Stop thinking…

Situation: I did something wrong at football practice.

Me: “Coach – I thought… (can’t remember what I said)”

Coach: “Stop thinking so much.”

I truly don’t remember the details of what I’d done wrong in yesterday’s football practice, but I’ve been thinking about Coach telling me to “stop thinking so much” since then. Notice the irony in this situation? Coach tells me to stop thinking so much and I’m still thinking about it 24 hours later. LOL. Hopefully, over the course of this post, I’ll clarify why I’m so appreciative of my coach for saying those words to me. They were EXACTLY the words I needed to hear in the moment.

I practice on Saturdays with the Maine Mayhem – a well-established and successful women’s football team. This season there are about 20 rookies (myself included) and 20 veterans. It’s a great mix of women athletes who are passionate about the game and work together to be the best team we can be. There is an experienced coaching staff who make the most of each three hour practice session by being prepared and creating opportunities for us to learn the game. There is also an amazing Board of Directors – the women who get all the “shit that needs doing” done! I feel very blessed to be a part of this organization.

Mayhem the week before I found out about the team.

The Team’s motto this season is “ROW”. I’ve had this explained to me as – think about rowing a big 11 person canoe together. If there are 11 of us together in the boat, we each have to be doing the RIGHT thing – the RIGHT way – at the RIGHT time or it all becomes a shit show in a hurry. Also, someone’s likely to take the punishment (literally as in a QB sack) for the team if we don’t each do our jobs. I love the analogy of being a part of a CREW that has to work together to make every play – offense, defense or special teams – a success. There are so many factors in that success and we won’t/don’t always succeed. Even in those failures, we learn and become better athletes and teammates.

Back to the comment to “Stop thinking so much”….

It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time because it stopped the voices in my head. Those voices – I think most of us have them to some extent – can sometimes get the better of me. Yesterday, I was in a new position playing TE with the offense for the first time. There’s a LOT of moving parts! Where do I stand in the huddle? Will I remember my job on each play? Is Kristi really mad because I stepped on her foot in the huddle? Will I remember the pass routes? What if Paula actually throws me the ball? Will I catch it? I think Katie is playing safety – I hope I don’t run into her! The voices tend to take on a life of their own.

Sometimes I wish there was just one. I’m learning to calm them.

On top of that, I’ve always found a place in the world by being trying to be a “pleaser”. I want people to be happy with me. So I work hard to be doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. I’m also an “interrogator“. I ask questions all the time. I’m working to set this strategy aside and be in the moment. I’m just beginning to learn it’s ok to simply be myself and let the chips fall where they fall. It’s definitely a journey I’m on.

At this point in my life, I’m STILL learning that making mistakes is ok. In fact, it’s actually how I learn best. I tell my students every day that we celebrate mistakes because they help us learn. I know it’s true, but when I’m the one making the mistakes, it’s time to step up to the plate and LEARN. My big mistake yesterday in practice was a blown assignment. I’ll never kick out the DE on power again. I was so mad at myself for making that fundamental mistake and letting my team down on that play. I know in my bones that play side blocks down on power. How could I have been so stupid?

I wasn’t focused and was THINKING about something other than the task in the moment. I needed to stop thinking so much and just run the play. Stay in the moment. Breathe. Be in the present. This is the message of my meditation practice, of my neglected yoga practice and something I try to teach my students on a daily basis. Stay in the moment with me. Don’t be dwelling on the past – it’s over. Flush it! Don’t be worrying about the future – it will be here soon enough. Do what you can now to prepare. BE in this moment. Coach’s words to “STOP THINKING Ally” worked as a smack up side the head, as a RESET to focus my attention on the moment I was in. Thank you Coach!

I try to be coachable. I was in that moment and it paid dividends in the form of sticking with each play in the moment for the rest of practice. As I reflect today on my sore calves, my tight hamstrings, my tweaked thumb, and my sore neck, I’m first thankful for all my teammates who are out there battling with me trying to be the best we can be. Secondly, I’m grateful for all our coaches who push us to be the best we can be as individuals and as a team. Finally, I’m glad to be back on the field. It’s been a long time and it’s a privilege to be a part of a team like the Mayhem. I’ll be an opportunity maker in any way I can to help this team succeed.

“Each one of you is better than anybody else at something”
– Kare Anderson (Ted Talk)

Football love to all my teammates and coaches. Now… I’m off to thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my day in Wonderland! I won’t be thinking long Coach. I’ll be doing!
~ Ally

Ally it is…

Three years ago Connor, Sarah and I took two kittens home with hastily chosen, yet seemingly well-chosen names. One of them, Maggie, remains.

Maggie resting quietly after a day’s explorations during the summer of 2018

One kitten immediately busted out of the box in the back seat and began frantically exploring the car. She was soon to be named Magellan. Because the previous “owners” had told us that Magellan was a girl cat, we decided we could adapt and call her Maggie while still honoring her true explorer nature. The cat who chose to remain in the box and quiet ended up being named after the Viking explorer ,Leif Erikson, who we imagined was the strong, silent Viking type. We had been told he was a boy cat. We were not experts in gender at that point in our experiences of this wonderful life. Soon enough, we figured out that Maggie was, indeed, a boy. By that point, Maggie was Maggie and despite the gender confusion, he was going to remain Maggie. To this day, he remains Maggie.

I tell Maggie’s story because I don’t think names are always easy things to make sense of. Certainly, for MANY people, their name makes sense and is a stable part of their time on this wonderful planet. For me, that has not been the case.

I was born William Russell Cleveland.

I’ll be forever grateful, Mom, for this chance to capture such a lovely piece of my childhood

That was my name through my first seven years of life. Most everyone, so I’m told, called me Billy. When I was five my father left my mother and they were quickly divorced. When she remarried quickly to find a way to keep our family safe and secure, my new step-father decided that it would be in my best interest to have my name changed to match his. He was an “important” person in a very small, rural Michigan town. Those things mattered to “important” people in 1969.

I became William Mark Getty. My middle name was a casualty of the whole operation because my new step-father’s middle name also started with an R. Having two William R. Getty people in the same small town was apparently an unacceptable infringement on the nature of that small town. I’m not sure how Mark was chosen. It’s actually completely irrelevant to my life in every way. Zero meaning. Nevertheless, the adults in my life decided I was now going to be William Mark Getty. Male privilege was alive and well in 1969. I’ll never forget the tears that welled up when my ruthlessly mean second grade teacher told me I could NOT remain Billy Cleveland in HER classroom despite my objections to the legal name change not being my idea. I was to follow the rules and say “Present” when she called out “William Getty”.

“Fuck you, Mrs. Carter,” I say now.

There. I always wanted to say that. I feel better now… somewhat. She had the chance to treat a child with kindness and instead chose to force compliance on me. She won the battle 50 years ago. I’m winning the war today.

I lived as William Mark Getty for most of my life. Adapt – Improvise – Overcome became my way of life. The best thing about my male life was having the opportunity to bring my son into the world.

Connor when he was just a pup and I was still Bill Getty – Summer 2000

When I started my MTF transition, I knew I would change my name to something, but I didn’t know what it would be. I do now. From the time I started imagining this transition, I’ve asked myself the question…

“What will my new name be?”

I thought Billie was my answer. It meant my friends, family and colleagues didn’t have a lot of WORK to do for MY benefit. The shift from Bill to Billie was easy. Also, I had spent my formative first five years of life being called Billy so the spelling change would be a simple switch. Surely something that was easy for everyone else and had some meaning to me was the right choice. It was at the time.

What I know now is that “Billie” was my transitional answer. I ask for your support as I make a change to Ally. I hope you’ll endure this part of my transition with me. It means a lot to me. In the end it’s essential for me.

Transition is a time of great upheaval for a person’s mind, body and soul.

As my transition matures, sometimes things creep up on me that I don’t see coming. I must admit, I don’t like it when that happens. I like to be the one who is always prepared for every twist and turn life can offer. I take great pride in being well-prepared and knowing my opponent. I have an inner Belechick that drives me to that goal of preparedness.

What I need to learn… the essential question I need to hold on to and wait for the answer to arrive… is this:

How do I set aside my drive to be special – to be the one who’s always prepared for every eventuality – and just be me?

The answer lies in accepting myself as who I am in this moment. That said, I realize I don’t get to change my name every few months nor would I want to do something so silly.

This 19 second, hilarious animal video tells the story of Ally finding her way into my soul. I was happily living life and then WHAM! The metaphorical Ally cat says, “HEY – I’m right here. Time to wake up!” I’m awake now. There is a story for another post about how I chose Ally as my name.

Post workout grunge and glasses in February 2019

Things, in actuality, happened somewhat slower. The Derby culture places high value on Derby names. My new friends – Mutha, Killa, Slim, Cutter, Arky, Rae, Shamrock-it, Booty and all the other Fallen Angels know me as Ally. As that name got used over and over, it stuck to me like glue. It penetrated into my heart as the name I’d chosen FOR MYSELF.

I liked how it felt to be totally feminine me – Ally – and totally free of the old male me – Bill/Billie (yes Billie still had some male feel to it). I liken it to the process of transitioning from a testosterone-based creature to an estrogen-based creature over the last five years. EVERY step of the way has felt RIGHT. Every time I hear my name spoken aloud, it feels right.

Razinkane, my AWESOME derby coach – I am forever in your debt. You have so freely used my name when you speak to me. Each and every time I heard you use it, I felt stronger. You, and others in derby too, have given me the inspiration and freedom to be me. I feel so much love and gratitude to all the Androscoggin Fallen Angels.

So…

I’m making the change to Ally. Y’all can call whatever you want. I’ll probably respond to most of it. I know from this day forward I’ll be Ally in my heart and soul. I hope y’all can make the change with me. I understand this will be a process and yet another transition. I appreciate your efforts to stay with me. I’ve got to jump through the hoops of legality. I’ll get that done when I get that done.

In the end, I’m the person I’ve always hoped to be – one who wonders at the beauty of the world and tries her best to inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s through Derby, Football, Kombucha or teaching the ins and out of how to properly construct a sentence, I work every day to be the best me I can be. I’ll continue to strive for excellence in everything I do. Hopefully, I’ll encounter at least a few victories along the way.

Love to you all…
~ Ally

Just finished my first CrossFit Total as a woman – happily still able to hit 725# – February 2019