People will call the one thing by all sorts of different names. It took me a long time to realise that In The Zone was more or less the same thing as the One-Pointedness of Zen. Thing is, I was once into Zen, whereas sport… instant inattention. I hated sport at school because I could see absolutely no point in it. If I wanted exercise I could walk… hell, I could even run about a bit. Why did I need to put on a lot of complicated padding and stand shivering on in a hockey goal waiting for a great horde of hoydens to come bearing down on me, screaming? What was the point of jumping over that pole? Why jump into that sandpit? Sand is just sand. Why does it have to have rituals attached to it?
I suppose it didn’t help being tall. I come from a tall family. Dad was a six foot four electrician/racing cyclist and one of my sisters is six foot. Both of my sisters are taller than me. The slightly-less-than-six-foot one once asked a prospective blind date over the phone if his mother had thought to mention that she was a Giantess. (His mother set up the date.) It dogs us all, this bigness. Luckily it didn’t put him off, and they’ve been together for years. I read somewhere that elephants are the only animals on the planet that can’t jump. My two friends Daisy, Rose and I spent some time on Wednesday trying to think of animals, apart from elephants, that couldn’t jump. None, apart from the females of my family. Possibly earthworms.
So it never really occurred to me that I could enter this Zone thing. I could never understand how they did it, these high-jump people. Preparing to jump three times their own height, defying gravity in the process, they rock backwards and forwards and make funny faces; they do these funny snorty breaths and frown a lot and I think – you are surrounded by an arena full of other people. Other people, the most distracting and irritating items on earth, all staring at you, all staring at you, all waiting for you to run up to that jump, catapult off your wobbly pole and crash back to terra firma, preferably breaking a few small bones in the process. That’s why people watch sport – to see injury, death, defeat, tears, tantrums, flaming car crashes. They don’t want you to win.
I wasn’t having much luck with One-Pointedness either. I spent hours on the living room floor, trying to get my legs to cross like they were supposed to, trying not to be in severe and unnatural discomfort whilst trying to empty my mind, empty my mind… and then my nose would start to itch or a cat would come along and demand to be made a fuss of. The more I tried to focus the more up-tight I became. I am not designed to focus – in everyday life, anyway. I am designed to be distracted. That’s how I write the poems – distraction, distraction, distraction.
But then enlightenment struck. I realised that when I writing, and only when writing, I was in the Zone; I was Going with the Flow, man; I was One-Pointed. How else could four hours go by without my noticing? The sun had gone down and at some point stars had come out. And a full moon. How had that happened? I had forgotten to close the curtains and outside the garden was pitch black. Curtains?
I don’t know, said my husband, stomping up from his Workshop in one of his Moods, how it is that the one household task you are entrusted with, the closing of the curtains every evening, you still manage to fail to do!
Had I had my wits about me I would have snapped back, sharp as a button: What about when you’re down in the Workshop making those fragile, fantastical models of steam engines and don’t reappear till midnight? Is it a case of man-in-the-zone – only to be expected; woman-in-the-zone – whoever heard of that? But of course, I never did have my wits about me.