I’m not usually one for cliches (puns, on the other hand…), but yesterday I spent what was probably too much time (in retrospect) thinking about the phrase “everyone’s dealt a hand in life and it’s how you play it that counts”. One of my prefrontal cortex neurons must’ve sizzled, flickered, and then snapped into its A-game because this little cliche really rang true.
Up until just a few months ago, I was a young and carefree, well-educated, very blessed individual going places and making a name for herself (or was I? More on that, later). And out of the blue, a very serious and yet-to-be-diagnosed health problem struck me from my place in life and left me scared, a shell of my formal person, removed from life and suddenly questioning every decision I’d ever made. My deck of cards had changed, I’d been given another card…one I hadn’t thought to prepare for, nor did or do I really know how to deal with. But it’s there, and I’m forced to “play” the card in reference to my life.
My deck of cards is really the afterthought in this particular musing of mine, because REALLY what I came to realize is just HOW much respect I have for those people in the world who are forced to play their bad hand, and the succession of bad deals thereafter, for their entire lives. To be born into poverty, to not have a secure and stable family for support, to feel trapped by your circumstances every day, to deal with emotional, physical or sexual abuse, to be the living relative after tragedy takes your loved ones away, there are so many situations that are impossible for me to imagine. And yet, there are so many people who take them in stride every day. I cannot begin to express my admiration. And as a point of comparison, it leaves me humbled and sickened by my own whining.
Those cards make my deck look like a glowing beacon fueled by promise, hope, and really good luck! So…who am I to complain? I shouldn’t complain. And I feel so much guilt in feeling like my deck of cards is unfair. In comparison, it’s not. But it’s also not perfect. My deck of cards starts off well-enough: I was born tall and beautiful (though I still don’t “believe” it) to a family who loves me and would support me in any endeavor. I have extended family who feel and act like best friends. I am well-educated and was given many opportunities there. I am athletic, creative, and funny. I am driven and independent and always seeking new ways to grow.
I also suffer from severe anxiety and depression, brought on partially by hormonal imbalances and partially through dealing with the (really, really) negative consequences of making (really, really) poor decisions while in that unbalanced state. I have worked for years to develop a love of my self, but have instead found myself focusing only on my negative qualities. And the degree of self-loathing I carry with me has permeated every relationship, personal and professional, since it reached it’s peak 6 years ago. I deal with an extremely frustrating eating disorder brought on by the anxiety and fed by the self-loathing. And I cannot connect with people to save my life. I have never felt more isolated than I do today.
So there’s my deck. The good and the bad. But like the cliche says, it’s how you PLAY the cards that counts. So when it comes to my random, life-altering illness…I chose to deal with that with humor. I’m trying to see positivity in every blood test and doctor’s visit. When it comes to the anxiety, depression, self-loathing and eating disorder…things get a little tough. It’s almost like the chicken and the egg conundrum. Which came first? Which caused what?
I’ve taken, these past few months, to trying to a) focus on my positive attributes and to become more self-loving, and b) to focus my thoughts outward, not inward. The more I try to figure myself out, the less I can. And the more frustrated and anxious I get. Which makes me depressed. And so on…
Perhaps the ony thing wrong with this cliche is that it leads you to believe that your deck of cards is dealt and final from birth. That you’ll never have another card, nor that you’ll ever be able to toss one out. While I have yet to toss one out, I have been the recipient of a new one. And it really taught me how to play this “game”. So, perhaps one day in the near future, I’ll have played out the usefulness one of my negative cards (because, I know that as negative and as hormonally-influenced they are, they’re also coping mechanisms and have a purpose in my life, however maladaptive they may be) and reach for a better one…
..or simply play the ones I have now with certain skilled, positive prowess. =)