Letting Go

His words have replayed in my mind many times since they were delivered, gently and following a warm hug, this morning: “You’re a powerful woman, Laurel, and you need to reflect carefully on where you choose to put your focus.”

I find myself in tears again at the feeling of loss evoked each time I face another person – in each case a medical practitioner or healer who I have turned to for treatment and advice – telling me that the cost to my body of playing my beloved sport of Canoe Polo is just too high. With instability due to hypermobility, an autonomic nervous system stuck in ‘flight’ mode resulting in an exhausted adrenal system, and numerous other weak points and injuries, I am just too vulnerable.

Why does the thought of giving up Canoe Polo evoke such deep sorrow? It’s been far more to me than just a sport. Yes, it’s fun, it’s a challenge, and it’s an adrenaline-packed high – but it’s also an international community of life-long friends, a carrier of countless joyful memories, and has taken me to many wonderful places – Great Britain, Ireland,

World Champs, Amsterdam 2006, SA vs Canada
The Netherlands


African Champions, Namibia 2013
Copenhagen, Absolut Ladies vs Sweden
World Champs 2014, SA vs Switzerland

and Germany to name but a few. It led us to move continents for nearly eight years, to spend all our saving year after year, and it has shaped our lives to a remarkable extent.

I still find a deep resistance within myself, even fourteen months after the severity of the risk of playing first really sunk in, and years after first being told by one, and then another, and then yet another practitioner that Canoe Polo was not something my body was ever going to be suited to play.

The lesson life keeps bringing to me, over and over again, in so many guises: let go; let go. Don’t grasp onto things: let go, and forge new paths. Let go, and find new ways of interacting, new joys, new relationships; create fresh spaces. There are new sports to engage with, even if I can’t begin to muster anything like the same joyful enthusiasm for them yet, and I can continue to be involved with Canoe Polo through administration, organisation and coaching – no longer for my own benefit, but increasingly for the sake of others.

As I feel the tightness and pain in my chest contract again, while I am deeply grateful for all I’ve experienced I can’t quite connect with the joy of possibility yet – tonight, I am still mourning; and, as always, the sensation of loss evokes many shadows and ghosts.


5 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Any change, especially those we feel are forced upon are hard to deal with, and I can offer little comfort except to say you have a store of wonderful memories and I can tell you that walking through them will give you much pleasure in later years . You have had wonderful experiences and the fruits from them are still budding.

    1. Thank you Peter; your friendship and solidarity are comfort indeed, as is the lovely image of strolling back through all those memories in years to come 🙂 How exciting that your new book cover is complete! I am aware that I still owe you a review; I sometimes take my time, but never forget, and I will surprise you with it some time 🙂

  2. I have been deeply touched by all the supportive comments, messages, emails, and phone calls since I shared this blog post. Since this blog is my memory-holder, my keeper of words, thoughts and connections, for my own sake I am reposting some of these here so I can enjoy reflecting back on them in future years.

    Nick R: “Very sad .. Clive give your wife a big hug.. You might not play polo but you will always be part of the game.. refine or administrator ..or some thing.. boys will be sad to hear your news as well..”

    Dave B: “Understanding what to hold on to and what you can’t are very difficult things to face in life. Putting the voice to the struggle within, takes its own type of courage and strength-you’re facing it instead of denying.

    You’ve got a lot more chapters of your story to go…”

    Helena J: “You have the most passionate spirit Laurel, where I would have given up you keep going with what you love – even when it’s physically a struggle. Sending you hugs for when you need it hun… it’s a big change in direction, but am sure for you there will be something amazing around the corner. Big Hugs xxx”

    Dominic C-M: “So with you on this one. Such a difficult moment xx”

    Leanna F: “Beautifully written Laurel, I’m sure you would make a great canoe polo journalist!! Best wishes to you all xx”

    Andi F-R: “Sending Hugs! You will always be part of the canoe polo community even if you never play again… friendships will last forever even if contact is infrequent! x”

    Josephine M: “You made it awesome for me! :-)”

    Becks C: “Those experiences have shaped who you are – and the sound/smell/feelings of those physical experiences will be with you no matter what! Letting go opens up space for new experiences :-)”

    Greg H: “I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you to let go because of the extent of commitment and life journey polo has been for you and Clive. Laurel…you have been a role model of tolerance, leadership, knowledge, toughness and nurturing that I can only try and strive for. You have also awakened me to equal rights for women and just how dis-empowering chauvinism is…not only for women but also the effect it has on men’s relationships with women. I feel that I interact with women more naturally today because of you. I hope to see you around but if I hear that you have found a suitable replacement for polo then I will be glad, in a way, to never see you again! xxxx”

    AH: “I know the struggle that you are going through with stopping playing Canoe Polo.
    I’ve hardly played since last easter, forced in to retirement before I wanted to and before I’d finished giving and for the wrong reasons.

    There are always good and bad days, but the friendships that you’ve made across the world will endure past your playing days and be there the rest of your life. You’ll just have to spend your savings on holidays instead of competitions and see all those people in all those places and more. You’ll probably build a stronger bond meeting them outside of polo comps too.
    Chin up, there are plenty more challenges that you can take on.”

    Rob Y: “Life has a funny way of allowing us to get the most out of something (which you truly have done in canoe polo) and then providing us a opportunity to grow, love & excel in a new direction. While the now may be painful, I am 100% sure that you will have a new opportunity very soon which in addition to being a amazing person, wife and mother, will provide you the chance to reach even higher peaks.”

    Chris H: “Hi Laurel, for me you sum up the spirit of the sport – long lasting passion and commitment… its amazing what others have said. We all support you.”

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