Last month I went to see my doctor after several sleepless nights of coughing and hacking. X-rays revealed that I had pneumonia, an acute infection of the lungs. A fever accompanied the pneumonia, and my doctor said not to go to work the next day, and no strenuous activity, such as tennis, for a couple of weeks.
• Then I played in a tennis tournament. I had not played at all for 12 days, which meant I would probably not play very well, and I could pull a hamstring or lose my balance during a game. It was not a logical or smart decision to play. So, why did I make a stupid decision?
• I felt obligated to play because I won this tournament, with great help from excellent partners, in June; and some part of me said I should defend my title. It felt like something more than macho nonsense.
• My granddaughter Rebecca, age 22, was also playing in this doubles tournament. She is an excellent player, and we could have end up playing, with our partners, against each other.
• By playing, I hoped to show Rebecca that sometimes in life you go with your heart instead of your head. That was one of my life lessons for Rebecca. Even if I fell or received some minor injury, that would have also been a life lesson about taking chances. When you gamble, risk increases. During Rebecca’s life journey, I have emphasized, a large percentage of the time, for her to be logical and make smart decisions. This lesson might have been a tad confusing to her, because logic was thrown out the window.
• The Cherokees teach us that we often learn more from negative experiences. I hopes playing tennis would not be a negative experience. Even if it was negative, I’d still learn about life.
• Before the tournament started, I asked the Great Spirit to accompany me on the court. I did not pray for victory — just request spiritual company.
• There was an advantage to having pneumonia. My voice dropped to a deep baritone or bass level. I felt like I sounded like Johnny Cash! I sang a couple of verses of Johnny Cash’s songs to my female coworkers. They did not appear to believe that Johnny Cash was in the building.
• My life experience is that our expectations often determine our reality. What you visualize often becomes true. If I expect to play poorly or not finish the tournament, that will happen. On the other hand, if I expected to finish the tournament without any injury, I believed that I would finish and that Rebecca, Monika and I would share a great lunch to celebrate the effort.
• This was Rebecca’s first tournament outside of playing on her college tennis team’s tournaments. All of her opponents were older, and in many cases, much older. The ball speed was slower with a lot of different twists. Before the tournament is over, she learned some new life lessons about tennis and about herself.
• I can’t remember the last time I was sick. To say I have been blessed with great health is an understatement. This confrontation has taught me that I could not allow pneumonia to define who I am. It was important to let go of limitations that pneumonia could detect. I went back to work, followed my doctor’s advice and took the medication. Avoiding tennis for 12 days was hard, but maybe smart.
• Neither one of us won, but we played well. Rebecca could play another tournament right now, and I need a Lazy Boy nap!
Bob Billingsley is an El Dorado Hills resident and a bi-weekly columnist at the Mountain Democrat.