It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m madly in love with the Seattle Seahawks, and in particular, their superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. Russell is a gifted athlete, an intelligent student of the game, and no one works harder or spends more time preparing than him. He’s also a really nice guy. But what impresses me the most about him is the ice water in his veins. The guy is cool as a cucumber. No matter what’s going wrong, no matter how many points his team is behind, he doesn’t get rattled. He takes it one play at a time, he never gets down or discouraged, and he always believes he can win.
Russell practices visualization. He imagines every possible play, every possible outcome in a game, and then he envisions how he will react to it. In his mind, he imagines himself succeeding no matter what the scenario, no matter what the defense gives him. Over the course of the season, as the Hawks marched toward clinching the NFC West and a playoff berth, there were plenty of doubters, haters and disbelievers out there who said that they could never win a championship. After all, they never had. But as someone who was told that he was ‘too short’ to play quarterback, Russell was used to having the odds stacked against him. And in the face of all the doubters and the disbelievers, he rallied his team with a simple mantra: “Why Not Us?”
Why not indeed? I happen to believe that perception is reality. I believe that the narratives we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’re capable of have a way of coming true. Like Mr. Wilson, I believe in the power of our minds to affect the outcome of our lives.
I used to believe that tragedy was something that couldn’t touch me, that it was something unfortunate and horrible that happened to other people. Then life taught me differently. In less than nine months I witnessed my dear sweet mother lose her mind, spiral into self-destruction and die. I witnessed my Dad’s rapid descent into the final throws of terminal cancer. I witnessed my Grandmother’s diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s, where one minute she was there, the next she was gone. And the sudden and far too young death of a close college friend. In the span of about 9 months, someone I loved dearly was either sick, dead or dying.
I’ve had several months to process and heal from this incredible series of really bad things. And while I’m better, I’m definitely not OK yet. I’m still grieving, still processing, and still struggling. But I’m struggling on the other side of it now. The big bad wolf blew down my house, and I discovered that it was made of straw. Now I’m forced to rebuild, except this time, I’m building with bricks.
In the same way that I used to believe that nothing truly bad could happen to me, I also believed that nothing amazing could happen to me either. Deep down in the bottom of my heart, I never truly believed that I deserved to be full of joy, to design the life I wanted, to live boldly and without fear. Instead I played by the rules, I did the ‘right’ thing, and I didn’t challenge myself to dream bigger. I was content and complacent but not really happy. Not fully alive.
It’s funny how having your heart shredded can shake you up and change your perspective. Some of the worst things I ever could have imagined in my life have happened to me and I’m still here. I’m not perfect, I’m struggling through it, but I’m here. And being compressed by grief has, ironically, made me more open. More open to try, more open to fail, more willing to risk it all. Because when you’ve already lost so much, what’s the point of being afraid of losing?
So this is me, taking a page out of my favorite quarterback’s book. If ‘Why Not Us,’ can bring the first Lombardi Trophy to Seattle in the history of the franchise, it’s a philosophy worth adopting. I’m flipping the script on what I used to believe, and now I choose to believe that great things are not only in store for me, but that I deserve them. Why not me? Why not you? Why not us?
Until next time, friends.