I have always loved a good game.
Card games. Board games. Computer games. You name it and I would play it. As a little girl, I sought out anyone to teach me how to play a game and then play it with me. I did not play to win; I played to have fun. It began with my sister as my first playmate with such card games she taught me as “War” and “Go Fish.” My youngest cousin would play the card game “Spit” with me. Friends played UNO, Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, Trouble, Life, Outburst, Operation, Mastermind, Battleship, Backgammon, Scattergories, and Boggle at my beckoning. It became clear how serious and how much I loved a good game and even gambling after my second kidney transplant when I was bored out of my skull to find someone to play a game with and get my mind off of my health recovery. My older cousin stepped in and said, “I will teach you the Chinese games of all Chinese games: Mahjong.”
Chinese “Mahjong” is an intense game of mind and not the matching of tiles. Players have gambled hard and big with “Mahjong” and have even committed suicide when losing as big as they played their hand. I was thrilled and gleeful when my cousin brought out a box of smooth and sleek ivory tiles with odd shapes on them that were explained as three different suits of Bamboo, Circles, and Chinese numbers. I felt so privileged and special that I was learning and intended to master the “Chinese Games of Chinese Games.” I quickly learned the shuffling rhythm and the stacking and placement of the ivory tiles. I picked the game up fast that challenged my mental and probability skills, and wanted to start betting pennies and food when my cousin commented pensively: “You are hard to read. You have a good poker face.”
Throughout my life, I was told that I had a good poker face: I was difficult to read and even more so understand. Life is actually the most challenging and every-changing ongoing game that I play and that we all continue to play. We are all just students of life, and we are taught at a very young age all the different masks and especially poker faces we must put on as a protective mechanism from us getting hurt tor hurting others that is inevitable as we go through this game called life. We are praised when we can hide our emotions and show our poker faces. Can you recall your parents ever saying to you: “You’re a big girl/boy and big girl/boys don’t cry,” “Don’t air your dirty laundry,” “Don’t take things personally,” “Make sure you separate your personal you’re your professional otherwise the politics at work and in life will screw you over.” What if we did not play poker faces? What if we were our REAL selves ALL the time? Who are we really and are we required to put on poker faces and facades to get through life? There is a fine balance for if we overly protect with our poker faces then our suspicions, fears, and walls grow to the point that we cannot let our guards done and be our REAL selves. Being our true selves to others takes a whole lot of time that comes slowly and in the most unassuming of ways when we forge and form relationships. The funny thing about life is I have become more of my REAL self because, as one of my good friends has said to me: “When you get older, you just do not have the time or energy to waste anymore so you say it and show it.” At the same time, as we age, we are forced in unspoken societal ways to fake and play politics to not really say or share how we feel as people are less forgiving and understanding as we age. We are becoming more like robots AND are commended for this. However, with each passing and quickening year, I reflect that the poker face that I was praised to take pride in is starting to fall away to reveal the REAL me in a savvier and wittier sense to better handle the game of life.
We are trained and told from a young age to show our Poker Faces and to, indeed, NOT share or show our emotions or feelings in the public out of being taken advantage of or being viewed as weak. Have you always loved games? Do you have a good poker face? Have people told you that you are difficult to read and understand? Have you ever cried or made certain REAL and unpleasant emotions (anger, sadness, etc.) in a public setting only to be left feeling shame? Do we actually become stronger when we can show, share, and say our weaknesses?
While my poker faces remain when situations are called upon, always putting up a front becomes more and more difficult and eventually wears down. For me, I continue to play hard and risk big in this game of life and even when the stakes are high, and for us to play and risk with every intention to keep on playing and ultimately winning in life, we grapple with our greatest friend and enemy to endure life: The Poker Face.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,