There are big T truths (e.g. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) and there are small t truths (e.g. one’s personal beliefs). I have two of my small t truths for you.
Don’t wait for friendship. Though introverts by nature, Hannah and I roam beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to meet others wherever we go. Relationships and friendships are possible.
Importance of saying yes. Previously, I would do a cost/benefit analysis in my mind for new activities. Worth my time? Would I really like it? Today, I generally make no calculations, and just say Yes, and sort out the details later. Let me explain.
Today, Hannah and I swim past our comfort zone into the deep end and drive 18 miles south from Carpinteria to the pickleball courts of Ventura to a place where we do not know a soul. There, Leonard, the pickleball ambassador, greets us. Ambassadors our usually genial, welcoming, and supportive, and Leonard is certainly all that. Then, John steps up, introduces himself, and gets us into a game.
Throughout the morning, I pickle on the outdoor courts at De Anza Middle School with the guys, among them Bruce, Leonard, Jessie, Rodrigo, Jim, and Mark while Hannah slices and dices with some excellent women players.
As the morning of play wraps up, Mark says, some of us go to Ojai for lunch and then get a Chinese foot message. Would you two like to join us?
That would be a quick Yes.
Jump forward to our final outdoor pickleball Saturday during our California month of February away from home. As exclusively indoor pickleball players back in Maine, we learn of the challenges of playing in the open air. Rain in the drought-stricken Central Coast is not one of the issues. In this winter “rainy” season, we have had barely a tenth of an inch of rain the entire month.
Wind and sun are another matter. Always checking my Weather Channel app for the wind speeds, I have learned that five to ten mph is fine for outdoor play, with little effect on my game. Above 10 mph gets tricky and 20 mph is insane. Being in California, we have the ever-present blue skies. On one hand that makes for excellent tans for the New Englanders; on the other, hitting lobs into the sun becomes a roll of the dice.
Today, with the wind picking up throughout the morning, games become less about skill and more about dealing with the elements. Players with the wind must temper their shots while those against the wind must muster all their power to get the pickleball (like a wiffle ball) over the net. The comradery and sunshine trump the wind, as play wraps up for another Saturday.
Looking to mix the pairs for our drive to Ojai, I suggest to Mark that he drive with me and Hannah drive with Mark’s wife, Lynne. Just another stepping out of the comfort zone moment for us introverts. For the twenty-minute drive, which turns into forty because of roadside power line repair, Mark and I learn of our north Jersey connection (he Hohokus and me Fair Lawn [I know it’s I instead of me, but I don’t like the sound and flow of I.) and learn of each other’s families and past working lives (both public school employees, he a business manager and me a teacher).
Once in Ojai, we dine on the king-size sandwiches at Bonnie Lu’s and leave with half our BLT and Rueben for tomorrow’s lunch.
Properly nourished, we four head to the Bamboo Creek Spa in a store front just off the main drag in Ojai. Learning that there is no talking during the massage, we also only whisper in the waiting area, which makes us three deal with life on Hannah’s terms (she with the hushed voice).
Filling out the registration, we sign-in with our first name, select the service wanted (i.e. foot massage), and decide from 1 to 7 how much hand pressure we prefer on our feet. Being a first timer and soft, I opt for 3.
First, Hannah and Lynne are taken to a side room, as I trail behind with my ever-present iPhone. My blog does not wait. Being as little annoying as possible, I snap and retreat to the waiting area to, well, wait and whisper with Mark.
Mark and I are soon taken to the front room and seated in adjustable lounge chairs with remotes. In front of each of us are two-foot square ottomans; soon a towel is draped over the lower half of our bodies. Removing my sandals and socks, I wait. (nota bene – may I remind you that my socks have played two hours of pickleball)
Soon, a bathroom size waste basket is brought out with warm herbal water in a plastic bag. The foot soak begins my 30-minute massage ($21 per session seems like quite the bargain). The theory is that massaging reflex points in the feet restores natural energy flow. While Mark, a veteran of the foot massage, zones out, a woman approaches to dry my soaking feet and wrap each one in a towel. She then squirts soothing oil into her hands and let the massaging begin.
After two hours of pickleball and a reasonably big lunch, I am ready to nod off, but I have a stronger need to see what she does. Ever the photo journalist, I take pictures of the masseuse in action.
At times when she is working the sole of my foot, my foot involuntarily spasms as she goes from the front pad of my foot to the arch. Ever the pro, she senses my tic and continues gently.
Fifteen minutes on the left foot and then fifteen on the right. Delightfully refreshing, the massage has Hannah feeling that her sensitive and aching feet have never felt better. Thankful and mellow, we tip our masseuses.
Walking back to our cars with Mark and Lynne, I appreciate the new experience; the feeling of being among new friends made this one of the highlights of our month in February.
Our best experiences are always about the people, which happen more often when we head to the deep end and simply say yes.