Okay, so I lied. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last. In my defense, however, I believed it at the time, so is that really a lie? Can believing a lie absolve you from guilt? How about absolved but stupid? Will you give me that?
The lie was about boxing. Three months ago I wrote about my interest in joining the university boxing club and how I went to a tournament as a spectator and was forced to swallow a heaping tablespoon of reality regarding my age (see That Train Left the Station). I decided to try it anyway, encouraged by an announcement that the post-tournament season was open to all interested faculty and staff. That’s all I needed to hear. I threw my hat in the ring, as it were.
Now, after weeks of training, I own a pair of Everlast, leather boxing gloves; boxing shoes; a mouthguard; headgear; gym shorts; jump rope; hand wraps; boxing club t-shirt; and gym bag. I even rented a locker at the fitness center for a full year. Some might call this obsessive. I call it committed, which is a notch below obsessive but not more than that because of my age, which basically means I am old enough to know better. I won’t admit to anyone in the club that I have a granddaughter their age. I suspect they already wonder about me.
As a side note that may interest anyone old enough to remember when phones had cords, I had to watch a video from the mouthguard manufacturer to learn how to use it. No joke. I thought all I had to do was put it in my mouth, but au contraire. It’s more involved than that. It reminded me of comedian Bill Burr’s complaint about having to download an app to make toast.
Now, I spar with partners one-third my age and younger. I find it interesting that no one has judged me, grumbled, or made a snide comment. In fact, I think they enjoy having me around. That may be because I model how mistakes and failure are part of learning instead of something to be ashamed of.
I used to talk about failure in the classroom. Now, I show students by not always keeping up in the workouts, not being the quickest to pick up footwork, and not being immune from a left hook to the face. I’d like to believe they look upon me as an elder who is not threatening or intimidating, since I am at their level. Thankfully, no one has taken out a bad grade or evaluation on me as “the professor.”
There’s also the lesson about age being just a number. Apart from physical or medical restrictions, that’s true for most people. Trying something new or unconventional requires you to balance a desire to grow with a willingness to be humbled, which is not the same as being humiliated. Boxing is not about humiliation but respect. You get it through the controlled release of aggression. Punching and being punched within established rules is a great alternative to therapy. The other day I referred to my Tuesday and Thursday sparring sessions as group therapy.
Boxing is not just a metaphor for life but a technique for living. It has forced me to focus on my strengths, not my weaknesses, such as they are. I try to take a defensive posture, letting the fight come to me and, whenever possible, wearing out my partner, who is younger and eager to prove himself, which reminds me of a joke my dad used to tell, but I’ll leave that for another post.
That doesn’t work all the time, and I am still learning the true meaning of defensive fighting, but it feels like the right strategy; that is, less being more. The same thing applies to writing, of course, where what is not said is often more important than what is said (see The Boxer). Now that I think of it, that applies to marriage, too. The rest is footwork and breathing.
Image credits: feature by Farkas Mario; ring, punching bag, mitt work by Jonathan Tomas; brown gloves by Sander Sammy; female fighter by Amin RK. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, deceased, living, and to come.