In a little while, I’m going to play in a tennis match. This is noteworthy in that I don’t play team tennis. I play in clinics and in a regular friendly game with a bunch of women I know. But I rarely play against strangers, and never under circumstances that in any way “count.”
Today, I’m subbing for someone on vacation. I was asked by my Monday clinic-mate Gina. It’s her partner who’s away, so Gina asked me if I would play with her in this match.
This is Gina’s first year on the tennis team. I’ve played with her for years in the Monday clinic, and I also played with her on Fridays until this past September. Her team matches are scheduled for Fridays, so she had to drop out of that clinic this year. I was despondent about that for a while – actually, for the whole preceding summer -- but once her game season started, I had a complete shift in consciousness and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I’d like to say this was because I had decided to put someone else’s needs and happiness ahead of my own, but in fact it was the opposite.
Gina’s playing on a tennis team all of a sudden gave my life meaning.
Once Gina started competing in matches, my feelings about my Monday Clinic changed almost immediately. I’ve always loved the people in the group and the drills that we do, and all of a sudden the whole thing became not only “fun” but “important.” I fancied us all having a job to do on Monday at noon, and that was to spend the next hour and a half prepping Gina for her game. If I was having an off day, I would try harder than usual to pull myself together and play better for Gina’s sake. I would spend my meager mental resources strategizing ways to get back her killer cross-court return. I didn’t want her to rest on her superpower-forehand laurels. I wanted her to be ready to crush her competition on Friday, so that my tennis clinics could be elevated from the frivolous and expensive 90 minutes that they’d always been, to something useful and purposeful and necessary.
And now all those years of frivolity and expense will add up to even more than just assisting in someone else's glory. What I'm saying here is that I've spent the last nine days in training, practicing strokes and strategy, not just so I can go home and lie in bed at night and say, Why are you spending so much of your life on a tennis court, you old, foolish woman? I've practiced so I can go out and kick some serious suburban tennis butt!
So, minutes from now, I will don my black skirt and a white top (team colors!) and throw on my Converse All Star hoodie with the skull and crossbones across the front (because Gina wears a lot of skull accessories and this will make me feel even more teamish) and drive out to a tennis club I’ve never been to and play against women I’ve never met, and with any luck, maybe even win.
We’re playing on the lowest level team, in the lowest level position, but still. I’m on a TEAM today. Go, me!