Something Takes Over
by Sage Bennet
I love boxing. The smell of leather gloves, the pitter patter rhythm of the speed bag, learning the names of punches—Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut—all connect me with something familiar, yet elusive. Where does this joy come from, I wonder?
Memory transports me to childhood and I am a tomboy growing up in Brooklyn. Life is grand–playing stickball, running bases, boxing–until Norman moves in. He is twelve, straight, red hair and freckles, I am nine, short and wide, with curls I try to flatten every morning with brush and water. One day we are choosing sides for stickball.
Norman looks down at me and snarls: “I’m not playing with a girl.” Then he swats me away like I’m an insignificant bug.
I step towards him and try to look menacing. It does not work well; he towers over me.
“Get outa here, runt,” he says sliding his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
I refuse to move.
Then he pushes me, his right hand shoving my left shoulder. This is bad. I know I have to hold my ground. But how? Then something takes over.
“Put up your dukes,” I say bringing my fists to my face, legs apart, shifting my weight, side to side. No one is more surprised than I am.
Norman laughs at me and looks away. I do what I have to do. I swing at his face with my left, closed fist, thrusting my whole body into it, as if my life depends on it. Jab, Cross. He is not expecting the punch, and he underestimates me.
Red-faced Norman goes down. Not only does he fall to the sidewalk, but he also lands in a puddle. While everyone is laughing at him, I am thanking God my life is spared. Call it a lucky punch, a supernatural power, grace; I cannot explain it.
Six decades later my life is good. I have a job, family, and friends I love. Then out of nowhere a Parkinson’s diagnosis hits me by surprise. Jab, Hook. Stunned, disoriented, I stumble around. Then something takes over. I join a Parkinson’s support group; I hear a speaker on exercise as medicine. I join her gym, Rogue Physical Therapy and Wellness. I befriend others who have PD.
I am a make-love-not-war kind of gal, who accompanies spiders out the front door on a paper towel. But on those days when it feels like Parkinson’s towers over me–my arms feel like noodles, my feet feel like lead pipes clamped to the ground– I know how to fight back. Exercise. In boxing classes, I hit hard at Parkinson’s, throwing punches like my life depends on it. Strength returns to my arms, lightness to my steps, my inner boxer comes alive, and I am playing to win.
I do not look away or underestimate the power of Parkinson’s. Neither do I underestimate the greater soul power behind my punches. I have Norman to thank for that.
Jab. Cross. Uppercut.
Sage Bennet, Ph.D lives in Laguna Woods with her wife, Sandy, and their two dogs, Chloe and Freddy. She teaches philosophy and world religions online and is the author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World’s Spiritual Traditions.