If I look at the ball, I cannot hit the ball. I must look at a spot approximately 3 inches in front of where the ball is, but also I can’t look at where I am aiming the ball. Which makes no sense, but nevertheless it is true.
Well, except for with putting. With putting, I must only look at the ball, and I must not look at the hole. (I am much better at putting than I am at everything else, incidentally. Miles the Golf Teacher seems quite surprised by my savant-like skill at putting, “one of the hardest things in what is a hard game”. What Miles doesn’t know is that as a child I was so in love with miniature golf that my dad actually dug a hole for me in the backyard and stuck a soup can or something into it so it would serve my purposes, and I spent hours putting golf balls into it in non-putting-green conditions. Since, as Miles tells us, 43% of all shots made on the golf course are putting, I feel that putting will be the “ace in the hole” of my otherwise crappy golf game -and yes, I am embarrassed to have written “ace in the hole” there.)
But so anyway, both of these things – not looking at the ball, not looking at the hole – do seem to send the same broader message: what matters in the moment is not the end goal (to hit the ball, to get the ball in the hole) but rather the process that gets you there. I spend a lot of time telling my students this very thing about the writing process or about life as a student in general, but it’s an easy lesson to forget (over and over again).
And it is also a lesson that knitting teaches me (over and over again), because if the point is a scarf, the easiest (and less expensive, and less time-consuming) path to a scarf is to go to a store and buy one. The reason to knit is not that you need or want a scarf. It is the knitting itself, and the end result is just a happy and inessential consequence of the knitting. If what you want to do is to knit a scarf, you’ll never finish that scarf. But if what you want to do is to knit, then you will end up with an awesome scarf. (Note: this is why knitting under pressure – like knitting my High School BFF’s wrap for her wedding, or the blanket for her new baby – GEMMA! I am an auntie! As of Sunday! And no, that motherfucking blanket is not finished, dammit! – is such a problem for me.)
It’s not that you don’t have a goal. But if you are overly focused on the end result, you can’t actually do what it takes to get there, apparently. Or I can’t, apparently.
I guess this is what people who are all new-age-y are really talking about when they say things like they are “practicing mindfulness.” I also think that it probably is what discussions about internal vs. external motivation are really about, although I’ve never actually understood those since apparently my natural tendency is that internal motivation gets me to external rewards. I don’t just spend my life living every moment like it’s my last (which, gross), but at the same time it is definitely true that I only ultimately end up achieving long-term things when I am focused on the moment and the steps of the process toward the long-term things, if that makes sense.
So I am going to do my best in the coming weeks to try to apply these mystical life lessons to all of the many things that need to happen between now and September 30. Because I haven’t been able to accomplish a thing for like 4 days, and I think it’s because I’m looking at the ball, looking at the hole. I think I’m too focused on the scarf and not on the knitting. Golf +Knitting = Self-Actualization. Apparently.