This morning I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. The air was crisp and sharp–fall is coming. I began remembering my earlier days of football and softball in the cool, dry air. The running and the burning lungs and the euphoric, relaxed feeling I got when the games were over.
I used to be a very competitive person. I’d try anything just to feel the spirit of the game. I lost this after my divorce. Something left me and I changed. I just wanted to be left alone to write.
One thing that I loved was softball, and many weekends I’d play in tournaments–6, 7, 8 games. Like I said, I’d try anything. Fencing (I won a medal in my first fencing tournament for amateurs in Bucksport, Maine), power lifting, jiu-jitsu. I played in my last softball tournament sometimes in the fall of 2006, just after I’d left the police department and two seasons away from my divorce, from which I hadn’t yet recovered. I had to be talked into playing, and I was on cruise control the whole time. Funny thing is, it was so easy, not caring, not having the game be too important–it was simple;my skills were still intact, but the burning desire was gone.
I was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the tourney and a huge trophy to go with it, the largest of my career. It sat in the corner of my living room for a long time before I brought out to the dumpster. I remember it laying there amid the trash, thinking that it didn’t mean a thing to me, only my writing, my kids and trying find what I would become mattered.
When I entered the Army, I found my loss of competitive spirit to be very detrimental. While younger men found the taunting of the drill sergeants to be motivating, I found it needlessly abusive and annoying. Sure I tried my best on all of the runs and the little contest, but I didn’t have a rabid desire like the young guys did. In AIT I even forsook the unit’s flag football team, another sport which at one time I loved and excelled. The raucous behavior of new athletes was a thorn in my paw, and I avoided them when they displayed their exuberance.
Since I arrived here in Germany, the only athletic event that I’ve taken part in was a 5k race, not counting of course the Soldier of the Year events. I’d never run a race since junior high school, but I did well and enjoyed myself.
As I exited the commissary this morning, I looked at the hill that runs along the front of the building. It’s steep, but not terribly long. One of the things I used to do a lot of was hill sprints. I think if I was told I could only do one exercise, hill sprints would be it. They build great cardio and leg strength, and in the end, character.
Then I thought I felt it again. That old me, digging himself out of his grave. You can still excel,he groaned. The zombie-like me wiped the loam from his body and walked toward me with a slight limp–must be an aching knee. He stretch and grabbed his lower back. That must hurt a bit, too.
I walked back home and changed into my short and t-shirt, then walked down the street to an inclined portion of sidewalk, a good long area about 60-70 yards in length. I did 8 sprints up the incline and walked back each time. When I got back home, I did 100 pushups, 2 sets o 50.
There’s a flag football league starting up this month. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll see how much of my old self still remains, and how much has truly died.