My study breaks are usually time away from the computer for family things like dinner, or a family walk, or an errand to the store. After the kids go to bed, a glass of rum or scotch soothes me into a relaxed and contemplative mood. Instead of papers, we have incorporated family movie night into the schedule once a week, and they are great fun. But I still find myself thinking about my papers.
When I came home from the stop lossed tour in Iraq, I wanted to play baseball as a form of exercise. I wanted to do something for me, to enjoy living life again. I joined a competitive, 18+ wood bat league and found that I hadn’t missed a beat. I hadn’t played in nine years, but I could still keep up with the kids fresh out of high school. But, after a dozen games, my arm fell off. I was pitching and my humerus snapped. I still remember the ball flying into the backstop behind the batter. I remember the sound of the break and my barely attached arm floating toward the dugout while my body spun a half circle and collapsed to the ground beneath the pitchers mound. I laid silently on the ground with my arm twisted and contorted in unnatural ways next to me. The umpire walked up to me as my team crowded around me. “That’s a ball.”
Fortunately, the nerves were not severed, but they were damaged. My elbow used to extend greater than 180 degrees, and I now settle for about 170 degrees. It took seven months for the nerves to regenerate to where my fingers could extend. It took the thumb another three months. My arm had shriveled to a skeletal stick, but the break healed naturally on its own after being set in place. It isn’t perfect, but it is strong.
The Day After, June 2007.
After the break, I lost flexibility in my range of motion, as well as general strength. My shoulder is still tight. I can throw the tennis ball for the dog, but the days of throwing 85mph fastballs and knee buckling curves are over. There is no velocity, and no easy loft in my form. That is why I started doing pushups: to regain something that I have lost. I can only do ten, but hose ten are the hardest ten I’ve ever done and it feels so great when done. I hope for the muscle memory to kick in. I hope to work the strength back up—not to pitch again, but because it’s gratifying as an accomplishment.
Last night, as a study break, I did twelve pushups before my abs collapsed and my back caved in. Each night, I’m only going to do one set. I want to get the blood flowing. I want to break up the monotony of living online. I want to do just one more pushup a night than I did the previous night. That would be an accomplishment I can toast to before returning to Yeats and Wordsworth and Eliot and Mcphee and Volmann and Mitchell and Didion.