why i love tennis

28 05 2009

late may/june is traditionally one of my favorite times of the year, particularly in regard to one of my favorite activities—-tennis.  the summer heat isn’t yet in full swing, the spring cold is a distant memory, and just in case you needed a little inspiration to slough off your cold weather rust, you’ve got two of tennis’ four grand slams over a six-week period.

the french open began this week, and i’m already emotionally drained from it.  i love this tournament.  i love watching tennis on clay.  i’ve only ever had occasion to play on artificial clay,  which i loved, but hope i can step onto a real red clay court one day.  i love it because the surface is a little slow, even though you’d think that with the granules of clay making shoe traction difficult, the balls too would skip and speed along their ways more than they do.  but they don’t.  they grab the court and slow down, though they don’t bounce very high off of the soft flooring.  it’s utterly different, and it makes for such an interesting game of defense and angles.  and you can check whether a close shot was in or out by checking the mark left in the clay!

if i were pressed to decide on my favorite sport, i realized as i pressed myself, it’s tennis.  there’s nothing like it.  the game is so beautifully designed, and a thinker’s got just as much an advantage as a huge hitter.  every shot affords you the opportunity to take your opponent’s best offense and push back (or just keep the point alive, waiting for a better opportunity).  you can pepper the ball into the same corner ad infinitum, or carve a little drop shot to shift your opponent’s position.  you can try to run your opponent silly, or be run silly yourself.  every shot is a new opportunity—-but every one of your opponent’s shots is an opportunity for you as well, as your anticipation of their next move will have quite an impact on your choices on your next shot.

you can play long points, or go for winners earlier, depending upon your stroke and your opponent’s.  but the great thing about tennis is the pace.  there are breaks between every point, but they are very short.  just enough time to compose your thoughts on how things are going, and if you should try to change something up, and how you’ll take the next ball.  in this way, a constantly shifting power struggle is being waged on the court for the entire match.  both players are feeling the other player out; the weaknesses, the strengths, how to avoid the strengths and exploit the weaknesses, and how to cover your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.  and you can revise your plan every single point.  there’s time for that.

and there aren’t time-outs.  there aren’t coaches.  you’re on your own, working within the confines of the court against someone intent on doing the same thing to you that you would do to them.  there isn’t time for debate, or throwing a tantrum (though there have been cases), or having others to shoulder any of the blame or frustration.  your engagement is complete and unshared.

it’s a chess game, a game of physical prowess and highly refined skills, and an endurance contest.  all happening at the same time.  your mental toughness and focus are always in play, as, obviously, your body is.  it’s an all-encompassing experience; you play with your mind, with your spirit, and with your body, and nothing is left out to wilt in the exchange.  and watching the best people in the world do it is unbelievable:  these people are so completely engaged and are constantly working their games over in response to their own performance and the performance of their opponents.  and when one of them sets themselves apart and does things so amazing, so out of the realm of normal ability, that even the professionals against whom they’re playing have to stand in awe like children, it’s quite a beautiful thing.

well, i quit writing on this yesterday, and don’t feel like re-reading it and editing at all, or bothering coming up with a close… so here you go.


to sleep

28 05 2009

she never would follow him to bed.  it didn’t take her long to learn his routines, like a dog circling itself before settling, so that she could adjust her late evening and be sure to slip into the covers opposite him concurrently.  so slyly did she do so that he never once noticed the apparent coincidence.  or, if he ever did notice that he decided by his lead their bed time, he never did mention it.

this was a man who’d followed her, as nonchalantly as one can do such a thing, to three different cities of residence, and without a great deal of encouragement or even welcome.  this was how it started, and once it was started, she’d had the magnanimity to extend him the courtesy of constitutional balance—-at least when it came to the close of day.  something there was about the last light of the waking day that stirred in her the need to share it with her consort in life.  there was a question of fairness:  if they had agreed to face the world together, then one should not retire before the other.  one should not leave the other without.

even when they were apart, she would bed with him.  he was a man of medium habit, and while she couldn’t pinpoint his moment of nightly departure, she could guess roundly enough the time that he might be nearly unwound.  she would darken the house save her bedside lamp and phone him, and if he wasn’t quite ready for slumber yet, no matter, she could talk him until he had not time enough for other proceedings at the close of their conversation, and they would thusly abed together.  although he made no mention of recognizing it, he had to have noticed that her voice had become the pavlovian bell to which his internal light began dimming.

if there ever was a woman who’d so completely, and without malice, learned to manipulate her beloved’s daily rhythms, it was she.  she, quietly and calmly, watchfully and patiently, busily and happily, would await his clockwork tells.  leaving a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of his glass for too long a time; closing one of his eyes halfway while reading, holding the book just a little too close to his face, and flipping several pages ahead to find a good place to stop; pausing in his shifting in his seat for too long a time; keeping his eyes closed just an instant longer than necessary during blinks; or the idle rotation and satisfying cracking of his ankle bones.

it’s likely that when she sprang into overtly languid action at one of this signals, her own stirrings echoed his own nascent inclinations toward sleep, and, his body thusly reassured, he’d begin his own rituals of daily closure.  she washed her face; he sought a final refill of water.  she brushed her teeth; he marched the house like a soldier, cutting power to lights and anything else that would needlessly waste electricity in the night.  she fed the cat; he brushed his teeth.  she turned down the sides of their bed; he chose clothing for the morning.  and they met back in the muted light of their room, satisfied with the toil of their day and prepared to meet their rest together.  exchanging silly pleasantries and a kiss on the cheek, they’d extinguish the light and close their eyes for another night.

she never let him go before her, not once, after so many years.

“is it right that you should leave before me now?” he asked.  a tear rolled down her cheek and was absorbed by the pillow, her faint smile, bafflingly, lending a certain brightness to the moment.  he never had a choice before.  and no, he would not have a choice now.

morphing jetty

27 05 2009

he is a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.  but then, that’s precisely the kind of foolish dance that seems to have always suited me best.  the less likely there is to be an answer, the more i’ll feel drawn to the matter.  those of you familiar with my attempts to toss off the weighted ball of expectation of understanding, or even of desire of understanding, may presently snicker to see that i still haven’t removed the shackle from my leg.  yeah, wherever i threw that ball, the chain follows, and there but by the grace of lack of foresight go i.

while i’m still unsure as to the desirability of understanding the joys, frustrations, and oppressions our hearts tend to generate, i’m yet unable, it would seem, to feel any particular feeling without automatically trying to locate its origin.  now:  where people have told me that trying to remain unaffected at the advent of a strong emotional current is effectively trying to deny my humanity in favor of transmogrifying into a robot, i believe the opposite:  that feeling an emotion and thoughtlessly allowing it to cause me pleasure or grief is a submission to the mechanical nature of our bodies.  emotions are affective, and to be affected is to be bound by the hard rules of our physiologies.  i don’t mind being a robot, i just want to be able to have my experience on as much my terms as possible.

typical circular thought considerations aside, i’m presently confused by some abberant emotions coming from the area where medical doctors agree my heart should be.  i’ve been broken up with my ex-ladyfriend for close to 4 months now; i have never had anything but sure feelings about the rightness of this breakup; i have felt sad for the discontinuation of the good times, but also sure that this breakup has prevented far more bad times; and i have barely spoken to the other party in all this time because she has been an angry ball of sputtering wax, ever-ready to try to make me feel badly or simply call me rotten names.  this has never bothered me.  i’ve been aware for long enough that her insults are how she deals with her pain, and i haven’t found most of them to be of authenticity enough to have had any effect beyond annoyance.

so, i deal with my pain by experiencing it and not propagating more misery by taking my frustrations out on her or others, and she deals with her pain by telling her friends that i’m a fuckhead.

tonight, she called, and, as i knew she had taken my cat into the veterinarian because of a rash he apparently has, i answered.  and she was in tears, raving about all the drama in her life and telling me that everything she does just makes things worse and worse and it’s not her fault because people keep causing her crazy drama except she is at fault a little bit because she made a dumb decision that she knew beforehand she shouldn’t but she did anyway and the cat’s on steriods and she really needs the cat around and she loves him and doesn’t want to sound like a crazy cat lady but she needs him and she’s prepared to offer me visitation rights but she needs him and on and on.  and i mean, it was fine, she wasn’t yelling at me, she was just frantic and emotionally jumbled, and obviously had been involved in stuff she wished she hadn’t been, and all of this was fine.  so i talked to her for a while, and she came down to normalcy and wasn’t overwhelmed anymore, which was fine.

but then something unanticipated happened.  as we shot the bull about normal life things, things she was doing, trips she had planned, people she’d been hanging out with, and on and on, i started to feel unexpectedly apprehensive.  i didn’t know why, and i don’t know why.  i can’t tell if i’m jealous of the stuff that she’s doing without me, or if i’m annoyed that she’s suddenly getting into neat new enterprises (meaning:  doing new things, growing) when i had been wanting her to do so before but she wouldn’t, or if i somehow didn’t like hearing that she is finding ways to continue her life without me.

this makes no sense, of course, and for this i’ve been silently upbraiding myself all night.  i want her to grow, to do new things, to be happy.  i want her to conduct her life independent of me to an end of satisfaction and happiness.  i want the same things for myself.  i want for both of us the same things i want of all people, and i want these things for all of us regardless of whether i’m involved.

if anyone else has insight, experience, or a couple o’ pennies they want to throw into this, feel free.  i’m pretty sure i should just accept that i should be ashamed to not be happy that she’s finding new ways to get along just like i am.  just like we all are, all the time, regardless of whether we are in a relationship, or are recently out of one, or if we’ve just learned how to read minds but, unfortunately, only in german.

actually, maybe i’m upset by this because while she is (and presumably millions of others are) ostensibly making progress, i’m still trying to figure out what kind of life i want to make for myself, and with no foundation to build on, my freedom is at once my great advantage as well as my festering albatross.

as ever, it is a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.

uncaptured fleeting thoughts/artlessness

22 05 2009

guess what, dudes?  i can’t keep a thought in my head for more than 2 minutes these days.  in the past 5 days, i’ve written two lengthy posts that i ended up not being able to post.  you know how my verbal sputtering is usually extremely difficult to follow but usually coils itself around one decent idea, however sloppily and artlessly?  now, it’s more as though i am blindly dropping fecal bombs off of a 12-story building.

artlessness.  artfulness.  this is an interesting concept to me, because i feel artless in most of my endeavors.  i used to not be so direct and stark; but one day, i decided that hiding your intentions, desires, or thoughts on matters was asking for mistrust, for deceit, for confusion.  so i started trying to be direct.  austere in my descriptions and thoughts.  to cut away the fluff of the experience, i reasoned, was to lay bare the purpose, and to lay bare the purpose was to take a measurable step toward a more true understanding.

but artfulness isn’t a bad thing!  it can be used to make the mundane fantastic, yes?   to excite the boring.  i’m just struggling with its use.  because i feel that it is an important survival tool gone awry in contemporary human society.  we employ our ruses to disguise our true intentions, to hide our insecurities from others and ourselves.  we use it to change the appearances of all manner of our “things.”  we craft our stories in order to leave the desired impression; we alter our appearances in all kinds of ways to present in our desired fashion; we make another person “bad” from our perspective to absolve ourselves of certain culpabilities or a god “good” to explain away the good fortune that finds us in our lives.  but why?  is it because we ultimately don’t want the responsibility of the bent of our lives one way or the next?

i don’t know what i want.  stark truth, or a rosy life, or a joyful existence full of lies, or full of truth, or half and half decaf.

the terrible truth

18 05 2009

as i continue to meet new people at an alarming rate, i’ve had ample opportunity to observe myself in new person action.   i suspect that everyone has their own rituals or self-refined scripts when they meet someone new.  i suppose i do as well, but i couldn’t predict them.  it’s a little irritating.

don’t you think that when you meet someone, before much else happens, their personality extends and you get to know it?  that’s how i see it, and maybe i’m wrong.  but it’s usually not so difficult to see, in the first couple of hours of knowing someone, what their primary emotional motivations are, and how forceful they are (or how unsure), and how they react in situations they feel are threatening, and if their judgment of what is threatening is or isn’t reasonable.  but the point is that people exude their personalities, and whatever they’re like is generally presented.  maybe.

but of course, everyone presents that which they most wish to present about themselves, right?  i don’t tell people, when i first meet them, that sometimes i poop, do i?  they could probably guess that i do (because of common biological knowledge and for NO OTHER REASON), but i choose not to put that image into their heads immediately.  nor do i tell people that i think about how cool it would be if i could levitate them by my sheer will in the first five minutes of knowing them, in general.  why not?  it’s me.  i think these things.

here are all kinds of filterings we perform daily in order to be better accepted…. in business, personal relationships, and in blog broadcast form.  i wonder what kind of natural personal expression damage is done as a result of this widely practiced, seldom considered act—-and i wonder about it often.  i know i do it beyond my liking.

my favorite people are those who will tell me what’s in their heads, no matter the content.  i recently figured out why i liked jen,  a girl i dated for a bit, so much: because she never filtered and never gave a thought to my judgment.  our first time out together, she openly farted and shocked me with how open she was on certain subjects.  my admiration of that carries forth to this day, 10 years later.  how long does it take most people to simply be themselves around others?  or even around themselves?  repression from concern over judgment runs deep.  that’s why i love my people who don’t seem to give a second thought to saying the honest, volatile, angry, or stupid thing that’s on their mind.   all-is-on!  you’re a champion!  people like you are rare and you need to know how appreciative i am, and how much i try to be more like you.

the probably unfortunate truth is that we’re all knee-deep in deception, whether by silence or another device.  it’s  a fear with logical anchors.  but it’s bad for us, isn’t it?  if we don’t admit to the parts of us that don’t fit a standard that we’re maintaining out of habit or comfort, aren’t we denying ourselves the opportunity to be ourselves and to possibly one day become the ourselves that ourselves are trying to become?

my friend who’s dating a married couple in a very cute (seriously, you should see them holding hands when they’re walking sometimes), honest tri-relationship…  they wouldn’t be where they are if the wife hadn’t told the husband that she was interested in the not-entirely-normal convention of seeing another person while they remained happily married.  now they’re all three experiencing something with which they’re very pleased.

i won’t give an example of honesty in a negative situation, because there are plenty of those to go around, and you doubtlessly have your own to insert here and consider.  it’s frustrating to have such a simple and obvious principle be such a difficult concept to implement in your daily life.  you know this all too well if you’re reading this at work, where others always seem to find your favorite toe to step on.  or if you’re thinking about seeing your significant other later, and he/she is great!  really!  but you know something’s not right, and you know you’re afraid of admitting it, even if only to yourself.

or even if you’re in your car at a red light, and a stranger who’ll you’ll never see again is next to you, and you’re not singing along to “benny and the jets” on the radio at the highest volume your voice will allow.  even though you don’t know most of the words.

capped expression.  secrets kept.  ourselves restrained.  what’s the damage?

chatter o’ nothing

15 05 2009

i’m closing in on 2 weeks of being out and about i’ve realized, and i haven’t written on the subject so much.  i think about doing so relatively often.  after all, each day, things happen, and plenty of them are interesting enough to me, and could very well be to other dullards.  still, i haven’t felt much compelled to sit and talk about it.

one reason may well be that the trip isn’t shaping up the way i’d anticipated it would.  but if anything’s to be expected, it’s what one doesn’t expect, right?  i don’t mean that the trip has been full of surprises.  there have been a couple, sure, but really, events have occurred much as one might have guessed.  spent a night in pittsboro with a good friend, a couple of nights in charlotte, some time in southern illinois (during an inland hurricane, no less), and some more time in louisianna.  primarily baton rouge.  haven’t spent a night outside yet, as i’m catching all the friends i can on my trip.  not going at as quick a pace as i’d envisioned, but that’s because the primary goal of stopping in these particular places has been achieved in spades; i really wanted to get to know my friends again.  we all get separated by the dictates of our lives, and we’re distanced by the sheer living that takes place in the space that time introduces.  it’s what happens.  i wanted this trip to allow for unhurried reconnections with my peeps.

i’ve been leaving their houses feeling quite caught up and abreast of their lives, which has been great.  they all have interesting things going on, interesting ideas running through their heads, interesting goals in nascent stages that i hadn’t guessed they’d have been thinking of.  and again, i suppose this isn’t a surprise.  everything that’s happened could easily have been expected.  i suppose the surprise is in the feeling.  i don’t feel as i might have expected i would.  and that’s about all i know to say about it.  i can’t describe how i’m feeling, i don’t understand its origin, i don’t know what i’d rather be feeling, and i’m not upset or pleased about it.  it’s maybe kind of new.

it’s in the ether; i drink it, i touch it, and everything i see is tinted by it.  and since i’m such an analyti-nut, i’m going to not think about it further.  it’s a new period.  i’m just going to continue to feel it and see where that leads.

i apologize for the staggeringly uninteresting post.  how about this?  i got so freaked out by the tornado warning sirens that went off next to my friend’s 1920’s plywood home in murphysboro, illinois, and by the terrorizing intensity of the 107-mile-per-hour winds, that when there was a lull in the shaking of the house (things were being blown all over the place… tons of trees were downed, and her antenna was crashed down over her porch by this point), i took the opportunity to run out to my car and grab my motorcycle helmet… just in case.  and i wore it for the next 45 minutes of the storm.  and i took a picture.  enjoy this image of recently-frightened me having a laugh at my decision in the afterglow of survival.

reactionary?  you weren't there!

reactionary? you weren't there!

certain uncontainable

13 05 2009

there’s nobody
there’s no mountain
there’s no tunnel
you can’t get from there to here.
you. can’t. get. from here to there.

i’m not one for regrets.  i’m happy with things.  i like the situation.  but sometimes, i see something nice and i wish i could’ve been there at the right time for that, too.  you make me happy, even though you don’t mean to do so.  a pointless act!  which makes me a little nostalgic for the never-happened.