I’ve taken up racquetball. I started last week because my body was screaming at me for becoming a sloth.
Being a writer is not conducive to physical activity. I got computer hip last year, which made me feel really old and walk the same way, so I decided to stand. I put my computer on top of an ice chest for elevation. I put a board on top of that for stability, then stuck my monitor on a stack of phone books, and covered it with a cloth napkin so it didn’t look so tacky, but the table was still wobbly, so I turned my plastic recipe holder on its side, added a paperback copy of Escaping into the open by Elizabeth Berg, and wedged it in front of the ice chest. Now it’s perfect. I can stand when I write and practice the leg and butt exercises I remember from Jane Fonda’s 1987 workout video.
I have been a swimmer for 57 years. It has been my home place and salvation. I love slipping out of this hard-edged reality and into Neptune’s watery expanse. I love being in a world without corners and the way I feel after a long distance swim.
Two years ago, as I was driving to the pool, I pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. I sat there fingering the steering wheel, then suddenly announced to myself that I was finished. It’s over, I said, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore, 57 years is enough. I turned the car around and headed home. I got up the next morning ready to swim, thinking perhaps I’d had a bad day, but nope. The resolve was still there. I wasn’t going swimming anymore. I’d had enough. I’ve been in a state of decay ever since. I’ve been swimming a few times, but the joy is gone and so is my muscle tone.
The dentist uses the most disgustingly perfect word to describe what happens in your mouth if you don’t brush your teeth at night. He says the food ‘putrefies.’ What a great word. It has the word puke in it, and terrify. It’s a beautifully wonderfully awful word that feels like spitting, and floods the mind with images of repulsive decay. My husband hates that word, so I use it alot. I tell him my whole body is putrefying because I can’t figure out a new exercise.
Last week I had a break-through. I grabbed racquets from the closet I’d bought decades ago, got my husband and granddaughter and decided to try racquetball. (Playing with a nine year old is a great way to begin, by the way. She is my partner in crime. Someday I’ll tell you about the time we got into trouble for playing soccer in the halls of the ashram, but not today.)
Anyway, I found a new sport. The room reminds me of a padded cell and slamming the ball is a great way to work out frustration. Now I go alone whenever I can get away. I close the door to that little white room and bang the ball around until I’m purple in the face. But… in case I may be painting a picture of myself as a jock, I will add that my version of racquetball has no rules, and looks an awful lot like an old lady playing badminton with herself.