Picture it. My son was at bat playing rookie ball. 9 years old. He was waiting to receive a pitched ball from a “controlled-velocity pitching machine.” Nada. And when I say “nada” I mean “nada.” He stood at home plate a full ten minutes while parents tried frantically to figure out why the machine wasn’t working. While it wasn’t the real seventh inning stretch, it sure felt like it.
There are lots of ways he could have handled it. The amygdala (fear-based) response? Fight, flight, or freeze. He didn’t do any of those. Remaining at the plate, he held up his bat and waited. He chose differently.
As I remember that hot summer morning, that moment etched itself on me. I learned from him.
Acceptance not Patience
Character develops in small experiences like these not always the grandiose gestures we associate with growth from movies and books. My son accepted the moment, without strings. He didn’t try to change it or shape it to what he wanted. He saw the parents were doing their job fixing the pitching machine so he could focus on his.
Some might call that patience and, yes, that’s true. But patience is also ego-based. It’s an act of willpower; it comes from the self. Acceptance is different. Acceptance means surrendering your will. For me, that’s about surrendering my will to something greater than myself.
Waiting at bat for 10 minutes may “strike” you as the very definition of stuckness. He couldn’t go forward (hit the ball) or backwards (prevent the pitching machine from breaking down). He was stuck at home plate.
Mostly, you want to escape the feeling of feeling stuck. You distract yourself or make a decision simply because you need to escape the discomfort inherent with “in-between.”
Getting unstuck requires seeing things in multiple perspectives. You choose your perspective in every situation. You can choose to suffer, sit in discomfort, or be happy. It’s up to you because you have free will.
Sitting in the Moment
I admire my son’s ability to be present, not anticipating the future or catastrophizing the situation. How easy it is to extrapolate from a current situation and become fear-based.
“Oh no, the pitching machine is broken. It’s NEVER going to get fixed and I’ll be stuck at bat forever. They’ll have to call off the game and then they’ll have to figure out a re-match date. I hope we can get enough players to attend the re-match.”
Instead, by dancing in this moment, he responded to current circumstances with fortitude. He knew he could handle it and he did.
Take me out to the ballgame
Remember that song “Take me out to the ballgame” that they play in the seventh inning stretch? One of the lyrics says,
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
I don’t care if I never get back.
It sums up what happened that hot summer morning at a baseball field in Etobicoke. Accept the moment for what it is (buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack), choose a perspective that works for you (I don’t care if I never get back), and experience the situation right now, not in the past or future (notice the song is in the present tense).