Retirement brings many things – a respect from one’s children for a career well-spent maybe or perhaps just general all round admiration? Well, no, at least not right now. After the second day of the first Ashes test match my daughter sent me a text saying ‘thank you for ruining my life’. I’d introduced her to cricket as a little girl, she’d caught the affliction and now cricket was ruining her life. And mine. Thing was she wasn’t joking.
For some people sport has the power to raise you to great heights or, more commonly in my case, plunge you to even greater depths. The only way to avoid this is to support only winning teams – you know the Man U fans around the world – and dump a team when it starts to lose. Many people get by on this basis but not, I’m afraid, me.
This weekend I’ve had an indifferent football result (and that was the best of it), upsetting rugby league result and a devastating cricket performance. It was only the second day of the cricket (the Ashes Test as you ask) and we went on to lose by well over 300 runs but it was this second day that caused the pain. After that I’d become dulled, as they say to the hurt and the final result was what was expected.
When a sports side is consistently bad we, what psychologists call, habituate to the outcomes. It’s how people who experience high levels of punishment just get used to it. But I hadn’t got to that point with the cricket because our expectations had been quite high going into this series. And I’m stupid. True, those of us who have followed the English cricket team for many years have learned to be cautious but it had started well on the first day. Only the most cynical would have predicted this result.
But all this is beside the point. What is truly devastating is that it matters. It really does matter – to me that is – and others. See my Australian friend’s comment to my first cricket blog for how much it matters (he forgets that we had many more years of pain that any Aussie). And, by the way, I realise I am in danger of sounding like the proverbial whingeing Pom here. But I have to say it.
What I truly cannot understand is how a practised control freak like me, a man obsessed with exerting control over those life variables that can be controlled, can let this happen. Yes, there’s that saying that ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’. It’s a good stress management mantra. We used to talk about it with our audiences when we did our presentations on stress management. Problem is, following England cricket or even Cricket England, does not remotely fall into this category.
Psychologists, they know a lot don’t they, describe an approach to motivation, to human behaviour, why we do what we do, in terms of something they call Locus of Control. In order to make their point they polarise people into two camps – people with External Locus of Control and those with Internal Locus of Control. The reality, is, of course, rarely this black and white but the categorisation serves to make the point here. People with external locus of control let other people and events influence how they feel. Those with internal locus of control are ‘their own bosses’. They decide how they feel, or what they are ‘going to take notice of’ and the ‘outside world’ has no effect on how they feel or what they do. This makes one category sound ‘better’ than the other, but this is not the case.
As I suggest, in reality no person fits neatly into one category. The first type if they were wholly external, would be a jelly, incapable of making the simplest of decisions about their life without finding out what other people thought they should do. Everything has an effect on them, they have no solid sense of themselves. The second type – the wholly internal – would be a kind of uncaring psychopath. Other people and the world in general would have no relevance for them. You need a balance I think.
And the point of this little lecture? Well, having said that nobody is exclusive to one or other category, I definitely try, at least, to lean towards the internal category. I try to make sure that I control what I can (as I said, a bit of a control freak in old money) and stay away from what I can’t. Except, and a hell of a big exception it is too, when it comes to sport. I regard myself as an intelligent person and yet here I am at a sensibly mature time of my life, letting sport pull me way out of shape, just like I used to when I was a kid, more so maybe. When am I going to grow up?
You know there have been times when I thought things might be different in retirement. I have written several times in this blog about tabla rasa, a reinvention at this stage of my life. And some things have changed with retirement, definitely, but this aspect of my life in retirement hasn’t changed one bloody jot.