golf ball, maggie mcreynolds blog

Play the Ball Where It Lies

I haven’t hit the greens since I was in high school, but I’m no slouch at miniature golf. I play with my 11-year-old son, who has gotten much better at the sport over the years—and much more graceful about losing. Nonetheless, in the years since I’ve been watching him play, I’ve noticed the parallel between wishing reality were different and wishing one’s ball had landed somewhere else. Both are useless endeavors. Cliches exist because they have wisdom in them; “Play the ball where it lies” is one of the smartest pieces of advice I know.

Smart, and yet also oft-ignored. How many of us waste time and energy wishing we hadn’t landed in the sand traps or water hazards of our lives? Bemoaning how unfair it is that someone else landed right on the green while we’re off and lost in the woods, our ball buried or richocheting randomly off trees?

I could pretend I am not disabled. I could wish my marriage hadn’t come apart. I could get stuck in the “unfairness” of being a single mom, or having one kid instead of a tribe, or having short fingers, or whatever it is that didn’t come out like I thought it would.

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let go hand, maggie mcreynolds blog

My Loss Is My Gain

A couple of decades ago, I remember having lunch with my grandmother and her friends while they exchanged news about their circle: Shirley Bernstein lost an eye to cancer. Helen and Leo lost their house when the bank foreclosed. Bernice Allen lost her driver’s license after “failure to merge” during a driver’s test. Eeny Rubin, Stella Simon, Bebe Walsh—and several other septuagenarians—lost their husbands. “Tch,” they said into their single, cherished, daily martinis. “Tch, tch, tch.”

Inside, I was making a sound a lot closer to “AAAUUUGGHHH!” How could this be the stuff of pleasant lunchtime conversation? Was this all aging had in store for me? Loss upon loss upon loss?

I am still far from the age my grandmother was then, but I am old enough to have started racking up my own losses. Trivial things, like my natural hair color and my ability to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl without barfing. And hugely significant things, like a pregnancy, my dad and my dear friend Harry, both of whom died far too young at age 52, and my health when I contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

There was one horrible year when I lost my job, my financial security, my marriage, my ability to stand or even sit upright after a bad health relapse and, with all of that gone, my very identity. I came close, I think, to losing my mind.

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