Tasmanian Devils and Moon Shots

It’s a Friday morning in early June and my girlfriend and I are on the front porch of her house in Atlanta sipping coffee. Spring is tapering into summer, but it’s not too hot to be outside, and the mosquitos don’t come around to the front of the house.
The year is 1997, and I work the 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at CNN.com. I write about elections in Nigeria, the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and, on one memorable night, about a woman in Australia who found a Tasmanian Devil under her car.

My girlfriend is a realtor, and she’s got a problem of her own. “I don’t have any business,” she said. “I’ve talked to all my clients, I’ve called people and I’ve been through my Rolodex, and I just don’t have any business.”

This, as any guy knows, is an invitation to fix something. It’s one of our specialties: we discover a problem and we think we’re supposed to fix it. And ordinarily I might have blundered right in, trying to do just that.

Operating Room

But perhaps because I’d just awakened, and the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, I took a different approach. I told her I knew what a hard worker she was, and how I believed she’d done everything she could possibly do.

“But if I were you,” I said, “I wouldn’t say ‘I don’t have any business.’ There might be something out there, you just don’t see it yet. You’ve got to leave some room for God to operate.'”

It’s not often that I’ve said something that has such a visible effect, but she gave me a relieved smile and said, “Of course.”

The next morning at ten minutes to 7, the phone rang, an interruption that could not have been any less welcome had it been a Tasmanian Devil.
It was a guy in Houston who grew up down the street from my girlfriend.
He wanted her to sell his mother’s house in one of Atlanta’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Mental Health

That story came to mind the other evening as I was driving home from a meeting where the topic was trust. Those at the meeting had been bruised and scarred by the alcoholism of people close to them, and trust was not easy to come by.

It was a casualty in my life, too, but for some reason what came to mind was the round of golf I’d played a few days before with my friend Mike.

This is my fourth year at the game, and only my sixth outing of the year. In other words, I’m not real good. And after yet another of my drives disappeared into the woods, I told Scott, one of the guys we were playing with, “What I lack in accuracy I make up for in mental health. It feels so good just to knock the hell out of the ball.”

However therapeutic it may be, it’s not satisfying in the long run. I lost a lot of balls that day, and Scott used the same ball for the whole round. He’d put intersecting lines on the ball in red ink, and every time he teed it up, I saw those red lines and was reminded that the point is to keep the ball in play.

“Y’know, you’ve got a great swing when you relax,” Mike said. “It’s fluid and easy. You don’t need to kill it.”

Moon Shot

He was right, and not just about my golf. It’s also true about the way I live. When I obsess, think I’m in control and try too hard, it’s ugly.  When I relax and trust the way my girlfriend did, the results are better than I could imagine.

Just a few days before we played, I wrapped up a writing project and wondered if the well had gone dry, as I always fear it will. But I was calm, relaxed. It was too soon to conclude that God had let me down, and a few hours later, I got a call and another project.

So when we got to the 14th, a short, 182-yard hole about 100 feet lower than the elevated tee, I relaxed. I slowed down, trusted the swing and let the club do the work. I hit a moon shot, a towering 8-iron that floated down out of the sky as if guided by angels and landed pin-high, 18-feet from the hole.

I don’t’ know, this trust thing could catch on.

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