On things being really good. Or…How engagement is like hockey

27 Feb

Yesterday, J and I went to a hockey game with his parents.During the game, Jer was talking about what a good book, “Things I learned from hockey” would make because you can apply the sports’ lessons to anything in life. Here’s my contribution to that potential body of literature:

The Ducks started off the season poorly but have really been picking up lately. The first games we went to were depressing. The stadium got emptier and emptier every time we were there. We talked about how real fans stay fans even when their team is losing. And then we started winning. It was exciting but still too late for us to have a legitimate chance at the playoffs this year. The stadium stayed pretty empty.But last night something magical happened.

It seriously felt like one of those moments you’d read about in sports. Not that I do much reading about sports. The Honda Center was standing room only, the biggest attendance in Ducks history. We had gone the whole game without one moment where I shook my head and wondered what our team was doing. Then we spent an entire shift in Chicago’s zone…amazing. We weren’t scoring, but the crowd just lit up. It was like collective  consciousness. Our team was back and we loved them and we remembered how good it felt to love them. Our cheers and the way it felt to yell with 17,000+ other people made us yell even louder. We won the game 3-1 and it was, by far, my favorite game of the season (seeing a goalie lose it and punch someone in person helped too).

This isn’t an entirely fair analogy. Saying our relationship was comparable to the beginning of the Ducks’ season isn’t accurate AT ALL, I want to make that clear. It was more like a consistently pretty good team that people cheer for but justexpect to be consistently pretty good, sometimes a little worse, sometimes a little better. But since our engagement, and particularly in the last month or so of it, we have been like the crowd at Honda Center last night. We’ve just been choosing for things to be really good and be excited about being good. And choosing that makes things even better.

There’s a two-part lesson here that I’d like to remember as a fan and a wife. First, sometimes you have to suck it up when things aren’t amazing. Wendell Berry, one of my favorite philosophers on love and marriage, writes, ““What marriage offers – and what fidelity is meant to protect – is the possibility of moments when what we have chosen and what we desire are the same. Such a convergence obviously cannot be continuous. No relationship can continue very long at its highest emotional pitch. But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know; that of union, communion, atonement.”

In other words, just liking whichever hockey team is winning at the moment doesn’t feel nearly as good as liking YOUR team through thick and thin. But the other part of the lesson, is that sometimes, if  things aren’t at their “highest emotional pitch,” we can bring aboutthat goodness just by choosing to. And it feels awesome.


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