The bowling gods were on my side. It was like I could do no wrong, or at least that I could do more right than wrong. I was ten or eleven years old, and after all the work my coaches had put into my game and the practice I had put in with my father, it happened. My personal best. 129. Obviously all of my hard work paid off. It was not a perfect game (300), but it was all I could ask for and the result was my walking around, the way a ten or eleven year old might, with pride.
Many years later, after putting in a day’s work at a bowling tournament in a neighboring state, the same thing happened. 129. This time I was not as impressed with my achievement. I looked at my friends and family with frustration and was tempted to gift my equipment to anybody walking by. As I drove back home after that weekend I mumbled underneath my breath and in my mind. I had a good game or two, but also had that low score.
Though the frames were different, though my age and experience had changed, the fact is, in what is a very short life, the same outcome produced very different emotions in me. I have bowled a lot of games in my life. My average has increased over the years. I am no more than a mediocre house bowler at best. The doing of the thing is more enjoyable than the result of the thing with me and bowling. While individual game scores might determine who wins or loses, it is little more than a number to me… now.
Is it not funny, that at one point in my bowling career, a 129 meant that I had achieved a great milestone, and that one point much later, a 129 meant that I should give up the sport? Surely people get better at certain things and have different gauges for measuring success. In fact, my wife heard the complaint about my low score and indicated that she would love to have bowled that well. Sometimes our benchmarks are impressive to others and sometimes they seem minuscule. Same score. Different perspective.
I find myself living my life the same way I used to judge my success in bowling events. After hearing some speaker who seems to have it all together, after comparing my life to theirs, I feel like I have accomplished nothing at all. After advising another to offer kindness, I may fail at offering the kindness I know I should. It is easy to judge our lives compared to the lives of others. It is easier even still, to judge our lives based on what we once achieved or what we hope to accomplish. We think each moment is the final score. Much like my 129, either good, or bad.
This works for me. The goal is to, “let it go, as you let it go”. I am unsure if this is an invention of my own creation or if I heard it somewhere, but it works for me. When I bowl, I worry little for what happens after I release the ball. For the seconds it takes the ball to leave my hand and reach the pins, I am at the mercy of what I have created in the moments before. My attention is no longer on what I can do, but on the ball and what the ball does with the pins. I know that I caused whatever action that might happen, but for a moment, I remain in suspense for the result.
I enjoy the action of the pins. I enjoy the trajectory of the ball. But once those results are initiated and set into motion, it is only for me to enjoy the results… or to complain. I can complain about the condition of the lanes, the pins, my older ball, the bowler next to me making funny gestures, or the lighting and the loud jukebox, and I can blame every poor outcome on those things. Or, just enjoy the result and the process that I played a part in setting in motion. I find my spirit, and my scores, are better when I focus on former and not the latter.
Life Is a Game of Bowling
All that we can do in living is set events in motion. What we create in our minds and in the physical world matter. The secret is to let it go, when you let it go. This secret, is hard for most, because we rarely let things go. We may move on to another thought or project, but we forget to wipe the slate clean before we create something else in our minds or in the physical world. We may judge our results against what we have done in the past or by what we have seen another person do, but we have to let it go, after each thought, and each initiation of action. And enjoy the result, knowing there is nothing afterwards that we can do to change what we have set in motion.
We are not bound to do anything other than enjoy the game of life. We should want to live it well, but if at times we fail to meet our mark, we should know that mark was only created by ourselves or others and means very little. Try creating joy, happiness, peace, and love in the world. If you fail, take another turn. If you feel lonely, depressed, abandoned, or angry, let that action go, and take another turn. If you want more for yourself, your friends, your family, or the world, make it happen, and if it does not happen, take another turn. Never, ever, never, ever give up, and, never, ever, never, ever, believe that for one second, the chance you took before this attempt, affects the outcome of this attempt.
It is a fresh day. A moment in time that is new. Am I saying you should forget the past and live life like it never happened? That is exactly what I am saying. Right now, every good thing you have done, and every bad thing you have done, are gone. What is waiting, however, is the magnificent will of the Creator to show you all the love the heavens have to offer. What is waiting, is your ability to change the course of the world with one smile. And what is waiting, is grace in times of failure and strength in times of our efforts falling short of our goals. Creation is happening all of the time. We cannot do what we should have done. We can do what needs to be done. You are what is needed. Right now. Where you are.
Keep this in mind for your endeavors. Keep this in mind when you are tempted to judge the endeavors of others. Take another turn and allow others to do the same. If you must worry about yours final score, see it only after you have been held in suspense for the result of each action in the game. Love the doing, but love the affect it as on the world also.