27: The Tuesday Night Ladies League

27: The Tuesday Night Ladies League

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

The Tuesday Night Ladies League

Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

Bowling? My jaw dropped when my friend Sherry invited me to join the Tuesday Night Ladies Bowling League. She’d been bowling for decades, but I hadn’t picked up a bowling ball since high school. When I told her I didn’t even know how to tally scores anymore, she laughed. Apparently a computer takes care of that now, which further demonstrated how far removed I was from the bowling world. The thought of doing something so far out of my skill set seemed ridiculous.

“Don’t worry,” she told me. “You get a handicap based on your bowling average so it all works out. Anyway, we just bowl for fun.”

Still, I hesitated. In addition to being clueless about bowling, after getting home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was go back out. I knew I should say no, but I surprised myself by saying, “Okay, I’ll try.”

Sherry wrote my name on her team roster while I chewed my lip and thought about sitting in front of the TV with my feet up.

The next evening I went to the pro shop. Bob, the man in charge, must have sensed my lack of enthusiasm. He gave me a pep talk on how addictive and exciting bowling would be for me. All I needed to do was throw the ball at the pins and make sure I followed through with my arm. Bob handed me a ball and I nearly dropped it on my foot. When I asked for a lighter model, he frowned and informed me that a bowling ball should be about ten percent of the bowler’s body weight. After a quick calculation, my eyes widened. I opted for the ten-pound ball instead.

On my first night of bowling, I slipped into the building feeling like an imposter. The scent of fried food and old shoes immediately assaulted my senses. I saw ladies everywhere. Some were young enough to be my daughter and others old enough to be my mom. Each one took a turn hurling a ball down the lane. Pins crashed as strikes and spares were tallied. The game seemed simple enough. Perhaps bowling wouldn’t be as tough as I feared. I found my new teammates and pulled on a pair of bright white bowling shoes.

My palms were damp when it came time for me to bowl. I picked up the ball and walked to the line. My back prickled with the sense that dozens of eyes were on me as I took aim, walked forward, and let the ball fly. It didn’t go anywhere near where I wanted it to go. In fact, the ball curved right into the gutter. Face flaming, I tried again. Another gutter ball.

I sat down and my teammates flocked around me. Their bowling shirts made them look like brightly colored birds as each one gave me advice.

“Don’t drop your shoulder.”

“Focus on the arrows, not the pins.”

“Hit the sweet spot.”

I understood why they were eager to help me. My performance didn’t exactly contribute to the team total. I felt sure everyone in the place had pegged me as someone who didn’t belong. I wished I was back home in my comfy chair. If I quit now, surely it wouldn’t be hard to replace me with someone who could actually hit those stubborn pins.

After the third game of the night, my only consolation was that at least my best score was higher than my age. I slumped in the seat and removed my shoes, wishing the bowling alley had a dark corner so I could slink off to hide. My teammates provided consoling pats on the back. Even women from other teams came by to chirp a few words of encouragement. They told me everyone starts somewhere, and if I kept at it my game would surely improve. In the face of such generosity it seemed small of me to announce that I’d rather call it a day. So I dusted off my bruised ego and went back the next week.

And as it turns out, they were right. After a month I began to understand the best way to hold my arm and when to release the ball. On the night my score finally broke 100, it was high fives all around. I couldn’t stop smiling.

It would never have occurred to me to join a bowling team if my friend hadn’t suggested it. The Tuesday Night Ladies League helped me step outside my circle of comfort and exchange a stale old routine for a vibrant new one. In the process I’ve gotten to know a wonderful group of women who comfort me when I have a bad game and cheer me on when I do well. Bowling is a night out with the girls. We talk and laugh and once in a while send a ball spinning down the alley. Though I’ll never be part of any pro tour, that’s okay. A few hours of bowling makes me feel much better than sitting at home.

The next time an unlikely opportunity comes along, I won’t hesitate a minute. You see, my Wednesday nights could use a little excitement, too.

~Pat Wahler

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