In last week's piece, I wrote about how the recent round Jerry and I played wasn't fun for me. So does that mean that I'm done? I quit? I don't have what it takes to play golf to just simply have a good time, and so I'm going to let it go?
Of course not. Because now the interesting work can really begin. In acknowledging the aspect of the game that matters most to me--namely, unlocking the power of my swing--I know where to put the heart of my practice. This focus may not make an immediate positive difference in terms of score (indeed, if my accuracy declines during the initial part of the process, I could well end up with higher scores), but I know my satisfaction will markedly increase.
However, it wasn't merely my dissatisfaction with the length of my shots that kept the round from being fun for me. Other things came up both before and during the round that told me a lot about myself and my relationship to the sport.
First of all, I was careless with my time leading up to the round, trying to get too many things done that morning, which put me in a state of frustration before I ever even left the house. When I get into time-stress, my energy tends to blow up, and it takes a long time to settle down again, during which time it affects my ability to be present and enjoy what's going on around me. Allowing that to happen right before the round certainly had negative repercussions on my enjoyment of the round.
But if I'm being honest, long before that happened, I was already primed for a perilous emotional state.
Jerry and I have spoken multiple times in these pieces about how the process of living a more centered life will get energy flowing through places where you've previously shut down. We start to feel places we've numbed.
Well, that morning before the round, I found myself in the midst of some of the feelings I used to have about playing golf back when I'd last played regularly, when I was a kid in middle school. They weren't simple feelings. The feelings related to my frustration with the game, to memories of my displeasure at awakening so early to play (my dad always wanted to be on the course as close to sunrise as possible, and there is no great joy being awakened at 5:30 in the morning when you're twelve or thirteen years old--thankfully Jerry and I met at a far more sensible time, but those feelings nevertheless arose), and feeling related to my dad himself.
My dad had about as literal a love-hate relationship with golf as it's possible to have. He went religiously, week after week, but he struggled and struggled with the sport. His explosive temper and the endless frustration golf caused him made for kind of a bad combination. And of course I had my own relationship to his anger, as well as my own propensity toward anger, and a conscious desire to not want to emulate his volatility. Golf had all of these associations for me when I was a kid, and on that Friday morning before I went to play, I watched them all arise again in my body.
So what do you do about that kind of thing? Because I am neither interested in playing out my father's pathologies around the game, nor am I interested in reliving feelings that have lingered in my body since my boyhood.
Well, interested or not, there is no easy path through it. Things arise. And when they do, we generally have two choices: we can try to deny the feelings are there, either by trying to ignore them or tamp them down; or we can acknowledge the feelings and then center and breathe through them. Through that process, fresh energy will flow through the stuck places, and the stagnant energy will start to release.
(Now, whether or not dealing with these feelings when they arise during a round is productive is a different matter. It may not be appropriate to close your eyes and center deeply and breathe for a while until the feelings dissipate when you're in the middle of a round and the people behind you wish you'd just go ahead and hit your next goddamn shot already.)
This may not be immediately obvious, but it's a good thing when feelings like these arise. As Jerry and I have said several times in these writings, our main goal with this project is not to improve our golf games, but to improve ourselves as people. We seek to improve our lives. In acknowledging these feelings, I have an amazing opportunity to grow. The process won't be easy or comfortable. Changing challenging feelings never is. Even writing about it is challenging. Still, I recognize how significant the long-term benefits are going to be, and so I welcome the process of change.