Friday, February 3, 2012

Sublimation vs. Sublime

My partner and I were at a big disadvantage today, just based on who our opponents were.  One of them has an insanely powerful serve and groundstroke, the other can get almost anything at the net.  My partner and I are both recovering from injuries that kept us away from Friday Tennis for a lot of the fall and then, after that, left us fumphering around the court, trying to compensate for our shortcomings, an activity at which I’m all too well-practiced.

She and I shouldn’t even play together, but we do.

We lost the first two games quickly and embarrassingly.  We swung at balls and missed them entirely.  Repeatedly hit shots into the net.  Not here and there, but over and over.  By the third game, we were high-fiving that we had simply scored a single point.

The subject of sex came up (as it often does in Friday Tennis) and after a short discussion (the details of which are better left unshared), my partner and I started playing the littlest bit better.  We took a game.  Then lost a game.  Then took two games in a row and we were tied 4-4. 

The reason this is important to mention is because there are different ways to lose a set.  There’s the humiliating way (6-0 or 6-1), and then there’s the way that we did, 6-4, with our heads held high.

We started a new set and my partner and I made the mistake of switching sides, something you should certainly try if you’re getting creamed (6-0), but not if you’re playing decently with lots of close games, as was our situation.  This was because we convinced ourselves that our short sex conversation had been the key to our success.  That we had found ourselves in some sort of Bull Durham Reverse Universe where the transmutation of sexual energy was enhancing our strokes (so to speak), a phenomenon Freud may have considered a type of “sublimation.”  If we just continued thinking about sex while we were playing tennis, we reasoned, we would be unstoppable.

This conviction proved very, very wrong.

I’m not sure what was responsible for our inexplicable underdog comeback in the first set, but whatever it was, it was gone once we switched sides and no amount of lascivious thought or innuendo seemed capable of getting it back. 

My partner and I went from being Roadrunners back to being Coyotes, with shot after shot leaving us tail-singed and gape-jawed.  I looked around for some Acme dynamite and in doing so, managed to miss yet another ball.

I think we ran out of time before we could finish the second set, but we played about five games and my partner and I only won one of them.  I think that one was a fluke.  I had stopped thinking about sex head on and instead began trying to remember the name of the Bull Durham movie, not actively, exactly, but like Muzak in the background – using just enough brain power to wrest my mind away from berating myself for our bad judgment and occupy it enough to let me go about hitting a proper backhand, which is likely the precise function our sex talk served to begin with.

By the end of the game, I still didn’t have the movie title.   All I could conjure was Susan Sarandon writhing around while Kevin Costner is painting her toenails, a scene I remembered as itself sexy and unexpected and, in the world of movie scenes, perhaps even sublime.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ok. I'm Still Doing It.

During my time with Therapist Number 2 (Number 3 if you count my short stint with The Woman Who Only Wore Purple), I felt like I had some really big fish to fry – namely, I wanted to quit smoking cigarettes, leave my job and lose weight, three things that were unlikely to ever happen together.

I would lay on her leather couch with her Dachshund on my belly and bemoan my inability to become waiflike despite how meagerly I ate or how ferociously I exercised. 

“We don’t exercise to be thin,” she told me one day, her long, reedy legs crossed at the knee in her massive leather shrink chair.

“We don’t?”

“No, we exercise to have a relationship with our body.”

That was one of those statements that, depending on my mood, could strike me as either totally asinine or absolutely profound.  On that day, it was profound.

Everything I understood about exercise suddenly shifted.  It no longer became a means to an end, but an end unto itself.  I stopped caring about results.  It stopped being about my self-esteem. I stopped doing things simply to suffer through them and made a commitment to stoke that relationship that she talked about in a good way, every day. 

I just had a similar revelation at a writing workshop I attended last week. 

Surrounded by a dozen women, writing from prompts, reading aloud, sharing reactions, reading some more, I began to remember why we write. As Natalie Goldberg says, “We write to study mind.” 

Maybe she didn’t say exactly that, but that’s her general gist: writing helps us understand how the mind works.  The writer’s job is mostly just to show up and write. 

This is a perfect revelation for today, because today is our third birthday.  I started this blog February 1, 2009 with this post.  I wrote then, “I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea…” and in retrospect, I can say it was a very good idea.  It did, in fact, keep me out of trouble.  It landed me a bit of work.  It keeps me connected to a lot of folks. 

But mostly, it helps me understand how mind works. That delicate mystery machine that I delude myself into thinking I have control over. It is here that I learn what’s important to me, when I sit down to write one thing and come up with quite another.  I’ve posted things that crack me up and that scare the shit out of me, and doing so has created that relationship that Therapist Number 2 was talking about: no ends, just flexing and stretching and trying to engage my heart.

Thanks for being here with me for our birthday.  Sorry, no cake.