The Game

A cloud does not lament when it becomes rain…

I am mostly done with it all. All these stresses and conventions. I seem too rather-not with most things. The sky is beautiful, and yet it does not try to be. It is not seeking my approval. It is beauty, and I happen to be here to approve of it. There will be many more who come after me to do this approving; I no longer need to do so. I am mostly done with it all.

There is a game we play. Most of us don’t even know we are playing it, and I keep forgetting that fact. It becomes the Game within the Game. It is an endlessly peeling onion.

The world has been standing on its head with the arrival of Covid-19; a more-than-usual fatal strain of influenza. This flu hit a pandemic level just a month after my neurotic, “irrational” fear of contamination once again monopolized my life. After one of the worst collapses my psyche had ever taken, and after years of limiting my exposure to public areas, I had summoned the courage to find work at a local climbing gym; a personal trial to immerse my contamination-aware self back into the working world. My love of rock climbing had resurrected in recent years due to the companionship and invitation of a dear friend, and the job appeared to be a good fit. For a while, I thought I found an equilibrium with my disorder. I watched silently for months as customers darted in and out of bathrooms, then onto the walls, cutting themselves on the holds and leaving their skin and bodily fluids behind. The more I saw of their contaminating behaviours, the worse my mental state came to be. I was reluctant to accept that my time there was coming to an end, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay, so I barricaded myself in my apartment instead. Again I was alone, and again I felt ashamed of myself.

Then, as I began to accept my situation, and as my shame was giving way to compassion, the entire world began to play by my rules. Hand sanitizer was being used by the gallon, the cleaning of common surfaces and items began to be seen as a responsibility taken by both consumer and merchant alike. The sick were confined to their homes or hospital beds, the healthy donned masks and gloves. The world became a virtual utopia for the neurotic.

I was no longer considered strange in society; I was the Poster Boy for the Coronavirus. In some small ways, I had actually become more comfortable going out than I had been in the weeks leading up to quarantine. I felt comfortable touching the baskets at the grocer; this was not something I had done for over four years. I could use hand sanitizer openly in public, without the worry of others’ judgment; though I would still look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. Social distancing regulations meant I did not have to feel awkward about not wanting others to touch me; though I would still feel guilty for not shaking a hand when it had habitually been offered to me. Despite my sudden contentment in society, I did not leap with feelings of self-righteousness. The applicable proclamation of “I told you so” had been the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted everyone to stop.

I sympathized with those suddenly seeing the world in this way, worrying in this way, as this had been my reality for many years. Contamination was one of the earliest forms of my neurosis known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This neurosis, so eloquently designed and disguised, has been a near lifelong companion of mine. For me, the process of continuously attempting and failing to combat my own nature to fit in with the social constructs of society has been a violent contortion of my own psyche.

The Game is the idea that we can prevent ourselves from becoming ill, or that we can distract ourselves from ever feeling blue. That we can buy ever more lavish pleasure to ward off depression; that we can outsmart death. The Game remains that we are not this process; that it is IT verses US; the game of life versus the lab rats within the maze; the belief that we must somehow force the Game to submit, and only then can we discover how to be eternal victors.

Not everyone is affected in such a negative way, and many would do anything to preserve the veil of the Game that they have in front of them, lest it be discovered that their personal turmoil had been mere illusion. I’d rather choose to look at things in a way that says, “if a man smokes a cigarette and dies from it, I hope he enjoyed having the cigarette. If so, then it was not tragedy that killed him, but the circumstances for which he enjoyed living.”

The tragedy, then, is that people are so desperately convinced that this Game is all important. They live their lives for an ever elusive tomorrow, and miss seeing the sunset in front of their eyes.

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