THE GAME OF LIFE

 

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THE GAME OF LIFE

“The game of life has two participants: spectators and players. Pick one.”  –Unknown

Yesterday, Gail and I and some of our family members were spectators, warming the benches as Gail’s son played volleyball on the men’s club team at Kansas State University.

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Wyatt is #15, blocking the spike.

Wyatt has played on this team for the last two years, having received expert instruction from his big sister, who was also present.

Lucky for me I actually understand this game, unlike most sports. I get it; it’s relatively simple. Back and forth, above the net and inside the boundaries, three hits or less on each volley. I played for several years in high school, with an ugly crooked finger as a permanent memento of the game and the fun I had. Sometimes, the price we pay for having had fun in our younger years is worth the memories.

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I just got off the phone with a friend. She was frazzled, making treats to take to her high-school aged son’s sports banquet.

I’m having anxiety about this,” she said. I should have known, knowing her as well as I do, that she was not concerned about measuring up against the other mother’s contributions. She is so far beyond caring about that.

No, it’s just stupid,” she responded, when I asked her if she was fearful of the comparison trap. “I’m over this shit.”

The idea is a good one, the intention is to celebrate the achievements of high school athletes. The downside, as she sees it, is that sports are the priority in the high school culture.

And, as Sunday NFL football will illustrate on my television today, it seems to be the priority in our culture in general. But here I go on my soapbox again. I continue to try to make peace with my perception that it has been elevated to an unmerited religious level in our society.

My soapbox is built on a poor understanding of the rules of the game, a lack of comprehension as to how the gladiator-like competition can be enjoyable for the spectator, let alone the athlete. Mooring up this soapbox are the memories of the many patients I have treated with head injuries.

When I step back and examine it, however, I realize that my lack of understanding as to how the aspect of fierce competition can be sanctioned in our society, I remember that when it comes to spelling bees, I’m in it for blood. (Under Our Spell, September 1st 2019). My hunger for victory is no different, so I have no room to talk.

But back to the love of the game.

Wyatt plays with his body, heart and soul, and took the second-place team finish in the tournament yesterday in stride, as did his teammates. Their mission was to play their best, champions or not. For us, it was a day of spectating, cheering, and enjoying time with family.

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 Gail’s daughters Kate and Lydia, Gail, Wyatt, and her husband, Terry.

 

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My husband and I got to spend a few hours with our son who will complete his degree from KSU in a few weeks.

These young men are strong and coordinated. Just like the team-building mantra in business, there is no ‘I’ in team. Neither is there a ‘U/you’ in “team,” but they function as if it is all about the other guy. They bump-set-spike, communicating by their looks, shouts, moves and familiarity with the game and with each other, knowing they can’t do it alone.

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I don’t spectate much when it comes to sports. My boys played baseball in junior high and high school, and I enjoyed spectating. Like volleyball, I actually understand the game.

In life, however, I would prefer to participate rather than spectate. Each of us has the opportunity to play the game in whatever way we choose, and at whatever level of engagement. Like in sports, there are rules. Just like in volleyball and other most other sports, there are boundaries. There is teamwork. We all need each other, and playing together and playing nice always works better in the end than being in it just for ourselves, even if its harder than thinking about only ourselves.

The biggest difference between sports and real life, as I see it, is that real life should never be a competition with anyone but yourself.   It’s up to you to determine when you should stop competing with yourself and call it good enough.

In volleyball, I remembered that if the ball hit the net on a serve, it was dead. Now, it is considered fair play. That rule changed, and sometimes in life, rules change, too.

Rules, however, are sometimes made–and changed–to protect the powerful, and perhaps they should be bent, if not completely broken. This is your call, but for me, I like to remember this:

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Again, its your call. Remembering our mom’s suggestion also helps: If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of The Ten Commandments, Do It!

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“The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.”   –H.T. Leslie

BE A SPORT

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BE A SPORT

I like to move my body in some form of exercise every day.  I hope I have made it abundantly clear to you in previous posts that the ability to do so is a gift not granted.  My work has made me see that.

I exercise almost every day because it makes me feel better, and, as I age, as a prayer of gratitude for the ability to make it all work.  I am already learning that age limits that.

But let’s not dwell on that.

I have never been an athlete, per se.  I did attempt volleyball in high school, but it was not meant to be, although I do enjoy it.   My long-distance running experiences in high school track laid the foundation for me to pick it up again six years after I stopped running track.

Twenty-eight years later, I am still running.  I run because it makes me feel good.

I attempted coed softball with my husband early in our marriage.  It became quickly apparent to me and the entire team that this venture was ill-fated; I possessed skills only for solitary endeavors, such as running in a straight line.  I lacked the mental and physical coordination to be a team member of any value on the softball team.

I left that behind.

Five years ago, I experimented with yoga.  I am still experimenting, but on a more regular and organized basis.  Stretching in this fashion is good for any human body.

So, I stretch mine.  Yoga stretches my brain, too, which is good for any human brain.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I am not a sports fan.  With the exception of our beloved Kansas City Royals Baseball, I have no desire to attend any professional sporting events.  I realize what I am about to say is heresy to a hallowed American institution, but if I were given tickets to the Super Bowl–the pinnacle event of sports in the United States, I would pass them on.

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I am pretty sure that in any sport’s inception, it was intended to provide a sense of fun, fitness and friendly competition.

If I were appointed Goddess of all Sporting Events, I would magically ensure that these three elements were held foremost.  I would eliminate any scandals, doping, mean spirits and underhandedness.  I would ensure that every participant in every sport had equal playing time, and that all parties had fun.

I wouldn’t be very popular.

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About five years ago, Suzanne and I attended the county spelling bee that our niece and nephew were participating in.  We were psyched and eager to watch them compete.  We sat close to the front and had to sit on our hands.  We considered painting our faces and cheering loudly for them, but we kept it subdued to save embarrassment for them.

If we’d had the time that particular Thursday prior to the 1:30 p.m. kickoff, we may have tailgated in the school parking lot.  Why not?

Then there was the Quiz Bowl.  My firstborn was a team member, traveling to several area schools.  I had the good fortune to see him in the same town I was working in.  Again, I held off on the face painting for his sake.  I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from blurting out some answers in this battle of factual knowledge.

Pennsylvania is the Keystone State!”  It was tough to hold that one in.   I used to live there.  I kept it together—barely.

These events are the real deal for me.  This is Fun—yes, with a capital F.  Take me to a football game, and I may pass for a corpse.  As I write this on the eve of the big match-up of the KC Chiefs vs. the Denver Broncos, the regional rival NFL teams, I know once again that putting these words in print is heresy.

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I do enjoy volleyball, likely because I understand it.  I had the pleasure of seeing Gail’s college-age son compete on his university’s men’s club volleyball team this weekend.

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I was in nearby Manhattan to meet my dear friend Shari for a fall hike through the famous Konza Prairie Trail.  We moved our bodies in this outdoor activity among the splendor of fall foilage.  I even got to see my son there as well.

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We walked and ran this morning, again moving our bodies.  Again, we found immediate reward in the payoff—we felt better.

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We even picked up the paddles and hit the ping pong ball a few times in good-natured competition inside the locally famous donut shop.

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Having already had a full weekend of athletic activities including hiking, running/walking, yoga, ping pong and volleyball, I had hoped to be able to observe a session of boxing as well.  Let me explain:

I work with many people who have Parkinson’s Disease.  This progressive neurological condition slowly and methodically attempts to rob the human body of its ability to move smoothly in good time.  It also attempts to silence the voice for most people, and affects their swallowing ability.

There is an international boxing program known as Rock Steady Boxing® that is designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s.  It helps them rebuild their strength, balance and coordination.  It also helps them strengthen their voices in the process.  Perhaps most importantly, as a by-product of all these gains, they are reminded they are still fighters in the Game of Life.

There is twice-weekly class held in Manhattan with these warriors and their trainers.  A dear friend is one of these trainers, and a colleague of mine in our small city was recently trained to work within this program as well.  I wanted to see the class in action.

It used to be held on Saturdays, but it has been moved to Friday instead, so I missed it.  I didn’t get to take in this sporting event.  I have seen videos, and it brings tears of amazement and joy to my eyes.  This is the real deal; this is what sports in its purest form can do for the human body.

If you, or anyone you know could benefit from this, please visit their website at:  www.rocksteadyboxing.org.

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Gail is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  Our husbands are Kansas City Chiefs fans.  Suzanne and I are not football fans.  We don’t understand what all the hype is about.  We don’t even understand the game; our brains simply aren’t wired for it.   The spelling bee is more our style.

If you are a football fan, I hope your team wins.  Most importantly, I hope it is a source of fun for you, like it was intended to be.

And if you aren’t already, get out there and move your body.  If you move it within a competitive sporting event, be sure to have fun while you are competing.  If it is a solitary venture, do whatever makes you feel best in your body and mind.

And in tomorrow’s regional NFL rivalry, may the best team win—and may every team member and spectator leave the stadium as a better person.

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I have had the pleasure of getting to know some awesome sisters through this blog who have made me a better person in ways small and large.

I wrote about Martha and Mary in Loads of Sisters (November 19th).   They are Gail’s twin aunts by marriage, and they live in Manhattan.  They came to see their great-nephew play volleyball, and I got to enjoy their company today as well.  Today, their 60-something birthday. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTHA AND MARY!

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I have honored my friends Tana and Amy, two other amazing sisters in two other posts   (Swheat Girls Part Two—July 9th, 2017 and Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever–July 8th, 2018).  While on the Kansas State University Campus this morning, we took a moment to honor their grandfather, a former Director of Housing at KSU.

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Shari and I took in the majesty of the Kansas sunset from atop a hill outside Manhattan.  Every time I take time to enjoy this splendor, I am always a winner, and I become a better person.