Balls that were previously thrown out for losing their bounce are now prized possessions for the canine set in our household — specifically Pup. I have even seen dead, yellow balls lying outside a tennis court and actually considered bringing one home to Pup before I came to my senses. Because, believe me, Pup needs one more tennis ball like I need one more pair of shoes.
Even still, he sure does love a good, old-fashioned used tennis ball.
Ironically, there was a time when tennis balls apparently made me angry. Not the used kind, the brand-new, shiny, right-out-of-the-box, smelly kind.
Many years ago in fact, during a tennis lesson, the tennis pro instructing me through a proper forehand and backhand — while I smacked little yellow balls in rhythm with each spit of the ball machine — finally stopped me and said: “You have a lot of pent up anger. You are killing that ball.”
His words stuck with me.
What did he mean by anger? I don’t have anger. Do I have anger?
Looking back, I was claustrophobically trapped in a few things I didn’t really realize were choking the passion out of my beating heart; like a difficult marriage and dreary job, and a longing for more in my life, like puppies and babies and a family Christmas with gift-wrap and bows, the way it used to be when my mother was alive.
So, tonight, it was exactly this theme that Oprah tackled, letting go of anger. One of her Lifeclass lessons asked:
Some psychologists believe anger is a reaction that occurs to help us protect ourselves from the grief that may arise if we accept a loss or disappointment. Look within yourself for anything from rage to annoyance. What’s the object of your anger?
While the object of my anger during that tennis lesson was clearly more than those helpless little yellow balls twirling through the air, it has taken me a long time to figure exactly what I was angry/fearful/sad about.
Tonight, as Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant uncovered the hidden anger in a few brave studio audience participants’ lives, I thought back to something my therapist shared with me while I was weaving my way through divorce — she pointed out that I didn’t miss the exact situation of my life, I mourned the dream of what I thought it was or could be.
Ah, yes, the dream.
The crux of it all — where the hurt lives when the bubble bursts.
And, tonight, that is exactly where Iyanla went — straight to the hurt. In her signature Iyanla way, she dismissed all excuses and made her “students” dig deep, to the place of hurt — asking: Where is the fear? Where is the hurt? Where is the control?
When I ponder these questions, I find it ironic that the hurt, pain and control showed up in my tennis game long before they consciously showed up in my head, heart, body and soul.
As Iyanla said, anger is the easy way out. And, I guess, for me it was a lot easier to get angry at a tennis ball than at the situation where I found myself at the time.
In her closing remarks, Iyanla asked everyone to remember just how the challenge (whatever it was or may be) has blessed you.
The answers for me are too many to count.
But I can tell you one thing: these days, I treasure old, used, slobbered on, no-bounce tennis balls over new ones. Because new tennis balls don’t carry the teeth marks of Pup and the wag of an exuberant tail that says with each swing back and forth, “Hey you, look at me! I’m your blessing.”
Now throw me a tennis ball.