About two weeks ago, I found myself down by three sons and a husband, a rare occurrence, but it did afford me the chance to spend some time alone with Aaron, my fourteen year old son. It’s a nice treat to spend some time together, one-on-one, and we managed to keep busy for two whole evenings (I’m sure he was bored beyond belief, but his friends were on vacation, so he was stuck with me)! On the first evening, we walked the streets of Summit, NJ, seeking peace. We walked with 1000 other people, in honor of a man who lost his life at the violent hands of young men, not much older than my son himself. It was an important thing for us to do, and I’m glad that he wanted to go with me.
On our second evening, we decided to stay closer to home, so we grabbed some dinner and then hit the “on demand” button on the remote in search of a movie. Because a household as large as ours calls for constant compromise and negotiations when it comes to movie nights, I decided to give him full, uncontested control over the movie choice. He decided on something he hadn’t seen before…a comedy…a sports comedy…an Adam Sandler sports comedy…yes, Happy Gilmore, the story of a failed ice hockey player winning back his Grandma’s home by winning a golf tournament. His ace in the hole? He can drive the ball 400 yards, using the slapshot that his late father taught him. His handicap? He can’t putt, and his foul mouth and foul temper get in the way of his success. Of course Happy wins in the end, despite the efforts of his competitor to derail him, despite the fact that he can’t putt, despite the fact that his coach dies before the competition ends, despite the fact that his lack of focus causes him to get his butt kicked by Bob Barker–his celebrity golf partner. In the end, Happy digs deep and finds in himself, and on his own, that special something that guides him to his goal. He finds his “authentic swing.”
The idea of an “authentic swing” comes from my favorite golf movie, The Legend of Baggar Vance. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is about an aspiring golfer, Rannulph Junuh, who is traumatized by his participation in World War I, and returns to Savannah a broken man. Adele, his love from before the war, needs his help to keep from losing her family fortune, and asks him to play golf in an exhibition with the best golfers from that era. Junuh doesn’t want to play, he’s wrestling his demons, he’s lost his focus and he’s “lost his swing”. Baggar Vance, a wanderer looking for work, finds Junuh hitting golf balls into the darkness, looking for his swing. He offers his services as a caddy, and quickly becomes Junuh’s confidant, friend, and teacher. He leads Junuh to face his demons, move past them, and focus himself on that thing that is his…that which he is meant to be…his authentic self. And when Junuh finds that place, that swing, Baggar quietly moves on.
That authentic swing is something I’ve always known about, something I believe we all know about, something in our collective unconscious. And I believe that we lose sight of it, again and again, throughout our lifetime. And I believe that when we are most lost, others are sent to guide us, focus us, settle us. Sometimes it is someone we know and trust, who walks with us on our journey day after day. Sometimes it is someone from our past, who reappears at just the right moment to remind us of who we really are. And sometimes it is a stranger, who comes into our lives for a moment, helps us move out of the rough and back onto the green, and then quietly moves on.
If you lose your swing, let the hand of others help you find it. And don’t be afraid to reach out and steady the shaky hand of someone else–friend, loved one, or stranger. This beautiful ride we’re on, this journey to find that peace that we only find by settling into our lives, or by letting it settle into us, it’s not a journey we are supposed to take alone. Don’t be afraid of what that life is supposed to be…be still, be quiet, it will find you.
“…there’s only ONE shot that’s in perfect harmony with the field… One shot that’s his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him… There’s a perfect shot out there tryin’ to find each and every one of us… All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us… Can’t see that flag as some dragon you got to slay… You got to look with soft eyes… See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the Earth, all come together… where everything that is, becomes one… You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands don’t think about it… Feel it…”–Baggar Vance