Guess who’s back, back again.
Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years.
Insert another old school hip-hop inspired line about making a return from a prolonged absence here.
It’s true folks, I’m making my long-awaited return from a prolonged absence and I’d like to say that I’m feeling fine, but really I’ve just reached a stalemate. You see, for the last few months I have been completely overwhelmed, swamped with work and feeling like I was stuck in a hole from which I couldn’t possibly escape.
Hyperbole aside, the subject of this rant is dealing with stress. I wrote last year about finding a mindfulness activity that worked for me, and I think I have finally found it. I’m channeling my inner 16-year-old, and once a week for the last few weeks I have been going bowling.
Back when I was in high school I was in a bowling league with my family and friends. I had my own bowling ball and I stole my mom’s to use as a “spare ball.” I fancied myself pretty good and even won a scholarship that paid for my books during my first semester of college. Then, for a long time, my bowling balls sat in storage, patiently awaiting use that rarely ever came.
Fast-forward to 2016 and I joined a bowling league with some of my coworkers. The joy came back, and I was working myself back into the form that made me so formidable in high school. With about 5 or 6 weeks remaining in the league, I started to feel some pain in my knee. It was just a twinge at first, then after an ill-fated attempt to pick up my 2-year-old son, something popped and my meniscus was torn.
Again, the bowling balls were relegated to the basement to collect more mothballs than 7-10 splits. I tested out my surgically reconstructed knee by practicing with my basketball players the next basketball season and kept getting really sore. This led me to believe that any extra exercise would be problematic, especially something like bowling that involves the use of the legs so much. Admittedly, I probably didn’t have to sit as long as I did, but I tend to exercise (no pun intended, really) a bit more caution than I necessarily need to. I babied my knee, not wanting to push it for fear of reinjuring it, or suffering a potentially worse injury, which would mean more extensive rehab. As one of my newspaper staffers likes to put it, I exhibited true man-flu behavior.
A couple of weeks ago I decided that it had been long enough. During my brief flirtation with the bowling league three years ago I was reminded why I loved this sport so much. Let me start by saying this; I am a team player. Every other sport I have ever been a part of has been a team sport, and I coached high school basketball for 15 years, so I can appreciate the beauty of teamwork.
However, as much as I enjoyed the company of my coworkers (and we did have way too much fun), I love bowling because I get to challenge myself. Of course, you challenge yourself in team sports, but the focus is on the team. I am not just bowling for fun, I’ve set up a stat sheet and I am tracking my progress (FYI, as I type this I am currently bringing my average down. I’ll blame it on uneven wax on the lanes). I am using each of these weekly bowling excursions as competitions and seeing if I can continue to raise my game. I’m actively yelling, fist-pumping and showing off crazy hand gestures in these near-empty alleys during early afternoon weekday sessions. I have also carved this out an opportunity to start writing again. While this is not the life-altering piece that I aspire to someday write, it is a start.
Basically, I’m realizing what cures my stress and understanding that it wasn’t so much about finding a specific activity, but more about finding one that puts me in a position to de-stress. I’ve realized what brings me joy. I’m an introvert, so taking over a bowling lane for an hour to bowl three games by myself is blissful. I don’t have to interact with a soul, and I can feel free to act however I want with no fear of being judged. I can create spreadsheets, which I know is an abnormal activity for a writer, but is something that I love. I was looking in the wrong place the whole time. I was spending more time on the outcome rather than focusing on the process.
I don’t think that I have cracked the code to releasing stress, but I’ve at least cracked mine. I think you have to think about the small things that bring you joy and match those to an activity, rather than the other way around. I was just trying to focus on things that I enjoyed, rather than thinking about the fact that I didn’t want to be around anyone and I need competition to rock me from a bad mood.
Maybe this will help someone, or maybe it won’t. All I know is this, I really need to stop focusing so much on this post as I bowl because I ‘m living in a land of splits and open frames right now and I need to pick it up or else I’ll be dealing with a whole new level of stress.