I never cease to be fascinated with the mental games people play...not so much with others as with themselves. It's often referred to as "the game of life," and each of us has, consciously or subconsciously, our own little game board and our own set of rules, including an image of ourselves which may or may not have any relation to reality, by which we play it.
I think of myself as a very nice guy, and yet I far too frequently am reminded by my actions that I am not. The most recent of these reminders happened yesterday and involved a woman in my building. She is probably in her early-to-mid fifties, with some type of physical affliction that confines her to a wheelchair, and I rankle every time I see her. She is the most foul-mouthed, thoroughly unpleasant human being I can recall having come in contact with in recent years. I think I mentioned that she and I were once waiting for an elevator and when it came, she went in first. When I stepped in, she went ballistic, screaming and yelling for me to "get the f**k" out.
I am sincerely sorry for whatever happened in her life to make her the way she is. I know I should be more understanding of her condition and not be upset by her infuriating behavior, but I am, and I always respond with penultimate condescension and sarcasm. ("Of course, ma'am. Whatever you say, ma'am. And you have a wonderful day, too, ma'am.") That's really beneath me, and I always feel guilty...later...for not living up to my own expectations. But would I be much different than her if I were in her position? Oh, Lord, I would certainly hope so!
In my defense, I can honestly say her disability has nothing to do with my reaction to her. I would react the same way to any obnoxious individual.
And while many of us take comfort (however well-grounded in fact it may be) in thinking we are better than we are, some of us--particularly those with low self esteem issues--frequently go in the opposite direction and tend to focus on our negative qualities; on things we have done which have embarrassed or shamed us, or put us in awkward and uncomfortable situations. The fact that it is unlikely that anyone but ourselves remembers or were even aware of them does not make the memory any less painful. And for some reason, like picking at a scab, we seem incapable of just letting them alone.
Being either unrealistically egocentric or unrealistically self-deprecatory has its own set of problems. Unfortunately, I am an almost equal balance of both--my own little Yin and Yang of positive and negative. My ego is the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object of my self-deprecation.
Of course each of us must, in the game of life, play the cards we are dealt. But some of us are, by the nature of the game, dealt better hands than others; and some play whatever they are dealt much better than others. One of my biggest problems is and has always been that I simply do not even understand or follow my own rules of the game. I suspect that no one does, and each of us largely makes up our own based on how we see others playing. I am in awe of those who play with seemingly total self-assurance. They may well be bluffing but I have no way of knowing that. All I know is that I haven't a clue as to how to play.
No one can deny the game is infinitely complex, and making it even more so is the fact, seldom acknowledged, that it comes with a timer. Therefore, part of the uncertainty of the game is that very, very few of those who play the game know when the time will be up.
I'm beginning to think that the object of the game is simply to play it as well as we can, even with all the uncertainties and unknowns, and to play it in such a way that we end the game as better people than when we began.
And we must always be aware that we won't be playing it again.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).