A Walk and a Knock

It’s baseball season again, which means that on most days between the hours of 7–10pm I will be glued to my phone/the nearest TV to check on the score of the Angel game. (By all predictions for the 2016 season, that sentence should maybe read “check to see how badly the Angels are losing to [insert that night’s opponent here].”)

A rough approximation for how the Angels’ season will likely turn out.

And with the return of baseball season comes the return of many things I hold near and dear to my heart: freshly cut grass, walk-off home runs, curveballs that are so nasty they should be illegal; the list goes on and on. Of all the things I love about baseball, my absolute favorite thing might just be the unstoppable rally.

Yeah, I’d probably duck out of the way too.

Baseball is set apart from most other sports because of its timelessness — not just the fact that it’s America’s oldest professional sport, but because its games are not governed by a clock. In hockey, football, basketball, pretty much any other sport, you can count on guaranteed breaks in the game: the end of a quarter, halftime, a shot clock. In baseball, if you can’t get three outs, you’re not coming off the field. Conversely, if you’re the team up to bat, all it takes is a string of walks, hits, and errors to relax in the dugout while the other team does everything they can to get back into theirs.

Life is better in here.

Usually, the rally starts innocently: a lead-off walk, maybe a bloop single, anything to get somebody on base. All of a sudden, the good fortune is contagious — a ball will go through an infielder’s legs, the pitcher forgets how to throw a strike, any number of things can continue to happen to keep the rally going. As legendary ex-Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler used to say, “all it takes is a walk and a knock.” Lately, I’ve realized that the same strategy applies to my life when it comes to being active, especially when it comes to beating anxiety.

Whenever I’m feeling down or anxious, there’s a pretty good chance it’s because I’m stuck inside my own head. Sometimes I’m thinking about actual problems that are affecting me; usually, because I have OCD, my thoughts are abstract and irrelevant to the reality of my current situation. Ruminating only brings about more inaction, and eventually I am paralyzed by thought. As much as I deceive myself into thinking I can think my way out of anxiety or depression, the truth is that no amount of logic will ever bring me out from the depths.

Only action can do that.

Action is the enemy of thought. Doing something is the antithesis of rumination. My biggest fear is losing my mind, which is why I find it funny that the key to regaining my sanity might just be, well, losing my mind. When I ditch my mind in favor of actually doing something, whatever it may be, I find that my brain “resets,” in a way. Whether it’s a going for a night drive, giving a campus tour, or getting coffee with a friend, putting myself in motion automatically gets my brain back in gear because I’m forced to give my attention to something else other than my own runaway thoughts for the time being.

The trouble is, sometimes I feel like my anxiety is Clayton Kershaw on the mound, throwing a mix of heaters and curveballs that I just can’t figure out. Try as I might, when I’m feeling anxious it’s extremely difficult to do anything, even the smallest thing. My brain does its very best to keep me sedentary, and with each thought I am convinced that nothing I do will make any difference. I take pitch after pitch until I’m sent back to the dugout, called back on strikes, more confused and frustrated than I was when I went up to bat.

I feel you, Gregor Blanco.

Eventually, miraculously, I stop overthinking. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted, maybe it’s because I finally get smart; regardless, there always comes a point where I take the bat off my shoulders. And good things start to happen. Maybe I hit a bloop single, maybe I get lucky and a fielder makes an error, it doesn’t really matter — the important thing is that I put myself in a chance to get a rally going. More often than not, the action is contagious.

Even a foul ball is a good start.

The old adage is to think before you speak/act, but I don’t think the first person who said that had anxious people in mind. Instead, I’m going to try to live by a model of “act so that you can think,” because I haven’t really found anything else that works. Like in baseball, every rally has to come to an end, but I’m going to enjoy each one while it lasts, one bloop single at a time.

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