From where we sat, the women managed the ball and with grace, speed, and precision, navigated their way around each other and down the court to swish the ball in the hoop. Bells rang. Buzzers sounded. Children cheered and bounced their balloon swords toward the ceiling.
I bought tickets to the Detroit Shock game after Asher said, “Mommy, you can’t play basketball. Girls don’t play that!”
No son of mine – no child of mine for that matter – will be bound by sexist assumptions, if I have anything to say about it.
So Sunday night as the sun set over the Palace of Auburn Hills, we found our seats in section 111 and ate cheese pizza on our laps as the strong, sculpted women of the Shock traversed the court. The arena wasn’t even half-full. Was that because the illusion of strong men is more compelling than the reality of tough women?
“I’m having fun,” Asher said, “I just can’t understand what they’re doing.”
“In almost every game, the goal is to get as many points as you can and keep the other team from getting any points of their own,” I replied.
Last night, I played basketball for the first time in weeks. Sweat trickled down my white T-shirt as I ran up and down the court. I scored three baskets in a row at the very end of the game. I blocked chatty Pam, I blocked 13-year-old Tamar, who was faster, quicker, and more strategic than me.
I think in the end my team won, but I’m not sure. After, I sat at a patio table with a friend and sipped red wine in the night.
Once, I told Asher that women are stronger than men. His eyes crinkled and he got very upset. “What do you MEAN?” he said. “That isn’t true!”
I tried to explain about emotional strength and physical strength, but he’s six. The conversation was lost on him but not on me.
There is strength and there is strength. There is the strength it takes to leave a marriage that doesn’t work and there is the strength you need to raise three small children alone.
There is the kind of strength that keeps you going when you can’t sleep but you want to, when you haven’t had adult interaction in 48 hours, when you are tired of looking at the same walls.
There is a silent strength among those who allow themselves to love, even when the very real risk of getting hurt presents itself. And there is the lack of strength when people protect themselves so well that no one can ever get close.
It takes no strength to hurt someone; that comes from weakness, from a deeply-held worry that no one will ever truly love you so no one is ever allowed to try.
I’ve had a tumultuous year. I barreled forward, fists-bared, ready to conquer, until my divorce was final. And then I settled in to a new way of living. Perhaps the initial weeks after the divorce became official were like that adrenaline-zone rush I get from playing a hard game of basketball – because it is only now that the air is clearing and I can see that I am alone among people, I am sad for the loss of so many ideals.
If you’d asked me a year ago what I took to be absolute, I’d have answered confidently and completely. I have no answer now. The framework I’d set up like a house of cards, delicate and careful, has tumbled. Husband gone, the religious strictures of my former life no longer making sense (if they ever did), my desire and capacity for love ever stronger.
It’s hard for a person like me to have no answers. A good dear friend keeps quoting Rilke, saying, “Live the questions.”
I’m trying. But there’s nothing like the even keel of a boat on calm waters, the softness of a tender heart in my hand, a voice eager to hear mine. Some day, I keep telling myself. Some day.