Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, March 12, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
I had a recent golfing experience that reinforced just how much our inner state of being is often influenced by outside circumstances.
I played golf when I was younger, much younger. My mother used to take me golfing with her and her friends. There I was, a 10-year-old boy playing golf with 3 to 4 “old” ladies, or so it seemed at the time. I can’t help but to think about the Sesame Street lyric, “which one of these is not like the other?” That would be me. Nevertheless, as a youngster, I played a good game of golf. I could hit the ball straight and quite far for being such a little tyke. In my middle school years, I recall being able to make par on a few holes during a round of golf. I enjoyed the sport and as I look back now, I especially enjoyed the time with my mom and her friends.
Once I got into high school, I lost interest in golf and became curious about other things. Golf fell to the wayside. In my early twenties, while in nursing school, I found myself chasing the white ball again. Though it had been a while since I had swung a club, I maintained the ability to hit a straight ball and felt good about my score. Until recently, though returning to golf had crossed my mind, I hadn’t played again.
A couple months ago, I drove by an estate sale and saw a set of clubs. I passed them by. Throughout my day at work, I thought about how fun it might be to reengage in the sport. I got $20 in cash and told myself that is all I would spend. Sure enough, $20 is exactly what they were asking. Fate!
I decided it would be wise to hit a few balls on the driving range before I took on 9 holes. I couldn’t hit the ball straight. I “topped” a few. I think one even went backwards. After a bit, I found a semblance of my former swing. Over a few weeks and a few rounds, I started to feel pretty confident and remembered why I enjoyed golf in the first place. Outside. Light exercise. Green grass. Trees and birds and blue skies.
After a couple week hiatus of playing – I visited mom and did some extra work – I made my way back to the course. To warm up, I hit a few balls crooked on the driving range. I felt like I was starting over. Nevertheless, I was mostly convinced I’d find my swing once I actually started playing. I approached the first tee and saw that a man was playing alone in front of me. He seemed to be moving slowly. I had the awareness that I felt a wee bit irritated with this unfortunate situation. I mean, there was pretty much no-one else on the course and this guy was in no hurry whatsoever, and, he was in front of me. It wasn’t long before I realized that he was playing two balls. No wonder he was walking up and down the fairway. “It’s all good, I’m sure he’ll let me play through.”
Once he finally moved far enough down the first hole, I teed up my ball and hooked that sucker right behind a tree on the far-left side of the fairway where the golfcarts are supposed to drive. I hoped that no-one saw. The guy in front didn’t, he was too busy dawdling. I teed up a second ball (first shot still!). Mulligan. Smack. It went a long way and ended up right in the middle of the fairway, on the 18th hole! The exact opposite direction of my first shot. As I walked towards the first ball I hit, I noticed the guy in front of me finally made it to the green. Instead of picking my ball up as you might normally do with a mulligan, I decided to hit. I mean I had the time. The shot wasn’t too bad. At least it was in the correct fairway. I made my way to the middle of 18 where my (second) first shot went and decided to play it as well. Smack. Despite aiming towards the first hole flag, my ball ended up further down the 18th hole. By meow, the older slow-moving gentleman was on the next hole – still dillydallying. I found my first ball, the one in the correct fairway. Swing and a miss. I looked up towards the second hole and see Mr. Leisure still taking his own sweet time. No-one was behind me. Swung again. This time I topped the ball and it bounced roughly 20 yards down the fairway. I wasn’t feeling too good about myself and this day of golf at that moment. Frustrated, I made my way back to hole 18 and actually had a pretty good third shot (with the second ball). It landed pretty darn close to the green. Or so I thought. I never found it. The course was sopping wet and wherever it landed, the soil must have sucked that ball right in.
I finally made it to the green and putted my first ball into the hole. Even though I must have swung at least 11 times, I gave myself a “gentleman’s 8.” “It’s a handicap thing,” I told myself. No-one should ever have to write down more than 8 shots on a par 4. I sulked my way to hole number 2 where I’m astonished to see that the only other person on the course is still too close for me to tee off. I was teed off. It was at this point when I started to laugh at myself.
Here I am, the sun is out, getting some exercise, doing something that I say I enjoy, birds are singing, I have no pending responsibilities, I’m in no hurry whatsoever, I know that I am blessed, truly blessed, and yet I’m making myself miserable because things aren’t going my way.
Though somehow I managed to get a par 5 on one of the holes, my golf game didn’t get any better that day. I couldn’t hit the ball straight, the man in front of me never let me play through (I never caught up with him 😊), and my shoes are still muddy. Though I experienced some frustration here and there having to chase my ball around, underlying my mind’s insane idea that my golf game should be better and how the loiterer in front of me who never actually slowed me down should be moving faster, there was a serene sense of peace and ease – a playfulness underneath all the turmoil.
I needed this day of golfing woes to help me better understand just how much I tend to interpret how my day is going based on external circumstances that I have absolutely no control over. If I have a good game of golf, I have a great day. If I have a bad game of golf, I have a bad day. If the store clerk is moving slow, it’s a bad day. If traffic is moving smoothly, it’s a good day. If my boss is being a jerk, it’s a bad day. We don’t have to live like this.
Our happiness and overall well-being have little to do with how the day turns out, or the golf game for that matter. Our flourishing is not dependent upon things going our way. What matters is how we show up to the events in our lives and how we respond to situations as they arise. While I was obviously initially triggered by how my golf game started out, my Mindfulness practice helped me to call to mind what a blessing it is to be alive: I have access to abundant resources, plentiful opportunities to recreate, and time for leisure. I found some equanimity.
We can gain insight about ourselves by reflecting on how we respond to situations as they arise. There is always something we can learn, if we pay attention.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
Contribute to the Turning Leaf Foundation
If you would like to help bring Mindfulness to the less fortunate and to help pay for current services, your generosity is deeply appreciated.