Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why I Do What I Do (Riding a different kind of white horse)

Okay, I know what you're thinking. "What the hell man! You promised us an insanely personal story about the whole lot of good and that personally crushing thing that happened to you in Los Angeles during that stupid trip you took last fall! Why are you leaving us hanging? What an asshole!" To which I am going to reply, "Hey, it's been a busy year." I'm actually almost done with that story and hope to have it up in a few days. But something happened to me today, and it hit some weird spot in my brain and I just had to reflect on it a little bit. Because it cuts to the absolute core of who I am, what I do and why I do it. So for you guys, and the shockingly strange amount of readers I have from Eastern Europe and behind the Iron Curtain, here's your chance to get inside my head for a second. I'll finish that travelogue soon, and maybe dust off The Dorm Days later this year. 

Not enough tacklin' fuel.
Anyway, on to the meat of this blog entry. Growing up I was a total Mama’s Boy. Not Waterboy bad, but my momma and I were pretty close. Like it should be, I guess. When I was a little kid, my dad owned a trucking company and worked from 6 AM to 8 PM every day, so he wasn’t around too much. She drove me to various sports practices daily, served as president of my Little League and Babe Ruth leagues, helped me with my homework and did all this while holding down a full time job, and attended college! Total Superwoman growing up, a strong, take-no-bullshit kind of lady. Eventually my dad sold the company, and took another job giving him a little bit more time to be around, but I was always closer to my mother.  


What a bunch of reprobates.
My dad and I butted heads constantly. It seemed like I could never do anything good enough for the guy. My grades were never good enough. I didn’t work hard enough in the yard. Hell, I think I was the only “coach’s kid” in all of youth baseball that didn’t have an easy ride. I’d hit a home run to the opposite field and as I’d be rounding first, all I’d hear is “You were a little late getting around on that one.” One of the reasons I got into golf in the first place was that it was something he’d never done before so he couldn’t criticize me about it. To be honest with you there was a period there where I thought the dude was a total asshole. We just didn’t get along, even threw down a couple of times. Believe me, I'm not proud of this, and I'm glad we're good now. Get along with your parents kids, you'll thank me later.

About a month and a half before high school graduation, my folks split up. I never did see it coming, but at the same time, I wasn't around home very often back then. I pretty much lived over at my buddy Wischer's place back then and the local golf course. In a baseball parlance, I was just "playing out the string" until graduation when I would maybe force myself to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. A wiser person than I (not exactly distinguished company, that's probably 95% of the world) once said "whatever you take for granted, you lose" and you could definitely say that at the time, I took my family for granted. And when it blew up, mentally it threw me into a tailspin. I pretended to hold it together for my Dad and little sister, but even they had to have known I was pretty jacked-up. Sure, the circumstances kind of forced my Dad and I to get along for the first time pretty much ever, but I was still lost, spending what time I wasn't in class or at work crawling into a bottle of Jack Daniels that an older buddy would pick up for me once a week. 

There used to be a lot more weeds to the right.
One day though, the following summer I was out by myself playing golf at good ol' Carbon Country Club. As was typical at the time I was thinking about what a mess I was and probably feeling sorry for myself. It was late in the day, right around dusk, and the course down home seemed completely deserted. I striped my tee shot down  the 18th fairway and walked to my ball. When I reached it, I had a good look around and something weird happened. I noticed the grass was the most beautiful tint of jade that I'd ever seen. The sand in the trap seemed pearl white, even though it was the same shitty sand we'd always had. The clouds in the sky looked to be on fire as the little remaining light cast what seemed to be the air around me in the most surreal shade of blue with streaks of warm orange light almost illuminating a path towards nirvana. The scene gave me pause, and then for the first time a sense of total calmness came over me as all the chaos and strife in my life seemingly lifted away. It was almost like something else was there standing next to me letting me know that everything was going to be all right. Then I stepped up to my ball, and hosel-rocketed it straight into the weeds. But you know what, I didn't care, because I was in a good state of mind. Things were going to be all right.

A monster is chained in all our hearts, waiting to be set free by obsession
Now, I'm not particularly religious. I grew up that way, hell, I was even an altar-boy at my church. I grew out of it and let's just say it's probably not in the cards for me to head down that path again. Nowadays I dabble a little bit in the Tao, and meditation, but that's more for personal enlightenment. I fucking hate rules. But I felt something that day, and I've been chasing it ever since. I competed at a fairly high level in the game for years, and I thought the charge of being in contention in a tournament might've been that feeling. But it's a whole other ballgame entirely. What I've been chasing is that sense of calmness that I can only describe as being one with the vibrations of the universe. I don't mean to come off sounding like a two-bit Rust Cohle but golf happens to be my particular tool for finding that greater sense of being. For the rest of you, it might be (and probably is) something else entirely and I can't tell you what that might be, but I encourage all of you that might be reading this to try and find it. You'll know it when you do. It's better than drugs. It's better than booze. And you'll be chasing it like a junkie taking the spike until you find it again. Hopefully what it is for you, isn't actually heroin. That shit kills people.

Anyway, today, I threw some new irons in the bag, gave them a good shakedown on the range, and blasted through eighteen holes in about two and a half hours, firing the best round I've shot all season. Afterward, I taught my golf for women class (beginning golf session 1 starts in just a month, sign up!). Tonight they learned a very difficult shot, and at the end they all had hit a bunch of shots they could be proud of. Professionally, nothing satisfies me more. Once class wrapped up, I sprinted back out for nine more holes. I work mostly evenings these days, so rarely do I get some dusk golf in, and this is my favorite time of the year to do it. I didn't hit the ball as well as I did earlier today, but that's okay. The great thing about the game is you can still have a great time, even if things are struggling. 

These days I struggle finding a balance between work and life. For the first time ever, I feel like I have my health, and mentally I'm in a pretty good place, but we didn't get much of a break this Winter and it seems like we've been grinding pretty hard since January. I'm down to one day a week off, and I'm filling what free time I've got with lessons. I enjoy being busy, but it's left a bit of a lack of time for other things in life, from relationships, to creative pursuits, to hell, even just keeping up with my yard! My work-life balance is way outta whack, but I guess it's what I signed up for all those years ago when I got into this crazy business in the first place. 

I didn't have a camera all those years ago.
Today, I did, and this still isn't as brilliant as it looked in real life.
I got to the last hole, as the sun was hanging low and found myself with an approach shot out of some heavy rough after shoving my second shot about thirty yards right of the fairway. I pulled the club out of my bag, took a couple practice swings and just before I took a stance, I took a good look around. And for just a second, that sense of balance and calm and brilliant color washed over me like a gentle flood. The only sound I could hear was a couple sprinklers in the distance as I drew my wedge back and fired a smooth dart to about five feet from the pin. The smile and daze I was in didn't leave my face as I walked up to the ball, hearing an imaginary gallery going crazy as I approached the green. I lined up my putt and slid in my eighth birdie in twenty seven holes. Pure bliss, until I remembered that I had taken a cart and left it at the spot from where I hit my approach 120 yards back up the hole. Sometimes getting caught up in the moment can make you feel like an idiot.

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