As kids, we played a lot of pond hockey; the differences between pond and rink hockey are many, with boundaries being just one. In pond hockey, there are no boards to get body-checked into, only frozen roots to trip over. Our penalty box was several large rocks bordering the south side. Regulation play teams have 6 players; with five kids in our family, and a smattering of cousins along, we took turns as goalie, and playing forward or defense. I loved getting the puck and confidently skating towards the opposing goal. I didn’t get there often, as my cousins and brothers were much stronger and faster than I, but what I lacked in size, I made up for in determination. Each of us dreaded being goalie; having to defend the net (and our heads) from slap shots. I remember the fear; the lack of protection, knowing what was coming and doing my best to stop it.
I’ve come to see that childhood roles can still play out in our adult lives. How? I’m used to being the forward; being in control, moving with intention and taking my best shots. I rarely have to play defense. Why? Because playing defense means that I have done something to defend. When someone else puts me on the defense, I’m transported back to that gangly kid again… wondering how exactly it got to be my turn at net.
It happened to me. Someone took a position polar opposite mine. That’s fine, it’s a free country after all, I thought. But it wasn’t fine. You see, being opposite of this person is not done. Their approach, and their subsequent attack of me, rocked me and then some.
Sweat formed, my stomach fell and a familiar surge of terror took hold. I stumbled my way through, listening in disbelief and wonder at how this came to be.
I tried to state that I didn’t mind how apart we were on the issue but, you see, that was the issue. Not just that we didn’t agree … but that I was clearly so wrong and it was their job to set me right.
Sometimes, in those moments, that former scrappy kid is tempted to re-emerge. Some swagger could step forward. More realistically .. disbelief and shock immobilize and quietly, I’ll just take the hit. I’ll take it … just to get it over with. And later, when I get back up, disappointment’s slap lingers on my face and my heart. The stings come again when I realize I was never wrong to feel what I felt; I was wrong to believe that my thoughts and opinions had a place at their table.
It mattered not that we thought differently on this topic, to me. And in the end, that was all that mattered to them.
What couldn’t be seen from the other side was how any other position could ever be played. What couldn’t be seen – will never be seen – is why play any other way than theirs.
Talked to like a child, reprimanded like a fool, I heard life pleading with me to load up on safety gear, hover in one spot and play defense. I won’t do it. I don’t want to live like that. I’ll never get used to being emotionally body-checked but I’ve learned that moving forward means that, sadly, there will always be a few who’d rather knock me to into the boards than see me get to goal.
Has someone else ever forced you to into a role you didn’t want to play?
Do you have any forwards skating alongside you in life?