Crowding the Plate.
I had a bit of a breakthrough this afternoon while munching on a cookie and drinking peppermint tea (complements of my loving sister). Needless to say, I'll be testing this food and beverage combo in the near future to see if it delivers consistent breakthroughs, but, for now, I'm happy with the solid thirty minutes I experienced this afternoon.
On my walk home from a coffee shop last week, I stopped to watch the last half of a high school baseball game at a park just up the road from my apartment. The pitcher was giving the batter some grief – throwing pitches high and inside to scare him off the plate a few inches, then zinging a curveball just out of reach on the outside. Classic set up.
The batter's frustration was pretty evident by the time the third pitch came around. You'd be pissed, too, if a guy was trying to rearrange your face with a fast ball, then throwing you a pitch just out of reach. But the batter had had enough, and what he did next got my heart racing. Instead of squaring up to the plate for the next pitch, he crowded it. I mean, he may as well have been standing on home plate, flipping the bird at the pitcher while saying, "Now try to throw a pitch by me."
Oh man, the setup gives me goosebumps.
The pitcher now had to change his game. Does he risk hitting the batter with an inside pitch? Throw down the middle and give up a hit? Or aim for the outside and risk the batter taking it for a ride? The batter, on the other hand, had taken control of the game. He knew what he was doing, he was tired of getting pushed around, and he wasn't afraid of getting hit.
In the end, the batter hit a little dinker to second and got thrown out, but the image of the batter taking a stand and egging on the obnoxious pitcher sticks in my mind.
Over the last few day, I've been wrestling with some good ol' fashioned anxiety and depression. Like the pitcher, life's thrown a number of curveballs and changeups at me recently, and I'm feeling like the annoyed batter who's getting toyed with.
Granted, I've come a long way. At the height of my depression in 2014, I didn't even want to play the game anymore. I was ready to quit completely and be done with it. Praise God that wasn't the end of my story. It took a lot of time, but I'm off the bench, taking the field, and I can stand in the batter's box.
After some deep introspection, though, I'm finding that, more often than not, when life throws me a pitch high and inside, I take a fearful step back. When I square up for the next pitch, I make sure I'm just a few inches off of the plate...just to be safe. Then when the next pitch comes on the outside, I totally miss it. I'm definitely swinging, but I'm too far off the plate to even make contact with the ball.
In baseball, if you do that enough times, you strike out. You miss the opportunity to run the bases. You miss the opportunity to score. And if you don't score, you miss the opportunity to win.
Life's a little more complicated, but the results are practically the same. If you're constantly backing off the plate to avoid the risks of getting hurt, scared, depressed, etc., then when life gives you an opportunity that's just beyond your comfort zone, there's no way you can take it. Even if you want to, the opportunity floats on by and you're left frustrated because you didn't take action.
I've had my fair share of missed opportunities in life. Some have made me frustrated, like the time I was anxious about going camping with friends and I came up with an excuse that kept me "safe" at home while they had a killer weekend; while others have left me confused and devastated, like when I lost the girl of my dreams to another guy because I couldn't step up and take action in the relationship. These are the kinds of opportunities that you miss when you're standing too far off the plate.
Learning to act on opportunities takes time; especially for people who struggle with depression and anxiety. But I'm at that point where I'm tired of missing opportunities on account of fear – where I fail to act because I'm too timid or scared.
So this afternoon, while my mind was locked in the zone thanks to the chocolate chip cookie and peppermint tea, I made a decision to stretch myself. To take a little more risk. To start crowding the plate and daring life to give me something I can hit.
By God's grace, I'll have a better chance of getting on base.
And by God's grace, when my game finally does reach the end of the ninth inning, I'll be able to say that I gave it my all.