It was unintentionally pointed out to me a while ago that I’m quite good at posing questions without giving definitive answers.
It’s probably the reason why I wouldn’t be great at writing a regular column for anyone – or writing for anyone else full-stop – and the reason why most of my blogs are both longer and shorter than I ever intend them to be. I am acutely aware of the concentration span of most people, myself included – opening an article or blog often results in its closure when you scroll through a few sentences and see the little grey bar on the right hand side getting smaller and smaller as you attempt to find the place where the words stop. It’s funny in an existentially worrying way that the only thing we usually have to get back to is digesting 120 character, three second snippets of other people’s lives.
And yet, when I start writing, I am simultaneously aware that there is no end to what I could say. Writing for me seems to be a constant unravelling of the threads in my mind, and like headphone wires or Christmas tree lights, there seems to be no beginning or end. Only a confused mess in the middle that you pull on with ever increasing aggression until something gives. Or tightens.
I find it hard to define what it is that I even write about. Golf, obviously, is the backbone, and the chaotic juxtaposition of its addictiveness is what creates the confused mess that needs untangling so regularly. I often worry that my writing makes it look like golf is a burden to me. It is and it isn’t. That’s its beauty, and its appeal. That what I’m missing already.
I love practice and I love the process, and like I suspect a lot of professional golfers right now, there are elements of this enforced off-season I know will be of benefit. That can be addictive, if you approach it properly. But it isn’t the beauty. It’s going through that process with (only occasionally wavering) conviction, laying the foundations of excellence until your feet can’t feel anything but the solidity of confidence, and then barely being able to break par in your next few tournaments. It’s enduring a four week stretch that feels like an entire career trying desperately to fit the pieces together, wondering if you’re destined to be good but not great, wondering if your weaknesses are always going to define you, and then winning. It’s recognising what “the zone” is – after the fact – when everything is crystal clear, when every yardage is perfect and every read blindingly obvious, and spending months trying to get there again. Only to find it once you give up searching.
It’s addictive, and beautiful, in trying to make sense of things that just don’t.
And for me, without competitive golf to provide that backbone, I don’t find myself with things to write. I have ideas for long-term projects, and maybe I’ll do my best to share pieces of that, as now more than ever people need things to occupy themselves – whether it be three second snippets or reruns of golfing greats or glimpses of the everyday lives of current superstars. I want to write, I want to give people something. But there is no tangled mess to unravel.
All of us right now, are living life without definition. It’s necessary, and in the grand scheme of things not the biggest hardship in an effort to protect those who need to be protected. We’re not being forced to go to war, as our great-grandparents were. But that doesn’t make it easy. It doesn’t make anyone’s mental struggles any less relevant or real than anyone else’s. The societal effect of all of this is going to be bigger than we can perhaps imagine, which governments cannot and are not ignoring. But the mental, day-to-day effects… it’s not just a case of getting outside to exercise. It’s having individual definition. We have a collective definition – a critically important one – to look after each other, to protect each other. But removing your structure for an undefined period of time… it’s already hard. And it’s going to get harder.
Like most blogs I write, I’m ending this not entirely sure what I’m writing about. But that in itself is symbolic of what’s happening. None of us are really sure what’s going on, what we really have to do, what its impact will be and when it will end. But we just have to keep going anyway. Try to keep doing the little things you usually do, even if it’s in novel ways. And maybe, once this is all over, we can all appreciate what our normal is. What our definition is. Because nothing is a given… not even tangled headphones.