I recently played golf with a friend, Jennifer, who is a remarkable player. After we played, our foursome stayed for a drink and talked about our game that day and golf, in general.
When golfers talk about other players, especially those quirkier than themselves, they say, “You know golf is a reflection of how people really are.”
My close buddy, Jen, the better golfer of the four, said with her half-smile, “I don’t agree with that. I’ve been known to throw a tantrum or two, and I don’t do that in real life.” We all laughed and gave an opinion of whether that perspective holds true for us or not. I told about a financial investor I used to play with who frequently miscounted her strokes. (That’s a bit scary if golf is truly a smaller way to express you bigger self.) At the end of the conversation, Jen shared how she thinks that her goal in golf is to take her talent and maximize it. She practices, tirelessly, and takes her skill set on to the golf course without making the number of errors the majority of golfers experience.
Later that evening, I thought about the conversation. I recalled Jennifer’s comment about maximizing one’s talent. I have played golf for over twenty years. I love to buy the clothes and the shoes, take golf lessons, and put myself out there with friends and competitors about 100 times a year. But, I don’t think that golf fits into my array of talents. I’m not excellent at it. I do think, though, that I have other talents. I, too, thought about golf and life and how they interrelate.
My Life and Golf
This spring, as the golf season began, I had a minor foot surgery. The doctor said I’d be back on the course in 5-7 days. Seven days later, I walked 18 holes and chatted with my caddie and enjoyed the company of my husband and another couple. I felt sheer joy. I wrote the caddie’s number down and asked him if he’d like to spend a couple of days a week toting my bag. It was going to be a great summer.
Three days passed and I noticed my foot was turning red and swelling. I’m a nurse. My husband, David, is a doctor. We knew something was wrong. After a round of antibiotics and immobilizing my foot for ten days, I was given the “go ahead” for golf, once again. I played in a tournament with three friends. We didn’t win a monetary prize but we succeeded in hitting good shots, hitting bad shots, and laughing … together.
Two weeks later, my foot began to swell and was definitely re-infected … the pain excruciating. For several weeks, I went to the doctor daily to have my foot wound treated. Every step I took was debilitating. I was not only unable to play golf, but I couldn’t do many of the daily things I needed to do. David and I were trying to move from one residence to another, and every attempt I made to pack or unpack was a painful exercise. Eventually the massive amount of antibiotics I required caused me to have a serious gastro-intestinal problem. More meds were needed. I became so weak I could barely walk across a room without sitting down. Between the illness and isolation, the wheels began to come off.
Tears began infrequently, and then days of inability to stop crying or get out of bed ensued. The talent that I have so loved, the talent of compassionate nursing, and helping others was out of my reach for myself. The nurse who specializes in health care decision making, aging, and dying was unable to advise or heal her self.
One particular Sunday, my grown daughter, Libby, stayed in bed with me and encouraged me to take deep breaths, just so I could stop crying. For weeks, my husband, David, washed the laundry, cooked meals, and did many other things that I have always done. Daily, family and friends drove me to doctor appointments and relentlessly encouraged me that with each day, I would improve.
It’s been six months. I am back in full swing, literally. David and I traveled to Texas last week, and I played golf five days out of seven. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my family. I am able to do all the things with my grandchildren that I love to do, and even made a gingerbread house with little Henry. Our new home is unpacked and looks beautiful.
I look back on this year and realize that what should have been a great spring and summer of golf and friends turned out to be a thorough test of my character. Little by little I had to overcome the hurdles of chronic illness and chronic pain. I had to take small steps to regain my strength and re-enter many areas of my life that I had missed out on.
So do I think that golf is a reflection of one’s life? I’m not sure. But what I do believe is that life lessons, as those I learned during my illness, will make me a better golfer. If I play badly and feel overwhelmed, I will take some deep breaths and swing by swing, shot by shot, I will wait for things to get better. And, as in life, my friends on the golf course will support me as I take baby steps until I recover. So, Jen, maybe while you were hitting balls this summer, I was practicing, just in a different way. And, just maybe … my golf will reflect what I learned!