Why Do It At All? | Be F-ing Awesome Today google4228e52aa5dfebc8.html

Why Do It At All?

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Just as a sunflower doesn’t sprout unless the seed is planted and watered, you can’t expect to grow and bloom if you don’t at least disturb the soil.

My mother, who I often refer to as Our Lady of Doom and Gloom, among other things, feared her own shadow. That’s why she protected (uhm, sheltered) us from going out in the world. To her the planet was filled with lions and tigers and bears (oh my) lying in wait to tear small unsuspecting children to smithereens.

“You want to play what? Have you EVER played tennis?”

I stood in the kitchen watching her cut the crusts off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “You don’t have a racket. Or tennis sneakers. Besides it’s hot outside. You’ll sweat to death and die,” she said, taking a long drag on her Virginia Slims.

She’d made me think about everything that could possibly go wrong, as if it would go wrong.

She was right of course.

I’d look like a fool for sure.

“Don’t you have any girl friends?”

I didn’t say anything because I knew my girl friends were under the neighbor’s porch piercing each other’s ears with a potato and sewing needle. No thanks.

“You shouldn’t be hanging out with boys all day. Boys don’t want to play sports with girls you know?”

She was right, again. Not about the boys. I had no business stepping on to a tennis court.

I’d never gripped a racket before, let alone had the first clue on how to swing it. I might look like my grandmother shooing black flies at dusk with a whisk broom. We laughed at her.

“It’s stifling hot,” my mother said, lighting up another cigarette. “Too hot to be outside.”

In New England we survived weather fluctuations like champs but my mother was more sensitive. In the winter we hibernated until we saw buds on the trees again. In the summer, when it wasn’t my Dad’s turn driving the carpool, we went to the beach. Now we were on day three of a summer heat wave, in the upper nineties, with no car, and we were expected to sit still and pretend we weren’t going to melt.

Our family owned exactly one noisy box fan that my mother dragged around the house like a dead animal.  Banking the corner from the hallway to the living room she stopped to catch her breath, and then stared me down: “Don’t think you’ll hog this breeze.”

I was thinking about playing tennis, but her words of doom and gloom played in my head.

No racket. No shoes. Sweltering air.

While I dreamed of wearing a cute white outfit like the tennis pros, my siblings sat quietly (obediently) watching cartoons, eating crustless sandwiches. Rumors of Hoodsie cups* circulated faster than the fan my mother had pulled in front of the television.

Tennis…Why do it at all?

The answer was simple: I wanted to try playing tennis.

I’d watched the ladies Wimbledon matches on television, and aside from the grunting, it looked like fun.

No racket? No problem. A friend said he’d loan me his big brother’s metal Rod Laver.

No tennis sneakers? No problem. My worn Ked’s worked just fine to pedal that trusty put-together-from-dump-parts bike.

My boy friends stopped by on their way to the courts carrying a giant red Thermos full of water.

So in cutoffs and a t-shirt (not white), and despite all the warnings, I went too…

A few hours later I returned home with a bruised knee from tripping on the asphalt and white patches on my cheeks.

“Congratulations!” my mother cheered. “You have heatstroke!”

Dad, shirtless in the plastic-covered recliner, fanned himself with the daily newspaper trying to forget how he’d peel out of it later.

“Dear, I warned her not to play tennis, but did she listen to me? No. Do they EVER listen? No.”

He looked over at me, sprawled on the couch with a cold cloth draped across my forehead.

When my mother left the room he moved the fan in my direction and smirked. “But you had fun?”

The smile on my face was enough.

I played again the next day. And every day that summer. In Ked’s. In the heat. With the boys.

Before school started I had saved enough money from babysitting and cashing in milk bottles (thanks Grandpa) to buy my own racket and tennis shoes.

Did I become a tennis star? Of course not. It wasn’t the point.

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So why do any of it at all?

Why risk your heart on love?

Why train your body to run a marathon?

Why tell stories at open mic night?

Why (finally) get a passport?

Why write a poem?

Why start the business?

Because chances are, there’s something that makes you a little nervous to even consider. But the thing you are brave enough to say ‘YES’ to, is the exact thing that just might lead you to your best life. Or one helluva fun summer.


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Original graphic and quote: Stephanie DelTorchio

Photo credit:  Maxime Bhm on Unsplash. Thanks Maxime!

*Hoodsie Cups are an iconic symbol of childhood in New England. With chocolate-flavored ice cream on one side and vanilla on the other, these 3-oz. single-serve cups have been motivating kids to clean their plates since 1947.

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