Friday, May 27, 2016

New (Ab)Normal

I have not picked up a tennis racquet in over two years.    If it is two years since I picked up a tennis racquet, it's probably close to ten since I touched a basketball--nearly a decade since I played a game that, at one time, was my primary sport.

What I have been able to do, in terms of exercise, is the elliptical and walk.  I've become a pretty fast walker, no doubt creating a sight as I move along pedestrian stroll ways as if I am late for a meeting.  We live next to a park that has several baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and a basketball court.  There is a walk path around the baseball fields that is probably four tenths of a mile, so when I feel like exercising and don't want to drive to the health club, I fast walk usually around the park.

Today, a colleague and I took another colleague out to lunch. She is leaving the university for greener pastures so Scott and I who enjoyed working with Kate decided to celebrate her departure.  I rarely go out to lunch.  I'll grab something to eat at my desk when I am at work or forego lunch altogether on many days.  So, when I do go out for lunch my gut when I'm done usually feels like I swallowed a watermelon. No exception at today's luncheon. It wasn't that the portions were that enormous: just a regular sized sandwich with no sides, but we indulged in a glass of wine in honor of the occasion and then did something I almost never ever do at lunchtime--had dessert.  So, when we finished eating I felt like a pachyderm.

 The restaurant was near my gym but I couldn't move enough afterwards to exercise, so I drove home.  An hour or so later I decided to walk.  Walk I did. I bolted around the park path ten times working up a good sweat. Around the 8th time around I noticed that a number of twenty somethings were shooting hoops at the court.  I mused about how it had been years since I touched a basketball and, two years since I had done anything but walk--maybe an occasional swim.  That had become my new normal-- what I have become used to. And, it is not so bad.  I feel good after the long walks and healthily spent after an hour on the elliptical.

But today as I rounded the path for the ninth time I felt like I wanted to see if I could at least shoot a couple of baskets.  It would be crazy for me to play. I really cannot run yet more than twenty or thirty steps, but I thought when I finished my tenth lap, I'd walk on over and see if a twenty something would let me join him.

And that is what I did.  There was a fellow from Bentley College who was shooting around.  I walked onto the court and told him I would feed him. He was agreeable and appreciative.  The first time I touched the ball it felt like maybe it was one of those medicine balls in the gym.  Or a warped basketball.  It had been so long that the ball itself, which was perfectly fine, felt odd.  After a while I got a handle on it and was really enjoying passing it to the kid shooting around.  I took a few shots myself and that felt even better. Finally, the kid had to go.  I took one foul shot (nothing but net, fyi) and then we shook hands and said goodbye.

I loved the fifteen minutes or so that I was out there passing the ball to the kid and taking a few jump shots. My hip might kill me tomorrow, but I don't think it will.  I didn't play one on one or even HORSE.  Mostly was just passing the ball.

I got to thinking as I walked back to the house, that I have gotten so used to walking and the elliptical and being content to call that exercise, that I had forgotten what it felt like to bounce a basketball and take a shot now and again.  For those who have never gotten the basketball or tennis bug, this may seem odd, but I think there are other applications.

We can get used to what's normal; it can become our new normal, such that we become content doing what we have become accustomed to doing.  And we can forget what it is like to be thrilled by something that we have not done in a long time.  Just bouncing a basketball, passing it to a kid practicing his jumper, taking a few short jump shots myself reminded me of what fun playing can be. It made me think of how we can live following an abnormal life path without acknowledging that this new normal is abnormal because we have just gotten accustomed to it.

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