Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing Backgammon With My Mother

Playing backgammon with my mother was, shall we say, interesting. If she won, she was adamant that backgammon is a game of skill; if she lost, she was equally insistent that it is a game of luck. It wouldn’t have been so challenging if she did not have such a strong need for others to agree with her conclusions. That’s what made me a little batty.
What I see more clearly now some years after her death is that she needed to construct that house of cards (to carry on with the metaphor) in order to protect what was indeed a very fragile self concept. Even something as meaningless as a board game was a threat that she needed to guard herself against. It’s a natural and valuable instinct to protect ourselves from perceived threat and exposing what could be viewed as weakness can make us feel very vulnerable. Without thinking, our defenses can go up. The challenge is to make distinctions between what are real threats and what are simply encounters with our humanity.
How hard it must have been for my mother to feel threat at every turn. How much easier her life would have been had she been able to accept her very human limitations.

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