It was relationship game day. The weather was a perfect 75 degrees with a 20mph cool breeze and Google maps told me there was no traffic on the drive to the playing field. I’ve been to all the practice sessions. I’ve read all the play books. I’ve had excellent coaches on the sidelines who encouraged me, who believed in me, and gave me their blessing to play. I was more than prepared, I was ready.
I grabbed my stick, strapped on my helmet, lined my eyelids with black war paint to avoid the scorch of the sun, attached my shin guards, and laced up all my protective gear. While running to take my position on the field, years of mental conditioning formed my thoughts, “I’m ready for the worst. I am here. I can take hits- they won’t phase me. I’m going to fight if I have to. I’m going to win this time.”
The moment arrived. I could taste the sweat that dripped from my forehead onto my tightly clenched lips. My heart raced faster and faster, beating anxiety and fear for all the wrong reasons. Today could also be the day I get hurt- badly. “Realistically,” I told myself, “What kind of blow was it going to be this time?” Maybe a sharp clip to the left shoulder or a side swoop against my shin. Perhaps I’ll get the wind knocked out of me or suffer some type of head or emotional trauma. Just like the last few games I’ve played, something bad always happened. I knew it was coming, and I knew it usually came after the first quarter within the first few months.
All the relationship games were the same. They all started well. Everything would be perfect in the beginning and I would feel I was going to win this time. Then I’d take my first hit. WHAM! Passive aggressive criticism. A few minutes later, an elbow to the jaw. CRACK! Knick picking, trying transform me into someone I’m not. Sometimes the other team just ignored my existence as if I wasn’t a part of the game or purposefully played on another field. By the end of the quarter, the final, devastating blow knocks me down and I crawl in pain to the sidelines. Cheating? Emotional immaturity? Attempts to have extra “benefits” regardless of my boundaries?
I vow to never play this team again; or better yet, I usually give up the sport. I take my bruised, battered, and pained body as far away from the game of relationships as quickly as possible. I stop playing and go home.
Another quarter passes on the sideline. Because I want to win, just once, I eventually I muster up the courage to go to back to practice and the cycle begins again. I suit up, head to the field, and get ready to play the same game with a new opponent; but today was different.
I stood there, fully strapped in and ready to go, a painful truth was revealed. I came with gear, grit, and a history of pain to protect myself against the inevitable. I braced myself for the first painful contact but when I looked up to finally look at my opponent, he was dressed in a speedo. Yup. A speedo, goggles, and a swim cap. The truth was that I was not on a field, I was at a swimming pool. I’ve had years of experience playing this game, but because of the destructive patterns I’ve rehearsed, I failed to see that this relationship was a swim meet (new relationship) and not a dance with same the ol’ pigskin (typical guy that is not a good match). This game was a good game. It was pleasant, fair, and quite attractive. The game had changed.
What to do, what to do…