“It’s not how hard you hit the ball, it’s where you place the shot that matters”
-Sarcoidosis Soldier, 2015
My husband and I were at the neighborhood tennis courts this weekend, hitting a few balls and trying to get a little exercise. The court next to ours was also in use. Another couple was already there when we arrived. They had been there awhile. You could tell because there were tennis balls all over the place and they looked pretty hot and sweaty.
As my husband and I began to warm up, hitting balls back and forth over the net, we got into a quiet pleasant rhythm and it felt comfortable and easy and fun, until I realized we were actually subject to the constant chatter of the couple next to us.
I found the more that I tried to tune this couple out, the harder it was for me to focus on the ball and I began to miss shots. The husband was belittling his wife and she was nagging him not to hit the ball so hard. They were obnoxiously and unnecessarily cruel to each other.
Eventually they took a break, and the man got on the phone with someone. I heard him, because he was not at all quiet, asking someone to come to the court so he could hit some hard balls with someone. Soon, another man arrived and the woman left. I hoped for peace but found none because as this guy started to hit balls hard, he started grunting with every shot he hit.
And, he whined and complained if the other man hit a short ball that forced him to run or if the other man hit a shot he could not return. I was growing increasingly annoyed at the spectacle this man was making of himself. He was beyond a nuisance and I found him to be incredibly irritating.
I worked hard to keep him tuned out. I kept telling myself to focus on my own game, to watch the ball, get my racquet back and move my feet. Yet, all I could really hear was the blah, blah, blah and the grunting coming from the court next to ours.
Later that day, I got thinking about how I really let this guy get under my skin, and then something occurred to me. I realized that he annoyed me because he was too eager to impress and his focus was in the wrong place. He didn’t want to work for a shot. He was lazy. He assumed that if you just hit the ball hard, the game should come easily to you but the game doesn’t work that way. And, neither does life.
I realized right then and there that the way he was trying to play the game, is a metaphor for life, for the fact that you cannot take short cuts without consequences. You see, in tennis, it isn’t always how hard you hit the ball that matters, sometimes where you place the shot is more important. Life is like that too.
We can charge our way through life like a bull dozer, but when we do, we need to be prepared for the fact that we will miss the simple nuances which are the things that bring the most joy. We can be the schoolyard bully if we want to be, but then we miss what love feels like. We can force our ideas on people, but then we miss the opportunity to gain from others wisdom.
At the time we were playing tennis, I was not happy with that guy being on the other court. And if truth be told, I hope not to see him again any time soon. But, I will say that his presence and his attitude and the way he played the game did provide me with the opportunity to be reminded of an important life lesson.
Life is a delicate balance of strength and finesse. It requires savage strength sometimes but it also cries out for patience and peace. A successful life is the mastery of flair and artistry over brawn and brutality. Life is delicate and should be treated as such.