How do we acquire the baggage we carry through life? You know, that whirlwind of emotions that instantly and unexpectedly rise up within us? Why do we, as perfectly functioning adults, react so strongly, and emotionally to certain triggers, say, an accent we hear, something a family member says, a song on the radio, a smell, or even a certain sports team playing on TV... Where does that come from?
Something totally triggered me this week, and it got me thinking.
First of all, you need to know, I love soccer. And, you may have heard that the World Cup is on right now. And, no matter what, I follow some of my favorite teams, and watch when I can. So a week ago, I sat at home and watched parts of the Germany vs. Saudi Arabia game. Saudi Arabia was the underdog, Germany a soccer powerhouse, and the underdog won. But better than that, Germany lost.
So I posted on Facebook:
Way to go...
And several of my FB friends commented. And when I say FB friends, you know what I mean. I don't really know many of them, never actually met them in person.
Here is an exchange:
FB friend: You're a fan of Saudi Arabia? Or just a fan of the underdog?
Me: I have always been FOR the team that plays against Argentina. Also Germany. Whoever plays against Germany and Argentina is my team. Been like that since I was a little kid.
Me: (adding a few seconds later) and also, Saudi winning is pretty cool. Underdog and all.
And a few other comments later, I get this one:
FB friend: I suspect by putting Argentina together with your distaste for Germany, is based on their history of anti semitism. I think it may be useful to recognise that this is somewhat outdated. In the 2006 World Cup both the Argentinian captain Juan Sorin and their coach Jose Pekermsn were Jewish and in the 2010 team Walter Samuel, also Jewish was in their World Cup team.
My blood was boiling by this point... and it only got worse.
My FB friend continues: Given that in Saudia Arabia Jewish people are not permitted to practice Judaism, and that Saudia does not even recognise Israel as a Jewish State, your preference of Saudia over Argentina is presumably based on there respective attitude towards Jews and Israel in these times is simply not logical to say the least !
Go Messi ! Go Argentina !!
I have to say I was astonished at the audacity and chutzpah... Seriously?
So first of all, how dare he think he knows me when he really does not. And how dare HE try to explain to ME why I hate the German and Argentinian soccer teams... what the hell?
Who does he think he is?
Not only that, but my feminist side was on fire! Him telling me why I should not feel the way that I feel, coming from a man and directed to a woman, that he doesn't even know? Totally mansplaining! And to bring in antisemitism and the Holocaust... oh my, that was way out of line.
It shocked me. What the hell? I was so triggered, for a moment.
And then, deep breaths...
Having undertaken a wonderfully empowering personal transformation in the past few years, I paused, I thought it out, took my time and responded.,.
Me: Dude (his name shall remain anonymous), you don't really know me. Thank you for caring enough though, to give me a long mansplanation... sadly, you are way off... glad you're rooting for Argentina. They are pretty awesome.
And, as happens when something deeply triggers me, I can not get it out of my mind. Not the fact that I was triggered, that I am angry at this man who thought he knew me when he clearly does not. No, it was the fact that I, myself, do not know why I really felt that way in the first place. I thought about it all day, while driving, while cooking, while out for my walk. What was it about this particular interaction, what was it about Germany and Argentina that got my juices flowing? Weird.
Why DO I 'hate' the German and the Argentinian soccer teams after all? Is it the Holocaust? No. So why? Do I really 'hate' them? How did this become my truth? Is it THE truth? And where did this come from?
And then slowly it started to make sense. It's the stuff we lug with us, the burdens we carry throughout our lives.
But for that, ladies and gentlemen, we need to go back to my childhood. Duh.
My family moved from Israel to Peru in 1970 when I was an impressionable 8-year-old child. Peru is a soccer-sick country, and very emotionally attached to its national soccer team, especially in 1970, when they had done very well in the World Cup that year and made it to the quarter-finals.
So, obviously, this love for soccer rubbed off and my family was infected with soccer fever, especially my mother. She fell head over heels in love with rooting (yes, the rooting part) for the Peruvian soccer team at the Pan American Cup, the Olympics, any soccer match against another country, and of course, the World Cup.
Added to my mother's sudden passion with 'futbol' was my love of actually playing the game. During the first few years in Peru I would head downstairs to play soccer on the street with the neighborhood boys. And when I say boys, I mean only boys. Eventually, I understood that soccer was not a 'girls' thing and that understanding made me infinitely sad. I remember feeling humiliated, I remember how it put me down, how it etched in me a feeling of not being enough. It is a deep ache I carry till today. Still hurts.
As I entered middle school in 1974, the newly enacted Title IX, back in the United States, had obviously not reached conservative 'deepest darkest Peru'. I had never heard of it. I was lucky in Peruvian girl standards, as in the American School I attended, I had my choice of softball, basketball or volleyball. But no soccer for girls. None. Zilch.
I eventually swam competitively and played basketball and softball in high school. And even though soccer was what I really loved to play, I was a girl and therefore it was out of reach.
So, as a young teenager, I joined my mother and father, and little brother at the kitchen table while we cheered and jeered, lived, and died with our soccer teams. And oh, how we loved the World Cup! That was the best. The men's World Cup has been a big deal in our family ever since the 1970's.
And what about the women's World Cup, you may ask? Oh my, don't get me started on that one. I cry tears of joy when I watch the women's World Cup and especially the U.S. women's soccer team. The little girl in me rejoices and I live vicariously through those amazing women. I do.
I've even seen them play in person! I was there at the Rose Bowl in L.A. when they beat China in the World Cup final in July of 1999. You know that penalty shot, the one where Brandi Chastain scored to win the game and in her ecstasy ripped off her shirt? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.
That was one of the best moments of my life. I bleed women's soccer.
But that is another story. Now back to 1974.
My family's favorite soccer team at the time, after the Peruvians of course, was the Naranja Mecanica, the Dutch team, Holland. Why were they our team? That rubbed of from my dad. He loved anything Dutch and their soccer team was awesome in the 1970's. Isn't it interesting how we mimic our parents?
And then, I realized that I really had no idea why we loved the Orange Men from Holland. Why did my Dad like them so? Why Holland and not Denmark, or France or whatever.
So I consulted with my brother, who is the soccer maven in the family. He is four years younger but much more knowledgeable about soccer. He, being a boy, got to play soccer as a kid, on a team, with uniforms and tournaments. He played well into adulthood and loves soccer even more than I do.
I asked him on Whatsapp: Tell me, Micah, why did we root for Holland in the 70's?
His response: Because they ushered in a new way of playing called total football. All players ran and contributed. No superstars.
There you go. Cut and dry. Who knew?
At the 1974 World Cup, the truly fabulous Dutch team, with the talented Johan Cruyff as captain, made it to the finals. It was just them against the West Germans, the orange team against the white and black shirts. And, my team lost. They lost the finals to the Germans. From that very moment, ladies and gentlemen, I have detested the German soccer team. They defeated my favorite team in 1974 and I have never forgiven them. Ugh.
In the 1978 World Cup, the Dutch, being as fabulous as ever, made it to the finals again. What joy! And this time they played, you got it, Argentina. And so deep was the disappointment, so great the frustration when they lost to that dastardly team from Argentina. Yuck. I have hated Argentinian soccer since then. Bleh.
So there you have it, people. That is why I ALWAYS root for the teams playing against Germany and Argentina. And have been doing so, with gusto, since the 70's. It's not logical, I know. It's not intellectual, true, as both Germany and Argentina are fine countries with fine people and they have awesome soccer teams. It is a visceral, gut feeling and that is that. Makes sense? Not necessarily. But those gut feelings rarely make a lot of sense, do they? We just carry them, etched in our souls, for many, many years.
And the WHY of it all, that is what bothered me this week.
Why do I still carry this 'hate'?
I mean, I see a German national soccer team shirt, at a store, or in an ad, or on Facebook and I cringe. Really. I actually feel a thing in my throat. Seriously.
And Messi, the great Argentinian star? What a baby. Yuck.
Why do I still let this stuff guide my emotions? How primitive of me.
I mean, I pride myself on being open and accepting of others. Oh, but not in World Cup soccer, though.
Why am I attached to these World Cup final losses from 45 years ago?
Am I somehow defending my family's honor? So strange!
Seems insignificant and unimportant, right?
But I wonder, if that is how I instinctively react to such an unimportant thing, what else do I carry within me that irrationally triggers me for no good reason?
What other TRUTHS of mine are not really true?
What other pain and suffering have I been attached to for years, holding on just because?
What do I need to do in order to forgive myself for steadfastly holding on to this attachment for so many years?
What personal work do I need to do to forgive the Germans and the Argentinians for hurting my feelings so badly decades ago? Poor guys, they have no idea they need to be forgiven.
Wow. That is the real question, isn't it.
How to forgive. It's on me. And it is the first step to letting go.
So here goes, here's my first little step forward, where I begin my process of forgiveness.
Ready? "Ok Germany and Argentina, 45 years have passed. I FORGIVE YOU!". And I mean it.
That wasn't that hard.
A few days have passed since that lame Facebook comment triggered me and started my forgiveness process, and Argentina and Germany have by now played several more games in the World Cup.
Germany eventually lost and is out of the World Cup. Hee hee hee.
But Argentina, Argentina won and is through to the quarter-finals and I'm ok with it. I forgive them. They are quite an amazing team. Good for them.
What's really cool is that Holland is also on to the next round, and that makes me happy. And guess what? It turns out that Holland will play against, who do you think? Argentina!
I'm still rooting for Holland. Go Orange! Avenge 1978!!!
And Brazil is still in. I didn't even mention Brazil, did I? Oh, I love Brazil.
The 2022 World Cup is on, with all its controversies and issues, and what a spectacle it is.
This is for you, Mom and Dad. I'm watching our teams play, and so is my brother. You would be so pleased.