Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.

Soccer Anyone?

soccer girls

It’s Monday night, 7:15pm at the all weather field at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver. My friend Sarina and I are sitting on the grass talking about the Women’s Only Soccer Program she runs. As we chat, women start to trickle in across the park. Some come with a friend, some come alone and some come in groups. It’s the first night of Sarina’s ABC’s of Soccer summer session program and a couple of the women are noticeably a bit nervous. Sarina introduces herself and encourages the women to start kicking a ball around. They are all shapes and sizes and ages and fitness levels looking to learn some skills and play some soccer.

Sarina started the Women’s Only Soccer Camps in 2002. Two things got her there. She had recently changed careers and was looking for something to compliment the somewhat rigid life of banking. At the same time she was playing soccer in a local over 30 women’s league. She would see women come out who wanted to play in the league but didn’t have much, if any, experience. They had the desire but got zero support and encouragement and ended up not returning. She felt it was such a shame that these women, who were looking for some fun exercise, were walking away, when it would be so easy to give them a little training and the tools to let them enjoy playing on a league team. So Sarina created the Women’s Only Soccer program that runs every Monday night in West Vancouver.

I was introduced to the program about six years ago. I hadn’t played in years but was looking for a good workout after my daughter was born. Even though I knew some other ladies already, I still felt kind of nervous that first night and totally useless once I got out onto the field. Two things stick out in my mind from that first adventure back into soccer. First, I ran my ass off and couldn’t walk properly for a couple of days. Talk about a whole body work out. Second, I felt so empowered. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my husband when I got home. It was fun, exhilarating, challenging, exhausting and oh ya, so fun! Even when I sprained my ankle in my second session I couldn’t wait to get back out there.

As the women gather in a small circle Sarina goes over a couple of things. “I don’t care if your are late and I don’t care if you have to leave early.” She just wants them to show up and have fun. After a few quick safety points, she asks them to each quickly introduce themselves and describe their level of soccer. Some women have been in her program for years, some play in a league and are looking to improve their skills, some haven’t played since they were ten and some have never kicked a soccer ball in their life. Everybody is welcome and everybody is included. The women were immediately put at ease just knowing that they were not alone. As they head off for a quick warm up lap of the field they are already chatting and getting to know each other. Did I mention how fun this program was?

Before the women showed up, Sarina and I got a chance to talk about why the program is so successful. There are a lot of reasons. To start, women are having kids later in life and don’t always have a lot of options for finding a fun, unintimidating workout that fits into their busy lives. With the Women’s Only Soccer Program there isn’t a huge time or financial commitment and the timing allows the moms to slip out the door after the kids are in bed. One of the biggest attractions, I think, is that there is no judgement what so ever. Nobody cares if you score a goal or if you pass the ball to an empty space or if you can do perfect throw in. Last week a women showed up that Sarina used to play with. She knew the woman was an accomplished player and wondered, at first, what she was doing at a scrimmage league. At the end of the evening the woman mention what a great time she had. Sarina realized that it wasn’t about the level of play or the skills achieved for this woman. It was about the environment, the workout and the fun.

At the heart of this amazing program is Sarina’s coaching style and approach to women’s soccer. Women show up week after week because they know they will learn the basics of soccer in a fun, encouraging environment and that is so important. Really it’s one of The Best Things in Life for me.  If you are interested in meeting some great women, learning soccer and having so much fun, I encourage you to contact Sarina and join her one Monday night on the field. I plan on doing it again very soon.