Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t play games. Not at all. I can’t play sports, I can’t play board games, I can’t play card games, and I sure as hell can’t play video games. And this isn’t for the reason you might think. It’s not because I’m not coordinated, because I’m very coordinated. It’s not because I don’t know how to win, because I do. It’s not because I suck at these things, because I don’t. I do, however, have a chemical imbalance when it comes to games that manifests itself in the most competitive energy ever, and it’s zero fun for any who encounter it.
As a child, the competitive streak served me well as a gymnast. My ridiculous intensity allowed me to push myself a lot hard than any coach could push. It also helped in school. My complete obsession with being first in my class had me making As without having to be pushed by my teachers or my mother. And as I got older, the goal of college, and going to the best school possible kept me focused and unphased by the normal things that distract teenagers. This intensity, however, became zero fun whenever a ‘friendly’ game of anything came into play. I don’t do ‘friendly’ competition. No idea how to do it. I don’t only want to win, because the win is the goal of course, but what feeds the competitive beast inside me is the annihilating you on the way to my win. I want to destroy my opponent at all cost. I want you crying, bleeding on the ground before I claim my victory. Had I been a boy, this would have served me well in sports, I think, but being a girl, it was less than attractive. A trait often pointed out by my mother as she tried to cure me of this competitive affliction.
One of my first memories is playing red light/green light with friends around the age of 5 or 6 and being so intense, and so intent on destroying them on the way to my win, and having my mother jerk me into the house and sitting me in a corner because, if I couldn’t play nice, then I wouldn’t play. I wasn’t phased by this. It got worse as I quit gymnastics and tried to play school sports. My softball team, comprised of tween girls, mostly interested in how cute they looked in their uniforms as opposed to actually winning a game. Their lack of giving 100%, as I was, made me insane. God forbid I struck out at the plate during softball, I’d come back, throw my bat, throw my helmet, and immediately incur the wrath of my mother. She didn’t understand this wasn’t something I could control. I didn’t understand my peers, and how they could care less whether we destroyed our opponents or not. And it drove me insane! I quit playing because I couldn’t take their pacifying nature.
This fixation during games continued through high school and in to my first year of college. And when my sorority played a ‘flag’ football game against another house during a charity game, I hit a tri-delt so hard, I knocked her out. My intensity had actually hurt someone, and it woke me up, and in that moment I vowed to not play games any longer, since I couldn’t control my intensity and my rage.
Over the years after that, friends would often try to get me to play games. Mostly board or card games, or invite me for game nights, and I’d go, and not want to play, and that makes other people very uncomfortable. They don’t believe me when I tell them that my playing is disastrous. One friend in particular pushed and pushed, and i finally decided to play scrabble, and when he got a huge scoring word, I may or may not have flipped the board up and at him, Teresa Guidice style!
As an adult, this plagues me. I want to be able to play games with people, I want to be able to play games with friends. I want to just enjoy a friendly game of anything for once in my life, but I am incapable, and it’s so frustrating to not understand why I’m the way I am. I’ve talked to a shrink about this, and after careful examination, it was deemed that this is just my wiring, and the healthiest choice I can make is to not play. So that’s what I’ve done. But that explanation never really helped me or satiated me.
The other night, I spent the evening with my best friend and a new friend who was waxing philosophically about some advice his step-dad had given him when he was young, and said that sometimes in life you play games for the joy of the game (a concept I don’t even remotely understand) and that sometimes you play games like you’re in prison. Because in prison, you play to survive. And the minute those words left his mouth, it felt as if he was describing me, and I turned to my best friend and said, “And I’ve always been in prison.” And we had a silent moment and that epiphany hit me.
And I’ve always been in prison!
My home town, if you’ve read my earlier blog posts, you know never felt like home to me. I’ve said my whole life that I hate that place. I ran from it at 18 as fast as I could to get to college. But never did I register that I was in prison in that town. The childhood I had was full of people at my house all the time, watching my every move. These same friends, so connected to my mother, that I couldn’t make a move without one of them ratting me out. She was my warden. I was rapunzel in the tower. I was always in prison. I was never comfortable at home. I hated coming home to that house. I hated the neighborhood, I hated everything, and I see that, it was a type of prison for me.
It wasn’t a malicious thing, but it was a thing, and my survival instincts to survive that incarceration was to be the best I could possibly be so that somehow, one of my talents could get me out of there! And when I went off to college, I really wasn’t free. I was still on probation, having to check in with the warden daily. And when the warden got sick, I was yanked back into the tower for another six year sentence.
With no control on that environment, with feeling like my life wasn’t my own, the one thing I could control was whether I was the best at what I pursued or not. I was always in prison. My new friend’s words hit me like a freight train, and the honesty of it overwhelmed me. I’ve been having dreams that my mother is not dead, and that I have to go back to the tower, and I’ve been sleeping horribly. After this epiphany, I went home, cried an unbelievably cleansing cry and slept peacefully the whole night through and woke up lighter emotionally than I’ve ever been in my life. It might sound overdramatic, but with those words, this person, practically a stranger to me, changed my life. Thank you, Zak, I’ll be forever grateful!
I woke up in the morning to this horoscope:
And even the universe was letting me know that the right words had hit my existence, and that I should trust them and move forward!
Tears are falling as I type this, but not tears of sadness. They are tears of freedom! I am no longer in that tower. Rapunzel has been let out, and has not been stepped on by the giant, and now, she now controls her own life and her own destiny. She has no obligations except to herself!
So maybe, now, just maybe, I can release my choke hold on my need to dominate in a competitive situation, and can just play for the joy of the game…..perhaps, indeed.
Ciao for now,