This evening I went to the batting cage. The Burbank batting cage.
I had walked into a co-workers office, obviously twisted about something/nothing, the second day in a row of generalized frustration and anger that sadly can find very specific targets when not controlled.
I am the child of two extraordinarily angry adults. It would be surprising if some of it were not in my bones somewhere. Frankly, I'm scared of it. I've never been good at expressing it. When I confronted my mother about her anger once, she said "It's not directed at you," to which I responded, "well, when I'm the only person in the room and you're yelling at me, it sure feels like it." All this is immaterial to this evening (it's in the past and dealt with), excepting the fact that when faced with my own anger, I have no idea what to do with it - it seems a little terrifying and that might upset someone.
In times past, I've turned it inward, preferring to slide into a depressive hole that includes sad female singer/songwriters, country music, and ice cream. But since I've been cognizant of that lately, and have been trying to avoid depressive slides, I seem to be confronted with quite a surprising amount of non-specific anger that just boils up when I'm stymied or frustrated by any situation. Or, like this week, when I take a couple days off to go out of town and land somewhat gracelessly back into my life. Ker-plump, as Eleanor Roosevelt might say (as she does when reciting "High Hopes" on the Frank Sinatra show, which sadly I can't find on youtube).
So, back to this afternoon, when any little thing made me want to jump out of my skin. I had already consumed enough caffeine to power a small lawnmower (could this be the culprit?). My gay, softball-playing co-worker suggested the batting cages. And I said yes, like someone had just offered me a cool drink of water. Hitting something sounded like the best solution. The only solution. And since my mantra lately has been "First, do no harm", I thought the balls can't really feel it, so this was the best option.
So I took my intellectual self to the batting cages. How do I know I'm intellectual? I was deconstructing the process and thinking what I would write about it the whole time. And instead of angry, that made me laugh, laugh in the way you do when you just know something about yourself, and you can't help but have a little compassion for it. And besides, I was taking it all out on the balls. So there we were, two gay men at the batting cages - something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago to me. We put our money down and get a bat. Diet Cokes on me.
I go and hit a few balls, not too successfully. My friend tells me to bend my knees, lean into the pitch, grip the bat tightly at the base, keep my right arm up. It's not air golf, though it feels like I'm swatting rather than batting. And since I keep bending my wrists, I feel like a fey batboy pretending he's a player. My friend's up. I watch him hit a few times, and see what he means. Then I look over at the cage next to us, and see a man hitting every single ball gracefully. I see how he leans back from it, prepares with his front leg, swinging like he's a replica of the top of a trophy. I see now where that stance comes from. Then a woman follows him who does the same thing - graceful, easy, assured, strong.
I go back into the cage, mimic what I've seen and start hitting the balls. Now I'm hitting about 90%. I don't miss that many at all. And there's a great satisfaction in hitting the sweet spot, hearing the "thunk" and seeing the ball sail up. The aggression is gone. I am now all about finding the perfect hit and making sure my form is good. The anger has dissipated. By the time we go up for the second session, I am forming blisters on my thumbs. So I just change how I held my thumbs. And make sure to wash my hands when I'm done - you can never be too careful.
And since this is the kind of guy I am, I learned a few things:
The ball is never coming as fast as I think it is. There's actually time to anticipate it and wait for it to come to the right place. Don't panic.
The bat does the work.
You'll get a lot more done if you use your whole self, and not just parts, like the wrist, or the arms.
Sit into your weight; it's there for a reason, embrace it.
It never takes as much energy as I think it does.
There is no perfection.
You never know completely what's coming at you - it might be low and outside, or high and tight.
The nicks count - they stop the ball.