When I was a kid, my mom and I used to play badminton in the yard. Badminton, as it turns out, is not only a terrifically fun word to spell and say, but it is also a hilarious sport, especially when you are completely lacking many things that “other” people may consider crucial to the “sport” of badminton like a net, badminton skills of any kind, and a flat surface upon which to play. We had some tennis rackets, a birdie and a portion of the yard that wasn’t quite flat, nor really very large, but that would do for what we reckoned as our Olympic version of the sport. And, if you consider peals of laughter as points, we were, like, really, really, really good at badminton. Also my friends and I were quite excellent at tennis, s’long as there weren’t any other people on any of the three courts and we could have free reign of the entire arena.Whoever expects these sports to be judged by one’s ability to whap some kind of ball over some certain other type of thing is really fucking up somewhere along the line. No borders, man! I come from a long line of game players and sports teams who do nothing but lose tragically when you look at the scoreboard but win utterly when you look at the crooked “well good thing I give no f***s about that winning business” sideways grins. Plus, in soccer, the only thing I really wanted to do was kick the ball as far as I could, anyway. Nobody gives you any points for how far you can kick the ball, but they should.
This memory of playing net-less, ruleless badminton with my mom in the yard has been presenting itself in my frontal lobe with rather stunning frequency lately and I have been doing some considerin’ of why that may be. And I have figured it out. Its because I feel as though I am playing badminton in my soul. Its because I feel as though I am diving for a birdie each and every moment, whapping something back at the cosmos. And the types of things I’m diving to save are issues like my own sanity, the hearts and minds of the people I love and the basic ability to continue feeling good about stuff like the state of the world, the environment, the point and purpose of this whole crazy ass charade we’re participating in and, in general, the atmosphere of my own mind, no matter how much s**t continues to happen. Its enough to make a surly badminton player throw down their racket in utter disgust.
Negativity and defeat are what I’m talking about. Someone says “you can’t do this,” someone else is showing you exactly how they not only can but ARE. Somebody else is saying “no, that’s not possible,” and someone else is yelling “YES IT IS WATCH THIS!” Some folks are saying the environment is dying and some folks are chaining themselves to things to keep Yellowstone from killing more buffalo and being greeted with success. Some people sit on the docks and bitch about their broken outboard motors while I row happily into a 30 knot headwind. Some people complain all day about their aching whateverthehells and other folks compete in the Iditarod just years after nearly dying in ice-related accidents. Some people do nothing because they don’t have any money, some people haven’t had any money for years and can’t believe how beautiful this sunset is, my goodness! Hell, I just spent time with one of my favorite people in the whole world who recently had his jaw wired shut and said to me, while eating spaghetti one noodle at a time without the ability to chew, “There are no problems, only solutions!” And the noodles were delicious!
Everyday, I play badminton in my own brain as my own mind, infiltrated by years, maybe even generations, of patterned and learned abuse, tries to convince me that, no matter how hard I try and how glorious I may be, nothing is ever going to work and I am going to fail. I mean, we could just hold down the example to the uncharted territory of my own psyche, to keep it simple. My habitual brain says no, my creative brain says yes. Just when I think I’m standing on top of Badminton mountain, tragedy whaps me right in the achilles heel with her racket and there I go, right back down to the bottom again. Ow, goddamnit! And maybe its society, or maybe its gender, or maybe its human nature, but I’m just trying to figure out how to feel less like one of those blow-up punching bag dudes that keeps bouncing back up again no matter how hard they’re hit. But I think that’s pretty much par for the course and a measure of grit, of spirit, of enthusiasm for living, and, s’long as I keep participating in the game of Life, I don’t expect the game to get any less ridiculous, but perhaps I can stop hitting the birdie’s so hard everytime. Fighting that hard is a lot of energy to expend, maybe I can learn to save it up for the occasional Ace.
Imagine it. Whatever you’re pursuing in your life, imagine some kind of opponent on the other side of the net. You can even assume that awesome lean over onto your toes, stick your butt out, eyes on the prize position that so many tennis players eyeball their opponents with. Even motion one of those “bring it” hand signals while you wink at the elusive. But whatever is on that other side of the net ain’t another person, it’s whatever you’re up against in your life. Be it depression, be it oppression, be it judgement, be it physical injury, be it impossible circumstances of any kind, pretend you’ve got the chance to whap the birdie of sadness with your racket of hope. It’s pretty liberating, really. Eye of the tiger is absolutely playing over the loudspeakers as you envision all the other times in your life you HAVEN’T failed, all the people that you love and who love you, and all the ways you can imagine that humanity isn’t boiling themselves in a pot of their own putrid idiocy. Because we really can do a lot of things, if we let ourselves and we really can be happy as hell, if we let ourselves. You can also learn to spin the racket like a badass, wear a super hot little tennis number and make as many hilarious grunting noises as you’d like as you smack that birdie. That is, if you’ll let yourself.