Whiny

I opened the package and tried to discern how I was to rip them apart. I spread it out on the floor before me. This type of situation puts to the test my higher education. How can two pieces of multicolored plastic suddenly make me feel so inferior?  

I looked to see her easily sliding them on and tying them like she had done this a million times before.  

“How did you figure that out?” 

“It’s easy.”

Like I am a toddler. 

In our quest to make ourselves better people, I had opted to use an at-home slipper that promised my feet would be brand new. I just had to surrender sixty minutes by not moving. Right there almost made me turn back. It’s not that I don’t have the time, but the willingness to sit still for that long. And, if the treatment needed to be more extensive, I would have to tough it out for ninety minutes.  

Was it worth it?

While I examined the contents and looked again at the directions, she settled back in the recliner, comfortably scrolling through her phone, not concerned about the minutes she would lose. When you are pre-30 and have your entire life, that is how life goes. You can carelessly toss aside time like it means nothing.  

“Did you tear these in two?”  

Anytime I don’t know what I am doing, I assume I will do the wrong thing and then won’t be able to fix it. I wasn’t confident I had the right perforation line. 

“You can’t wear them while they are connected,” she said, laughing.  

It wasn’t supposed to be like locking up part of yourself in a straight jacket. The fewer instructions that come with something, the more I overthink.

With that, I threw all caution to the wind and tried to figure out which was left versus right. Whoever designed this had not taken that into account; there were no rules so that they could be put on either side. 

I peeled open the right one, the one I chose for my right foot, because there were no mistakes with these. If you like to subject yourself to having goo go between all of your toes, this is for you. If you have unexpectedly stepped in something yucky out in your backyard, it’s like that. 

Each one contained a formula to help you shed skin that was no longer serving you while moisturizing.  

This process was about convenience and having you walk free of rough, dry patches without having to soak them or scrub for days. The shock of the cold slime that instantly wraps itself around does not make it easy to put on the second one. You know what’s coming. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Within moments of securing them with ankle tape, she said,

“I’m thirsty.”

“You couldn’t have been thirsty two seconds ago before I made this commitment? One of us would have still been able to get up.”

I had sat in the middle of the living room putting these on, and I wasn’t confident enough to walk two steps over to the couch. I was considering rolling or crawling. 

I was trying not to see myself filling out the intake form at the doctor’s office.

How did you fracture your leg?

I slipped on my moisturizing sock, trying to make myself into a better person. 

No, that was not how this was going to go.

She squished her way into the kitchen without my help. 

While at the onset, it was a chilly start to the process, by the end, I felt like I had inserted my feet into a fireplace.  

Unable to take the feeling any longer, I removed them.  

“Are we supposed to see something?”

“I think we are to rinse this off, and then maybe the magic will happen.”  

We did that and saw nothing change. My feet just felt extremely clean.  

I didn’t think of it until she showed me her heels a few days later.

Similar to after a bad sunburn had started to flake, this was what was happening to her. As she began pulling off a sizeable dead piece of skin, I felt my throat closing up.

It wasn’t a blood and guts moment, but it was not a pretty sight. I tried to cough away the bad.

“Look at this!” she said, fascinated.

“NO,” I said, closing my eyes. 

“I have brand new skin underneath all of this!”

“Do it without me,” I said, trying not to choke. 

Aside from the gag inducing shedding process, it is extraordinary how God has designed us to transform, heal and become new physically. We can lose weight, improve our strength by pushing ourselves to lift heavier objects, and have a gaping wound close shut if we treat it right. 

Along the same line, we can do this with how we think. You view situations in the same way you always have, and after a while, a distorted view of reality can become a truth with the evidence you think supports it. It is safe to say that it becomes easier not to change as life progresses. But, you can do so. It’s a choice.

A few months ago, I had a friend quote this scripture repeatedly to me:  

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst, the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17 ESV)

She was encouraging me to leave the past in the past and move on.  

Many of us struggle to apply verses from the Bible to everyday life. I do as well.

But, I did meet an old wineskin on the pickleball court. 

My daughter and I have been playing for a few weeks after figuring out the simple rules and getting past major sore muscles when we started.  

After the first day, I went to get up from a seated position and realized everything below my waist was on fire. She developed tennis elbow from the cheap, awful wooden racquets we started with.  

The park we initially went to was set on a court meant for tennis but had been remarked to accommodate this new sport. Weeds were starting to overtake the entire area. On my side, I had a crack the size of the San Andreas Fault running right through it, so when her incoming ball hit that, I had a difficult time trying to return it.  

This wasn’t a high priority on the city beautification list. 

She found a new location offering three well-kept spaces with no one on them. We began going often as this is only a few minutes from my house.

Everything was great until we showed up on a Tuesday morning, and two of the three courts were taken up by doubles players from a nearby senior establishment. They all socialized like they knew one another. We started playing on the open court.

Because we have played only singles and are good, neither one of us has branched into doubles. We are there to sweat and get in a good workout for at least an hour. While I listened to conversations about gout, gallbladder surgeries, and other ails of aging, she and I kept to ourselves and played as usual.  

At the end of one of our games, I was approached by a woman who asked if we wanted to play doubles. I declined, explaining that we were there to play the entire court, and we weren’t interested. We returned to what we were doing as this has been asked of us many times when we have been there alone. 

I noticed out of the corner of my eye a different woman hanging on the fence watching us.  

At the beginning of the serve, we announced our score, and what I didn’t realize was this person was keeping track so she could boot us out.

“Are you done with your game?” she asked.

“Yes. We are going to switch sides and play another one.”

“The rules state that you have to let doubles play through.”

I looked at the other two courts she and her friends had already taken over and saw that they didn’t have enough players to take ours too.

Because I was slightly intimidated by her and didn’t want to deal with it, I decided to leave.

Instead of fighting it out with them, I changed my morning to accommodate their schedule. I set my alarm the following week and got there by 6:45 as I had noticed they were not showing up until 8 am. This was the only day of the week they were coming, so we had no problem getting our hour in all the other days.  

All was going well until they showed up at 7:30. Again, we kept on playing, hoping to finish before they all appeared.  

I could feel the stares and started to hear the remarks about how they only had seven people. They didn’t have enough to take over two courts. The middle one was now occupied by a man who had shown up with a ball launcher and was practicing alone.  

This group sat on the bench, considering their options. Do they kick us off again or go after the ball launcher guy? I tried to ignore the ring leader’s talk about how she disliked her neighbor and said,

“And another pet peeve of mine is…”  

On and on, this person went about how horrible life was treating her. I wonder why? 

My daughter and I had made a pact not to announce our score again when they showed up because this was what started the trouble before. 

A man approached me on my left.

“Do you want to play doubles?”

“No, thank you,” I said. “I know your group gets here by 8, so we try to show up early, so we don’t infringe on your time. We want to finish up and leave so you can have the court.”

I had the feeling that the women of this bee hive had sent him over as the worker bee to clear the way.

When he heard my words of ‘not wanting to infringe on your time,’ he started to fold like a house of cards.

He mumbled,

“The rules say…”

He was going to launch into the speech again.  

“Hey! This guy wants to play with us!”  

Saved by the bell. The ball launcher guy was willing to fill in to make 8 players. 

“So, do you guys have 8 to play now and two courts?” I asked the worker bee.

“Yes. We should be good.”

“Okay. We were going to leave and not impose on your time. That was our plan.”

He walked away, and she and I continued to play.  

Suddenly, one of the queens appeared on my left.

“Do you want to play doubles?” She had overheard my conversation already, so this was a trap. 

“No. We got here early so we wouldn’t disrupt your group. You usually arrive at 8, so we will try to leave by then.”

“You need to read the rules right over there. It says if there are doubles players, you need to leave.”

“I understand that. That is why we came here early.”

I took in her dark glasses and her tight-lipped expression.

“I know, but you need to read the rules…”

“I know how to read. I have read them. And, we are trying to accommodate you.”

“You need to march yourself over there and read the rules.”

“Do you have only 8 players here?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have 2 out of the 3 courts right now?”

“Yes.”

“Then no one is breaking the rules you are referring to. We are trying not to impose on your time.”

“These are busy pickleball courts, so you need to read the rules.”

Like a broken record, she was going around in a loop.

“I am not going to argue with you,” she said with authority.

“Me either. I think we agree, and no one is taking over anything from anyone.”

“Pickleball is a friendly sport, and you have a nasty attitude.”

Here came the character assassination next because I wasn’t letting her have her way. I have found that control freaks and narcissistic personalities don’t like hearing no, and when they are denied their way, they go for the jugular. 

“I am not taking anything away from you. I have explained that.”  

She turned on her heel and walked away.

“You are disrespectful,” she said over her shoulder.

“And, you are territorial.”

The man who had come over looked at me sadly out of his eye. The day before, he had biked by, saw us playing, smiled, and said hello. I had done the same.

Now, he was associated with the pickleball mafia. They could show up when they wanted and take over by quoting the rule speech no matter how much I tried to explain. The underdog will never beat them at their game because there would be no pleasing these people. 

Even the best people pleaser would come up short. As I looked at her back, I wondered what lucky man was married to her and did her dirty work to keep the peace. 

Yes, I thought that. I didn’t say it. 

If we had played doubles, they would have eventually sat us out to rotate in their friends, having us sit on the sidelines. What a great racket to run, or should I say paddle? 

Shortly after, I picked up my equipment and left because I saw more of their members arriving, and I was keeping to my promise of not infringing on their time.

It was like being on a playground with the bullies taking over the swings and the monkey bars.  

And that is what an old wineskin looks and acts like, just in case you wondered. 

God can do nothing with a person who only sees her outcome the way she wants it, no matter the disturbance it causes others. 

As we left, my daughter, who rarely says anything in situations such as these, turned to me and said,

“Humanity is sad.”

“It’s because they have to stay in control over everything, and at the end of it all, they won’t be.” 

I don’t appreciate being subjected to this behavior. Still, I also knew that I was given a divine message meant to make me stay on my course of remaining flexible, being able to see situations from all angles, and extending kindness to others.

The choice is always going to be yours. 

You can either be a fine wine. Or you can be whiny. 

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