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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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