The Voice Inside My Head Ought to Shut Up Already
“In my dream I was drowning my sorrows, but my sorrows they learned to swim.” — U2
In my dreams, I was running. They were long, sturdy strides across open space, my lungs pulling deeply, pushing out evenly. I felt free, light, strong.
It was my subconscious talking, telling me that the exact opposite was true. I was badly out of shape and couldn’t so much as jog a few doors down to the corner without serious exertion. I’d wake from these dreams sad, weighed down by an inertia of my own doing.
I no longer have those dreams. Over the past three years or so, I’ve built a diet and exercise regimen that has allowed me to lose almost 70 pounds. Good friends asked me, in guarded whispers, if I was OK. I was. Losing all that weight, building up strength and stamina, I felt free, light, strong.
But those little voices, they don’t keep their mouths shut for long before they start up a new whisper campaign. About six months ago, the dreams started again. I dreamed I was golfing.
I have not swung a golf club with purpose in 20 years. In those first few years after college, I collected a set of second-hand clubs and a bag. Some buddies and I would head out to a municipal course where we lived in Florida and make a hot, humid day feel even more oppressive with topped balls, splashed shots and jagged slices.
The only club I could count on for one round was a 5-iron. It got so bad, I swore off every other club and played solely with the 5. It helped not a bit.
In time, golf and I grew apart. My regular buddy, a lefty with a smooth stroke, offered plenty of tips. Bend your knees, lock your fingers together like this. Put your elbow here. Follow through. Drink another beer.
None of it helped. One fine shot was followed by dozens of bad ones. I knew I should be enjoying the escape, the serenity, but I felt like I was locked in a palm-fronded prison. Golf and I went separate ways.
Until the dreams began again recently. At night, I golf beautifully. My swing is easy and fluid, and club meets ball with a neat and true “click” that lets you know you’ve got a good one.
The dream factory is rather consistent; I'm always in the tee box or fairway. In real life, nothing but trouble ever awaited me on any fairway — “foul way” I used to mock it. Since I always had trouble getting under the ball at the right club-faced angle, there was no telling where the shot was going to go: left, right, a dribble down the center. They were true sorrows to behold. But in the dream? Oh, man, the shots come nicely. As the line in the U2 song says, my sorrows learned to swim.
What a cruel master our subconscious is. Who needs enemies and plotters when we have ourselves to regularly mock and destroy us in our dreams?
What little collective of synapses is up there firing away, suggesting that, because I now live in the home of American golf, I need to ruin what’s left of my confidence and bank account? Part of the reason I gave up on golf, other than for reasons of technique and mechanics, was that my limited means would never fill the money pit. Clubs, balls, lessons, greens fees, regular driving-range time, bad scotch to wash away the memories — it all added up to a lot for a young man of modest ways. I stuck with the bad scotch and called it a career.
I don’t harbor ill feelings toward golf. On the contrary, what’s not to love about the sport? The pastoral landscapes, the great real estate, the sporty togs, the fervent adherence to rules of honesty and fair play.
But to admire and understand golf is to see beyond the externalities of the game to the mental maelstrom going on inside. There, the game is being waged with the crashing of football, the speed of hockey, the agility of basketball and the individual fortitude of baseball. There is not enough Tylenol in the world to help me sort all that out within my own confines.
So what am I to do here? Listen — again — to the little voice inside my head? I did last time to great success. But this time? It helps that I have a bad shoulder currently that makes swinging a club difficult to do, but that will be fixed in due time. The dream won’t likely be going anywhere anytime soon.
Our sorrows float nicely in our subconscious. If only my golf balls would do the same.
Contact John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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