Sometimes when you feel pain, its hard to identify exactly where the true source of the pain is coming from....
That's how I feel this week.
Just as some general background, its been a tough start to the year. I've attended two funerals, had to cancel vacation because of work, helped pack two of my best friends off to new cities. My workplace has added 3 new "Chief Officers", no new "Indians", and a ton of new well-intentioned but misguided "projects"....the official description of the company environment at the recent board meeting was "challenged." God bless corporate understatement. The three most common "break time" activities are smoking (in a mostly non-smoking company), declarations of intention to quit, and sobbing in the bathroom. Okay, I am overcompensating for the previous understatement, but I'm exaggerating less than you may think. Its not a happy place.
Thank you, god, for giving me the oasis of pool.
However, I am less grateful for the tendonitis in my shoulder.
Over the last month or so, I was actually proud of myself for keeping my post-work practice sessions short (I sometimes get so absorbed, I spend way more time and money than I intend to). But now looking back, I wonder if I was keeping them short because they were painful. Its not hard to believe that I ignore anything that might suggest that I couldn't play whenever or for however long I wanted to.
It turns out that a change in my office space, and a less ergonomic desk configuration has been putting a lot of stress on my wrists and shoulders. It seemed kind of normal, with everything being so stressful, I didn't think much of the tension and periodic pain I was feeling.
For the last month, I have been really looking forward to returning to 8-ball league. Its the spring session. I love that intense end-of-year competition to qualify. I've been feeling good about my game, and I'm playing on a new night with a slightly revised roster which means I would be slated to play more upper level players than in past seasons. But, after the first week the shoulder pain was noticeable. I lost 0-4. I actually played okay, but I felt like I got my butt kicked. My 8-ball instincts were pretty rusty. I assumed both the sting of the loss and the pain in my shoulder would fade. I'd be ready for next week.
Then the updated roster was posted, and low and behold, despite my rather spectacular loss, I've gone up a skill level.
The league operator, who after seeing me play once a year ago has taken it upon himself to raise my skill level. Not because I'm a sandbagger. Not because others in the league are complaining. Not because the software told him so, but because he thinks the challenge will be good for me. As a result, I will likely be benched for the season. Our team is too top heavy to be able to play me regularly. Maybe its a blessing in disguise, with my shoulder and all....But what a time to lose my oasis. (Because the LO didn't give me any advance notice its too late to get on another team.)
I'm not happy about this. Probably more upset than I should be...I don't mind being a higher skill level, but I can't help but feel like I've cheated out of that moment of feeling like I've earned it. I wanted to play lights out one night, and then the next week everyone say, "Well, I'm not surprised."
Here are some of the reactions over the last week:
Random league person (RLP) #1: "Wow, Pool Minnow, you're a what now? Wow, who did you beat?"
Me: "Uh, no one. I lost 0-4"
RLP #!: "Huh. Congratulations, I guess?"
RLP #2:"How the F$#% are you a? No offense..."
PM: None taken. (I lied)
RLP #3: "Wow. What did you do to the League Operator?"
PM: "Pay my dues on time."
RLP #3: "That will teach you. NEVER do that."
And so on, with a range from reactions from "WTF?" to "you have your moments and you got potential, kid, but no offense, you ain't there yet", there was a consensus that I am now an overrated player. And the league is pretty much baffled by the league operator's behavior. In a league that has a ton of underrated players, he chose to raise 3 people, I was one.
I had a fair amount of email correspondence with the LO that I won't go into, but he doesn't seem to know his customers very well. He has some interesting ideas about why people do what they do. He's very well meaning. But, he's very green.
So, despite this moment being humbling instead of triumphant, the thing that really bothers me about the LO's actions, is I think he's, well, meddling. Sure he's the LO. He can set people's skill level to whatever he wants. But, in my mind, the whole point of a handicap system is to be fair. The LO should only step in when its clear the system is failing to accurately capture someone's skill, either because of imperfections in the system or because its being intentionally evaded. But the decision to move up a player for the purpose of challenging them, is a decision that should be made by a player, not the LO. But, since the current LO clearly sees things differently, I hope that he will bestow such kindness on the many much more talented players in the league so we can restore fairness.
I realize that a year from now this will all seem silly, and I will be rather embarrassed that I ranted so. (I try to avoid ranting to much in my blog, for that reason, and its hard to stick to only the essence of things without just spewing. Besides leagues have a way of sucking you into junior high drama over nothing) But right now, I'm mad. I promise, I'll come back with a more balanced, silver lining perspective in a week or so.
And, if it weren't for the fact that I've already spent more time on the computer than I should, I would rewrite this to try to tie together the themes of challenge, pain and gain, and when its all worth it...
But, there's no gain, in the shoulder pain, so you'll just have to imagine it yourself.