Playing tennis without a ball (The Diet, Day 18)

I realize I’ve harped for a few days about my new Wii, but I think that’s okay.  It’s a harp-worthy topic…at least to me.

Probably every poet in the free world can quote you the Robert Frost line about free verse being like playing tennis without a net.  I have to admit that I always wondered what was so wrong with that.  Me and three quarters of the poets of the free world.

Regardless, I’ve developed a fascination this week for the idea of playing tennis without a ball.  There is a ball, but it’s imaginary.  You’re just swinging a remote control around in the air to make the ball move on the screen.  This is perfect.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me before to sally forth with a racket and no ball.  I could have been playing tennis for years if there were no ball to hit.  The ball was always the problem for me.

A friend of mine recently posted that she was outing herself as a diabetic.  I thought how brave and wonderful she was to say that for all of the internets to see.  I wondered how brave and wonderful I was willing to be.  So here goes.  My name is Sharon, and I have rheumatoid arthritis.

But that’s not what this post is about.  That’s just a necessary detail to move me along on my Wii tennis story.  I’m 42, and I’ve known about the arthritis for most of my adult life.  It’s okay.  It just means that I don’t adapt well to real sports.  My injuries don’t just stop by to visit.  They sign a lease and then make trouble about vacating when their time is up.

I envision myself as an outdoor person.  I envision myself playing tennis and basketball and volleyball and soccer.  But then I’m a poet, and imagination and reality sort of work out best for me the more disparate they really are.  I am just not a sports person anywhere other than inside my head.

Nor have I had much luck with aerobics classes.  I’ve joined classes I’ve loved at various points in my life.  And there are times when I get along with aerobics okay for weeks or even months on end.  But you see, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you don’t just continually get more and more fit the more you exercise.  You have setbacks.  Some to greater degrees than others.  Your setbacks have setbacks.  You become a cycle of setbacks.  And then you give up for a time, and that just makes everything worse.  Whatever else happens, moving on along to engage in that cycle of setbacks is the best you can do.  It means you are still using all of your moving parts, and that is a brave and wonderful thing.

And so I come to what playing tennis without a ball means to me.  I love it.  It’s a real game against an opponent, not just a repetitive loop of a TV aerobics teacher.  I can win or lose.  I can see statistics on how well I’m playing.  I can set goals for myself.  And if I have sometimes felt like an otter in a sea of French poodles when I’ve tried to go to aerobics classes, at home in my living room I can embrace my inner otter if I want.  But best of all, there is no impact, and therefore there is no pain.

Better than best of all, I have loosened up the stiffness in my shoulders and elbows considerably in just a few days of playing Wii sports, and playing quite badly I might add.

I feel like I’ve found a way to move forward, and those footholds on forward aren’t always easy to locate.

Anyone’s study of the human body would tell you that more data than can be collected in just a few days is necessary to discern the trends from the flukes, but I don’t care about that right now.  I care about the fact that I’m starting out a school year feeling like I have it in me to pull myself together enough to not just endure but prevail.

I spent money I shouldn’t have on this Wii.  It’s the best shouldn’t have I’ve squandered away since buying my stress reducing digital camera.

People seem to disagree on how many calories can actually be burned this way.  Possibly I’m burning no more than I would standing around talking with my hands to friends.  But that’s just not what this is about.