COLUMN: Christmas, like golf, is not a perfect game | Columns



Arnold Palmer, one of the greatest golfers of all time, once said, “Golf is a game of thumbs. Most important are the 6 inches between your ears.

To this end, golfers have sought help with the mental aspect of the game. Sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella has written a book titled “Golf is Not a Perfect Game” in which he says golfers must learn to embrace the imperfect nature of the game, and especially their game.

A lot of things are “not a perfect game”, the main one being life itself.

Then there is Christmas. Christmas is certainly not a game of perfection.

But we want it to be perfect, right? We want every gift to elicit the right response from every recipient. We want every cookie to be fit for Martha Stewart. We want our decorations to deserve a place in an interior design magazine. We want our tree to be just like that, straight and tall with the decorations in the right places. We want our brightly colored outdoor lights to make the whole neighborhood green with envy. We want Christmas to be like when we were young.

It’s fantasy, of course. The reality is that some gifts bomb, cookies crumble, decorations fall, the tree leans, and the lights go out in surprising numbers. And youth slips away before our eyes.

And it stresses us out, makes us anxious, leaves us feeling inadequate, without a semblance of Christmas spirit.

So, we’re not enjoying this happiest season as much as just putting up with it.

In her book, Rotella advises golfers to learn to love the challenge when hitting a ball in rough, trees or sand. The alternatives – anger, fear, whining and cheating – are useless.

In turn, we must learn to embrace the imperfection of Christmas. There’s a fairly large example of the one south of downtown Enid, the tallest freshly cut Christmas tree on this side of Proxima Centauri. When it was first erected, decorated, and lit, it looked beautiful, but the wayward winds of Oklahoma left it shattered and scarred, much like what life does to us. But he’s still standing, and he’s still beautiful in his own way, and thus a testament to the vision and determination of those who have made their dreams come true.

When I think back to my most memorable Christmas past, it’s not the perfection that I remember. I remember one Christmas when a group of family members participated in an impromptu Christmas carol session. We were an imperfect choir, with little or no idea what we were doing. But we did it with enthusiasm and I dare say we blessed those who heard us.

I remember another Christmas when we tried to make my father-in-law believe that we had gone together to buy him a pet bird, which he decidedly didn’t want. It was a flawed plan, but it worked out perfectly, and we all shared a laugh, even him, after the hoax was revealed.

Another time, my sister-in-law inadvertently placed a glass dish with her casserole of eggs for Christmas brunch on an active burner on her stove. The dish shattered with a loud bang, scaring us and scattering the pan of eggs and glass all over his kitchen. It was a decidedly flawed situation, but luckily she wasn’t hurt and the brunch went as planned, minus the pan of eggs, of course.

The first Christmas present I opened from my then-fiancée was a set of wooden pants hangers. I said rudely, “Well, I’m just going to go sit in the corner and play with my pants hangers,” showing myself to be a complete jerk. Thank goodness she stayed and we are in our 47th year of marriage.

Even the Christmas story itself is filled with imperfections. Joseph and his very pregnant wife Mary had to travel approximately 70 miles from Nazareth to his ancestral home in Bethlehem. And it was not an easy 70 mile course, but 70 miles dusty, rocky and rough on a donkey.

Then when they arrived in Bethlehem to answer the call to be counted, they couldn’t find a place to stay. So they lay down in a stable, surrounded by animals. There she gave birth and the only place she could lay her child was in a manger, a manger.

Things couldn’t have been more imperfect. But the baby was perfect, as perfect as it gets. And that helpless child would grow up and lay down his life for a desperate and helpless world, so that we could be absolved of our sins and have the chance to live forever. Perfect.

So your Christmas is not perfect? So what? Plug in the lights, straighten the tree, sweep away cookie crumbs, save gift receipts, and savor the beautiful blemish of the holidays. It is only when you embrace imperfection that you will begin to relax and enjoy life and all of its fabulous flaws.

Merry Christmas.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with News & Eagle. Email him at or write to Enid News & Eagle care at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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