My youngest daughter just loaded up her car and headed back to college. She’s a sophomore at KU, studying to be a teacher. As I watched her drive away, I was flooded with the gamut of emotions that I have felt while having her home for the past month. The primary and prevailing feeling is joy, and I am comically reminded of that movie Inside Out, where Joy is the character in charge of setting the emotional tone for the person they (the emotion characters) inhabit. The movie goes on to exploit our silly belief that we can ‘rush through’ or ‘pass over’ the feelings that are uncomfortable in an effort to remain happy above all else. As I recall, they try to make ‘sad’ stay in a small circle, but her feelings can’t help but spill out over the boundaries she’s been asked to keep. True joy can only be felt when there are other feelings for it to play against, and the movie’s theme dovetails with my point in this blog. Feelings are as changeable as the weather and the ways that we feel can spring from our environment without warning. We can set a mood or tone for our day, but the things that happen during the day will always ‘color’ the way we feel about it in their own nuanced ways.
Viewing anything through the eyes of a child brings a wonder and curiosity that we don’t muster as easily in the adult world. Over time, memories and triggers from our negative experiences and our unmet expectations make their way in front of our ‘carpe diem’ mentality. The awesome things that originally inspired our creativity become trite and mundane (boring, even!) when we aren’t looking for them to provide joy. The things we have achieved, once achieved, can quickly lose their value if we don’t connect to the experience as a whole. The shine that once glowed brightly around these moments, sits lusterless in the shadows… The cool part? These things could still radiate fresh feelings–if anyone chose to look back at them with a fresh perspective. The choices we make for our future selves are not often received in the ways we might hope, and it’s not hard to feel disappointment looking back. Time makes a ‘qualified’ judge out of each of us, and as I look back on 32 consecutive years of parenting, there are a lot of moments where I could get lost in judgment with all of the things I could have done differently, rather than appreciating each and every moment for what it is and was.
I have played disc golf for most of my kids’ lives. It started out casually for me. Thursday Night Girl’s League was a chance to hang out with my sister-in-law, enjoy some adult conversation, and an adult beverage. As my skill level naturally improved, my desire to play grew. I was drawn to the disc golf community in general because they have two very specific common threads - they deeply love to watch a frisbee fly and they know of the magic that is created, daily, on disc golf courses all over the world. The mind-body connection is deliberately intended, even if not easily achieved. Emotion can play a huge part in the game–from infusing our shots with focus and determination, to an all out loss of control where one might walk off the course in disgust, effectively giving up (until the next time!).
The emotions felt on the course can escalate quickly, whether it is within one body or spread out among several. Feelings of competition, even in a casual round, can help or hinder play, depending on how close they come to a ‘trigger’. The weather, background noise, movement, people, and unlimited other variables can, and do, appear out of nowhere to change the course of how the round is going. We keep tabs on the temperament of the whole thing, often noting details like whether the front or back was somehow better or worse than the other on this particular day. We get frustrated, sure, but there are enough good feelings associated with our sport that we come back for more, knowing without question that at some point we will be disappointed. If you are a parent, you can easily spot the emotional similarities as you ponder the answer to this question: Is being good at either one determined by the end product/result? Or do we find our answer in the journey itself? For the record, I don't believe there is a ‘correct’ answer, but I really did enjoy the train of thought that followed that question…
Parenting and disc golf are two things that I truly value in my life. They have both provided me with a perfect and natural playing field for my life - emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. I would not be as effective at one without the other. The lessons born from parenting have made me a better disc golfer, and the natural paths of disc golf have centered my soul in ways I have only begun to fully grasp as they relate to my patience with and approach to parenting. As a whole, disc golfers are a large community of ‘energetic benefactors’ who enjoy the practice of sharing… knowledge, discs, friendship, laughter, and experience. Volunteers still take on the bulk of the workload (caring for courses and running events), even though we are now operating many successful businesses around our sport. It is that early grass-roots mentality that still drives a lot of the momentum, even for newer players. Disc golf, like parenting, becomes part of our heart in a way that connects us in a deep and lasting way, even after we have given up our active role in it.
It’s the end of the day as I wrap up these thoughts. My daughter made it to Lawrence and realized she forgot her TV at her dad’s house. She made the trek back to KC to pick it up and stopped by with her roommates for one more hug for me, Fred and Mojo, our dog. My heart is full as I (1) miss her, (2) put energy towards her safety in the coming months, (3) hope her classes are just challenging enough to be a good experience that doesn’t stress her out, (4) support her mental health in a challenging environment, (5) desire a side income for her because she’s called to teaching, and I don’t want her passion to burn out because she’s trying to make ends meet that simply can’t, (6) want her to enjoy every single moment, silly to serious, and its unique opportunity to learn and grow, while (7) wishing that she feels whole and supported, mind and body, as often as humanly possible. That may seem like a lot to hold in a split second of thought, but we are capable of that and so much more… especially when we enlist the experiential growth that comes from embracing our emotions, be they positive or negative.