A funny thing happened last week as I was in a steady groove of being a total miserable SOB. I decided to give that tennis league another shot. Some guy sent out an e-mail looking for a match and I responded. I'm not really sure why I did that. I wasn't looking forward to it. I haven't missed not playing. In fact, I expected to play horrible, lose, and feel disgusting about the whole process. If anything, I probably just figured I should practice forcing myself to do stuff I'm not excited about. That stuff makes up the meat of life anyway right?
So there I was on the court and everything is going to plan. I'm stumbling around like a drunk and am quickly down 3-0 to my opponent, a 40ish Asian junkballer guy. This guy was much, much better than the clown I accidentally played last time. In fact, in many ways he was downright crafty. Yet, as I was going through the motions, it was impossible not to think about my feeble serve and all the easy shots I was missing and compare it to the way the 17 year old version of myself would have dispatched this guy. And that's when it happened. These thoughts had the opposite effect of what I'd expect. They didn't make me want to throw a tantrum, walk off the court and never play again, or just wallow in self pity. I'd calmly play a horrible point, shank a sitter overheard, remember about how I never, ever would have missed that back in the day, and think to myself, "I'll get back to that." It wasn't an intentional thing. It's just the way I felt. I became emotionally detached from the pathetic version of me that was playing out there and found optimism and confidence that I'd eventually recreate a version of myself that would make this game fun again. Of course, as those feelings built, I was able to have fun in the moment. I wish it could have made me a better player on that day, but nothing could save that. It probably did make me a little bit more scrappy out there. I was pretty amped up afterwards and had trouble sleeping that night, not because I was excited about coming back to win a long match, but because I felt total confidence that I'll be good at this game again at some point, and that will be fun. Random optimism. I did nothing to create it and nothing to deserve it. It just came out and grabbed me. Fun feeling.
Oh, and my body was physically wrecked afterwards. Forearms, Rotator cuff, deltoids, traps, obliques, hip flexors, calves, my NECK...all just hilariously sore. It made me smirk to think about the exact inverse being true 14 years ago, when I could play twice as long and feel no soreness the next day, but randomly signing up for my first athlinks result, a 10k OTCY which I completed in 49 and change, left me sore for a week.