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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost In The Shuffle

I've been awake since three. I'm sick again (thanks to Pei Wei's "gluten free" dish that I'm convinced wasn't gluten free, but that's a rant I'll save for the day I'm not wishing I could just give it one good vomit and be done with it all). And while I was lying in bed wishing my eyes would just close, I started thinking, "I'm not writing the way I need to. I'm getting lost in the shuffle again."

I say that to myself a lot -- lost in the shuffle. I say that because it happens to me a lot -- caught up with work and the politics of work, and motherhood and the duties of motherhood, and staying alive and what life demands to stay alive (not eating the "gluten free" meals at Pei Wei is now added to that list). Most of the time, when I say this to myself, I have a visual of shuffling my feet while walking shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Earth's sheeple (like leaving a sold out show after three hours in front of a big screen watching a movie about blue people that live under a giant tree the evil white man is about to destroy). This morning however, in the darkness of my bedroom, I had a visual of my own hands shuffling a deck of cards.

I love to play cards, not just Spider Solitaire on my computer but real card games with real people and real cards in my hand. Rummy, Contract Rummy, Hearts, Spades, Euchre, Poker, War, Speed, Golf, Crazy 8s, Go Fish, Black Jack, Slap Jack... you name it. If it requires a deck of cards and it's a game you love that I've never played before, teach it to me. I love them all. I love sitting at a table full of people, watching and listening the rise and fall of conversation as we all shift from simply being social to concentrating on the game because, let's face it, we all want to win. I love keeping track of who played what, when, and where, and pride myself on my ability to predict what they will do next. I love winning and I love watching people win (card games draw out personality traits that people often hide in an average social encounter). I love the smell of the cards, the feel of them in my hand, and I love to shuffle them.

I started playing cards as a little kid. My parents had given me a deck and, like most children whose hands seem too small to hold a full deck, I shuffled by spreading the cards all out on the floor and swirling them around in a big pile. It didn't take long to learn that smearing the deck all over the floor, though it looked like I was mixing them up, wasn't an efficient way to break up the pairs or "matches" created in our last Go Fish round. Because of that, I decided to teach myself to shuffle properly -- like an adult.

I remember shutting myself in my room for hours with cards flying all over the place as I worked to teach myself "the bridge" of the shuffle. I remember impressing all the little neighborhood kids because I was the only one on the block that knew how to shuffle a deck like their dad. I remember teaching a couple of them how to do it too.

The shuffle is important. It's to be done fast, efficiently, and it doesn't hurt to have a little style while you're at it. And if you think about it, if you're a real card player, you want all of the previous cards in your hand and the hands of your opponents to get lost in the shuffle -- part of the silent thrill of the game is watching and waiting for what you need to turn up.

So as I was lying in my bed, feeling the burn in my stomach, thinking of all that I miss while I'm down for the count, and writhing in a bit of self-pity, I realized, as I saw my own hands shuffling the deck, it isn't about being lost in the shuffle (that stupid face in the crowd image), it's about playing the cards in my own game. It's about being fast and efficient, so I don't slow the game, and it's about shuffling the different aspects of my life around with style. And once I deal the cards for this round, I need to remember that each aspect has a place and purpose in my endeavor to come out on top. Sometimes I have a hand full of nothing but numbers, but I need the deuce through ten to complete the series. And I am the face card, the nobility of my own life. And the Ace In The Hole is my creativity. Like an unexpected jolt of inspiration, I'm sometimes lucky enough to hold all four aces in the first round of play, but most of the time I'm lucky if I have one. And when it comes to the days I've had lately, I need to remember that the Ace isn't really lost in the shuffle, it's always a part of the deck -- the thrill is in the watching and waiting, and sooner or later I'll draw the Ace into my hand.

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