By: Lauren Anderson
So a few months ago, my dear friend Heather started a little group called “Terrible Tennis”.
In her youth, she was a state tennis champion, but hadn’t played in years. And she wanted a fun way to do something different to hang out with pals besides the typical “go to a bar/movie/restaurant”. She wanted to get back to her love of the game, and to get a little exercise as a bonus.
And because I only roll with very very smart people (not so humble brag), my genius friend immediately enlisted people to help her accomplish her goal. Because that’s how you do it right?!
I always admire how Heather declares her wants and needs out into the world. She’s really good at this. She enlists people to hold her accountable. Even though she’s the last person that needs it. Because when they were passing out the gift of “good follow-through”, I swear my friend got 2 scoops.
And hence, “Terrible Tennis” was born.
“Terrible” only in the sense that the group was to be low-stakes and high-fun. The before-mentioned criteria outweighing any previous skill or competition. The ultimate goal is to have fun and play a game together! What a joyous idea!
So when Heather asked me to be a part of the tennis group, I was an immediate “Hell Yes. I’m so in.”
Even though I know absolutely NOTHING about tennis. I said, “I don’t know how to play, though. Will you teach me?” And thankfully, I was answered with a resounding “Of course!”
We made plans to meet up with her later that week.
* * *
Now before we even get into the actual playing of the tennis, I want to note this exchange.
Because this marks a BIG difference in me. This is not the way old Lauren would’ve responded to this invitation at all. In fact, I’m not even sure old Lauren would’ve gotten the invite in the first place.
Not because Heather wouldn’t want to play with old Lauren, but because old Lauren was so shut down to athletic pursuits, I doubt she would’ve even thought to ask me.
Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about: I love to swim. I absolutely love it. I am good at it, always have been. Even though I’ve never considered myself an athlete in any way (until I started going to Solcana), I’ve always known I’m a good swimmer. It’s my little secret.
Swimming is good with my asthma. I can float, and I be in the water for hours. I don’t get cold or turn blue like some unfortunate souls. In fact, as someone who always runs 10 degrees hotter than most, the water always feels like a welcome reprieve. I love the feeling of being supported on all sides, and the gentle (or not so gentle) push-pull of the waves. It’s a real love affair.
But the act of getting into a swimsuit, and being in a swimsuit in front of potentially judgmental people was enough to keep me away from the beach/pool/boat party etc, for years.
It was just too dangerous in my mind ya know?
My love of swimming could never outweigh my fear of negative opinions. Especially from me.
And further still to protect myself, I remember saying stupid stuff like, “Ugh, the beach is so dumb.” So friends/people wouldn’t even suggest it as an option around me. They would just choose to do that stuff with others instead.
I remember years ago, I finally admitted my love of swimming to a close friend who also had some body stuff–separate from my own– but their relationship with their body had kept them away from the beach too.
We decided to start a club called “Secret Swimming”. We would get together in secret, and drive all the way out to the beach in Prescott Wisconsin, 45 minutes outside the city. So no one we knew would be there.
My friend would bring a flask of whiskey and–once we parked– we would take pulls from the flask for courage. After what seemed like hours and a lot of encouragement from each other, we would let our bodies greet the sun.
First a leg out, then the shoulders. It was a real process.
And then I would get into the water. I remember the bravery (and extra swigs of whiskey) it took to get from the beach blanket to the waves. That walk felt a lot like a proverbial Green Mile of body dysmorphia. But the call of the water was so strong. It was like meeting up with an old friend.
In hindsight, my heart really aches for old Lauren. Why did I imprison myself like that?
Duh Lauren. It was FEAR. Fear fear fear fear fear.
But before I let the tears roll mourning that time in my life, I want you all to know that I don’t feel this way anymore. Not because my body has changed dramatically either… because it really hasn’t. But the fear of judgement and the hatred I had for my body is GONE. Like a whisper. I know it was there at one point, but I just can’t seem to find it anymore.
Thank freakin’ GOD.
In fact, just the other day I bopped on my swimsuit for the first time this season, to go water-walking with my good friend, and I didn’t even think twice about it. I remember checking myself out in the mirror and being like, “Dang Anderson. Get them girls OUT!” And honestly, kinda feelin’ myself.
No more fear, only excitement about getting into the water.
(Okay… aaaaaaand now I’m crying.)
* * *
But back to tennis.
I meet up with Heather and she expertly walks me through the basics. Of course she’s great at coaching me. She is a natural leader. She gives me the perfect amount of technical advice, and then baby steps me into success.
I am reminded immediately of all the coaches at Solcana. Cause they do this for me in virtually every class I take there.
I fail. I fail hard. I laugh and I try again. I hustle. I even hit a few balls. Heather and I are laughing, and by the end of the hour, I am volleying balls back and forth with her. It feels like a real accomplishment.
Here’s something else I notice. I jog to retrieve ball after wayward ball, and I don’t get tired. I don’t need my inhaler. And suddenly I’m thankful for all that jogging I’ve done down the alleyway at Solcana.
When I bend to pick up the ball, I use my glutes to pull me back upright, and my back feels strong and able. And I’m thankful for all those hours I’ve spent on proper squat technique.
I am able to receive instruction and try new things, with the same “Here Goes Nothing!” attitude I try and adopt at the gym. And I am thankful for Solcana’s programming that’s constantly changing to keep me on my toes.
And lastly, I take a minute to reflect on the eagerness I showed in accepting the invite to play tennis in the first place. The old Lauren might’ve made an excuse. I might’ve come up with a “The beach is dumb” version for tennis. But almost with joy, I enthusiastically chose to dive in and try it.
And I didn’t need any whiskey to get out on the court. (Whiskey is for after…)
I am more inclined to do athletic things, because I can finally see myself as more of an athlete. An athlete that prefers to have some fun and rock my body, than any form of competition– but still an athlete nonetheless. I can’t wait to get back out on the court and have some more Terrible Tennis fun.
I will never stop being grateful to the immense body work (both mental and physical) I’ve done, and all the people and patience that helped get me here. It was/is no small feat. And it is still a process… but hot damn is it worth it. Playing tennis with Heather was a good reminder of that.
Because not only is the grass greener on the other side, but the water is just right.