Playing my way to the finish line

I often play games in my mind; I hope we all do occasionally. When I was a child, the game I remember most clearly was a very simple one in which I imagined someone being able to ‘see’ through my eyes, and hear through my ears, for a specific period of time. I suppose, although I don’t have clear enough memories to be sure, that the game developed after my older siblings had departed for boarding school, while I – the youngest – remained with my parents for a further two years, before I begged to be allowed to join my brother and sisters. My determination resulted in starting boarding school aged 5 ½, a year earlier than I needed to, and this in turn resulted in much greater isolation, which was quite the opposite of my intention, of course. Prior to this, however, having hours on end in the remote and beautiful Lesotho highlands with only myself for a playmate, I most likely longed for companionship beyond that offered by my Teddy Robinson and Mary Doll, and thus instead of creating a imaginary friend, I had others join me through imagined observation.

Remembering childhood games

I have continued to play this game throughout my life, until approximately two years ago. It adapted as I grew older, allowing me to either imagine sharing magical moments with loved ones far away, or reveal hidden aspects of my life to those I longed to be able to share them with.

These days, the only time I tend to play internal games is whilst exercising. When I used to cycle to work, as extra encouragement to push hard, I would award myself 1 point for every female cyclist I passed, 2 for every male, and negative points if I was myself passed: -2 and -1 respectively. Passing within 20 metres of a red traffic light was discounted, as it encouraged bad behaviour and I prefer to remain safe and courteous. It was hard to keep track of my scores some days, as there are a surprising number of cyclists in London, at least during the summer months. In Winter dark it was much easier to manage.

My favourite running game last Autumn was simple, but satisfying: for every negative thing I noticed (litter left on the ground, or an inconsiderate group of people blocking the pavement) I had to find one positive thing to appreciate, such as a beautiful building, leaf, or smile. Over time I changed the proportions, so each negative needed two positives. Then I got unwell, and didn’t run for a few months, and when I returned to running in the new year I had forgotten all about the game.

I remembered these games yesterday, and suddenly thought that I should add them (apart from the points game – I am not worried about speed this time!) to my box of mental tricks for Sunday’s Marathon, when the going gets tough. My mother and my husband are the two people I most wish could be there cheering me on, so I shall transport them there when I need their encouragement the most, along with various other loved ones. I know, of course, that everyone and thing I require is in my heart always when I need to call on them. Equally important, however, will be to match each pain and strain with conscious appreciation for my surroundings, and my life. I suppose I have started, tonight, to see this race as something of a metaphor for life – full of crests and troughs, seldom going quite as we had hoped, often full of pain, but ultimately there to not only survive, but to make the most of.

11 thoughts on “Playing my way to the finish line

  1. Tessa will be there when you need her. Clive too. Tessa would want you to run, but gently with yourself. She will encourage you to take care with yourself and your body and to love what you are doing for the sake of the doing. Good luck, run well and if you find you can’t, we will love you just as much. More if that were possible.

  2. Really glad to read your post, I’ve been thinking about you lots and sending cheers long distance and will be thinking of you all the more tomorrow. I have similiar games for some things but I particularly liked your principle of finding more ‘goods’ for everything ‘bad’ that you see. I would second what Dirk said, I think the people we need, we love, who love us, are always with us whether we know it or not. Be gentle with yourself even though it may not be what comes naturally – you are amazing already!

  3. Ah I love the thought of the game you played while you were young. I feel your longing for companionship while you were young. I had the same longing, often feeling very alone and isolated.

    I loved how you continued your internal games while you exercise, such a special thought.
    The negative/positive game I really like the, have to try keep appreciating everything in our lives.

    But it has been very very tough for me this weekend. From more arguments with a sibling, to very heated arguments and disagreements at home. Which have lead me to be left at home alone tonight.
    I am struggling so much, feeling so alone, unloved, unworthy.
    Making me wonder if I deserve to be loved, do I deserve to be on this earth at all…
    Feeling scared…

    I am trying to keep this with me, “I know, of course, that everyone and thing I require is in my heart always when I need to call on them.”
    I know in a different context but I am trying….just so so hard.

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