Have you ever seen the movie, “Awakenings”, starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams? It’s one of my favorite flicks, not only for the acting (which is great), but also for the poignant story about some survivors of the mysterious encephalitis lethargica epidemic that broke out around the time of WWI, then ended abruptly in the mid-1920s.
In the movie (spoiler coming, so stop here if you plan to see the movie), patients are treated with a drug normally used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and the results were as explosive as they were miraculous. Patients who had been in a catatonic state suddenly awoke to a new world – one that had passed them by for four decades. They began to enjoy the wonders of the world – a fresh breeze, a quiet stroll, a hug from loved ones.
But the drug’s effects were short-lived, and eventually most of the patients returned to their stupors. The doctors tried increasing the dosage, applying increasingly desperate medical techniques to slow the decline, but it was all in vain. The ending was bitter sweet.
Just like my golf game. Last week I shot the best score I have ever shot – an 82 – beating my previous best by 10 strokes. Everything worked – the drives, the irons, the putts. For the first time, I learned that life is better in the middle of the fairway. (Apparently they mow and water the grass there.) I strolled with my golf buddies from hole to hole, chatting about trivialities, laughing at silly jokes – just like the guys on TV.
Usually I walk alone so no one can hear my grumbling. Usually, if I can even SEE the fairway through the trees, and spot the other guys walking down the middle of it, I curse them with jealous rage and envy. But not this time.
This time, I understood the game of golf. It really is a beautiful sport. You spend a few hours with friends enjoying nature, getting a little exercise, and feeling good about yourself.
But it lasted exactly one game. A couple of days later, I returned to the course only to find that miracles only happen every so often. Almost immediately, I could feel myself sliding back into my erratic and error-prone game. I applied increasingly desperate measures to correct the mistakes. I told myself, “Change your grip. Concentrate. (Swoosh) Aaaggh!” I silently cursed the guys walking down the middle of the fairway, if I could even SEE the fairway through the trees.
By the end of the day, I had reverted back to my original state. The 82 was only a memory – a brief awakening of golf conciousness that although short-lived, showed me that there is more to the game than shank shots, monster divots and worm-burners.
The experience has left me philosophical.
We all should take some time to smell the roses – to enjoy the good things in life as they come along – because some day they may be gone.
But also, I learned that you should enjoy what you have. The really good golfers never get to see the way the shadows fall in the forest as the sun begins to set. They miss the quiet ripples playing on the surface of the water when a ball lands in the lake. They don’t get to enjoy the feel of soft sand beneath their feet, because they’re never in the sand trap.
On the other hand, the grass really IS greener on the other side. Because on the other side of where I usually end up, there’s a fairway.