Sunday, November 16, 2014

To Each Her Own Sanctuary


The landscapes are intriguing, beautiful, even breathtaking, but what really keeps me traveling is the people.  Like snowflakes covering northern lands, no two people are exactly the same; each twirls and soars and falls and lands differently.  Each has a different journey.  Through conversations and shared experiences, I love to discover all sorts of people.  But there is one kind of person that particularly inspires me.

This kind of person is found among both young and old, educated and uneducated, travelers and homebodies.  I've found them in every country I've ever been to.  It's the person who finds a passion, a purpose, and joyfully throws him- or herself into it wholeheartedly.  It's the person who finds what that special thing is that gives back even more in personal satisfaction than the work and time and money and energy they may have put into it.  As the author of this next excerpt so elegantly puts it, it's one's own "sanctuary".


"I feel instant relief when I step on the field.  With a ball at my feet, all my worries dissipate, leaving only my love for the game.  I've been playing competitive soccer for over a decade now, and the field is one of the only places I am perfectly content and absolutely comfortable to be myself.  Soccer is not only a sport I play, it's a lifestyle.  To me, it's not something I have to do or something I'm forced to spend my time on.  It is something I long for, for which there is no replacement.  This game has been the most beneficial privilege I could have in life.  It is something I absolutely love to do and could not live without.

There is no single thing that can relieve my stress like playing can.  When I play, or simply juggle, I instantly forget all my worries.  Soccer is my sanctuary.  It rids me of the pains and stresses of life and fills me with a peace that is almost inexpressible in words.  When I get the ball at my feet, I feel as if anything is possible.  It reminds me constantly of life's purpose; it is not a race, no one can win.  Of course there can always be a winner in a sport. However, I am not talking about soccer the sport.  I am talking about the game of soccer.  It is beautiful.  It is fluid.  It is endless.  Moreover, it is unlike any other natural beauty in this world.  This fluidity requires countless hours of practice, on and off the field.  And for this is necessary the state of mind in which there is no giving up.  It takes true grit.  Once you reach the point where all your focus and hard work has paid off, you are left with the end product; what every soccer player strives for.  It is a beautiful melody; a perfect song.  It has rhythm, it has tempo.  It is, however, unlike music or any other thing in that it is spontaneous with endless possibilities.  Every touch, every pass, every movement.  They are a variety of notes entwined to form one beautiful composition."


I found these insightful words hidden in the rough draft of a college application essay, amid a pile of miscellaneous mail and school work on our kitchen table.  "Don't read that," my 18-year-old sister Toreah Danielle mumbled, barely looking up from her AP Biology homework, "I wrote it in 45 minutes just to meet a deadline."

Soccer is not only a sport I play, it's a lifestyle.  It reminds me constantly of life's purpose; it is not a race, no one can win.  Every touch, every pass, every movement.  They are a variety of notes entwined to form one beautiful composition.


Such a mature perspective for one so young.  It was a thrill to discover that my little sister has grown into one of these most inspiring kinds of people.








Upon finding our sanctuary, each of us has a unique set of resources and opportunities that allow us to engage with the object of our passion to various degrees.  A young man confined to a wheel chair might share Toreah's passion for soccer, but his pursuit of that sanctuary is going to look different from hers; perhaps he'll watch it, write about it, help a local team strategize.  An 18-year-old girl in Iraq, like Rana Dhafer, might only be able to dream of cheering on her favorite team at a real-life match, meanwhile dodging well-meaning but overprotective family members in an attempt to watch a match on TV or even get news of the sport.

In fact, I was a bit shocked about what I read in this article from an Abu Dhabi news outlet:
Iraq is a nation of football fans, but many women risk the wrath of conservative male members of the family if they show an interest in events on the pitch - and domestic disputes have escalated into violence and divorce.  If Rana Dhafer [of Baghdad] is to see tonight's crucial World Cup tie between Germany and England, she will have to evade her father and brothers, sneak out of the house and try to join her friends watching television in a neighbour's home.  (...) While many families - men and women - come together to enjoy games, there are a significant number of conservative households that prohibit female members, especially young adults, from viewing.  (...)

In Baghdad, the women's rights lawyer Inas Karim said dozens of domestic violence and divorce cases revolved around husbands who were jealous of their wives' admiration of football stars or actors. Calling it a "mentality" that was deeply rooted in Iraq, she said it had to be forced to change. "I've dealt with almost 50 situations of divorce where men are leaving their wives because of this," she said in an interview. "I've visited seven women in hospital with serious injuries after their husband beat them for liking footballers or actors."

According to Mrs Karim, who works with the Baghdad Women's Association, a non-governmental organisation helping abuse victims, the judiciary was usually sympathetic to the men's complaints. "I've heard judges say it's shameful for a women to look at a man who isn't her husband," Mrs Karim said. "I stand there and tell them this is not against any law, it's not against any religion, it's not a smear on anyone's honour and that it is most certainly not adultery but they don't listen. They need to be educated, this is not acceptable."

She called the situation "absurd" and said that films and football were one of the few escapes from the hard lives endured by most Iraqi women. "Women here are raising children, stuck in poverty, there is violence everywhere," she said. "If they want to daydream a little and watch a film or some football, let them, let them take a second or too away from their lives, what harm can that do?" 

In the words of Rana Dhafer, the young Iraqi soccer fan: "It's difficult to be at home," she said. "When I'm at university I feel free to be my own person. I'm not saying that I disrespect myself or behave badly there, but I have room to breathe and to dream and to watch football if I want to.  At home I can't do those things. My family doesn't understand that I'm just a girl like all other girls in the world. I'm not doing anything wrong."


When I think about how much the game means to my own sister, Rana's story breaks my heart.  But at the end of the day she also inspires me.  It's seeing someone fully invested - heart, mind, and soul - and undeterrable in deriving satisfaction from her pursuit, that lights up my own heart and gets me appreciating life lived to its fullest.

Here is the latest highlights reel of Toreah in her sanctuary ... It may look more like a battlefield than a sanctuary, but hey -- To each her own sanctuary!


Oregon State Semi-Final Highligths from Eric Foy on Vimeo.

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