The Zen of Shuffleboard

Hanging out in a 55+ community can teach you a lot about life.

It’s never too early for happy hour.
It’s never too early to paint a driveway.
It’s never a good idea to force the disc in a game of shuffleboard.

I’d never played shuffleboard before. I had images of straw-topped gentlemen sipping gin and tonics smoothly gliding the disc as if across a sheet of ice. Tropical printed shirts in a calmly boisterous competition. Just the lines of the court themselves, all crisp and geometric, spoke to me of an art deco paradise.

And then I picked up a cue.

While my husband attempted to reign in our three spastic shuffleboarders, akin to three ninjas on speed on their first day of weapons training, I quietly sneaked to the adjacent court. I pulled the cue behind me with the gusto of an archer and swung my arm forward toward the disc, visualizing a tremendous skim to the far end of the court. Instead, the disc flipped back onto the golden shaft of the cue before smacking the ground with a clang like a dinner plate on the kitchen floor. This scenario repeated itself, with ever more epic flips, flops, and failed forward motion. I figured the more oomph I put behind it, the better the outcome.

Until I actually paid attention to the lessons my husband was trying to impart to our tiny samurais.

“Don’t push it.”
“Hold the grip lightly with one hand.”
“Rest the guide against the disc and slide it forward.”
“Take a few steps toward the disc and move your arm in one fluid motion.”

When I worried less about sending the disc into kingdom come, it went farther. When I forced it less, I got more. When I thought of the cue, the disc, as one long extension of my arm, my effort spun itself to the far end of the court.

When I got all amped up, when I tried to muscle things to my desired outcome, it flopped. All that pent-up energy, all that roiling muscle mass did nothing. It actually hurt my efforts. When I put in what my wound-up self would consider a failed attempt – no gusto – I had more success.

On the hollowed court of the silver-haired, I learned that nothing good comes of forcing an outcome. One must work in concert with the circumstances placed on the playing field. For the force to be strong, one must focus intentionally and let go of force.

Who would’ve thought a retiring past time would hold such potent lessons?

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2 Comments

  1. I love this. And I love how completely you observe life, while still being a part of it. Always finding. . . something extra. :)

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 25, 2014

      I’m trying to see how the small details fit into the bigger picture. Both noticing AND integrating are part of that whole balancing act with which I continually struggle ;-)

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