Many a pitcher enshrined in Cooperstown has had it as a go-to weapon in a tight situation — a sweeping curveball with pinpoint precision, where the hitter must seemingly either flail in faint hope, or be called out on strikes.
Viewers who “bleed the hurler's team colors” jump and holler, as an analyst predictably describes the pitch as “nasty,” while fans of the other side mutter things less suitable for a family newspaper.
But in the end, it's all merely part of the panorama of entertainment provided by what we of a certain age still nostalgically label as the national pastime.
Life, on the other hand, can serve up curveballs that are less enjoyable, as I'll attest from recent experience. How we choose to respond in such moments may determine not only the quality of our remaining existence, but even the very length of it.
In my case, the culprit went by the initials SVT, in essence a runaway pulse. I have learned that when you tell an emergency room receptionist that it's happening to you, you'll get a lot of attention in a hurry.
As with many other events that rattle us to our cores, this one blindsided me. What heart disease has struck my family tree rarely if ever included this little jewel. In my early retirement years, it has been the first undeniable evidence that any presumption of immortality is an illusion.
I've heard it said that we make plans, and God laughs. I was handed a thoroughly new reality to which I was forced to adjust. There was no denying that it was capable of imprisoning me in perpetual pain and unwarranted fear.
Most of us reach a stage like this at some point, via our own or a loved one's diagnosis, or when we come face to face with the unfathomable. When an overwhelming calamity strikes, what choices do we have?
The first is acceptance. Since I am able to access excellent medical care, perhaps it was somewhat easier this time for me, and I can assure you that if this particular pitch comes your way, there is a qualified cardiologist in Fort Smith who can help. In situations where the answer is not readily at hand, denial and anger are still corrosive, and they must eventually be rejected, before any sort of healing can take place.
Allowing reality to be our guide sets the stage for the next step, forgiveness. Some health situations are demonstrably more probable when poor choices are made about food, alcohol, drugs, exercise or sex, but even then, there is no future in wallowing in self-pity. In other crises, we must either move beyond the blame game, or acknowledge that we are not at fault. I understand how difficult this can be in some tragic cases, but our mental health demands that we claim it with as few reservations as we can muster.
The most important piece of the puzzle then arrives. What do I do now? I choose to continue activities that bring me joy, and to surround myself with people who have positive attitudes. For me, that includes participation in a community of believers. Do prayer lists work? I may not be able to prove it, but I encouraged all such offers, and I'm in considerably better condition now, so take from that what you will.
Many folks these days seem instead to focus on fury. I always figured that our time here was too short for that, and I'd say now that if you're obsessed with vitriolic tweeting, you might want to reconsider, while you still can.
I prefer to remain confident that significant travel plans in this year of a major wedding anniversary will all be realized, and to seek the company of folks who still believe that life's worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
You see, sometimes even a Hall of Fame pitcher lets loose a curveball that “hangs,” and the grateful batter promptly smashes a home run.
Scott D. Monroe retired from a 35-year systems analysis career with ArcBest in 2014. He enjoys bridge, charity work and Zumba and serves as a contact for the Miller Writers Group, which meets twice monthly and welcomes new members. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate in the Times Record’s Community Matters series, email Executive Editor Mardi Taylor, email@example.com.