This month I took on ten pin bowling. Invigorated by my recent undertaking to learn how to ride a bicycle, I’d decided to try my hand at other things that had previously been placed in the “things I’m no good at” basket. So bowling it was!
I’ll be clear from the outset here, I’m no good. Firstly, I can’t ignore the fact that I’m wearing not only shoes that have no heel, but also shoes that defy colour co-ordination. When the lady at the shoe counter handed them over I stared at them for some time before I leaned in to her and inquired, “But, if they’re half blue and half red – how can they go with anything?” She looked at me as though I was speaking another language that she didn’t care to understand, then she turned away slowly as though quick movements might set me off.
When we got to our lane I asked my bowling buddy, “Do you think that maybe the bowling shoes company was being diplomatic with the colour scheme of the shoe? … You know, ensuring that no one person is singled out for their outfit not matching, by guaranteeing that everyone’s outfit will clash?”. There was a long pause in response to that question too, and that same, slow turn away with a muttered, “Umm, maaaybe”.
Anyway, as I bowled my last frame in my first Officially Learning alley visit, I was overcome with a deep and immense sense of relief, and alright, yes, pride. The thing that made me gloat was not my dazzling score of 42, but the fact that I had managed to not drop the bowling ball on my foot.
I had been so sure that damaging myself physically would be the outcome. I mean, I was positive I would be hurt! I had even envisaged it in detail in my mind: my furrowed brow, my toes squelching in the disgusting filth of a thousand other feet in those shoes, my trembling hand as the bowling ball slipped free and managed to find the most direct route to my left foot. I’d seen it all in my mind’s eye. So when the game ended and it hadn’t happened, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I turned to my bowling buddy and said “How good was THAT?!?!!”. It took some time for the slow glancing at the score board and back to me to stop before I got a “Mmmmm” in response.
I began to realise how many things I should be celebrating. Things that are so often only noticed when they’re NOT working. How often do you find yourself saying “What luck that I didn’t fall over today! I’m going to consider today a victory based solely on the lack of physical harm that befell me!” … And why don’t we?! It’s easy to forget the cupboard door’s open and then smack your head right into it. It’s almost impossible NOT to cut yourself on a freshly printed piece of paper when you collect it from the copier. The absence of these occurrences in a day should be celebrated shouldn’t they? I know I’ve let my emotional bundle drop when they DO happen!
Douglas Adams did the sums and told us the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galexy”. The answer is 42. Looking at that big, wonderful “42” on my score board, I began to imagine what the bowling league would look like if I were the rule book writer. I had crystal-clear image of a pack of uncoordinated, compulsively disordered eccentrics – all of whom were me – wearing team uniforms of outstanding style. Go team! 10 more points to you for even making it here! … 42 more points even!
I got a little bit excited when I remembered that I am actually a writer, and that I could actually write the rules if I chose, and perhaps even umpire the whole game. I began taking mental notes … “Let my friends have their games of smarts and swathes of achievement” I thought, “in my world, those things don’t get points as high as walking straight onto the escalator without tripping”.
In that moment, in the bowling alley I saw a teenager in the next lane do a little victory dance to celebrate his strike. He was winning too. His scoring system obviously varied substantially from mine, but we were both playing our games and wearing our hideous shoes and winning. Kindred spirits as it were. I did a little victory dance too. Why not?! I’ve checked the scores, and watched the video ref, it’s victory all ‘round. I got his attention and gave him two thumbs up, with a knowing victor-to-victor nod. He looked confused and then I saw that same, slow turn away. The one I’ve come to think of as the “dance of the impressed onlooker” … the one that gets an extra 10 points.