I've started playing golf. I have a handicap of 45.4. If you’re not familiar with golf, this is very very bad. Just as a benchmark, the pros have minus handicaps. The only reason my handicap is not bigger is that they don't go any bigger. The good news is that I can only get better!
I played a round with my husband Rob on Sunday. It was glorious sunshine! The perfect day to ruin a beautiful walk with a game of golf. On the first hole I scudded the shots in to the trees. On my second shot, the ball hit a tree and redounded behind me so that I actually lost ground on that hit. By the time I had had seven shots in the rough ground, through trees, taking air swings, I'd had enough. There were people coming up behind me, I was getting more and more frustrated, more and more embarrassed, and I felt like crying. I wanted to hurt something.
What amazes me is how wound up I felt about being so upset! After all, this was meant to be fun.
It occurred to me that we do this a lot. We make up stories about what is going on, we catastrophise, we beat ourselves up about our performance, we worry about what others are thinking. We get hysterical about things that really don't matter in the long run. Why is it so?
Life after all is not a serious thing! It is a joy and a delight! And yet we can take it so seriously.
Lucky I have my husband to remind me of these key points, like when I'm taking my fifth swing at the ball in the bunker (a bunker is a sandpit, designed to be a miserable place of endless frustration, often carved out of the ground at the most awkward places when you’re just about to land a nice shot at the tee). In the bunker, where despair meets angst in a full-bodied wrestle, the husband pipes up and says, “Remember, you're the author of Composure.”
I admit, ‘composure’ was not what I was feeling at that particular moment! There may have been one or two swear words involved. Okay, maybe five or six.
I think golf is probably the best exercise for learning how to manage your emotions. You get to learn how to:
Let it go. Emotion of any kind affects every shot. It’s instant feedback. The angrier you get, the worse it gets. And it’s not just novices like me. If you want some feel-better vindication, check these awesome videos out:
Laugh at yourself. Seriously, what else can you do?!
Surrender. You gotta go zen. It is what it is. We get 100 years on this planet, if we’re lucky, so soak up the craziness, surrender to the moment, and enjoy the walk.
And besides there is always the time - the next hole, the next game, a fresh start and a new day.