Happy New Year, Same Old Shtick

new computer
The Shiny New Thing (the one without stickers…YET). Photo by kajmeister.

I bought myself a new computer (Merry Christmas to me) because the old one was doing those things they do when they get old: taking five minutes to boot up, hopping off the internet frequently for no particular reason, or just refusing to cooperate. Not quite the Blue Screen of Death, but it was coming, I was sure. I suppose I could have just wiped the hard drive, but I convinced myself a new one was needed because there were a few new bells and whistles that I wanted.

So I have spent my transitioning into 2019 with Della, the Shiny New Thing, who is frequently reminding me of how painful a process this is. Microsoft is so intrusive and buggy; Support Forums are full of bad advice or suggestions that lead nowhere. I figured out how to port over all the email history I wanted–oh, the cleverness of me! — but I broke the email on my phone, tablet, and old machine in the process and had to remove and reload, over and over.

Into the New Year we go, doing the same Old things.

Do We Do Anything New, Anymore?

Today, when I read that illustrious fellow blogger Fandango asked the provocative question,

When was the last time you did something for the very first time?

I was immediately prompted to think, Oh, never! I never do anything new any more. Consider the computer transition as prime example exhibit A. It has the trappings of a New Thing, but it’s really an Old Pattern, dressed up as New. In fact, looking at the pictures makes sleek black little Della look rather dull in comparison to the old Daenerys laptop, although that’s really just the stickers. I have a set of stickers lying in wait, ready to dress up my Shiny New Thing. I’ve just been waiting to make sure it doesn’t have a broken registry or Intel 9462 adapter or something (all of which have been touch and go as Dr. Frankenstein has been bringing it to life).

It gets harder and harder to do new things as I get older. I like the things I like. I know what I don’t like. Raw garlic or onions represent hours of misery. TV shows that have a laugh track set my teeth on edge. Walking too far or for too long exacerbates planar fascitis. It really makes me feel rather frail to think about all the things I won’t do because I’ll physically or emotionally pay for it.

Experience Is a Hot Stove

One of my fondest sayings, when my children would talk about a miserable experience, would be to extol the value of learning from mistakes. (Mom gotta be Mom!) It is truly how we learn best, in my opinion, learning What Not To Do. Pondering the What New Thing question, I immediately thought of the hike I took a few days ago. It was dry and windy here for about a week in northern California, so I took advantage of the sunny clarity to climb up Las Trampas Ridge. Glorious views from 1500 feet up of San Francisco to the west and the Delta to the east, even the Sierras if you squinted. (See new header photo topping my Home page at kajmeister.com).

However, a bit of the uphill path was quite muddy. I know from … experience!… that coming down a muddy section can be treacherous. Hyperextending the knee is a real possibility, and I have a very cranky knee. So I, prudently, took a different path to come back down. I went to the left rather than back down the short way right, looking for the long loop to the asphalt slope around the tower. However, the ending was not what you think–it turned out to be a terrible idea! I got lost because the paths aren’t marked, and the alternate path turned out to be a very long up and down loop.

Las Trampas path
Las Trampas Ridge Path up/down. Come down from the left, not the right, if you can manage a little mud. Photo by kajmeister.

After the steep climb to the views–about which I had rather imprudently boasted on Facebook–and the long wander to snap numerous photos, the downward path took an extra forty minutes. By the time I was back on the normal trek, my cranky knee was practically cackling with delight. You’ll pay for this! I’m still recovering from the calf strain nearly a week later. In retrospect, I would have been better with the muddy path I knew than trying to outsmart myself.

New Things Carry Old Baggage

Actually, there was one new thing I started doing in 2018: Pickleball. The game is a cross between tennis and ping pong. You run around on a smaller version of a tennis court, but using a paddle and a whiffle ball, which saves strain on your shoulders. It’s an addictive game. Friend Dar picked it up and has been proselytizing the sport with great fervor. I think she’s converted more than a dozen people into regular players, if not hundreds more via demonstrations and classes at the Y and elsewhere.

I’ve been playing weekly, occasionally twice a week, since the summer. Naturally, this also led to getting other New Things like my own racket, bag to carry stuff in, and different clothing. When you take on something like this and pick it up, your desire to make it a better experience means scraping off the rough edges a little. In order for the New to become You, it must be transformed. I have to figure out, for example, when to eat, if I’m going to play when I would normally eat dinner. That affects when the other two family members are going to eat as well. Can’t eat roast pork and potatoes right before you go out to run around for an hour, right? Week by week, I have to design a meal for 4 pm that might be reheatable for people working until 6 pm.

Then there’s the other complex interpersonal dynamics. I’ve never played team sports. I was a fat kid; you don’t get picked. I don’t want to bring all my psychodrama on to the court, but there’s a big difference between my single forms of exercise, like biking, walking, or swimming, and sport. I have never really done the latter. Fun is intertwined with scoring points and disappointing teammates and other nonsense. For example, I was serving quite well until about October when, for no reason I can determine, it just went away. I’ve taken extra practice, on my own, several times. Yet, it remains elusive and, of course, the more I think about it, the harder it is to fix. I wouldn’t care if I just lost every game playing by myself, but now there’s a teammate. Yipes!

Intrepid pickleballers, yours truly far right. Photo by Dar.

Fortunately, the friends I’ve been playing with–and their friends–are very supportive and welcoming, so I remain confident, and the game is still fun. I know this because I played briefly with strangers in a public venue. Not five minutes in, the partner on my side started trash-talking a little–joking, but why even do that? Then, someone on the other side started muttering about that this isn’t how the game is supposed to be played… Really, it doesn’t take much for me to flash back to middle school volleyball when Janine Puglia threw a ball at my head. Trying New Things, even when they’re successful, can bring a lot of baggage with them. As a teacher once said (this was Tai Chi class), you have to learn how to fit it into your life.

For my new laptop Della, once I have her sufficiently trained, we will embark on a great partnership. Then, she will earn her own stickers as I make her my own.

I have to just figure out how to put stickers on my pickleball serve.

5 Replies to “Happy New Year, Same Old Shtick”

  1. My brother-in-law is a pickleball enthusiast. I don’t play, but he’s been trying to persuade me to give it a try. Maybe I will. That would be — or could be — my first first in a long time.

  2. First time hearing Pickleball. With you poor knee, I am surprise that it’s holding up playing a new sport. With team playing, supportive members is what you enjoy the new found sport. What great read.

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