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Swinging the Bat

13 May

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I do not know how you measure success.

Is it wealth, fame, good health, love, all of them, none of them. I don’t know.

Maybe it’s just making an effort you thought you could never make.

My son is on his school’s baseball team. I am not betraying him when I tell you he is not the best athlete on the team. But he loves being on a team and part of a team. Recently, my mother told me she had a conversation with my son about his method of playing. In essence, his approach was to never swing with the hope of getting walked to first base. This was heartbreaking to me. I was also unaware of it because he instructed me not to attend any games because he was mainly in charge of keeping the bench very warm. Although I am not exactly athletic, I confronted him:

“You need to swing the bat. Even if you miss. You still have to try because you will miss 100% of the balls you don’t swing at.”

I am not sure if he was frightened of the speed of the ball, the shame of an earned strike, or just simply taking a chance. He promised he would try. And with that, he was able to allow someone else to keep that bench warm, at least some of the time.

Academically, my son is, for the most part, thriving. He has recently struggled, however, with a couple of subjects and was less than thrilled about grades he received. I’m not exactly sure, though, that he was swinging the bat at those plates either. We had multiple, similar conversations about the importance of making an effort, trying your best, aiming for a hit instead of a walk. I’m not sure how many of these talks sink in or how many translate to the Charlie Brown teacher language of “WOH WOH WOH WAH.” My expertise and life experience are not impressive to him. It seems not to matter that I have already lived all the days he is living. He probably just wants me to stop talking. Oh well, too bad. It’s my job.

This combination of some poor grades and baseball ineptitude was starting to wear on his confidence. I cannot blame him though, again, he wasn’t actively participating in his own life enough to change his situation. It is hard to watch your child struggle with self-doubt and think you can give them all the tools and praise needed to remedy it, but it is, ultimately, up to them to cure their problems themselves.

Yesterday, on one of spring’s most beautiful days, and with my son’s blessing, I finally attended a baseball game: my son’s team’s last home game of the season. My son was at bat. He swung a few times, accruing two strikes. His team and coach continued to call his name, encouraging him. On the final pitch, as the wind blew its warm, gentle breeze over the field, I sat in a lawn chair and watched my boy make his very first hit. It was solid. It went to third base, and he made it to first base safely with his team cheering him on. And later, during the last inning, and only minutes after my husband arrived, we both had the privilege of watching our son make his second hit, into the field, right over second base. Again, his team cheered. And so did we.

While I have been largely focusing on the importance of his school work, perhaps excelling here, on a baseball diamond with friends and teammates, is just as important. He needs to feel good about himself in all arenas, and those two hits, likely inconsequential to most kids on the team, were home runs for all of us.

Had my son not swung, he never would have hit those balls. He never would have known what the impact of the ball against the ash in his hands would feel like. He never would have known that he too could create that familiar “crack” symbolic of a hit. He never would have known the joy of hearing his friends and teammates root for him and the thrill of reaching first base because he proactively earned it as opposed to watching for the pitcher to err. He never would have known what it was like to cross home plate on that beautiful spring day, the completion of the story that began with his first hit. This type of knowledge he gained is every bit as useful and meaningful as the type learned from a textbook. If not more so.

Maybe success is just swinging the bat.

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The Evaporation of Time

19 Nov

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4 am is not my friend.

It is the hour when I sing my anthem for self-flagellation.

It is the time, if I happen to wake, that I tell myself I am a loser. I am doing nothing with my life. I am not living up to my potential. I am wasting my time and talent. I am not taking care of the gifts I was given. I am going to be 90 in a minute and then I’m going to die. Not really but still.

Time is evaporating and I do not like it. Years turn to mist as I approach another birthday. This 4 am behavior always ramps up prior to and just after this annual anxiety-producing event. It is like someone turned over a heavy hourglass and I cannot escape the weight of its sand.

And it’s not just me and my time that I’m afraid of losing; it’s the people I love and their time too. I have been listening and crying to, on repeat, Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time:”

I see my folks are getting on
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange

No matter how you tell yourself
It’s what we all go through
Those lines are pretty hard to take
When they’re staring back at you

Scared to run out of time.

Oh, Bonnie Raitt, why do you have to be so wise?

I don’t know how to measure success. And I certainly don’t know what defines it either. I have had professional successes in different fields and yet I still feel totally unfulfilled.

Or, perhaps, success is being content with your personal life and that I am. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my parents. I love my friends. If you can pick your successes, I would rather it be in the area in which I’m already thriving. After all, you cannot spoon with your career and if you can, please send pictures.

And yet that hourglass continues to be so cumbersome. It occupies so much of my mind and self-worth.

When did the choices get so hard
With so much more at stake
Life gets mighty precious
When there’s less of it to waste

Wasting time is a horrible regret to live with. I need to make promises to myself that I won’t break.