Golf, Garden, and Goals

Give me a blank page, and I’ll write something eloquent.  A red pen, and I’ll correct language conventions. A software error, and I’ll resolve it promptly. But give me a pitching wedge, and that golf ball will miss its mark completely.  Last weekend at Top Golf, I swung and missed on more than one occasion, but Charming was gracious enough not to laugh.

I’m always more comfortable competing in events where I naturally excel; nevertheless, I’ve found a way to mimic the thrill factor of a roller coaster by stepping outside that comfort zone and taking a risk.  I’ve only played a few dozen holes on a course, but I was excited to check out this unique driving range that reminded me more of a bowling alley where the lanes were open to the air and filled with colored targets.  Each ball we played contained a tracker, and a small screen reported our points based on where they landed.

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There was no thrill in whiffing on an attempt with a nine iron.  Rather, I felt oddly frustrated and disappointed in myself.  After topping the ball a few times, I looked back sheepishly at Charming in embarrassment.  He’d played on his high school golf team, so he knew a thing or two… and his score reflected that.  I kept lining my feet up like I’d learned at the correct angles from the ball, adjusting position and backswing for respective clubs.

My father recited, “Keep your head down,” sixty times that night from my mental recording created the first time he took me to a course.  It seemed with every correction I made to my form, I’d neglected a different part that I’d been doing right before.  Staring down from a second-level bay at the center of a green 125 yard target, it seemed an impossible task to control the course of the ball so far with my body alone.

When I weighed myself a month ago, hitting my target weight also loomed as an insurmountable task.  If I gave myself a summer deadline, I was going to have to commit with every fiber (and minimal carbs) to a lifestyle change of epic standards.  For the first week, I stepped gingerly on the scale daily hoping to see the numbers decrease.  The loss was too slow.

So I readjusted.  I weighed myself once a week and took my measurements every two weeks.  That way, when the scale hasn’t moved but centimeters are missing from my hips, I don’t lose hope that all this discipline has been wasted.  I kicked up my workouts, even sneaking some in on the weekends with Charming.  My gym mentor Chuck got me hitting the weights.  I deny myself potato chips every day.

Clearly, this is not sustainable.  I’ve dropped fifteen pounds, and I have a ways to go, but it no longer seems insurmountable.  In fact, it seems possible, within my reach, and that fact alone helps me resist the urge to order Anna’s Combination pizza from out in Buckroe, too far for delivery.  I then reassure myself that this endurance is only temporary, that when I achieve my goal I’ll be able to indulge on occasion.

My friend Angel’s wedding is just a few weeks away, and I hadn’t ordered my bridesmaid dress because I was waiting for my measurements to match the size eight. A few days ago, I tried it on in the store, the sales associate failing to convince me to also take a size ten into the fitting room.  After zipping it up, I stepped in front of the mirror.  Moment of truth one month into lifestyle change: it fit perfectly!

There is a thrill factor in squeezing into a dress you weren’t sure you could fit.  I giggled and jumped up and down, wishing I had someone to share the moment with besides the disinterested employee.  There was another thrill when I returned from a long weekend away to find my vegetable garden overflowing and my newly planted herb garden budding already.

When I planted the drowned herb garden and vegetables a couple of months ago, I didn’t have confidence that they would grow.  It, too, seemed an impossible, insurmountable task to put minuscule dots into the earth and expect cucumbers to decorate my summer salads.  For weeks, nothing grew on one side of the bed, and I assumed I’d failed.  But I’ve tasted the thrill in seeing something I planted from a seed blossom before, and I want it again.

So when the tomato plants were drooping, I put in cages.  To be honest, I’m not sure what is a plant and what is a weed, so I haven’t tended to those much. I drilled holes in the bottom of the herb garden barrel and replanted.  Gardening is not like writing for me… I don’t enjoy every minute; however, the minutes that count are worth all the labor and readjustments it took to just to see something thrive.

When something thrives, it’s living at peak existence.  Those thrill-loaded moments are packed with heightened emotion and a return to normalcy after.  Whether it’s glimpsing the first green leaves of my evening glories tonight or slipping into a bridesmaid’s gown in my goal size, it’s exciting!  I took risks.  I stepped outside my comfort zone.  I tried my hand at challenges where I wasn’t expecting to succeed.

Like Friday night under the lights at Top Golf, when Charming finally asked if I wanted some advice.  He had me make some more adjustments to my stance. I imagined making an arc with the club and scooping the golf ball up to launch it straight at my target.  I kept my head down.  I swung with control and vigor.  And I hit the tractor that collects the balls.  Mine bounced off and rolled into a nearby target to score me a few points.

But here’s the thrill factor: I had won the game. I jumped up and down and then hugged him (to the best of my recollection).  Charming had added a rule before we started that made hitting that tractor an automatic win.  My accumulated points were abysmal by the end of that round, but Charming insisted I had won.  I giggled on the inside, then on the outside.  What had seemed an impossible task found unexpected victory for me.

Personally, I don’t think I’ve been thriving lately.  Like my garden, much of my current existence is in the labor and readjustment phase before the thrill of the bloom.  Before the ball finds its mark.  Before the scale reaffirms.  I think that when something we desire is out of our grasp, we have to find a way to grow in the waiting, so that when the time comes and it’s within reach, we’ll be able to thrive.

While Charming was readjusting my golf swing, calories were burning off and my cucumber vines were spreading.  Like with the scale or the tractor or my garden, sometimes I have to evaluate myself differently in order to see the sparks of progress.

It’s in the moments before the moments that count, the labor and readjustments before we see a thing in abstraction in full bloom.  These moments when we’re waiting.  My waiting room.  Before I witness my longings come to fruition.  These are the moments when God works in the soil to prepare for the harvest.

I suppose these moments count, too, after all.

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