Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Off Year

Bessie Braddock: Sir, you are drunk.

Churchill: And you, madam, are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober.

When I was three, I broke my right leg. Not in a cool way either. For reasons which I can't recall, I had a toy garbage truck among my various playthings. I have no earthly conception as to what I did with it--threw out my spare Legos, I suppose. Anyways, while running around in my grandparents' house, I got my right foot stuck in the back of said truck. My foot stayed put, but the rest of my body kept going forward, and I received a very early lesson in torque and the laws of physics when my right leg snapped. Spiral break. Not very good.

I'm relying on secondhand memories here--there's no real trauma resulting from this accident. I got a half-body cast and was doped up on morphine half the time, so I can't give you the true specifics. I had a talking Teddy Ruxpin doll at the time, and the morphine convinced me he was real. There's that.

I guess the only thing you could say was that, from then on in, I walked a little slower, a little more cautiously. My leg was wrapped in a cast, and when it came off, it took from me a sense of abandon. I was constantly prepared for a fall.

Over the past year, I've made a conscious and largely successful effort to improve my mind. I don't mean this in the sense of actually making myself smarter, but I've been trying to do more with what I've got. It's worked! I think it's worked. Friends of mine have commented on how much I've "improved". It's my own mini-redemption story, right? There's nothing America loves more than something that used to be tarnished. My confidence and sense of clarity--the idea that I have some kind of purpose--have never been higher.

It's not enough.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of physicality. We have bodies, and I think this is very strange to us. More than once, while staring into a mirror after washing my face or brushing my teeth, I've been struck by a sense of dissociation. The basic act of moving my hand, or the sensation of heat or cold becomes alien. Athleticism is a way to reconcile this--we can conquer the world around us through speed, strength, and endurance. We can become masters of our surroundings by making them surmountable.

Or, at least, some of us can. For my entire life, I've grown up with the belief there is such a thing as a "born" athlete, someone who effortlessly glides through life's pickup basketball games and backyard football contests due to an inherent advantage. Whether it's great size, fleetfootedness, or merely an advanced coherence of movement, it's not something that I think could ever be taught, or learned. It's merely inherent. You are, or you aren't.

But I know that I can remake my mind--strengthen the connection between concepts, beliefs, and expressions to form a greater whole. Why not my body?

I still believe that some athletes are simply born that way. You can tell by the way they move--I met Rangers' center fielder Josh Hamilton once, and he practically bounced down the hall, moving with a certain economy on the balls of his feet. It's something you have to accept if you want to do what I want to do.

I want to make myself into an athlete.

We've already gone over why the grand path of my life hasn't been leading in this direction. But this path is mutable. Perhaps for the majority of us, our surroundings dictate our future. You could have two kids with an equal amount of natural athletic talent, but one of them has an expansive backyard, a lot of free time, and dozens of other kids in the neighborhood with which to play team sports. The other broke his leg when he was three and spent the rest of his life watching his step. Which one would you pick first for a team?

I think this realization is an advantage. I may be far behind, but all I need to do is commit--to treat the base and the summit as one. I could be in for a fall, it's true, or a disappointment, but defiance at the precipice is a virtue. Can you make yourself something you're not? I plan on finding out now. In the morning, I'll be sober.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Haha I just read this. Well done! Also, I'm running a 15K so I feel you with the, "I wish I was an athlete" thing.