I grab a grimy ball and shuffle to the lane. Visualize! Firm wrist. Go straight. Follow through. The little ball finds the gutter. Again. A groan escapes my lips. I could be home on the couch.
Middle-aged and empty-nested, I’ve flung myself into a duckpin bowling league, and I come in last almost every week.
Of course, I already knew the basics, to roll the ball down the lane. Unlike when I brought my kids ages ago, though, no handy lane bumpers ward off the gutter balls. And, yep, gutter balls happen.
Still, I show up each week and give it my best.
I work on the simplest details. What’s so hard about not flopping my wrist? Yet it flops, over and over. While I focus on this new physical skill, my rusty brain’s on heightened alert: Wrist, arm, back, hips, and legs all have to work together to get a mark. I try to believe that every gutter ball carves not just a path of humiliation down the lane, but also a new path in my brain’s neural network, maybe even replacing an obsolete one or two.
Each week when Monday rolls around, I spend the day yearning to quit. I stink. I don’t know most of the women. I hate leaving the house. Yet those same reasons keep making me go. Every autumn the urge to hibernate hits hard, and I just want to hunker down in my safe and cozy home. So I grab my car keys and go, lace up the borrowed bowling shoes and pick up a ball.
Sometimes, I get a strike. I tend to follow up a strike with two gutter balls, and all those bonus points that dangled before me just a moment ago vanish in the silence like a firework that never went off.
What the duckpin!?
As I walk away from the still-standing pins, I take in the encouraging looks from the other women, shrug my shoulders, and smile.
Maybe next time they’ll all fall down.