The Games We Play

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Long before I realized the deliciousness of a shabbos nap, my afternoons were spent trying to engage one of my siblings in a game. We’d concoct new rules or make up different games using an amalgamation of pieces and boards from others. There’s something to be said for being able to think on your feet when you begin a new game, and I was crippled by fear when new rules were introduced or we played a visiting opponent. Move too quickly and you can risk losing everything, move too slowly and you can’t win.

Growing up, I’d alternate between going full steam ahead not caring about the consequences to being frozen in place because I couldn’t see a way to win. My entire life has played out similarly to a shabbos afternoon game. I will either be intent on doing something no matter the consequences – like leaving my marriage and my kids behind on a too-hot-for-fall afternoon – or hold myself back from pursuing my heart or my feelings because of the unknown.

A relationship is not unlike a game played on a shabbos afternoon. Fear factors in exponentially the tougher your opponent, the level of skill and what you’ve put at stake. We are so concerned for our own self-protection that we follow arcane rules rigidly; there’s hardly any enjoyment out of just playing the game. If I were honest with myself, those long shabbos afternoons when you couldn’t take a shpazir around the neighborhood were both enjoyable and terrifying. What if the rules changed? What if I couldn’t win? Where was the enjoyment if either one was different, somehow? What if the person I was playing with purposefully sabotaged the game to avoid embarrassment?

And so I resolved not to be as cautious, as timid. I ended up losing the game in the process, but at least I could say that I played it. It’s not that I don’t want to play those games again, but I wish that fear, sabotage and the potential of losing didn’t factor so prominently.

Good shabbos.

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