Whether you are a golfer or not, I’ve learned countless lessons about life through the game. Some of those lessons have helped overcome the emotional challenges presented by cerebral palsy. One of the main things holding me back is being too hard on myself. Almost every person I’m close to has pointed out the brutal expectations I place upon my own shoulders. It may come from the fact cerebral palsy isn’t a progressive disability. I’ve learned the symptoms do get better as I improve strength. Like other things in life, improving strength takes time. Frustration tends to creep in when it feels like I should be able to perform a task, but don’t have the strength or balance. Sometime everything feels like it’s in the correct place to execute a golf shot, but it doesn’t happen. In my case, the arrant golf shot may also be caused by a lack of strength or balance. I honestly never thought about a missed shot being compared to a life mistake. We all seem to have missteps in life. Some missteps may be costlier than others, but they all can seemingly be qualified as mistakes. So, whether it’s a bad golf shot, spilling a drink, or making a life mistake. It seems we can recover. Being too hard on yourself will most often lead to disappointment.
The game of golf is fickle. There are many different components that go into a successful swing. Which means a poor shot can happen with any slight incorrect movement. If we don’t have the ability to let go of the inaccurate movement, the day of golf could unravel quickly. The idea for this post came during this past summer. I was watching the telecast wrapping up play at one of the major golf tournaments. During the telecast they spoke about a player’s ability to bounce back from a poor shot or a poorly played hole. The logic from the broadcaster was a poorly struck shot or difficulty on a certain hole is unavoidable. A strong player has the ability to put a poorly struck golf shot out of his mind. He can take a breath, understand those mistakes are going to happen, and fully execute the next shot. If the player has the ability to place the unsuccessful swing out of his mind, he can put the round of golf back on track.
In anything we do, moving on from a mistake is important. Learning to let go of a poorly struck golf shot in order to fully concentrate on the next shot requires maturity. The golfer described on the telecast this past summer has that maturity. They were talking about the growth of a particular player from allowing one errant shot to leak into the next one in his past. Over a year of playing this particular player had learned to mentally let go of a poor shot, executing brilliantly on the following swing, thereby recovering his round of golf. He had accepted the impossibility of getting through any round of golf perfectly. We are all going to hit a wayward shot now and then. The intelligent player understands those shots are going to unavoidably happen and accepts them. Growing up I had a difficult time accepting that hitting a poor shot was okay.
As a young man my dream was to become a professional golfer. I thought every golf shot had to be perfect. The golfers on television seemed to always hit shots well and friends I played with hit shots much further than I did. My thought was in order to keep up with them and chase my dream, each shot had to be struck exactly right. I felt no margin for error because of cerebral palsy. If I was unable to play well, I wouldn’t be accepted. Anger would creep in when I struck a shot poorly, often leading me to throw a club or sometimes walk off the course in a fit of frustration. It wasn’t leading anywhere positive. My actions were simply making it difficult for me and others. Maybe it was my way of pushing people away, because it wasn’t fair cerebral palsy was holding me back from playing well. Things began to change with maturity.
I accepted the dream of professional golf wasn’t going to be reality. Playing golf became more enjoyable from that moment. With time, I began to realize an unsuccessful shot was a learning opportunity and the blessing was in the next shot. The challenge was attempting to rectify the incorrect shot with the next golf shot. I found pleasure in the challenge. There is freedom in understanding all golf swings aren’t going to be perfect. In fact, no matter how hard you try, some swings throughout the round will be downright awful. Learning to clear the bad shots from the mind as unavoidable can free up the mind moving forward. The thought that one bad shot will lead to another can be let go with the understanding, even on the best day of golf, there will be bad swings. Mistakes are going to be made in golf and daily life.
Cerebral palsy can lead me to the feeling like I need to be perfect. Many times, I experience odd looks of curiosity. It may be due to slurred speech, the way I walk, or my physical movements. Each awkward look brings about the wish cerebral palsy would disappear. The thought also crosses my mind, if I just concentrated more on movement and speech maybe I could minimize the symptoms. I’ve found any attempt to cover the symptoms of cerebral palsy makes them worse. The only way to reduce the challenges of CP is to experience relaxation. Every time I get into a situation where I would like the symptoms to be minimal, they often become more pronounced. So, concentrating on trying to move with more steadiness and speak more clearly seems to make those actions difficult. I exude too much energy attempting to guard against making a mistake or striking the poor shot. Like the unavoidable arrant golf swing, there are awkward movements and times of slurred speech. Cerebral palsy will always creep up and takes its toll. Letting go of those uncontrollable moments seems to make life easier. Each time my hands don’t cooperate or the words don’t come out clearly, it seems better to compare those moments to a poorly struck golf shot. They should be let go in order to move on to the next challenge.
Beyond the challenges cerebral palsy presents, I make mistakes like everyone else. I’m told its simply part of our human experience. Still, the mistakes sometimes frustrate me similar to the frustrations of cerebral palsy. Without apologizing for missteps, I perceive as offensive or not perfect, I struggle letting them go. Even after an apology it takes time for self-forgiveness. The struggle is feeling worthy of acceptance. It seems difficult to feel with the challenge of CP I can be included with everyone else. Most of my time is spent feeling like I need to be extra nice, courteous, or perfect to be included with others. It’s tough to acknowledge even with cerebral palsy and everyday mistakes I can still be liked.
Letting go of mistakes can be challenging. Whether it’s an errant golf shot or a misstep in life. Cerebral palsy causes my differences to sometimes be overwhelming. The dream of movements that look more fluid and feel easier is always there. I’m blessed to have grown up playing the game of golf. It may be difficult to play well, but the time on the course has been invaluable. Each round of golf teaches me patience. The game helps remind me nothing works out the exact way I would like. I miss hit shots all the time and I’ve learned to continue the journey, attempting to make a better swing on the next shot. The lesson carries over to life, mistakes will be made and it’s about trying to improve with the next attempt.