Shades of Mean and What To Do (or Not Do) About Them

If you could choose how people would insult or put you down, would you want it to be in your face or indirect? More like a shout or more like a whisper? I ask because this summer, it came at me from all sides and on the tennis court of all places. I have said how much I love tennis. And now it seemed to be souring on me, in all shades of green. Of course, it wasn’t tennis itself. It was some of the people. What to do? How to respond? Or not respond?

Not on my game anymore

The cause was shingles, but it just as well could have been blood cancer, so that’s why I’m bringing it up in this community. My physical challenges were much the same as when I had leukemia.

I lost a lot of weight, 20 pounds or more. I was wobbly like I was back then. I lost a lot of muscle mass. I was tentative due to fear of falling. I missed balls that I would have otherwise gotten. I still had my good shots. But I had trouble getting around. I missed balls that I would have otherwise gotten.

Taking some time off and tried again

Knowing that it wouldn’t be fair to my regular doubles group to be so “off,” I took myself out of action and got a sub. I went back after a month, figuring I was on an upswing. Apparently, I wasn’t better at all. But I hadn’t noticed. Or maybe I was better and then backslid. My best tennis friend said I should be so proud for trying. She said most would just be at home on the couch. This parallels how I acted when I came back after leukemia treatment. I picked up the ball and ran with it. Or tried to.

Others criticizing my play

“I can’t do it all myself,” said one partner. On a different day, when I was playing with someone else, she shouted across the net to the other player, “You can’t do it all yourself. Stop it, or you’re going to get hurt.” She said it so many times that I finally shot back that she should stop it; she was criticizing ME. This is one of the “soft” insults that I was talking about.

I wrote a long text. I said she made mistakes, too. They were different than mine. I said it really hurt my feelings for her to be criticizing me on the court, however indirectly. She replied, “Got your message.” It wasn’t satisfying.

Snubbed because of my health condition

It got worse. I was subbing in another group. They usually have eight players on two courts. They were calling me more than usual. But as the shingles dug in, I started to feel shaky. One day, one of the women called and said, “The ladies don’t want to play with you anymore. They are afraid you are going to fall or have an emergency, and they don’t want to deal with it.”

I wrote them an email that I didn’t send. I thought I would regret it later. I wrote that I felt like a kid in a playground. Nobody wanted me to be on their team. I said I wished she had said something kinder and gentler, such as, “They want you to take a break. They are afraid you are going to hurt yourself.”

Then, another one from yet another group calls and says, “I love you, but nobody wants to play when you sign up." She proceeded to tell me how crappy I was playing. I walked away from the phone call and cried.

My physical therapist also happens to be a college tennis team coach. I told him my problem.

Lack of support because of competitive nature

“Tennis players are mean,” he said. “They are narcissistic and only care about getting a good game.”

This made me feel better. It wasn’t just about me. But it was all so stressful. Sometimes, I cried. I took a months-long hiatus from most of my groups, though I went to some clinics (group lessons) and did well, probably because there was no pressure.

The partner who had said she couldn’t get all the balls wrote that she had been thinking about what a hard year I had had, and she was sorry for any hurt she may have caused me. I tried to write her back but kept erasing. I couldn’t say “that’s OK” because it wasn’t. I decided to call.

I said that I know how hard it is to want to have your game and have someone else not doing their part. That broke the ice. Then we could talk about something else. We even laughed a little.

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