My name is Trigger McTappen. Well, truth be told, and this will be the first time during this odyssey that that will happen, it is Will McTappen. “Trigger” was laid on me by my asswipe frat-boy (redundant, I know) partners one round when I found myself frozen over the putter and unable to pull the trigger.
A fighting 14 all I ever wanted out of this life was to be in the single digits. So one day I pulled my head out and set upon a plan to achieve that. My first mistake was to read every golf improvement book ever written. Hell, I even wrote one myself in the hopes of internalizing the 103 swing thoughts that would deliver lower scores. But at the end of the day, I realized that my problem wasn’t golf. It was me.
So I read more self-help books than anyone I know. And while I don’t have a sizable social circle, everyone I know needs help. Only two of them ever helped me much. The books, not the friends. One, “Feeling Good,” is the bible of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Brilliant in its simplicity it asks that you examine and then question the thoughts that bum you out. And it’s not “my slice is killing me.” For me it was most helpful around the idea of failure and amounted to this blinding flash of the obvious: “just because you failed at - fill in the blank - doesn’t make you a failure.” Superficial on its surface, profound upon reflection, this reframing of the arguments that rage between my ears has kept me a healthy distance from ledge for the past 15 years.
CBT, I guess, asks that you work a little bit at those thoughts that make you blue; examine them and then ask the hard question, “really, one bad thing does not make all things bad, does it?” Overcoming, or at least challenging this all or nothing outlook has provided me a modicum of contentedness if not occasional happiness.
Fortunate and lucky in many ways, I am nonetheless still plagued by the woe-is-me hand I have been dealt. It is not a physical hand it is a mental one. Nature, nurture, luck, happenstance, whatever, I am at times frustrated, discouraged and not infrequently tortured that I have to work at achieving a tolerable level of contentedness. It pisses me off to no end that I have to undergo mental gymnastics to find the joys in life that come naturally to everyone else. I used to be pissed off about being pissed off but at least that has abated. There are some advantages to aging.
My mother, a lovely but quirky old coot, often shared with me a bromide that sounded as if she pulled it from an old Reader’s Digest, “Happiness is an occasion, not an everyday occurrence.” That she felt that and felt that it was helpful to share it with me has always struck me as putting the nature/nurture question to bed. It’s both.
The other book, “The Artist’s Way” was a mixed bag. Its central theme is a requirement to write what the author calls “The Morning Pages.” Every morning, just spill your guts on to a great white expanse without worrying about anything; content, structure, grammar anything except expressing your feelings. I have been doing this on and off for ten years sometimes with constipation other times with diarrhea.
I started quite diligently filling pages and pages of Big Chief note pads like some latter day Ignatius J. Reilly but found my writing less eloquent and even less worthwhile. And quite quite frankly even more boring. Not a lot happened to me between 9:00 am when I finished writing the day’s journal and 7:30 am the next day when I began again. And despite the book’s remonstrations to just let the words pour, I could not get passed the excruciating banality of my dinner description.
After a while my morning pages became mourning pages. What was supposed to be a revelatory exercise turned out to be a litany of complaints. “I ate too much last night and now I feel bloated. I need to lose weight. This is the day I start my novel. I should have hit the gym yesterday. I am gonna apply for that job. I really should have signed up for the writing class. Why does MS Word suck? My boss is a real dick. Another cold, gray, foggy morning. My back hurts.”
At some point the morning pages ceased to be an offloading of the minor burdens that are life and morphed into a list of self-defeating bullet points. I certainly did not need to remind myself of my short comings every morning first thing. So I figured if a list of negative stuff reinforced negative thinking perhaps listing my blessings would help turn the corner to a life affirming start to each day. “I’m not that fat, just a little out of shape. I only had two beers last night, not the usual four. So I didn’t bike the whole hill, I tried at least. My boss is a dick but he hasn’t fired me yet.”
An improvement but not exactly what the the book’s author had in mind I bet. It crossed my mind to revisit both books but I was pretty sure that ship sailed.
Acceptance is a beautiful thing and with a “meh,” I moved on.
Is Golf a Habit or an Addiction?
The trials and travails of our tragic hero continue....