Locker Room Wisdom at the Y

Staff_McDermott, TomI was in the locker room yesterday at the Downtown Y — just finished a quick workout and sharing some small talk with another guy. Now, I will admit to you, locker room chatter is not a comfort zone for me. (And I promise not to keep you lingering in this image too long!) The locker room is damp with humidity and perspiration, loud fans circulating steamy air, and then, yes, men (young and old) walking around, in the buff, and the occasional 6-year-old son or grandson . . . wide-eyed in wonder and confusion!

locker-roomThe whole scene is a little strange at the same time that it’s all perfectly normal (in a prison shower, middle school boys’ P.E. kind of way). Having never been in a women’s locker room (or do they get to call it a “dressing room”?), I wonder if the same kind of chatter takes place there. In the guys’ locker room, there’s clearly a kind of male bravado that’s present, a kind of theatrical fourth wall that separates us from the more vulnerable, honest conversations that I only assume might take place in the women’s space.

Our talk moves from the Dallas Cowboys’ latest victory (or disaster — “Romo, injured again and we’re barely into the preseason!”), to politics (though this election season is so polarized, the chatter remains cautiously generic: “So, did you hear the latest crazy thing the candidates said?” “Jeez,” says another guy, “it’s a crazy election! What do you think’s gonna happen?” Long silence. Then first guy, “Yeah, who knows!? So what about that Tony Romo?”), and then to weather.

Thankfully, the weather’s been particularly unpredictable enough to be a topic of conversation, which is what surprised me yesterday at the Y.

So, this guy next to me is getting dressed and it’s pretty crowded at 6:00 pm, so he’s really “next to me.” And I’m trying to create that “fourth wall” when he says something surprisingly reflective, almost poetic.

“You know this weather is getting frustrating.”

“Really?” I ask. “How so?”

“Lately, it’s like you check the forecast. The tiniest bit of rain is predicted for the day. So you’re dressed for a sunny, mild day. Head out for work. And then on my lunch break, walking downtown, out of nowhere, clouds appear, the wind picks up, and it’s a downpour for 30 minutes! Not an umbrella within a mile!”

I laugh and add, “It’s like that 5 percent predicted cloud burst is just following you around.”

And then the guy’s tone gets a little more frustrated as he adds, “I mean, it’s getting to where you can’t even count on the weather forecast any more. It’s more unpredictable than predictable!”

I laugh. But honestly, I laugh because, at that moment, what he says doesn’t make much sense to me (and because he is clearly agitated about it).

But when I get in my car (yes, we’re out of the locker room now), what he said sticks with me. “It’s getting to where it’s more unpredictable than predictable.”

I guess the weather is a great example of how things can change our experience at the moment — weather, a person’s opinion of us, a disagreement, a supervisor’s last-minute assignment for you, an illness or injury. There are lots of ways life’s unpredictability frustrates and changes our plans.

We can speak of life changing us. But there may be a greater opportunity in these moments than simply adapting to the curve balls life throws at us. There may be a more soulful, empowering, and renewing invitation present in such moments. It’s all sacred ground. It’s all the Ground of Being present with us. Maybe the unpredictable isn’t as much confrontation as invitation. What surprised me even more was that maybe such invitations can come in the presence of a Y locker room conversation.

caterpillar-leafRichard Rohr says, “Without transformation, you might assume you’re at a high moral, spiritual level just because you call yourself Christian or Lutheran or Methodist or Catholic. I think my great disappointment as a priest has been to see how little actual spiritual curiosity there is in so many people.”

Deep transformation, the kind that inspires us to see things differently, often requires that willful act of letting go of the way we used to think. And that’s difficult to be sure. As one of my favorite philosophers, Piglet, says when Winnie-the-Pooh asks him how does one become a butterfly, “You have to want to fly so much that you’re willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

This Sunday, September 4, we’re celebrating the revolution band’s music

with a musical retrospective of some of our favorite songs

as well as stories and poems as we explore

“transformation — it’s a labor of love”

with Brad Thompson and eleven:eleven revolution

with guest artists joining in.

We’re gonna have some fun! Hope to see you there!

Tom

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