Upon a time that cosmically was not very long ago, I could defy gravity.

I could accomplish this superhuman feat almost at will. Each time I rebelled against Newton’s law, I’d swell with adrenaline. I’d gather myself after a few long strides and leap into the air, escaping the earth’s gravitational pull. Elevating, stretching towards the heavens. At the apex of these flights, I’d slam a large, orange, grooved ball through a metal ring.

I used to be able to dunk. With ease. I was no Michael Jordan, being that I stand a towering six foot, one inch in height, but for the smallest of moments during these assaults on the rim, I felt equal. Strong. Gifted. Free.

The basketball court has been a sanctuary for me for most of my life. A place free from worry or fear. I could spend hours there, in a universe all my own.

How odd was it that in one of the few places where I felt this free that I was hit with a reality that struck me with such a force I wondered if my private universe had imploded. Maybe it was fitting; I haven’t decided yet.

I was playing with friends with whom I have been in countless pickup games. I hadn’t been there in several months, thanks to plantar fasciitis wracking my left heel. I was finally able to walk without limping, so I decided it was time to get back to where I had always been welcome, where I knew I had always belonged.

Two trips up and down the court and I was completely winded. Worse, when I went to corral a rebound…I could not jump. Oh sure, my feet left the ground, but only just.

I’d lost my gift of flight. I am earthbound.

In fairness, I’ve not been able to dunk in many years. But I’d never felt so cemented to the floor as I did in that moment. Movement, vertically or horizontally, was labored. Until this incident, I’d been able to grab or touch the rim consistently. Now I would be fortunate to have my fingers slide across the bottom of the net. Earthbound.

I was able to finish that game. Afterwards, I felt as if I was wearing sneakers filled with sand. Walking was now an effort.

I’ve never felt heavier in my sanctuary.

The reality is that I am in my mid-40’s, and I shouldn’t expect to be able to repeat the athletic achievements of my youth. I’ve known this for some time, of course. But feeling so utterly unable to move as I am accustomed in a place that has held me safe for so many years felt like a betrayal. Initially, I looked at the sadness that was threatening to crush me as an inevitable thing. I was losing something that was dear to me, and I feared it was lost to me forever. Just as the tidal wave of blackness crested in my mind, a new thought saved me: this was the result of me utilizing procrastination and abject laziness for far too long.

For months, I’ve been meaning to get into a fitness regimen. The thought process is the same every day. “I’ll get to it next week. I have too much going on right now.”

I’ve been stalled on two separate books I’m writing. Again, my mind pulls its tricks: “I don’t feel like getting the words out tonight. But tomorrow I’ll get back into it.”

This process, I found upon full and true introspection, was at work in all of the nooks and crannies in my life. Laundry need done? I’ll fold it tomorrow. Household project needs to be finished? Time, man. Just don’t have enough of it. Or we don’t have the funds. I’ll get to it when we get paid. The kids want me to play some game with them? I’m in the middle of something. And so on. And so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’d let putting tasks on hold until some unspecified”later” become my modus operandi. For all my bluster of “being in the moment,” I was doing the opposite. Pushing all manner of things towards a tomorrow that might not come when it could and should be done now. Including ignoring my health until the next day, or week, or month.

I left basketball that night committed to turning that way thinking around, starting with my health. The next morning I weighed myself for the first time in months. A startling number appeared: I am 10 pounds heavier than I ever have been. I knew I was packing on a few pounds, but this was far beyond any expectation. Instead of being crushed by this, it gave me purpose. Now I had a number attached to my health, and I could work towards making that number lower and be more healthy. My children deserve to see their father live out their youths. My wife deserves a man who takes pride in himself. I will give them that, as much as I possibly can. As the saying goes, life is short. So why help shorten it by procrastinating my health away?

Health is but one aspect of my rejuvenation. If I do not apply myself to engaging in the now, I most assuredly will repeat the process that fed upon itself so well and kept me static. This post, its own small way, is an affirmation that I’m changing that old cycle and reversing its flow to one that works for myself and the ones I love. I’m doing this now, not later. That is but one small step, but it IS a step, and in the direction I need.

I may have had my sanctuary dented a bit by this revelation. In all honesty, it will never be the same for me. I am most likely never going to be able to take flight towards a basketball hoop again and feel the satisfying and thrilling slap of my hands upon the rim as I hurtle a basketball through it. But that is OK. That is the way the cosmos works: change is constant, uniformity is not. I may be earthbound, but I am not stationary.

Image courtesy of Arturo Donate