The hardest kind of practice

Since the U.S. election, I have been practicing acceptance.
I practice many things—such as learning songs to play with my band or certain golf shots. Practicing these is not work. Mostly, I enjoy practicing whatever I’m practicing. I just keep at, and eventually, I get it–or close enough.
But practicing acceptance is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t know that I’ll ever get it.
For now, I’ll have to stumble along, trying to nail this acceptance thing. And like the occasional flubbed golf shot, I’ll screw up situations when I most need to execute acceptance.
Such as when I woke up the morning after the U.S. election and looked at my New York Times app. I was floored to see that Biden and the other guy were neck and neck.
All morning, I couldn’t help but think: These people had four years to watch this guy, and they still voted for him? I wrote on Facebook about being in a funk of sadness. I see that I was indeed in state: What else is a funk other than sad?
I wrote that “even if you agree with him on some issues, how do you excuse his galling behaviour?”
This sadness and confusion followed me around for a week, and got worse as I saw people within my own community of men sniping at each other on Facebook, accusing each other of willful ignorance and delusion, among other lovely things.
I wrote in the post that I wanted to practice understanding.
I promised myself that I would not get drawn into a Hatfield and McCoys feud. Nope, I allowed myself to get yanked down into projecting and finger-pointing like boys in a schoolyard hurling insults at each other. It was like—I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m doing it anyway!
What made it worse was that someone I care very much about is in the opposing camp.
I could not get my brain around a central question: ‘Why can he not accept that the guy is a lying, mysoginstic, narcissistic jerk?’
By Monday night, my funk deepened. I thought, ‘I can’t ever talk to him about anything of substance ever again.’ Hell, I might have to shut him out of my life.
I couldn’t shake the sadness. I went for a walk and dragged it around like a sack of rocks across my back.
On Tuesday morning, it tipped over … and I realized that I was grieving the possible loss of this relationship. The funk was grief. And … I was projecting my angst and judgments on this person. I was just as trapped in my way of seeing things as I judged he was in his.
As with everything, it all started with me. What I felt and feared.
There was only one way out: Let go. Give it up. Surrender.
I wasn’t surrendering my principles or my values. Rather, I was surrendering my judgment about this other person. The relationship is more important than my fulminating ego, or my need to be right.
My challenge was to notice the swirling thoughts, and then practice: Let that shit go.
And … I started to feel better. My fantasies of defriending the person from Facebook, and never having a conversation that goes beyond appraising the depth of the Leafs blue line … gone.
At least until the next time that something is said, inferred or sniffed at that triggers the clench in my gut.
I’ll no doubt screw up, and fail to accept what’s going on. But that’s OK. A very smart person recently told me that life IS practice.
About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!