The day was April 10, 2012. It was the first time I had played any sport semi-competitively in over three years. It was also the first time I had done so a few years north of the big 3-0. I was in left field, and I tried to break for a line drive that was tailing to the right and flying over my head. Let's just say that I could relate to the title phrase of Toby Keith's "Good As I Once Was."
I took a three-step lunge for the ball followed by a very sorry leap as the ball sailed over my head. This is the first time I remember my mind telling my body to do something and my body not properly responding. In my prime I would have broken with the crack of the bat and easily caught the ball in stride. You have to realize this wasn't anything close to the major leagues. It was simply church softball!
Having played baseball and softball all my life, I felt worse than ever about myself. This was the one game that I really excelled at, and now I no longer did. The combination of getting a little older and being a few pounds heavier than I wanted be to did a number on my psyche. I felt worse than ever about my body, and really about myself as a person.
Thankfully, I learned a few wily veteran tricks that have allowed me to play left field without the speed of an 18-year-old, but I still had to retrain my mind to see myself differently, and then I had to start treating myself differently.
Life is going to throw us a few curveballs every so often. Obviously we are not going to hit all of them. In my situation it was important for me to do what I could to control the things that I could control. I had to exercise more, eat healthier, deal with stress more effectively, but I also had to chill out a bit. I had to learn to love myself in spite of my setbacks. Along with that, it helped to simply experience the joy in life and try to have fun whether I was chasing down a hit that I missed or I was in the middle of an arduous chore.
I am generally a pretty laid back person. When dealing with myself, however, I can be a beast! I am very hard on myself, so an experience like the gaffe in left field just exacerbated this. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or beating myself to a pulp for not being in perfect shape, I have to continually remind myself that I am good (and loved) just the way I am. I have gifts. I have goals. I have purpose.
I am pretty sure that I am not alone in facing these feelings of inadequacy, so I will change the "I" in this blog to a "we." When we get to that place of self-acceptance, the next step is to take care of that body that is called God's temple. We do have to eat healthy (especially after 30!). We do have to exercise regularly! And just as importantly, we do have to be sympathetic toward ourselves when we screw up and love ourselves enough to press on toward the goals that we have before us.
Okay, so now, one month away from fall softball season, I have been working out regularly and eating pretty healthy for a solid two months. Granted, I have only lost nine pounds, but I do feel healthier, stronger and faster. I'm sure that there will be a fair share of fly balls that zoom past me this season, but maybe I'll catch a few more too. Either way, I'm not going to look at it as defining who I am and how I see myself.