Lesson One: The last shall be first.
For the past two decades my husband and I have spent our time and money on family, so renovations to our house didn’t make it on to our to-do list. Now that our children have fledged and left the nest, we have begun to have conversations about renovations. We have talked about our master bathroom and the kitchen. Of all the possible renovations, the bathroom in our basement would have been last on the list.
Not any more. The toilet down there sprang a leak and we enjoyed the fun of cleaning up after a significant flood. It’s almost like our toilet down there said, “Oh yeah? You think you can forget about me? I’ll show you.” So the last renovation we would have considered has now become our first. Jokes on us.
Lesson Two: 60 is the new 25
My husband celebrated his 60th birthday on the weekend. The news of this event caused many of our friends to fall into stunned silence. 60? They could not believe that a person as active and as fit as my husband could be 60. But it was true.
He puts many 25-year-olds to shame. We look around at friends of the same age and it is the same story. 60 is not the new 50, or the new 40, or even the new 30. 60 is the new 25.
Lesson Three: You never know what’s going to happen, so make room for random events. (All you non-sports fans out there, bear with me.)
My goodness, but that was a barn-burner of baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night. So many flukes! Russell Martin—a professional baseball player for more than a decade who has played in four all-star games, and won a gold glove and a silver slugger award—made a Little League mistake at a turning point in the game. The odds against a player of his calibre making a careless throw that ricochets off the bat of the player in the box are astronomical. In baseball and in life, you just never know what’s going to happen.
Lesson Four: Respect is earned.
Such strong emotions between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. Intense. After the debacle of Russell Martin’s errant throw, José Bautista hit a home run to give the Blue Jays a comfortable lead. (He has a reputation for doing that, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone.) After he hit the ball really, really far—a certain home run—he admired his work and flipped his bat. The pitcher for Texas, Sam Dyson, didn’t like this, because according to unwritten baseball “code,” batters are supposed to respect the pitcher. They aren’t supposed to watch a home run or, worse, flip their bat.
I think we’d be hard pressed to find any baseball player anywhere who would not have shown emotion in that particular circumstance. Could the Texas Rangers admit that if one of their players had hit a home run, there might have been some celebration?
And José Bautista earned his celebration. I remember when he first joined the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a question mark. No one gave him any credit. People didn’t see his potential. But he worked and worked and worked. No matter what people might think about him personally, they have to respect his hard work and his talent. He earned it.
And Sam Dyson? He responded to the circumstances poorly. He gave up a home run, and that happens to pitchers. They have to learn to wear it no matter the circumstances, and no matter what the players on the other team are doing. He didn’t. He left his mound. He taunted the batters. He accused Bautista of doing what kids would do. Instead of accepting the loss with grace, he groused about the other team, just like kids would do. He didn’t earn my respect. In baseball and in life, no matter what the “code,” respect is not automatically granted; it is earned.
The managers of baseball teams in the post-season probably don’t want players on the field to be quite as relaxed as Snoopy, but they do want players who stay calm and focused no matter what mayhem surrounds them. May the mayhem be minimal and the focus maximal.
The musical Mama Mia! was in its gestation period 14 years ago when my husband and I spent a week in London, England on an anniversary trip. We landed there when the show was still in previews. We bought cheap, last-minute tickets on the aisle, row W.
We took our seats, and the house lights dimmed. After the curtain rose, two people slipped into the seats across the aisle from us. We didn’t pay them any attention. As the show progressed though, we noticed that when the audience reacted (positively or negatively) to something on stage, the two men scribbled furiously on notepads. We took a closer look and realized we were sitting directly across from Benny and Bjorn of ABBA. taking notes on how to make their show better before opening night.
An unexpected gift of the universe.
A few years ago, our family joined another family at a Toronto Blue Jays game. We bought tickets to ordinary seats and then joined a line-up to buy pizza and drinks before we sat down. As we stood waiting, a Rogers Centre staff member approached and asked if we would like to sit in the TD Comfort Zone. Sign us up! At that time, the big, cushy green chairs sat in the first row along the first base line, so we took our seats hollering distance from the legendary Bobby Abreu, playing first base, and José Bautista in right field.
An unexpected gift of the universe.
Those are just two of the moments in my life when the universe cracked open and delivered up more than I expected. I ponder sometimes, what led to those moments? Was I doing something to help bring them about? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that in both cases I was in a “ready for anything” kind of mood. Mama Mia! hadn’t opened anywhere yet and hadn’t been reviewed. We didn’t know what to expect. It could have been corny and horrible, or brilliant. (Let’s face it—with ABBA it could go either way.) We were ready for anything. The Blue Jays that day faced the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels line-up overflowed with big hitters with high batting averages. The game could have been a disaster for the Jays, or brilliant. We were ready for anything. “Bring it on!” we said, and the universe delivered.
I wonder what today will bring? Bring it on!
One of the things I love most about baseball is what it teaches about the dangers of perfectionism.
To be considered a very good hitter in baseball, a player carries a batting average of .300 or higher. One out of every three times he goes to bat, he gets a hit. And two out of every three times, he fails.
Ty Cobb holds the record for the highest all-time batting average at .366. The best hitter in the history of baseball failed at the plate almost two-thirds of the time.
How do you feel when two-thirds of your endeavours fail? Do you label yourself a loser and give up? Baseball teaches perseverance and big-picture thinking that dilute the poison of perfectionism. Baseball teaches that occasional miscalculated swings, short strides, or lapses in good judgement do not define a person: a body of work does.
If the professional baseball players of today had bought into the myth of perfectionism when they grounded out to first base as Little Leaguers, then we wouldn’t be able to watch people like the 2011 American League Home Run Leader, José Bautista, blast another homer out of the park. (Career average .254. He has failed at the plate three-quarters of the time.) Or see how the 2011 American League Batting Champion, Miguel Cabrera, magically gets himself on base again. (Career average .317. He has failed at the plate two-thirds of the time.)
Lessons for everyday people live in this beautiful aspect of baseball. If we carry a .300 average for our parental decisions, encounters with a person in need, or negotiations with neighbours , we are probably doing all right.
After all, there’s nothing to be gained from hanging up the cleats and never stepping up to the plate again.