Taking My Shadow Out to the Ball Game
by Jerry O'Donnell
I’ve been playing in a very competitive adult baseball league for about 20 years. I’m okay; I'm not great, but I love it. I guess one of the reasons I’m still playing into my late 50s—besides a true, deep love of the game and its connection to my father—is to exorcise the demons of shame and fear from the past.
As a young kid, I was very open and sensitive and fearful. I played Little League in abject fear of making an error and being ridiculed and shamed by teammates, the people in the stands, and myself.
I desperately wanted to be one of the cocky, confident, fun loving players we all know. If only I was better, then they would approve of me, include me, accept me. I would belong.
When I played baseball as an adult, if I played a prominent position like shortstop or pitcher, I would play great for a while, but as soon as I made an error, I would be done. You might as well take me out because I now felt that everyone saw who I really was. (Now I know it was my shadow that I felt was exposed, but either way, I became useless.)
My friend Paul told me about The Tools and I devoured it—on audio, in print, and the podcasts. The Reversal of Desire and Grateful Flow were immediately available to me and I use them every day. Active Love was harder, but I use it. Jeopardy is looming—always. But working with Inner Authority and the shadow was kind of mysterious. I got it intellectually, but I couldn’t feel it functionally. I was dying to use it in the audition process or when pitching a script, but I hadn’t had the chance.
After a few years off because of injuries, I’m back playing in a baseball league. I'm playing 3rd base in a game with a bunch of guys I don't know, but I want them to think I'm the shit. I felt the fear in my gut, and then I felt the shadow off to my right. It was a scared, open, kind, chubby, awkward, unruly, afro-haired, braces, acne-covered kid, and he was so worried about what everyone would think if he made a mistake.
I was smallish as a kid, but now I’m a 200-pound ex-paratrooper, so this worry seemed foolish! But I remembered The Tools, and I just looked over and smiled at him with care and understanding and said, "I got you. Get behind me, I’ll protect you, and no one will make fun of you. We’ll be fine. We’re good at this position." I felt that even if I made an error or two, I could take their judgment. The ball was immediately hit to me and I fielded the hard grounder and threw the runner out.
I was up to bat first in the next inning. As I stepped out of the batter's box I saw the next team from a higher division was showing up and taking their places in the stands. I knew some of these guys, and the pressure to perform and come through and impress and not fuck up or look foolish grew and grew. I stepped up to the plate, took a few practice swings, and repeated the shadow work.
The first pitch came, and I laced a hard line drive into right field. As I rounded first base I was floating, free, happy! I said to myself, "Holy shit, this thing is real! It really works! I don’t have to hide my shadow.
So thanks, big time.
Photo by carterse is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.