“Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength.” — Ralph W. Sockman MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Irony can be profound. Sometimes it’s painful. Other times it’s confusing.
My return home from Sweden was showered in irony. I make my livelihood being in top physical condition, but within 24 hours of landing in the U.S., I was in so much pain I could barely sit up and needed oxygen to breathe. I had just traversed Europe, asserting my independence and learning to live on my own, but I was at the mercy of nurses and family to care for me.
I had not been feeling well for the last few weeks of my time in Sweden. I couldn’t seem to overcome a variety of cold symptoms, and then I began to develop what I thought were some sort of strained muscles around my rib cage. The morning of our final game of the season for Gothenburg, ourChampions League home leg against Fortuna Hjorring, I woke up in excruciating pain. Every time I took a breath, I had sharp spasms throughout my entire back and chest. Somehow I managed to play 45 minutes that evening before asking to come off at halftime. A painful night and an eight-hour flight later, I found myself in the emergency room in a New Jersey hospital.
A complicated and serious case of the flu combined with pneumonia in both lungs, and bad pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs) kept me in the hospital for 10 days. As a 26-year-old professional athlete, only one week before I was training and competing against some of the best female soccer players in the world. The next thing I knew, I was being rolled in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached to the back. This Thanksgiving, I was thankful for some of the most basic things a human being can be thankful for: the ability to breathe on my own, a strong body capable of fighting off the sickness that had attacked it and life itself.
Life is, in so many ways, ironic and humbling.
Even those of us in the most vigorous condition are subject to health’s fragility. Sometimes a measure of independence is allowing oneself to be taken care of. Simplicity is one of the most difficult states to attain. To fight harder frequently means one must let go. We gain wisdom by admitting how little we actually know.
We are taught to exercise and eat well to fortify ourselves against disease; told to invest our time in activities to achieve long-term goals; encouraged to save money and resources for a later time. But ironically, it can all be gone in an instant, even if you do it right. I am finally home, but my recent experiences highlighted many of life’s sometimes dangerous contradictions.
In the past, I have trained so hard that it made me injured; cared so much about my performance that the stress made me play poorly; and slept so much that I was tired.
The more I aim to take control of my path and attempt to gain mastery over my body and this game, the more I am shown the frequent irony in my efforts. Once again, the sport has taught me a poignant lesson about grace, gratitude and the fragility of everything we attempt to build.
Now that I’ve finished discussing irony, I must go plan some spontaneous outings for this off-season
I, a few United States women’s national team players and members of the M.L.S. Philadelphia Union will be involved with putting on a clinic to raise money for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. Kick-Start the Rebuild soccer clinic will be held on Dec. 16 in Downingtown, Pa.