Striking out is never fun yet even the best of players do it…often! I played baseball all growing up and into college. Like every other player, I developed a system to cope during the inevitable times when I would whiff. Some guys throw bats or helmets. Other guys sulk for a while on the bench a quarter mile away from the rest of the team. I reverted to replaying the at bat in my head. I would analyze each pitch over and over trying to figure out what I had done wrong. If I could just figure it out, maybe I would never strike out again! My mind was a safe spot to escape when I was dealing with difficult emotions.
I remember one occasion from college vividly. I was at the plate with the bases loaded. I could be the hero of the game. “Here we go!”, I thought to myself. The first pitch came…a swing and miss. Then the second pitch…whiff! On the third pitch I made solid contact…with the air. As I retreated to the bench, I started my mental slow motion replay. My initial feelings of shame, anger and sadness were suppressed before my butt hit the pine.
Later on that night, I was talking with a girl who played on the softball team (all right, we were on a date but that is inconsequential). As I told her about my experience in the game, she looked at me and said “Wow! That really stinks!” She spoke with compassion and sincerity. She was someone who could understand. I distinctly remember thinking “Yeah, she’s right. It DOES stink”. Still, I couldn’t feel it emotionally. The memory was almost an out of body experience.
I don’t handle grief very well. Just like in baseball, I revert to the fortress of my mind to stay safe and avoid tough feelings. Recent events have convinced me that there are a lot of other people in the same boat as me. Our ability to deal with tragedy seems to be evaporating as a culture. As soon as something sad happens, we try to explain WHY it happened or WHO is to blame. Over the past month, my Facebook wall has been inundated with these posts.
For example, a boy makes his way into a gorilla pit. Tragically, the endangered gorilla was shot. Within hours, everyone turns into a zoological expert.
Multiply that type of sadness times 10,000 and you might get slightly close to what was experienced this week by people in Orlando. 50 people lost their lives and another 53 were injured. Again, within hours, everyone was finding someone or something to blame. Many of those conversations are important but when did we lose the ability to simply weep and “mourn with those who mourn”? No brilliant argument will bring any of those precious people back to us. Maybe we could let the pain of that truth sink in and comfort each other.
There are things in life much more devastating than striking out but the same principle applies. When we try to fix our sorrow with mental gymnastics everyone loses.
Perhaps it’s time to embrace the fact that there is such a thing as “good grief”.