The Zen of Words With Friends

Growing up in a large family, competition was fierce. I learned how to aspire; often succeeding, especially when it came to academia in which I excelled. And although I didn’t grow up having to mandatorily don a skirt or restrict myself to half-court basketball like women before me, the unspoken rules still persisted: act like a lady; don’t make men feel or look powerless; don’t build too much muscle. Being athletically inclined in build and temperament, to be restricted to girly sports resulted in a nervous, fragmented, overly-intellectual young woman who, due to a natural proclivity toward introspection, was thoroughly awkward in social situations.


Fast forward to my life in the Maine woods, once I left home. Horses, log cabins and a whole lake to swim in and sixty-five acres to ski on gave my spirit room to breathe and my mind a healthy outlet for problem solving.


Fast forward again to online Words With Friends. Seriously. When you’ve possessed a lifelong drive to succeed in what you’re good at, competition can rear its phantom head when least expected. Opponents utilizing cheat apps only served to improve my vocabulary and sharpen my competitive edge. But I was beginning to dislike myself. Friends and family began to express their distaste for losing to me once too often. Yet I couldn’t simply allow others to win without merit. What to do?


Over time, I’ve learned to relax a bit around the need to be the best at everything. I’ve had the leisure to explore the background static in my motivations. I don’t have to capitulate; neither must I angst over a word board for fifteen minutes, trying to extract the absolute highest score possible from a letter placement. I’ve discovered that if I speed my playing up a bit, the likelihood increases that sometimes I win, but sometimes I also lose. When I’m losing, I get to observe where I’m not in harmony with myself – just as some do in sitting meditation. And you know what? I’m finally at peace with it – as long as the game is played well.


10 thoughts on “The Zen of Words With Friends

  1. Well said! Glad that you are at peace with the idea of competition although I think that you will find it comes in different forms. I especially liked when you wrote “unexpected.” Most often, competition is a zero sum game, unless you want the other person to win with the same passion as you want to succeed. Competition works if you don’t place a numerical value on the outcomes. Most people like to be number one on a flawed reward system that provides limited benefits to a very few. Excellent post!! This is a discussion that needs to be front and centre!


  2. Clanmother, thanks so much for your valuable voice.

    It might be semantics, but I did write “LEAST expected,” which I carefully chose because it’s rarely UNexpected at this point in my life 😉 Most anything can happen, and this I know! The gods are always toying with me, shaking me out to observe, perhaps, what is real and what’s fabricated … my own choice for this to happen, as well – not simply a universal mandate.

    I agree that competition works most altruistically when we wish the best for all involved. Certainly as adults, that promise serves us well. If only children’s coaches understood this better, instead of humiliating and ostracizing kids when they lose a game. And of course, as we all know, being winners means there have to be losers. Placing ourselves in another’s shoes is always a fabulous exercise in empathy and humility, and our world could certainly use more of both, in my opinion.

    I’ve discovered something, which, no doubt, you’ve already experienced: losing can feel GOOD! Again, I cannot simply hand a game over to an opponent, but I can relax my competitive edge, allowing them to truly taste victory. Then I am truly happy for their success!

    Thanks again for your comment, and blessings on the day.


  3. Your comment about advice you were given as a girl interested me. I have heard many people refer to the teachings, “Don’t beat a man at the game you’re playing,” “Don’t show how smart you are..”

    I never was taught that so I’m still confronting and challenging men whenever the need arises. Egos mixed with testosterone are not a pretty sight.


    1. Aloha, Ronnie – no, they are not! But don’t forget, I was raised in a fundamentalist religion, so that likely had lots to do with my upbringing. Still, it was paradoxical, because my dad valued my intelligence, and always told me I could be or do anything! And so I grew up with these confusions, and it took me until well into my ‘thirties before I stopped flailing around and began stepping into myself more fully.

      Thanks for stopping by, as always!


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