As a writer, it’s hard to know if you’re making an impact on your readers. After two plus years of writing, I got discouraged and threw in the towel. But, boredom gnawed at my soul. Also, I felt like a loser because I’d invested time and money in writing, reading, and taking workshops and classes. And since I’d left that towel where I could see it, I picked it up and hung it back in its place. And lately, I’ve had the best surprise of my writing life. People are telling me I’m a good writer and I’m making an impact. And that makes this writer’s heart sing. And who are these people? Why they’re my pickle-ball friends and this is where I get to tell the story about them and making new friends and getting back to my old self.
I’m an extrovert and have always made friends easily (don’t take that personally if you’re an introvert. I know introverts can make friends easily too). In fact, I’m still close with my college friends–over 40 years and counting, but none of them live in Sacramento.
But first let me tell you about my marriage
My former husband was verbally abusive. He attacked my carefree personality and how I easily made friends. Suspicion, criticism and jealously were what he used to control me. He was mistrustful of my friends and condemned me for having them. His orders– you only hang-out with family. If I looked at or talked to a man, I was picking up on him. We went to look at cars one day and the salesman said I looked familiar. My husband accused us of having an affair.
Another time, when my sister-in-law was visiting, we were at an outdoor show where the performer selected someone out of the audience as part of the act. The guy chose me. He made a few jokes, had me sit on his knee, sang me a song, and gave me a yellow rose. Everyone else was laughing and clapping. When I got back to my seat my husband shoved me. He called me some colorful names—in front of our kids, my sister-in-law and the people sitting around us. He thrived on humiliating me in both public and private.
Of course, he didn’t have to live by these strict standards. He flirted, stared at women and had at least one affair, that I know of. He was a compulsive liar. He’d promise to do something, and then never do it–over and over again. And if he did something wrong, he twisted it around and blamed me.
As the years went on, what was natural to me–being nice to people and having fun, was forbidden. They say that the abused starts out like a ray of sunshine, and the abuser takes away his or her rays of sun one by one, and that’s what happened to me. I started backing away from social situations. It was too stressful not knowing what his demands of the day would be or if he’d lash out at me verbally.
After 23 years I’d had enough
Fast forward 23 years. I’d had enough and filed for divorce. And divorce is not fun, but he was a bully on and off the court. A lawyer referred to him as a narcissistic litigious bully and he dragged the divorce out for 10 years. I finally ended it permanently, seven years ago. However, the sting of abuse lasts a long time, but with the help of an excellent therapist, workshops, and reading, I’ve put a lot of it behind me.
After the divorce I worked at the State for 11 years. I had plenty of people to talk to at work, but we rarely hung out after. I had a few friends I’d get together with occasionally, but they invited me to do things I wasn’t crazy about and I didn’t feel like myself. The chaos of my marriage made me think I couldn’t be myself and I felt lost. Although I made some friends when we were married, I was always–and I mean always–afraid of when the next shoe was going to drop.
Taking care of mom and dad
After my divorce, my parents started spending winters in Sacramento to escape the snowy, cold Montana weather so I spent most of my weekends with them. Then they both got sick and I spent even more time with them. It seemed I had no time to take care of myself. They both passed away several years ago.
Then, three years ago, tired of manipulating bosses, I left the State and set out on my second career – the one I’d always dreamed of –and become a writer. I dove right in and then the pandemic hit and it wasn’t a friend making environment.
And then along came pickle-ball
Last June, 2021 I decided to take up pickleball. I’d played a little over the years but never seriously. A “friend” wanted to learn so we signed up for a membership at a local park. But it became clear that she wanted to find the “cool” people, the “better players” and I was not one.
One day I was playing with her and two other women. They were all better than me. After a few games, my “friend” suggested we should let someone else play. A woman walked by and they asked her. They voluntold me with their eyes and attitudes, that I should sit out and that we would rotate in and out. That never happened. After the game, as I stood behind them, they all talked and exchanged phone numbers. I was not invited. It felt like I was in junior high and I was the bum player. It was immature, but it still hurt.
My “friend” continued this behavior and eventually ghosted me. She called me a month or so later and I didn’t return her call. During my marriage and a subsequent bad relationship, I became an expert at spotting assholes and I have no desire to be around them. She called me one other time and I answered. She was “hurt” I hadn’t returned her phone call. I hope she tasted that bitter medicine.
No one’s stopping me!
But I didn’t let her childish and hurtful behavior deter me. I stuck with pickle-ball because I liked it and I wanted to learn how to play. I got involved in weekly competitions called ladders where you play three games up to 15 points, rotating players between each game. And, I met some fun people and we became friends. We played two or three times a week and I got addicted. Not just to the playing, but to how nice and fun the people were and most importantly, I started to feel like my old, goofy, fun-loving self.
Making new friends and getting back to my old self
It’s been a year since I started playing and I’m so grateful to my new friends – I know three Kathy’s, Nancy, Kim (my fierce partner) and Jeannie. I know more people but these are the women that brought me back to how I used to be before I got married. And I can’t thank them enough. My life was chaotic for so many years that I’d forgotten what normal looked like (and the Pandemic didn’t help either).
You remember the story A Christmas Carol where Jacob Marley visits Scrooge in the middle of the night to warn him to change his stingy ways? He takes Scrooge back to happy times, when he was a boy and when he was in love. In other words, he wasn’t always such a Scrooge. The experience transforms him–he becomes generous, reconciles with his relatives, and with Tiny Tim and his family.
Well—I wasn’t ever a Scrooge, and my friends aren’t Marley’s, but I’d certainly lost my way in the friendship circle and all these wonderful ladies brought me back to the fun, goofy person I used to be. So, thank you to my wonderful lady friends for the fun, camaraderie, and bringing me back to myself and happy times. I’ll see you all on the courts!
That’s all for this week. Leave a comment below, or email me with your questions, stories, or topics you’d like me to write about. Also, if you like my blog, share it with your friends–spread the love ❤️!
Until next week! Kathy