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The Video Game of Life

A few thoughts on leveling up in life.

I am notoriously terrible at playing video games. My brain just isn’t wired the right way. For starters, I’m an overthinker. For example, my son attempted to teach me some zombie-killing game. I forget which one, but in every room I entered, I’d want to spend a few moments acclimating myself to the surroundings, then deciding which Zombies I wanted to kill and which I thought might be able to go on to live long, productive lives.

“That’s not how this works!” He shouted. “Kill them first and think about it later!” I died within 2.3 seconds of every game I attempted.

So then my kids tried to teach me how to play Titanfall. You get into this big robot/transformer-looking thing and shoot and kill stuff. The problem is the “stuff” wants to shoot you back. So here is my son trying to teach it to me and me screaming every time I get shot at. And I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to just “fall over” in Titanfall. But I did it. You can see that here.

But for me, the main problem with video games is that I don’t have the patience for them. You have to spend a lot of time practicing to level up. I hate having to repeat the same steps over and over again to get a little further, only to fail again. It makes you feel as if you’ll never get it.

You know exactly where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Freaking life lessons, man. It’s the same way. Life lessons will repeat until you finally get them. And once you get it, then, and only then, is when you level up. Life lessons are stubborn buggers too. They don’t get tired in their attempt to help you. They don’t say, “Well, I don’t think she will get this lesson. So let’s just leave her alone and move on.”

Nope, there’s no moving on with life lessons. You can’t quit them, either. You can’t lay down your gun and call a truce with the zombies. Zombies are gonna zombie no matter what you do.

So, what is the answer when you find yourself stuck in the middle of painful life lessons?

1. Surrender

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the harder you try to control something, the less control you have over the thing. The magic only happens when you decide to let go. You surrender to the moment, even if it’s a sucky one, and let it be. You look at it with the reality of clear eyes for what it is without trying to change anything about it. Trust me, I know. Denial is much more fun. But the longer you spend in denial, the longer you will remain in the lesson. Clarity comes with surrender. Suddenly the clouds of confusion drift away once we surrender to a situation. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. This leads me to,

2. Feel all the Feels

You can do your best not to feel what you are feeling in the middle of a painful life lesson. You can stuff it down and pretend that it’s not there. You can drink or eat it away. You can zone out on your phone or get lost in a 20-part docuseries on Netflix, doing your best not to think about how you feel.

But at some point, you’ll have to put down the Sangria bottle and the cheddar block. You’re going to have to turn off the TV and put away your phone and be alone with yourself for a bit.

Years ago, when I was trying to escape abuse, I remained delusional about the severity of my situation. So I refused to look at it. And even when I did, I still denied how I felt and the things occurring to me. I just knew I was hurting and full of fear, but I didn’t understand why.

I didn’t have insurance then, so I scraped up enough money to secretly see a counselor. I only had enough for one meeting, so I prayed it would fix me fast. Toward the end of the 45-minute session, the counselor, who had latched on to my need for visual learning, grabbed a paper cup. She crumpled it up in front of me. She said, “See this cup? It’s real. See the state that it’s in?” I shook my head yes. She said, “That’s real too.”

Then she charged me $100 bucks and made me take the cup when I left.

Well, that was stupid, I thought. Not to mention a waste of $100 bucks. I regretted going so terribly. I threw the crumpled cup in the back seat of my car and drove away defeated. As the months went on, I would get in and out of my car and see that stupid cup rattling around the backseat. Every time I went to clean my car, I’d see it, but I’d leave it.

Stupid Cup

Then slowly, when the bad things would happen to me, which always felt a little foggy, (Emotional abuse always feels a little murky, by the way.) I would think about the cup. The cup was real. The abuse was real. It was as real as that little cup in my hand. I could trust myself to see it. I could hold it. I could feel what I was feeling and, for the first time, actually acknowledge what I was feeling. I could finally look at what was happening to me and take the steps necessary to change it. That cup taught me to validate my feelings. Other people didn’t have to see how much I was hurting. I needed to see how much I was hurting.

And damn, it hurt. And it felt overwhelming. Which is when I had to go back to step one, surrendering. You surrender to your feelings, too, not just the moment or situation. As difficult and painful as it might be. It’s okay to feel what you are feeling, and you are more than capable of handling it. This leads me to my last thought,

3. Trust

You have to trust that you are exactly where you need to be. You are learning exactly what you need to know. And it is all being worked out for your greater good. Oh, sure, It doesn’t always feel that way. Most of the time, it feels like shit. That’s where the faith of trust comes into play. Trust that your higher power wants the very best for you. Trust that you can handle difficult things and that it’s all a part of creating a beautiful life. Trust that this, too, will pass, and when it does, you will be better for it.

Ben&Jerry Time

I think about butterflies and when they are in their little cocoon. Do you think it hurts? Maybe it does, and that’s why they have to cocoon in the first place. They need rest, comfort, and a pint of Ben&Jerry’s before they go through the painful process of leveling up to the next stage. So yes, I think it’s uncomfortable, at best, to grow wings, but it’s not as painful as crawling around on your belly trying not to get eaten by birds. Or zombies. Or abusers.

Video games are exactly like life. You practice until you get it. Then you level up, and a new lesson is waiting for you. It’s okay to be living at the level you are as it prepares you for the next. Just breathe, surrender, trust, cocoon, feel what you are feeling, stare at your paper cup and validate your feelings, shoot zombies, eat ice cream, bathe yourself in self-care if necessary, and it’s always necessary.

But most of all, appreciate the lesson.

It was created just for you but not as a punishment. It was created out of love because you are ready to level up.

Peace, love, and moxie,


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