Playing the Game

11 May

I’ve been thinking that a helpful way to understand my love life might be to look at it as a game of musical chairs.

I assume most folks are familiar with this children’s party favorite but for anyone who isn’t it goes something like this:

To begin, there are as many chairs as children, lined up back to back. When the game starts, one chair is removed, Mom or Dad turns on music and the children walk around the chairs until the melody stops. At tune’s end, each child nabs the closest chair, pushing his or her rivals out of the way (with tiny fists or feet if necessary) and sits down, leaving one sorry tot seatless. The child without a chaise is out of the game. The process repeats itself until there is only one chair and one winner.

At this point you may be wondering: What the heck does this have to do with love? Well, I’ll tell you:

To my mind, the process of choosing a partner is just like the children choosing chairs: it is random, irrational, impulsive, even desperate. In life, as in the game, we mill around to the music of whatever angels or demons are driving us until some unseen hand moves us to settle down. In an instant we morph from ignoring all the lovely chairs (possible partners) to being desperate to claim the nearest one. Out of the blue that chair (love interest) has become the thing we need most in the world. When our Higher Parent stops the music and tells us it’s pickin’ time, whichever chair (potential mate) is closest is the one we grab in order to survive in the game.

Farfetched though this analogy may seem, it actually helps me make sense of my crazy romantic history.

How many partners have I passed by because it wasn’t time for me to choose? How frequently, by angelic or demonic command, have I fought for the right to claim someone and lost– or settled down happily only to hear a Cosmic call to get moving? How often have I observed the supply of swains dwindling and my chances shrinking? How many times have I felt kicked out of the game?

I’ve even felt like a winner once or twice: alit upon the perfect relationship, after a period of restlessness, and seen everything fall into place and, for a time, felt blissfully blessed: Perfect man, perfect home, perfect child, perfect life.

I’ve also tortured myself wondering what diabolical influence induced me to get up and play another round of the game.

My point is that when one is awash in romantic regret it helps to remember that there is a kind of cosmic timing to all of this. There are forces beyond oneself: life cycles and stages, body changes, even world events working their influence and, yes, I believe, an unseen hand turning the music on and off, removing chairs and players.

In love as in all things one does not have total control. Timing matters, randomness is rampant. “The course of true love never did run smooth…Cupid is a knavish lad,” wrote Shakespeare in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” his brilliant comedy about romantic foolishness. When one realizes these things, one can start to unburden one’s heart.

I am not talking about being a cynical player. I’m simply saying it helps to recognize that when it comes to love, God, the Universe and wicked Cupid are all playing with us and if we can just smile and laugh at ourselves between bouts of sighs and tears, the game might start to be just a little bit more bearable and maybe just a tiny bit fun.


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