A memory floods me.
I am standing in the gym of the Jewish Community Center in Scranton, Pa. There are boys and girls playing baseball and I am one of them. I don’t know why I am here; I have no memory of ever being here again. Awkward with the others, uber-uncomfortable with the place, I nevertheless stand so settled into the moment.
I stand guarding first base with an ease beyond my ten-year-old’s experience in either mind or body.
I know first base.
I know this deeply.
I don’t know how I know it—why I know it—who might have taught me to know it.
None of that matters.
Then it all happens quickly.
The batter hits the ball.
I still hear the crack against the bat, announcing its powerful ascent.
The ball flies toward me and in a sliver of a second and smack/burn-without-thinking-without-knowing -without-doubting- without-even-seeing, I receive the burning flame of a ball as it flows into me……………….
and with an ancient knowing, I continue that flow of energy without interruption and perfectly pitch the ball across the court to the 3rd base person, who receives it effortlessly.
Double-play, the gym teacher shouts into the echo-chamber of the gym.
Three out! Sides retired.
I can still see his face.
He looks at me, with shock.
Can’t remember his name, but I remember he wasn’t Jewish. (That was a big distinction then—who is, and who isn’t Jewish, a compass to navigate my world.)
I never will forget his look, his ultimate surprise, at my ability.
And I never have played baseball again.
The thrill of that day frightens me.
I hide my freedom, I hide my knowing the flow state so deeply.
I hide his acknowledgment deeply beneath layers of shame in my little girl body.
Somehow, I know I cannot, I should not, be this free.
Somebody will find out.
Find out what? That I dream of girls, of kissing, of touching?
That I’m afraid and alone?
I don’t know.
But I do know—
I should not, I cannot feel this good.
I should not, I cannot be this connected.
How open I was as a kid to that flow state, a little jock deeply living inside, waiting to explode into play. My Girl Scout Camp saved me; there my embodied little girl self was fully invited, fully encouraged, and so fully celebrated.
Yet, then what? Any attempt at sports or physical play into adulthood, and there were few, didn’t stick with me. For those of us women of pre-Title IX generation, few opportunities existed for us to find ourselves within a team, with others, moving and playing.
Here’s a depressing statistic: The Huffington Post UK (8/15) tells us that girls become self-conscious and stop playing sports as young as seven years old. Through “loss of confidence and the fear of being judged”, they opt out. How heart-breaking. This is exactly what happened to me.
I was terrified of being judged, even though I was judged positively!
Even that was too much to abide.
The little girl inside of me truly was denied the structure of sport and play, which might have offered release, solace and flow.
Today, a thousand years later, I think of this child, this little Nan, so eager to play, so beyond-fluid in movement.
I want her back.
I commit to that child.
I commit to her playfulness.
To the perfection of her movement.
To the delight of her body.
I commit to finding ways to play, from inside out.
I commit to liberating her from her ancient and frozen shame.
I commit to moving into September with this child reunited.
I commit to creating ways to move and play that bring ease and celebration.
I don’t know what they are quite yet.
Nevertheless, I choose her.
I choose her freedom.
I choose her expression.
I choose her love.
And dear reader, what about you? Any childhood memories of play or sport? Any ideas for September? Let’s move into this next month with our bodies ready for the joy of movement. What might that look like for you? Please keep me posted. As always, I am firstname.lastname@example.org