Point of View: Serenity, Grace, Wisdom

    I read in The Times today about a longevity study that finds the more organized you are, the longer you may live.
    Genes apparently don’t have all that much to do with it, nor does optimism, for optimists tend to set themselves up for falls, such as when your computer crashes and you realize you’ve not backed everything up, as happened to us this week.
    Prudence and persistence seem to be traits associated with long life. I will lay claim to persistence, when so inclined, though Mary is the more prudent of the two of us. I suppose there does come a day when it is no longer prudent to persist, the day when you should pack a bag and buy a one-way plane ticket to Switzerland. But, besides euthanasia, Switzerland has always stuck in my mind because of Roy Emerson’s summer tennis camp at that old Victorian hotel in the mountains — Gstaad, St. Moritz, somewhere — which has forever seemed beyond my financial grasp.
    He sends me a brochure each year, and each year I sigh and put it aside. Even in extremis I think I’d go there first, though, just to see if I could summon up, for one more time, the joy of kicking others’ butts.
    “You are mean,” a woman I played doubles with recently said, and I, a self-confessed passive-aggressive type, had to admit she had a point.
    By the same token, I get very upset when someone takes me to school. Somehow, it seems to me very unfair to have my butt kicked, as happens every now and then. My cordial (though mean) rivals delight in knocking me off my high horse, for they know I’ll throw a fit and self-destruct. (Aside: Did I tell you that I once threw a tantrum that lasted four hours, from Bennington, Vt., to Bay Head, N.J.? I was 2 at the time, and I don’t remember, but I was told it was memorable.)
    After one recent Har-tru humiliation, I said to Mary I might give up the game and put more of my energy into drinking henceforth, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She doesn’t like sniveling. Like the Spartan women, I imagine her saying as I go forth to do battle at the East Hampton Indoor Tennis Club on Thursday nights: “Come home with your racket or on it.”
    Well, that’s a misrepesentation; she just wants me to have fun. And indeed I do, as long as things go my way!
    Seriously, I would like to grow spiritually on the tennis court, to the point where I would meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same, just as it says over the players’ entrance to center court at Wimbledon. It’s from Kipling’s poem, “If” (or “Eeef,” as my French stepmother used to call it), counseling a stiff upper (not a quivering lower) lip.
    So then, God grant me the serenity to accept the flubbed shots I cannot change, the grace to praise the shots that others may (however infrequently) make, and the wisdom not to make such a big deal of it.