Beads of sweat play chase down my forehead, some forming trickling streams around my eyebrows, earlobes, and slope of my nose, others catching corkscrew rides on wispy strands of my hair, and some of the salty drops settle in the corners of my mouth. Music is blaring but is barely audible as my ears, my mind, are tuned in to the sound of the basketball bouncing against the glossy, gym floor after it swishes through the rope netting of the hoop. That will always be a melody that captures my soul. I step in, rebound the ball, and spring back to position. All I feel is the rhythm of the smooth leather rolling off my fingertips as I release the basketball for the shot.
Releasing is the action of letting go of an object that is physically held; such as, when I was a child, I loved to shelter ladybugs in my hands but eventually, I knew I had to open my hands and let them fly away. The hard part was not opening my hands; it was whispering, “Good-bye, pretty, little ladybug,” understanding this was the end of our moment, and feeling as if a part of my calm took flight as well. Releasing the emotions connected to someone is difficult, but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Letting go of something might be the easiest, yet it’s still a difficult situation. According to An American Heritage Dictionary the word release means one of four things: “to set free; to let fall or to let fly; to relieve, as from an obligation; and to make available as, to the public.” All of these definitions remain true to the word, but when I hear the word release, I think of letting go. Letting go and not holding on.
Letting go is hard.
I frequent the gym to groove in my shot. I can shoot a layup, a free throw, a jump shot, a floater, and a three point shot. However, the only way my shot goes through the hoop is if I release it from my grip. When I was younger, releasing the ball for a shot was not easy. It took so much effort and more patience than I wanted to invest. Now, I feel that not only am I releasing the ball from my hands, I’m also releasing every stress and every pain clanging around within me. The gym is my safe haven, a place that embraces me in its comforts and stretches me through the challenges. This is the only place I feel free. Every time I let the ball fly towards the hoop, I let the painful memories fly away with it. However, some memories slowly drift instead of fiercely flying away. Grief is felt in the drifts.
Grief is hard and grief is good.
“To cry was to release all sorts of ugly little pressures and tensions. Like waking out of a long, dark dream to a sun-filled day” (McCaffrey 174). Every human being will experience at least one moment of grief at some point in their life. When I was twelve years old, I never understood much about grief until August 24th 2011: my cousin Christopher passed away. I remember my mom telling me he dealt with health problems, but later I discovered it was depression. He was eighteen with his whole life ahead of him, so full of talent, and the world was his for the taking. Sadly, instead, he decided to release himself from the utter disruption and tornado ripping around within him, thinking he would finally tune in to the soft, sweet melody he longed to hear in all his self composed piano ballads. He freed himself the only way he believed he could, from an illness no one will ever really understand. Unfortunately, through all the noise, Christopher couldn’t hear the grief and sorrow he would pass on to those that loved him.There came a time when we each had to let the anger and devastation go and accept the realization, it wasn’t near the struggles Christopher suffered. So, only in that sense, I am at peace believing he is in a better place. He’s been released from such a darkening disease.
I let go of another shot. The sweat continues to drip. I go to retrieve my ball, each step I take I feel the muscles working in my calves. As I pick up the ball I notice my fingernails are uneven and jagged, and my knuckles are swollen. My breathing is heavy and drowning out the music; my heart continues to beat hard against my chest: thump, thump, thump. Bend at the knees, spin the ball through my hands and just as I go to release the shot, the moment the ball leaves my fingertips, I know it wasn’t right, and the shot falls short. Just like my first relationship.
From the onset of high school I told myself I wasn’t going to date anyone. I’ve never been a fan of dating in high school because most times it doesn’t last after high school graduation. I just never understood the purpose. However, junior year, a guy friend asked me on a date, and soon enough I found myself in a relationship. It was going well during the school year, but then came summer. It was a busy first month for us both: he had work, a week long missions trip with no outside communications, and more work. I was occupied with three sports (which involved hours of traveling), worked three different jobs, and was out for a week recovering from my wisdom teeth surgery. Finding time for the two of us became difficult.
I slam the ball down hard, frustrated with the shot. Seven straight shots I released had missed short. Every missed shot drives me harder to succeed. I decide I need a cool down with a quick water break. Reaching for my water bottle, I notice all the wear and tear from being the only bottle I use. I have an “a-ha” moment: I expected this bottle to supply all my water needs, I have clung to it and it is telling me it’s been overused.
Release is freedom.
I’ve never been a fan of clingy people. They annoy me to the point of breaking. When he came back from his missions trip, he was begging to see me. I wasn’t ready for the company since my wisdom teeth had been removed two days prior to his return. He even begged to see me on Father's Day. He was so concerned about seeing me, he was too blind to see the pain I was dealing with. I shared every day that I hurt, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t feel well, and I really needed a week to heal. He refused to look at that option.
I set my water bottle back down, and told myself I needed purchase a new one and let this one rest. I shift my focus back to basketball. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, so I take a break from shooting. I retrieve my basketball and decide to work on dribbling. I am listening to the beat and searching for a rhythm. I notice each time I pound the ball against the gym floor, I feel it getting flatter. Flat like my trust.
Release is relief.
Trust is the foundation of a relationship. Soon enough I was losing my trust with him. He was being deceptive with me about who he was hanging out with. Eventually, it got to the point where he was hanging out with single girls, in their bikinis at the lake. I didn’t find this out from him. I found it through social media. With that, I also discovered my breaking point. One night, I had enough with the lies and deceptive behavior, I just said when I was ready to talk, I would; I needed time to collect my thoughts first. Again, he couldn’t handle the space, so he broke up with me through text. However, all of his actions made it that much easier to let him go. It was a relief to release him from my life. I didn’t need someone like that dragging me down.
I stop dribbling to glance at the clock. Surprised that I’d been in the gym for almost two hours, I walk towards the free throw line. It is time for my cool down shooting. I spin the ball through my fingers, let it drop, and it bounces right back to me. Taking three dribbles, I crouch down for my shot. Then, like a spring, I release the ball. I do this continuously until I miss. Until I have no spring left.
Some lives “spring” stiffens too soon: especially a dog's life. Their only flaw is their time on earth is too short. Having to let go of our first dog was incredibly hard. That hound dog gave us eleven fabulous years. A dog is a puppy for only a short amount of time and that time zooms by. Sooner than later, their face turns white, they walk slower, and eat less. Our first dog was a Basset hound named Wrigley Roo. Wrigley lived to be 11, her life cut short from Lymphoma Cancer. Often, Bassets are teased to be lazy, whiny couch potatoes. Not our Roo. Wrigley was such a fighter. We noticed something was different when she wasn’t eating her food. Next, she lost use of her back legs. Since she was so determined, she fought hard for twelve hours to get back on those legs, and was able to go for one last walk. Walks were her favorite “something” to do with us: her favorite someone, and she was our favorite something. Letting her go and being with her as she took her last breath was the hardest decision my family has had to encounter. But she deserved that and so much more. She offered unconditional love, laughter and happiness. It is a relief to know she is still with me.
I drain sixteen free throws in a row, deciding to stop while I’m ahead. I wipe the sweat from my forehead feeling accomplished with my practice. I sit down next to my bag to start unlacing my shoes. My fingertips burn against the lace as I tug to release the tightness causing my feet to swell. I pack up my bag and take a minute to examine my hands. My fingertips are worn and calloused from the two-hour practice. Every finger is red, glistening, and I notice a faint pulse in my palm. Almost like each worn piece of my heart, showing how many times I released something important in my life. Standing up, I put on my coat, and grab my bag. I stop for a moment to stare into the empty gym. The air is thick and humid: sweat, tears and pain, but also determination and accomplishment linger in the air. I turn around and flip the lights off. Walking out all I could think is, “Until next time,” releasing my thoughts for the evening.
McCaffrey, Anne. Nerilka's Story: A Pern Adventure. New York: Ballantine, 1997. Print.
The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Print.