The sun beat down on us causing heat waves to appear like a mirage in the clay in front of me. I was standing in a puddle of sweat, with rivers running down the insides of my elbows. But my attention wasn’t focused on how hot I was, nor the temperatures surrounding me. It was focused on the bright, fuzzy, yellow ball being hit back and forth. My racquet stood ready to take the next shot and the next and the next. Then all hell broke loose. Instead of my racquet taking the brunt of the impact from the ball, my face, or more specifically my eye, took the full force of my opponent’s shot. It was a rocket, and all I remember is trying (unsuccessfully) out of duck out of the way. My visor flew back. My sunglasses fell off, and I doubled over in excruciating pain. I was hit. Hard.
I’ve never been punched in the face, so I have no frame of reference for a direct hit with a fist. But I can imagine it felt a lot like what I just experienced. And it hurt. Like a mother effer. As I stood, doubled over in pain, my first thoughts began to form. First, I knew I was going to be sporting a major shiner. It was going to be epic (in my mind anyway), and I was going to wear it like a badge of honor. I took a direct shot to the face in the middle of a tennis match. I lived to tell about it and I continued to play. But then my thoughts shifted. And I was worried. Or maybe sad. Maybe concerned. But definitely very upset. And then I got mad, because my next thought was, “Shit! I’m going to have a black eye, and people, albeit strangers, are going to wonder if I’m an abused wife.” (Okay, maybe the word “albeit” didn’t enter my head, but that’s basically what I was thinking.) My partner, my opponents and the ladies on the court beside us all rushed to get ice for my eye, knowing a big, ginormous, massive black eye was in my future.
As I iced my face, my thoughts kept going back to the fact that people who don’t know me were going to be questioning why my eye was black. And yes, I know they shouldn’t matter. They’re strangers, and I know the truth. But I was pissed thinking that anyone would ever think anything less than good thoughts about Stan. He’s the most stand up guy I’ve ever met. He knows that I’ve survived many forms of abuse in my life. He knows they were all things I had no control over….they were instances that truly turned me into a survivor rather than a victim, and he stood next to me so many times holding my hand as I recounted the pain and sorrow. He was the one to comfort me and lift me up when my spirits were low. He was, and is, my rock. So I was pissed, thinking that anyone would have the opportunity to think anything but good thoughts about him. Because, while I may have suffered at the hands of others when I had no control, I can guarantee you that I would never, ever let myself be a victim of domestic violence. The first time an old boyfriend showed signs of being an abuser I left faster than you could say, “Bob’s your uncle.” I had control over that situation, and I had no intention of being abused by someone who claimed to love me, but really just wanted to control me. I had no intention of letting someone abuse me when I had control over the situation.
So, yes, I’m pissed. I’m furious thinking the door has been cracked open for others to think I’m an abused wife. My stress level has been at an all time high when I run my errands. I wish I had a head band with a big, bold sign saying, “I was hit by a tennis ball. HARD!” My eye is that bad.
But as I look at it a little more. I’m beginning to see more than just a black eye. I’m beginning to see a Nike Swoosh. And I realize I should be wearing it like a badge of honor. I shouldn’t have to feel shame or anger. I know the dang truth. I was hit by a tennis ball. And I played right through the pain. I may not have won the match, but I earned my Nike Swoosh! I just DID IT!
So, my darlings, don’t let what other people think of you get you down. Don’t hang your head lower than a swamp monster when you know the truth of a story. Stand tall and proud, and just do it!