I played volleyball with Marc today, (oops, um I guess that would be yesterday by now) and the weird thing is, after about the first hour, or the first 2 or 3 games, I started looking at the clock all the time, waiting for it to end. I actually got bored playing. I'd had enough and would have been ready to leave, but of course, I couldn't. I'm not sure why I got bored, because I love volleyball (at least I think I do). Maybe it was because of the lack of adrenaline and competitiveness that you normally get when you play in a league? I prefer to play soccer. I feel like I'm actually getting a work-out when I do. Plus the league I'm in might be recreational, but the teams are competitif, in the sense that we all have this very strong drive to win.
Of course, it didn't help that I was constantly distracted, trying to make sure that someone (mainly Jean-Alexandre) was actually watching Nicolas and not letting him get too close to the game.
The last time I played volleyball in Moose Factory was in 2005, when I went for Mr Delaney's funeral. Everyone got on the court (including the older kids) all at once, so there were no positions and no subbing. Instead of two rows of three people playing, we had three rows of four or five people playing. It was just for fun. I can handle these "just for fun" things every once in awhile, as long as they are not too frequent or the only thing I am doing. Especially since I think it was a great idea to involve the kids. But then before the game started, I actually blurted out to some guy that I "had played while at University and I was probably better than I had been in High School." Which I immediately regretted, because he likely took that to mean "Oh look at me, I'm even better than I was.", which is actually far from what I meant it to mean.
I have nothing to prove to anyone from Moosonee or Moose Factory, and yet I have everything to prove. What I actually meant was, "I remember how horribly you used to tell me I played, and I am letting you know that since then I have had time to practice and get better so you shouldn't have to get frustrated playing with me today." Which was stupid, because I should have said nothing. He probably barely remembers that he never wanted to play with me. The problem is that I do.
Here is a small window into my life in Moose Factory: Flashback to Northern Lights Secondary School in Moosonee. It is lunchtime and once again, the volleyball nets are up in the gymnasium. I walk in, ready to face the other players who, for the past two months now, divide themselves into two teams each day and play volleyball. Each team yells at me to go and play on the other team. Neither team ever wants me and I am always left trying to decide which of the two teams I should go force to endure my presence. Now, I KNOW I wasn't one of the better players, I hadn't been playing volleyball all that long, but I also know that I wasn't the WORST player. There were some who were afraid of the ball and mostly ducked when it came to them. And there were others who hit it wrong more often than I did. But that didn't matter. THEY could still play.
On this particular day, someone, most likely my sister, has decided to go to the office and add an announcement in the morning to wish me a happy birthday. I walk into the gym, and the first thing anyone says to me, in a very caring, mindful of my needs voice, is; "Jeanne, it's your birthday today. Why don't you go take a break? Don't play today." And then half of them take up the chorus: "Yeah Jeanne, it's your birthday today, take a break."
I made it to the girls' changing room, which, thankfully, was empty, before the tears came. (Silently) I think I cried for about five minutes and then I went on over to the cafeteria, like nothing had happened, and had lunch (probably with my sister).
The weird thing about this story is that the VERY NEXT DAY (just like the cat who wouldn't stay away), I was back in that gymnasium, picking a team that would have to endure my presence for the rest of the noon period. I had thick skin back then. Somehow I was able to go ahead and pretend like this was all normal, and that it didn't get to me, or that it wasn't happening. If I wanted to play sports (and I did) I didn't have a choice, I was going to have to play with people who didn't want me, or play by myself. Honestly, by the end of that school year, I was no longer one of the worst players. No thanks to them. By the time I ended High School, I probably wasn't one of the best players, but I was probably one of the better players. No thanks to them. I don't have thick skin like that anymore, at least not when it comes to stuff like that. If anyone were to do that to me today, I would leave and never come back.
I also played basketball back in highschool. When I started out, I was definitely nothing special. But by the time I hit grade twelve, I can honestly say I was one of the best female players. There was no senior basketball team, because the head coach decided senors weren't committed enough, but we were allowed to join the junior girls' practices, to which we responded by attending EVERY SINGLE PRACTICE probably in numbers equal to or even greater than the junior girls. Obviously proven wrong, when the opportunity to attend a native basketball tournament came up, she decided to award us for our efforts by letting us form a team to play in the tournament. I tried out. Even though I wasn't native myself, it didn't really matter, I had already "played" in a native volleyball tournament. I warmed the bench, but that's another story. This time I knew I would not be warming the bench. Not too much anyway. I was good enough to play often. I had high hopes.
And then our coach announced to us that she was going to let US choose who should be on the team. My heart sank at those words, but then I remembered there were 15 spots and I think we were 17, maybe 18 maximum trying out. Even if people were biased against me, with those odds, a really good player should still make the team right?
I didn't make the team. I was left off, and one other girl, who was short, couldn't run very fast and didn't have the skills others did. I don't remember if there was another. Our coach said there had been a tie between two people for the last position and she had had to choose between the two. So either noone really wanted me on their team, no matter how good I was, (If Jonathon Cheechoo had been Jonathon Chabot, would he be playing for the Sharks today?), or very few people did, INCLUDING the coach. I remember going to see another teacher (who didn't particularly like the one who was our coach) and he was absolutely amazed that I had not made the team. So it's not just me.
You know what? You people, you made me feel unwelcome from the first day I stepped into grade one and you were burdened with my presence. I have known, since day one, that you did not want me there. And eventually, I was able to ignore it. To act like it wasn't true. That's what you do when, drop by drop, people are trying to wear you down, like water on a rock. You grow tougher skin. But every once in awhile you would really outdo yourself in your efforts to make me feel unwelcome. And suddenly, it hurt again. But I'm a Wolverine, my skin heals quickly and it just gets thicker and thicker. Until you almost think I must be stupid not to realize how much you hate having me around, and why does she keep coming back for more? I'm sorry people. I dreamed of leaving, but unfortunately, my parents had no intentions of doing so. So you were stuck with me. I apologize for having ruined your perfect lives.
In the end, you have prepared me for a new battle. The battle against secularism. Were it not for you and my thick skin, I might not be a practicing Catholic today. Because the constant belittling jokes, the irony, the distrust of, the issues with and the opposition to the Catholic faith that I have had to face, (all of which, individually, are only tiny things, but like water that can bore through rock one drop at a time), would have worn me out and probably made me give up by now. Ah, but I have thick skin. I pretend I don't hear the jokes anymore. I have learned to avoid certain subjects. I pretend there is no opposition. To the point that you might think I'm stupid, and don't get it. And why does she keep going to that useless ceremony they call a mass?
And so I thank you people of Moose Factory, for all that you have done for me. Some of you were nice, and I appreciate that. Those of you that weren't, (and you know who you are), I can still love you. When Jesus spoke about loving your enemies, nowhere in there did he say you actually had to like them.
(PS. This has nothing to do with what I don't remember I wanted to post about earlier. This just popped into my head and I couldn't sleep anymore. So I'm getting it out. It's about time I did. Maybe now I can go get back to sleep?)