In the days following Maddie’s death I tried as best I could to deny that the life I had been building hadn’t just exploded in my face. Try as hard as I did, however, this eventually proved impossible. I soon found myself at my lowest point; at my most lost. After a few hard days I was left with but one choice – to try to re-build my life. But how could I after what had happened? I felt like a mountain climber who had, halfway to the top of Mt. Everest, tumbled back to the bottom. The prospect of starting all over again seemed incredibly daunting until I had an epiphany on how to begin. I needed to go bowling.
Now before you assume I am a life long bowling fanatic or the like you should know that’s not the case. Yes, I have my own ball, and okay, maybe I also have my own bowling shoes, but that’s only because they came with the ball. Before Maddie passed away bowling was just an activity I did with my friends every couple months, and eating, drinking, and chatting always took precedence over trying to notch a high score. These lazy afternoons were just about fun…fun that Maddie even took part in one great day when she giggled at all of the alley’s sights and sounds, and prematurely started the biological clocks of the teenage girls on the lane next to us.
So if bowling was just a casual thing done for fun, you may ask, why would I want to make it my first step in putting the pieces of my life back together? I wasn’t sure myself, but I wasn’t going to question it. I just went to the alley and started throwing balls down the lane. My score at the end of my first game wasn’t the greatest, but I kept at it, and, after making a few adjustments, scored a few more pins in the next game.
I quickly became very serious about bowling and, in the weeks to come, went bowling many times a week. Eventually, it occurred to me why. In a time when everything in my life seemed so uncertain, bowling was quantifiable. My score – how I was doing – was tallied and posted on a screen in front of me with each toss. At night, when I couldn’t sleep, I would cling to those numbers.
“My life my be a mess right now,” I thought, “but I did improve my bowling game by five pins this week.”
As trivial as it may sound, bowling gave me evidence that – even in some small way – I was better than I was the day before; that I was moving back up that mountain.
Today I can see more substantial evidence of my progress back up the mountain than bowling scores. Nevertheless, bowling is still a significant part of my new life. I’ve even joined a bowling team with a bunch of teammates who don’t know my story or about Maddie. They just know I’m a guy who, like them, likes to bowl. Recently I got my highest score ever:
A 255 is a far higher score than I ever dreamt I would achieve when something told me to go bowling eight or so months ago, but I will keep trying to do even better. I will keep trying.