I wish my title had more of a positive tone to it, but since I like to make lemonade out of lemons, it gives me a chance to talk about “sour” moments and how I find redemption. I hesitate to even mention this subject (the lost golf swing) because it seems so trite and inconsequential, but I will forge ahead with this tale because there is a moral to the story, as you may guess. And who knows, perhaps someone will draw inspiration from this story and it will make a difference in their life. This is why I write – I put my heart and soul into it, with the hope that it makes a difference in at least one person’s life. Perhaps my struggles will inform someone else’s path and offer food for thought.
So, I lost my golf swing. Big deal – I can hear the chuckles all around! Is that all? Doesn’t seem all that important in the scheme of things. And you would be right. It’s not that important, unless you are so obsessed with the game that you watch videos every night to find the swing again, query every golfer you know, make videos of yourself and send it to the best amateur golfer you know (your son) for help and analysis, and practice until blisters erupt. ☹️
One of the lures for early retirement for me was the chance to spend more time with eight grandchildren and work on my golf game. I love the game because it takes me outside and forces me to focus and engage in a walking meditation. Plenty of folks no doubt miss the walking meditation part, I suppose, because they are busy getting all worked up about the game, and I feel certain I am guilty of that crime from time to time. But, I always try to take away a positive, and I breathe in the fresh air deep, deep into my lungs, and I allow the natural beauty of my surroundings to soak into my cells—the color and contour of the trees, the varied and diverse display of flowers, both planted and wild, the texture of the wind and the hue of the sky; perhaps a hawk flying overhead, an egret, a fox. I take it all in and count my many blessings. If by chance I have been away from the game for awhile, it only takes one time on the course to feel all the sensations freshly ignited in my bones once again. I am sucked in quickly because I just love being on the course where it’s just me and the game, the sky and the earth, and unfortunately, that dreaded mental space between my ears!
I recently had the worst game of my life and then followed it with another bad game. Yet, I take away any positive I can. Hey, on that long par 5, 18th hole, I almost chipped in for par (after everything else prior was a disaster), or I really bonded with my playing partner and had some belly laughs. Things like that. My Dad was always ready to quit the game, but that successful birdie putt on hole #18 always kept him coming back.
Many folks, wiser than me, compare the game of golf to life. Ups and downs; win some and lose some; sometimes you want to tear your hair out; other times, things seem to fall into place rather effortlessly. One is in the zone! And the down times of the game are distressing and a bitter pill – they try the patience of the most saintly saint. The game of golf and life test us – what are we made of? What do we do with adversity – do we cave or do we pick ourselves up and try again? Just like life. Every one has adversity and it comes in many forms. Sometimes I feel like I am going through test after test; a wise friend said that God gives these tests and when we pass with flying colors, we are led up to another rung on the ladder only to be tested again. Ugh!
I was playing some decent golf before my game went to shambles. Something took over my body and I could not stop it. For those who suffer from nervous tics, please forgive me for saying this, but it was like a tic that had a mind of its own, and no ounce of will power could shoo it away. I called it the gremlin that took over my body, and it seemed to come out of the blue and I could not stem the bleeding. It turned from a gremlin to a gargoyle. That is how nasty it was. It was no longer a nice, ordinary little gremlin; it was one of those snarling, scary creatures that adorn the exterior of medieval cathedrals. But gremlins and gargoyles, as far as I can discern, are creatures that like to have ground under their feet (or a building to lean on) and stay relatively close to the earth. Maybe not, but humor me 😂 but whatever took over then became a vulture, and this vulture was like a thief in the night that swooped into an open window while I was sleeping and stole my golf swing, escaped and flapped its wings wickedly as it cackled and cawed, leaving me a powerless mess, desperate to regain some sanity and peace after a nightmare.
On the day I had my worst golf game, I happened to golf with a woman who I noticed had very little hair under her golf cap. An educated guess would be that she had gone through a cancer treatment and this would be correct. She was a heck of a good golfer and I kept apologizing for my game, saying “I USED to be a good golfer.” She smiled sweetly and offered no advice. What could she say? She had been through the ringer: ovarian cancer. Her clear blues eyes sparkled with depth and a love of life. I went home and emailed a friend saying, “Here I am, worried about a stupid game… and it’s just a game…when this poor woman is battling for her life?!”
Soon thereafter, I received an email notifying me that a distant friend in her late 60’s had suffered a series of strokes and would have to spend some time in a rehab center. And I was worried about imaginary gremlins, gargoyles and vultures. My friend is quite brainy and I stand in awe of her intellect and perceptive, quick Irish wit and intuitive insights, and now she would need to rebuild her speech, strengthen her facial muscles and wait for her brain to repair. While I was running around a golf course crying about my game and thieving vultures, my friend was battling to get her brain and speech back.
And then a little child very near and dear to my heart came down with an auto immune illness. Out of the blue. It broke my heart. And although the little tyke should get better in 4-6 weeks, it seems so unfair that a gorgeous, innocent little human being, who has done no harm to others, would have to suffer from an inexplicable rare illness that also came like a vulture in the night.
But with life comes suffering and unexpected trials and tribulations. Those are the gremlins, gargoyles and vultures. Yet, I don’t mean to disparage these creatures because they only do what is in their nature to do. Each one of us will contend with slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but there is a saying that a sister taught me: “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” For me, it’s always about trying to find the positive and taking away any lesson that I possibly can. That is how I deal with pain. It may take awhile but I eventually end up there – coming to terms with the challenges and doing the very best that I can.
Something just came to mind about dealing with pain and doing the best that we can. After my Father died, my sisters and I did not think our Mother would last nine months. But nine years later, here she is doing so incredibly well at age 87 and trying so hard to make the last leg of her life really count. She had incredible pain, but she’s a fighter and a survivor, and she surprised the people in her life. We all thought she would crumble and crash, but she rallied and exhibited tremendous growth. It is the exact thing I had often prayed might happen, not fully believing it could happen, but always holding out hope. But her tenacity and energy have been incredible. My father’s passing opened up a space for my Mother to rise to the occasion and out of the ashes rose a phoenix.
As I write this, I am still working here and there on my golf swing but I’m softening around this issue and not worrying about it as much. People have told me to take a break and I do have other things to focus on. This is my lesson to define for me what really matters and put that on top of my list. It’s not the golf swing! More importantly, I am also trying to be there for those that need me and be of service. What do we have if we don’t have each other?
If someone were to ask me, what do you want, do you want a perfect golf swing, or do you want swooning grace inside and serenity expanding your heart? Well I know the answer to that question. Screw the golf swing. I don’t know anyone with a perfect golf swing all the time (not even the pros), and I don’t know any perfect human beings. All of us, with our individual and distinctive quirks and idiosyncrasies, make life interesting. It’s about progress, *not* perfection. Yet, there are victories sprinkled here and there on this difficult, adventurous, mysterious, miraculous journey called life. I build victories by keeping the focus on changing and improving myself, limiting the drama and urge to change or fix others. Well, that is my noble and sincere intention at any rate! Again, it’s about progress and moving in the right direction however slow or plodding it may be. As always, there’s detours and forks in the road. These are lessons and challenges that get our attention and hopefully help to put us back on the straight and narrow. It’s up to us.
Here is the latest in this saga and it just occurred within the past few hours. I realized that the gremlins, gargoyles and vultures were actually doing me a favor! This revelation popped into my brain after a 90 minute session at the golf range with my scratch golfer son. I was not meant to have my old golf swing, not now, not in the past, nor in the future. The gremlin tried to tell me, but my ears had wax; then he sent a more fierce ally, the gargoyle, and I dug my heels in. Okay, she’s a stubborn one I imagined them saying. So they sent the big guy – the vulture and he did his duty; he flew away with a swing that I was not supposed to have! I had to be brought to my knees to understand this.
I wish I still had a book that a family friend gave to my golf loving family – it had to do with applying 12 steps to the golf game. “I admitted I was powerless over the game of golf and my life had become unmanageable. Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Made a decision to turn my will and my golf game over to God as I understood him.” So Higher Power was magnanimous and spoke through the form of my son, because not all messages we need to hear are blasted from a cloud filled sky, nor spoken in quiet tones into our inner ear, or emanate from a burning bush; instead answers come to us in all kinds of packages. The answer we need, the answer we seek may come through another human being. The answer I received was to give up all my exertions, surrender, and go back to the very basic of basics – a basic that either I missed or didn’t fully understand and it was simple: it’s all in the “shoulder turn”.
In referencing 12 steps, this particular entry in the Alanon book “Courage to Change” on May 31 caught my eye:
“Legends have often told of spiritual journeys in which the hero must face great challenges before gaining treasure at the journey’s end. As the heroes of our own stories, we in Alanon have also embarked upon a spiritual journey: one of self-discovery.”
So no matter the nature of the adversity you are given, may it give you a chance to dive deep inside and grab hold of your greatest strength. May you find serenity, love and compassion for yourself and then shine that out into your world and to others. For inside of you is the greatest treasure, and often it takes clawing through layers of dirt and clay, rocks and stones, to find that gleaming gem of serenity and brilliance that resides deep inside your core. You are that.
To be continued.