Games of Life

A game (noun) is defined as “a calculated strategy or approach; an active interest or pursuit.”

You might like to ask yourself about “the game of life” in your journal. Is life like a round of golf where you practice perfection? Is it like a game of chess where you try to stay one step ahead? Is it a child’s game of Hide and Seek in which you play at discovering the gifts hidden in yourself or your relationships; or even keeping yourself safe by hiding your essence from others?

Sometimes we win at “real” games like Scrabble or Crazy 8s. Sometimes we lose. How we react to wins and losses help us understand the kind of person we are. Do we play to win by pushing others out of the way? Do we pout, get angry or throw our cards down when we lose? Is it the game, the fun or the possible win that attracts us? We all like to succeed. What is success anyway except finding what gives us happiness and makes life worth living?

Learning from our reactions makes us happier players. How we cope, accept our abilities and celebrate our strengths we learn a little bit more about who we are.

Warning! This poem contains a crude word!

life is golf

on the fairway –
set feet apart
knees bent
head down
grip loose
allow the club
to carry through
connect
hard and true
lighten the hold
sink one shot
into success

but no!
this shot,
is like life –
it’s a whack! fuck!
the ball’s got no lift
and you can’t get it up
you miss the cup
and frustration
takes hold of your focus
throttles your confidence

like mistakes
on the fairway of life
perfection obsession
takes over
and the lesson
is lost
like a chuffed ball
lost in the ruff

kathie sutherland
06/24/03

This poem appears in balancing Act a poetry collection which you can purchase right here on my website at http://kathiesutherland.com/books/

History in your Hands

Erich Maria Remarque once said in his novel A Night in Lisbon, “How can we be really sure of our happiness until we know how much of it is going to stay with us?” “The only way,” Schwarz whispered, “is to know that we can’t hold it, and stop trying to. We frighten it away with our clumsy hands. But if we can keep our hands off it, won’t it go on living fearlessly behind our eyes? Won’t it stay there as long as our eyes live?”

We frighten happiness away with our clumsy hands…Wow! If you think about it, history shows up in your hands and in them, what makes us happy, and it provides understanding of our ability to keep on living fearlessly.

I often look at people’s hands and nails. They speak loudly about what is important to them. Short, manicured nails speak of massage; artsy nails, glamour; broad hands, caring for the ones we love; soft hands, gentleness; scars, our wounds as we work; burns, our love of cooking; arthritic knuckles, our aging; callouses, our ability to play guitar; dirt under the nails, the joy of gardening; smooth, soft skin, youth and innocence; broken and split nails, neglect; vertical ridges, illness.

Take a look at your hands right now. Really study them. Write a few lines about your hands and see where it goes.

Happiness is…

This morning when my husband and I decide to take the grand dog to the dog park, the temperature is a pleasant –6 with patches of blue sky showing through thin cloud cover. As we stand on the deck out of the wind, I wonder if I’ve overdressed and will soon be sweating. In the car, I am too hot.

By the time we arrive at the dog park, the sun looks like an ivory disk under a gossamer veil. Out on the open field, the clouds move in, hanging low with their bellies ragged and torn. The wind blows over the land with icy cold gusts. Gooseflesh pimples the skin under my jeans. I pull down my hat and put up the hood of my jacket. My husband’s fur-lined aviator hat protects his ear, but his nose, chin and forehead are very pink.

The dog, however, doesn’t care what the thermometer says; he’s always up for chasing the ball. Today, his doggie smile stretches from ear to ear. I can’t help but smile too. Condensation from his huffing breath whitens his whiskers with frosty rime just like the earflaps on my husband’s hat.

I’m freezing. My cheeks are stinging. My husband’s face is red and raw. All I can think of at that moment is, “Give me a hot chocolate and I’ll be content.” Now that the dog is happily exhausted, we walk briskly to the car, and I tuck my chin into the furry collar of my jacket. My glasses fog up and my nose runs. I feel alive and invigorated by the cold. My senses are tingling.

I love the delicious feel of being alive.

So often, I hear people say, “I’ll be happy when I’m out of debt.” “I’ll be happy when I can go on a cruise.” “I’ll be happy when I can find the right home.” I wonder, “Is it really true that they’ll be satisfied?” When those things happen (or not) the wish list increases. The desire for more is always at work. All those If’s and when’s take over, and suddenly they’re expectations.“

If I lament missed opportunities, I’m also creating a list. “I wish I had…” “Why didn’t I…?” “What if I had…?” Now I’m on a trip down memory lane!

A friend of mine calls this phenomenon time travel. The grand dog’s happiness appears to be a function of time travel. He has expectations for the future when I say, “Dog park” or “Walk” He’s learned from past experience. “Oh boy! Oh boy! Here comes a treat!” Like me with a hot chocolate! Give him a chew toy. Throw a stick. Scoop out a dishful of kibble. He’s delighted.

For me, the gift at the dog park is Presence. One half hour there and my heart sings “Happy!” Afterward, I’m aware of the savory spices in the turkey soup we eat when we get home, warm air flows from the furnace, and the physical weariness that comes from fresh air and exercise is exquisite.

The grand dog is a Teacher. I am a willing Student. Today’s lesson? “Happiness exists right here, right now. Not tomorrow. Not last week. But here in this present moment.” Good doggie.