thought it was just because I took a sleeping pill the night before.

I share this with Steve. He looks like he wants to pour coffee down my throat right this minute.

“Well, babe, maybe you should drink some fuckin’ coffee.”

I love when Steve curses. It’s adorable. I laugh and tell him I still have two more days. His shoulders slump a little. “You did the experiment, and you’ve seen the effects.”

I know, but I have been able to fall asleep easier, too.

Steve reminds me that ever since we started waking up earlier, I have been a little better about falling asleep, so that could also be a contributing factor.

He’s right, but I still want to see it through. I actually feel a lot better after reading this. I AM a writer! I just got a little depressed because I didn’t drink my coffee!

Day 7

You’d think I’d be fine on the last day, but I want coffee more than ever, especially because I work all day at the restaurant. Even after going to a yoga class in the morning, I still get terrible anxiety during work and my neck and back are killing me by the end of my shift. (My legs feel better, though!)

Day 8

What have I taken from this experience?

  1. Coffee works. Caffeine is real, and I enjoy it. 
  2. I have bad anxiety with or without coffee, but coffee might make it a little worse. Sometimes.
  3. Coffee doesn’t actually give you energy; it just tricks your brain into thinking you have energy (which is fine by me).
  4. If anyone is trying to quit coffee but still wants the energy, one healthy substitution might be Ashwandagha tincture, an herb that can “help alleviate symptoms [of stress, fatigue, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating].” (Let me know if you try it.)
  5. Moving forward, I will try to wait until I’m actually feeling tired before I automatically start drinking coffee because mmm coffee. Also, I will try to keep my coffee drinking to the am hours, so that it doesn’t effect my sleep.
  6.  Right now, I am drinking my first cup of coffee after seven days without it, and I feel GREAT.