How can I tell you what the hard leather felt like in my hands? It was something I lived.
Sucking the cold air deep into myself, holding it inside until it was warm, watching the exhale hang before my face. And then the doors creaking open. That hollow sound of potential energy as we filed into the gym. Shoes squeaking on the hardwood.
I knew the ball. The deep brown-orange, pebbled leather. The thick veins. It pulsed in my hand upon arrival, and I pumped it between my palms, bringing it into my body, to my chest, elbows out. This place, this radius was mine, and I could keep it.
Shooting guard. Pancoast. Number 33. My game high was 29 points (against Cal High School, Halloween night, 1999). I'll never forget the stretch in my tricep, the extension, the spin off my pointer finger.
But beyond the satisfaction of the shots, the swishes, was the beauty of the sport itself.
Glistening girls charging and streaking up and down the court, circling and spinning around the key. Color. Melodious voices, sopranos and altos, calling plays and calling to each other. Harmony. Hands and fingers slapping and snapping together. Rhythm. Whistles and applause. Music.
The game was beautiful enough to warrant the harsh practices and the incessant running up and down the metal bleachers.
And I could do all that. I wasn't best in the league, but once or twice I was the best on the team. So, I didn't question my skill. I was a ball player. I was an athlete. Why is that so easy for me to say, even though I didn't take it anywhere? I coached four season of high school level volleyball, but that ended for me in 2003. How can I still hold my Athlete title? Unquestionable. But when it comes to writing, something I studied, I shy away from the Author title.
Because I am unpublished. Publication. The Holy Grail. Or is it? Is it necessary? And why is it taking me so long to get around to it?
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson
If that's it, fear of my own possibility, I really ought to be able get over that. If anyone can take me, I'm it. Beyond that, shouldn't I aim for something that will make me happy before I aim for something I believe the world counts as "success"? Publication may come eventually, but I'd be proud of myself if I merely completed a single one of these stories I have stewing in my brain.
Going back to basketball, the pep talks we heard between the high metallic bursts of the whistle should work for me in this instance, too. (And it's especially helpful if I remember the way my teammates and coaches said 'em. Don't worry... I'll translate so that they make sense for me now.)
Hit that shot, Pancake! - No hesitation. Just write it down. Exactly the way you heard it in your head. If you second guess yourself, you lose.
Watch the pick! - Knowing an obstacle is coming and preparing for it, rather than running headlong into it, is always a good idea.
Hustle it up! - You've got the rest of your life to sit on your butt and fold laundry. For now, pick up the pace and generate something worthy of reading.
Protect the paint! - Make some space your own. Don't let anyone inside. Work the magic you know you can once you've established your house. (Or should I say, "Howwww-suh!)
Work her out, Aud-dawg! - Usually referring to my opponent on the court, now it can refer to the doubting girl who pouts in the corner and wants to watch Friends over and over again because there is safety in guaranteed laughter.
Keep your dribble. - Once the ball is on the floor, once the words are flowing onto the page, keep the momentum. Don't stop until your teammate is open or the lane is clear. Don't stop until the sentence, the paragraph is complete.
Frickin' Audrey is on fire! - Okay, this doesn't really apply. But I won't ever forget my coach, Kathy, hollering it at me in the Cal High locker room at half time, and whooping and screaming of my teammates revved up by my shooting streat. The Cowboys owned that game.
Leave the Lady-Face in the locker room - In order to compete, my coaches reminded us that we weren't little girls tossing a ball around at recess. We were women, strong and conditioned for a sport that required endurance, finesse and, above all, skillz . (Yes, I, the English major, am aware that I have misspelled the word "skills." Please allow me this infraction in the name of visual emphasis.)
And here I'd like to say a quick word about ladies playing sports. My dad wanted his kids to be athletic and competitive. He got his wish. I lived for volleyball first and basketball second. In the off seasons I swam or played water polo or prepared for the seasons to start again. But, as much as he was pleased to see the killer instinct had survived heredity and was alive with me, he wanted me to be a lady about it.
No swearing. No hot-dogging. No intentional fouls. No arguing with the refs. No intimidation. No pluralization utilizing the letter Z. No cat-calling. No mama jokes. No gangsta lingo of any kind.
For reasons I believe I may have outlined in a previous blog posting, Dad wasn't at many of my high school games. And so, because I wanted to win more than I wanted to be a lady (in fact I remember punching a boy in fifth grade for calling me a "lady" in front of my passel of male buddies), I did at some point participate in all of those forbidden behaviors. Even the occasional (most likely necessary) curse escaped my lips. But only in the very heat of battle.
And that's okay. I survived. Heck, I thrived on the adrenaline and the sweat and the searing cold air in my lungs as we opened the gym for practice. No lady in the history of our world has ever run twenty "suicides" at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. However, many a lady has donned her uniform and left the lady-face in the locker room to be reclaimed once the crowds go home.
Perhaps it takes the shedding of my lady-face to write my book, too. After all, it takes some guts to dig for truth and purpose in the muck of random ideas. Guts and stamina and a firm set of abs and, only every now and then, a sharp, intentional elbow to the solar plexus of the chick between me and the basket.