080508 – Facing up

This is a personal post about a decision I came to tonight. Nothing earth shaking – I’ve just decided to let go of one of my life’s deep pleasures – because it is time.

Tonight, I decided I’m done with racquetball; a sport I’ve played with great love and enjoyment for 35 years; since I first learned it in college.

RacquetballIt’s the last time I will move through space with millions of my neurons tracking the ball, predicting its trajectory, noting where the other players are, developing moment to moment strategy, estimating timing, ensuring balance while moving, knowing the three dimensional space around me and experiencing the coordination of this beautiful body that the Beloved has given me.

The last time to feel the swing, estimate the force, think where I want the ball to go and be conscious and observant in the midst of the execution of neural programs that have been deepening themselves in this body and mind for most of my life. Neural sequences that flow like a ballet that I am privileged to watch from the inside. Intimate and possessive and pleased that this, this beauty and passion and animal joy are mine to feel.

I’ve loved this sport deeply for so many years. I’ve played it left handed, I’ve played it right handed, I’ve taught it to two sons and to many friends. I’ve played it in competition and I’ve played it for fun. And if my body has strength today at 60, it is largely because of the many years I’ve danced the light three-dimensional fanstastic with that flashing blue ball.

Thanks you, my Beloved, for these experiences .

So tonight, after an hour of hard play with men much younger than myself, I realized that I was lucky, yet again, in that I hadn’t blown out my knee or damaged my elbow.

There’s been a deep truth looking me in the face for sometime now. I’ve had surgery on both knees from the hard sports I’ve played. The most recent operation just last year. I’ve blown out my lower back and my left wrist rubs bone against bone at the base of the thumb.

I know that every time I play now, I risk going through a door marked “permanent damage – no return”.

I don’t want to have my knee replaced but, if I blow one of them out again, that’s the likely outcome.

Right now my right elbow just hurts from the power swings that I should have given up at 40 and that I’m still slamming at 60. And maybe the next time, that ache may not go away in a week. Maybe next time, something will tear away.

At 60, I’m beginning to think about conservation. My body is no longer invincible and sure to heal flawlessly. I could, in a careless or unlucky moment, lose serious functionality for the rest of my life.

Right now I can walk, my hands work and I can do real work and do it well. Right now, my body is strong and sound despite all the hard use I’ve given it. I’m thinking that these things, this functionality, has a deep value to me and the quality of my remaining life.

And I know that every time I play now, I am gambling them.

RacquetballTonight, as I drove home from playing, I weighed these things against the desires of that old athlete. The one that loves the dance, loves the airborne turn in the air and the racquet’s sweep and the feeling as it all comes together as the racquet finds the ball and physics and neural magic unfold together in the hanging moments of light and sound.

And I decided that in spite of this love, it is time. Time now, before I buy myself a deep regret in exchange for ‘just one more game’.

I’ve had a good long run – far better than most folks in this life and there is much I still want to do in these next decades and I need the functionality of this body to see me through those things.

So be it then. I’m giving my racquetball gear to my son, Christopher and I’m going to let go of something I’ve deeply loved, as of tonight.

Thank you, Beloved, for all of these experiences. You have given me such a rich and varied life and I am very deeply grateful. Even for this. For it is all part of life.

3 Responses to “080508 – Facing up”

  1. Ryan says:

    With such a small following, I hate to see anybody stop playing racquetball, but I’m happy that you passed it on to your sons and many other players.

    I feel the sport has never received the credit it deserves, especially for a sport that supplies the ridiculous entertainment value racquetball does.

    To be honest, it is extremely impressive that you have the ability and courage to continue playing into your 60’s. I know how you feel when you wonder if it is time to give something up. I’m only in my late 20s, and on top of racquetball I play beer league ice hockey. In my last two games, I’ve managed to hurt my shoulder and my hip. It keeps crossing my mind that it might not be the best thing for my long term health to continue playing, unfortunately I love playing so much I’m willing to take the risk for a few more years.

    Anyways, I wish you all the best and hope you can find something else in your life to replace the void racquetball will be leaving. I’m sure you will.


  2. Dennis says:

    Thanks, Ryan. I’m jealous – you have so many more years of good racquetball in front of you.

    Well, I’m sad to give it up but I’ve still got tennis in the summer and my wife works hard to make sure the Honey-Do list never gets too short so all is well.


  3. David says:

    Hey Dennis:

    Well said, and as I think you know, I can especially appreciate what you say so well, and that is at 52!

    I have enjoyed our games and will miss them in the future. That said, I would hate to be one of those “younger” players that caused you pain on the court.

    Take care, and ejoy the memories. Even at 60, you were a force on the court!