maybe leads to steadiness

Yup! Uh, huh! I love this game! danced the abundance of self-confidence from my Uno-savvy, nearly ten-year-old granddaughter.

Arrgggghhhh! I’m going to lose. Why do I have to keep drawing? wailed my seven-year-old grandson who chose to join in the game for the first time. According to Uno tips and directions, seven is the youngest age for playing the game.

Is it five or seven cards to start? I wondered, remembering crazy times I had had while playing this game with my now adult children.

Snippets of conversation—heard at the dining room table earlier this week—allowed the three of us to better know each other. Two of our “grands” were spending part of Spring Break with us while their parents were on a trip. What appeared to be a casual card game on the surface, revealed deeper layers of character and some thoughts about life.

The original Uno card game was developed in 1971, by Merle Robbins, a barber in Cincinnati, Ohio. It has been a Mattel brand since 1992. As a grandparent, I look at it as fun, but also a game in which we have choices in how we react to what comes to us in the moment—impermanence. I can’t help but think that the game also mirrors choices for how we cope in life.

When we’re seven, we barely know what to do with life—we’re learning the rules and how we fit in. Things come at us so quickly. We watch–sometimes, we jump right in. We want to feel like we belong, to do the right thing, so we take things very personally.

At ten, we’ve had more experience and are beginning to feel more comfortable. We believe that we know a lot about many things.  We want to show the world what we know. However, relationship interactions remain mysterious (isn’t this the case throughout life?). Our main concern is how we appear to others.

As we grow up, we hone our personalities, experience delights and disappointments, and build our reputations. Somehow, a card game invites us to be in the moment, and, if we choose that focus, we become less guarded and relax into being our true Selves. Perhaps when we want to learn more about someone, a card game could be an effective strategy. During a game, we experience people in action. And, more importantly, we can choose to observe reactions.

It was difficult for my grandson to give himself credit for trying something completely new, where he encountered a steep learning curve. He wanted everything to come easily and quickly (isn’t this the case throughout life?). No matter how often we supported him on his efforts, he felt short-changed. To his credit, he persisted and categorized the cards by colors, even after drawing twenty cards.

On the other hand, my granddaughter couldn’t play the game fast enough. She was thoroughly enjoying her game knowledge and strategies, complete with apologizing for playing the Skip/Reverse combo, Draw 2, and Wild cards with which she consistently nailed us. Her apologies—a bit insincere and accompanied with a hint of a smile—caused me to say something. In cards, when the goal is to win, there are no apologies. Trying to get opponents to draw many cards and to stop opponents from playing certain cards are common strategies. However, a notably superior attitude takes the fun out of things. These comments were mostly ignored while my grandson became increasingly dejected.

Then impermanence (change) showed up. The universe has a way of altering circumstances (isn’t this the case throughout life?). One Reverse card played by my grandson changed the game completely. Suddenly, my granddaughter was dealing with misfortune. And, the timing was perfect for me to plant some seeds about impermanence.

Accepting what comes to us, even when all we want to do is S C R E A M or pout, is one way to remain emotionally and physically steady. It is not easy and can be most challenging for younger children and pre-teens; however, it’s never too early to plant seeds for life, as acceptance of “what is” continues to challenge many adults.

How do we remain steady in circumstances, both negative and positive? Knowing that we are not fully in control of life—the universe is—we show a pleasant, neutral face and think, Maybe. As we become more comfortable with accepting impermanence, we might be able to say maybe. Here are some examples:

Negative comments/circumstances:

Opposition: Oh, NO! Look at all the cards you’ve drawn. You probably won’t win. 

You:[with a pleasant, neutral face] Maybe.

Positive circumstances:

Player: WOW! I give up. You have only two cards left. You’re probably going to win.

You: [with a pleasant, neutral face] Maybe.

Because the truth is, we don’t know when we will win or lose. There are no guarantees either way. Yet, there is a lot less resistance and suffering when we involve maybe. Despite the twenty cards my grandson drew later in the game, he went on to take second place. My granddaughter, on that day, lost all three games. The silver lining: there is always another game (or life event) in which to practice being emotionally and physically steady.

From a higher vantage: Acceptance of what comes to us in life is especially difficult in a society filled with competition at every turn. Let us be kind to ourselves and to others by looking at life events from a higher perspective. Viewing life circumstances through the lens of maybe encourages emotional and physical stability and flow with life. This is who we are in our deepest hearts.  

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