To Be Determined, Chapter two: The Rulebook
When I was in elementary school we played games. We played outdoor games and indoor games. All of these games had rules. Rules are what made the progression of the game functional, logical, and it gave us an end in site to aim for. There was a beginning a middle and an end. Sometimes you “win” and sometimes you “lose” but ultimately it should’ve been fun, you were with people you knew and liked and there was always a “next time”
Outdoor games like hopscotch, jump rope (including double dutch!), tether ball, catch, freeze tag, handball, dodge ball and more all came with rules and regulations to keep us, the players, safe, focused, excited and eager to keep playing. In order for there to be, well…order everyone had to follow the rules. If it’s your turn to jump rope, do it, when you’re done you take someones ends and take a turn spinning the rope for the next person in line. The hard part of that rule was some people could last in the double dutch forever, yours truly included, and jumping for half the recess didn’t give others the chance they deserved, so eventually you were timed. Freeze tag seemed easy enough, some one is “it” you ran around, if you got tagged you “froze” until someone on your team “unfroze” you by touching you. This required speed, strategy and willingness to go after the same person over and over until all were frozen by you. But again, there were flaws to these rules. Some people are just too fast for you. No matter how hard you try, no matter how high you set your sites, you’d eat their dust before freezing them. So eventually we came up with “teams.” And we tried to make it as even as possible in order for it to be fair and fun for everyone. so superspeedy was chased by lightning legs, and the rest of us were chased by the rest of them. Dodgeball was never my real favorite. I never liked the idea of purposely going in the middle of a circle with no “exit” in site and the name of the game was don’t get hit by the people surrounding you. It sounded like some thing a bully made up and for some reason one day a teacher during recess said “sure bully-bill, we’ll play your game. It will be fun if we just set rules!” So what are the rules. same amount of people on the outside of the circle as there were in the middle. As you got hit with the ball, a flaw in and of itself if you ask me, you left the middle of the circle and went to the outside of the circle and had somehow changed sides and strategies. You no longer moved as fast as you could from the ball and getting hit, you were now asking for the ball and trying to hit someone. You smiled and cackled with glee when you got them, forgetting instantly what it felt like when you were hit and that second of defeat covered in all those eyes staring was now, nothing. There were “safety” rules that eventually were developed. You can only hit the legs or arms. If you hit the face you’re disqualified and can’t “play” anymore, the back though – that seemed to be free. You could aim for it, and throw as hard as you could and you knew you had the upper hand because the person wasn’t looking. Slowly as your team in the middle dwindled you’d realize how many people were somehow after you and all you could see was a blur of faces and mixed print while running from one side of the inner circle to the next, trying to literally dodge the ball.
sigh. Well that was fun, I suppose. As long as some amount of rules were in place and whoever was playing agreed to said rules, everything was played out as it should’ve been.
I remember what a big deal it was when someone cheated though.
But what of the rainy days? The days when you played indoors because for one reason or another, the outside was unattainable or unavailable? Well, we’d play indoor games I suppose. Board games, card games, pictionary, or we’d get to choose an “indoor activity” that was appropriate, like color or write a story. But we most certainly were not allowed to just sit there. “Just sitting there” was a sign of having nothing or no one, and the teachers can’t have that. Not when everyone should be involved in SOMETHING. So…sure, I’ll play a board game. I’ll follow the rules and roll the dice or spin the wheel and move my “man” the allotted number of spaces and claim what is rightfully mine as far as tokens, prizes, lollipops, ladders, pegs, people, or whatever was concerned. I’ll do it until I’m finished. And that was always good. Sometimes even if you didn’t finish first it was important that you finished at all. And card games? Well, I don’t really play cards but I guess if you tell me the rules I’ll try. So it was go-fish, or war, or old maid but after a while I don’t care what suit or color I have or if it matches or if you have more cards then me, and war is just silly we lay down more and more cards until ONE card that is higher in number wins everything? Who made up that rule? And I digressed and moved on and would color one of the appropriate pictures of animals or smiling kids and I wouldn’t worry about the “correct” look of a human or cat. If I wanted her to have a cat with purple squares as fir, then that’s what’s gonna happen. And I was never put down for that, I was lifted up for my creativity and encouraged to color as I saw fit. I appreciated that. And you know something else?, sometimes I wouldn’t even stay in the lines, or i’d trace the outside pressing hard to make it darker and more apparent that there was in fact, a line that went…right…there.
Well, that was also fun, I suppose. As long as everyone was doing something they wanted, following the rules of being inside and of the activities they were engrossed in, everyone was fine.
Then we all grew up.
Then I realized it’s the same thing. The playground has changed, recess times have changed, friends have changed, but at the end of the day it’s the same…stupid…things.
Now the “games” have new names and some of the rules still exist and some have changed. If you’re playing an “outside” game and you’re out to dinner, at a bar, or wandering about with your friends family or significant other – there are still those rules. Sometimes it’s still like jumping rope. Who ever is the most sober has to hold the ends and let the others hop about. We laugh, we fall, we get tired, we switch places. And unfortunately sometimes someone gets a longer turn. A longer turn talking to the cutee at the bar that just bought the two of them a round of drinks, a longer time waiting for the others to finish their smoke, a longer time waiting in line for the bathroom and a longer wait for their next turn during karaoke. Then there’s people who don’t follow the rules because they kind of don’t apply to them. They go to that bar every week, if not more so they can walk up and get whatever they need from the bartender without waiting. I can walk in to the bar, go right up to my friend running the karaoke and let him know what I want to sing and he’ll move me to singing third so that I can sing once before shouting-sharon over there can sing for the third time . Maybe it’s all about who you know.
Like in freeze tag. But sometimes you run and run after one person and find they really are just out of your reach. And that can affect you more now in your twenties and thirties than it did when you weren’t even double-digits yet. And I’m not about to agree to a team effort because if I’m going after someone *I* want to reap the benefits, if I send someone else that’s faster or “better” I could potentially, lose. And when we’re playing these games, we’re trying to have fun and win – aren’t we? Don’t we just want to win? Aren’t we just playing..to win???!! And furthermore so what if long-legs-lanora came to the bar with me, yah we’re friends but if you like tall thin blondes over tall-plus size-brunettes it’s not gonna matter how hard or fast I run, in the end I’ve already lost. BUT WAIT. If I’ve already lost, why do I play at all?? Because if I don’t get in and play, then I’m choosing to be left out. And I can’t be that person. I can’t be someone who chooses to opt out. I want to aim for something too. I want to strive too. I want to win. But I want her to play by the rules, and she probably wants me to play by the rules too.
But playing by the rules doesn’t always get you what you want. Uh-Oh. And who’s to say that just because I wasn’t fast enough to catch someone, doesn’t mean that my stamina is better than lenora over there. I’m just saying…
And what of the words. Them fightin’ words. Or the teams that form automatically when everyone is after the same thing. To win. What about when our words and actions and re-actions become the ball everyone is trying to dodge. What side of the circle should I be on then? Can I be someone on the outside just laughing at the people on the inside. Do I purposely throw as hard as I can to get them out of the running, and also – do I aim for their back?
As adults, our back is almost more sensitive then our center. We get gut feelings, but if someone metaphorically “stabs us in the back” we revert immediately back to the rules of how that’s not appropriate, only to find that actually – no on said the back was off limits. It’s a big space, and you can’t see anyone coming. But, but how is that fair? How is that following the rules, and my guess is…the rule on that is up to you to follow through on, which seems to end up being “don’t turn your back on them.” I mean, sure they’re you’re friends, but when you’re in it to win and you have to choose a side you’re gonna find out who’s willing to stay in the middle with you and fight, or who’s gonna step to the outside because they can’t handle it in the middle. What do we do when people we love are both on the outside of the circle, throwing shit at us, and people on the inside of the circle aren’t protecting us? Is every man really for himself? Can’t I depend on ANYONE to follow the rules??
So eventually I turn my back on them, knowing they’ll see me do so and they’ll take their chance to take-me-out. And what I have to keep in mind is they didn’t earn that by playing by the rules, it just so happened I gave it to them, so I could be done with my turn in the circle. Sometimes we win, by allowing defeat.
And we go home. We go home happy, maybe drunk or typsy and maybe with someone we tagged at the bar. And then you agree to the perhaps, and the mishaps of Adult Indoor Activities. Board games become mind games. And instead of relying on the dice we roll or the wheel we turn, we depend on the move they make on the chess board, and we try to anticipate their next move based on the move you make. Card games become “poker” and I’m sure you can just take that as sexually as you like, but instead of looking for pairs and accepting the ones you get, you have to find the royalty, the reasons to “flush” the opponent. And it’s not enough to just say you win, now you’re going to bring in money and materialisitc things to put a name and brand on your win. Again, you just want to win – but what are you willing to lose now? Have you given it enough thought? And who’s the guy dealing the cards out? How are you supposed to take what you get, bet what you have, and trust the stranger “dealing” out your life? Well, you’re not – that’s a gamble and the rules to that are simple. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but you never know until you try. So maybe everyone should play cards. And here I am, still hating the idea because by now i’ve been tagged in the back, i’ve waited my turn, I’ve won and lost, but now my heart is on the table, because that’s all I have left to offer and if this complete stranger deals me a losing card, I could – quite possibly lose everything.
And then what?
Then I remember to not go in betting that high. To have enough respect for myself to know what I could be losing. I sober up and remember to be responsible and even though I’ve been subsequently tagged in the back, I should know better than to do it to others – so instead. I sit quietly and draw. I draw words by typing at approximately 70 words per minute and even through blurred teary vision I am to follow some kind of rule that states after all the bullshit I’ve already been through, I don’t have to go through anymore.
After realizing that rules can be set in stone, the stone may not possibly be able to carry the weight of the rules. And the stone can be broken, erode, chip or shatter.
After realizing not everyone plays by the rules I am reminded how sometimes neither did I, and the rule on that is, to just be careful. Whatever you do to others, will come back to you three-fold. So, do good. And move forward.
After learning that rules can be just guide lines I have to wonder and question what sort of end result am I seeking, if the guide lines I’m following keep leading me to tragic heart ache, illogical streams of thought, and worse – wanting to seek revenge. Why can’t forgiveness be a guide line?
I said, why can’t forgiveness be a guide line?
Because! Because if you just make it a rule that if someone tags you in the back and they say sorry, you forgive them then they didn’t really get what was coming to them. And yes, I believe in that. You do something shitty, something shitty will come back to you. If you apologize for something, then you should not do it again. If you know you are going to do it again, don’t say you’re sorry. Because even though in elementary school when someone got hit too hard with the ball they were trying to dodge, or someone froze you before you even had a chance to make a run for it – and they apologize, chances are they will do it again if you give them the opportunity.
So what NOW???
So I don’t forgive you. But I will forgive myself for giving you the opportunity to ____. And I’ll never give you the opportunity to do it again, and if I do it’s my own damn fault. I should’ve known when you picked me last for the team you didn’t have faith in me to be fast enough for you. I should’ve known when you said all the other relationships were easier, that you meant they never challenged you and if you’re afraid of a challenge then I’m not the adult you are going to want to start playing with. I should’ve realized my turn jumping through your ropes was an extension of the obstacle to get to you, not a question of my stamina to handle you. I should’ve remembered all the times you said sorry but still took my legs out from under me the way that red ball always used to.
I still remember what a big deal it is if you’re a cheater.
I should’ve realized the rules to follow this entire time, were mine. And if I’m willing to break them for you, or be so caught up in you that I let you break them yourself that in it’s place you’d set new rules down, trapping me in your game.
But, one more thing I remember from the playground, the moment you say “I win,” I say “lets play again,” because, in life if there is no attempt at a “do over” then someone has explained the rules wrongly to you. In order to grow, move forward , get chosen you have to try again.
And, MY rules after that, remain – to be determined.