Hopefully I'm not actually vain; just trying to come up with a "clever" title.
I went to Grandpa's memorial service today. I got to spend time with family members I don't get to see very often. We had a nice meal afterward. I left a little early because I was quite tired. I was in a weird mood, so I took a three hour nap while running a load of laundry after arriving home. (I expect to win no awards for interesting writing today)
I have gone on hikes, mostly with mom, every week for the last couple months. I was not able to hike today because of the service, but I wanted to do something physical. I chose soccer ball juggling. It has been about five years since I made an attempt to break my record or even to attain high numbers. I am amazed five years have passed, but my blog post dates do not lie! I intentionally let my record stand for a while and have been inventing other kicking disciplines. Each of the fun juggling exercises I developed are engaging and challenging. I'm too lazy to describe those now, but they are far more strenuous and rewarding than the monotony of numerical record breaking.
I decided to finally go for numbers again today, though I did not think it would be a record breaking day. It seems I often return to numbers after significant life events. After five years and many poor health choices, I did not expect to summon the endurance required to achieve more than a couple thousand hits. I had not drinken any water today, was probably dehydrated, felt slightly groggy after a nap, had a slight headache, and was mentally distracted. I always pack fluids for my juggling sessions and drink whenever I feel the need, but once I start on a long volley I can't exactly bend down to pick up a drink! I often imagine having several human or robotic lackeys nearby to wipe my forehead, spritz me with a cold mist, and feed me liquid through a straw... but none of those guys ever show up. How rude!
Juggling takes a surprising amount of concentration mixed with an equal amount of mindlessness. A perfect balance between focus and spacy neglect must be maintained at all times. If I focus too much, I cannot juggle. If I get lost in deep thought or become a mindless zombie, I also cannot juggle. It appears I am concentrating on each kick, but the exercise is mostly mindless and instinctive.
It is weird to consider all the physics and tiny brain adjustments involved. Each kick is different, each step is unique, the ground varies, the spin of the ball changes, the height and direction of the bounce is never the same, there are obstacles, there are boundaries to my juggling area, lights and shadows can be distracting, and many other factors play a part. I have to ignore all that, and most of it fades into my subsconscious. It is an experience very similar to driving across town (or across whole states!) when tired and after arriving wondering if you were dreaming or how you even made the journey. All the curves, directions and landmarks fade out of memory. Your mind and muscles have enough information from past experiences to go on auto-pilot when driving a car, especially along a familiar route. A similar phenomenon happens when I juggle a soccer ball.
I must concentrate FAR MORE on counting kicks than how I kick. I mouth the numbers silently, keep track of hundreds with my fingers, and mentally record each thousand. It seems like counting would be a major distraction, but it improves my performance. Counting makes for a nice mental stimulus to balance all the levels of consciousness.
I cannot think of three or four things at once without epic fail happening. I have to minimize the various levels of consciousness from gaining too much focus - but I don't completely ignore them either. I also have to reserve an "emergency switch" awareness in case I lose my balance or hit the ball wrong. In a split second I must go from auto-pilot to manual mode, jumping and kicking like crazy to regain control. I often think about spiritual things when juggling, another level of awareness I have to limit from gaining too high a percentage of my concentration.
The other SIGNIFICANT conscious level I have to both watch and ignore simultaneously is my physical status. I keep a check on my relaxedness versus tenseness and many other physical factors. I can feel fatigue setting in and I have to consciously ignore it just as a long distance runner does. I feel thirst, have to wipe sweat off my face, scratch itches on my face, swat away gnats at times, sense when I'm about to pass out, etc. I have discovered the ability to continue past the state of feeling like I'm about to faint by doing something inexplicable with my brain, forcing an energy burst or relaxation, whatever is necessary in the moment.
When I am doing well, I can ignore all the physical factors that I am feeling in my body and make subconscious adjustments to keep adequately alert. I cannot juggle without looking at the ball, so I have to retain nearly constant eye contact. I can't stare too intently though and "snap out of it" at regular intervals to avoid going into a mild hypnotic trance. The motion is very rhythmic and mindless, and many times my other levels of consciousness slowly take over the forefront of my mind.
It's a weird set of challenges. No one probably cares about all that, but I figured it would be a good exercise to write what I experience when juggling for numbers.
In spite of my perceived physical limitations and mental distraction, I did very well today. As the numbers climbed, I experienced my normal fixation on numerology. My blood pressure and spiritual stress always increase when I'm in the 600 or 6000 range. I'm always worried I'll drop the ball on iteration of 666, but this worry actually increases the chance it will happen! So I pray that I'll pass the number of man into the number of completeness and seemingly "God's favorite numbers." Once I attain a 7, I can relax again! I also start thinking about whether to get as high a number as I can or to stop intentionally on a number to dedicate toward a purpose. My current record was achieve that way. I intentionally stopped on 7777 to honor God, though I certainly could have kept going.
Today I had a couple possible stopping points in mind: 9696 and 11111. I thought of 9696 to honor my Grandpa. He lived to be 96, and he was still on my mind today because of the memorial service. I have to ignore these numeric thoughts, otherwise I have a really hard time keeping count (not to mention focus somewhat on my juggling), and a form of superstitious "jinx" or Murphy's Law sets in to cause distraction and inevitable self-defeat.
All that boring story to say a broken record was not attainable today. The sun was going down, and I only had time for one attempt. I didn't conserve enough brain power to satisfy all my levels of consciousness, and a split second of mental fatigue caused me to drop the ball. I am very satisfied with what I got, in spite of the closeness to breaking my record. After 7468 hits (or thereabouts... my mental counter got distracted in the end), I immediately sat down against the wall with a sense of inner peace and thankfulness. Even though my juggling seems a meaningless physical activity, I always feel as though various aspects of my inner self benefit. I am very mindful of God, spiritual warfare, ignoring the flesh, and other somewhat deep realities while kicking the ball up and down. While I never renewed my childhood studies in martial arts, juggling has many similar benefits. I enjoy juggling a lot and consider it a derivitive of my former discipline. In fact, when I'm really going at it, I use martial arts techniques and stances against my small, round opponent. It probably doesn't help to do tai chi moves with my arms... but maybe it does! This was also the first use of my brand-new white and yellow Adidas ball.
Though I don't think 7468 has special meaning, I dedicate it to the memory of my Grandpa who passed away last week. He's in a far better place, and I look forward to joining him someday. Perhaps I'll see him at the "eastern gate."