I have a guilty secret to confess. I play Free Cell on my laptop during my down time: watching the local news, mulling over a thorny problem, etc. For those of you who’ve never played this game, I apologize. In a nutshell, it’s a form of solitaire where you try to get all 52 cards in order on their respective aces, with four free spaces to park cards while you rearrange cards in seven lines. You can back up the game to the beginning or any intermediate point if you get stuck, so you can have a high percentage of winning games.
Originally I took pride in having over 90% wins, then above 95%, finally striving to stay at 97+%. I would reset the stats the computer was tracking after each 1,000 games, which took 2-3 months. I honed my skill and speed and soon was reaching my goal, staying at 97-98% wins.
But this week I hit 1,000 games won out of 1,000 games played! Here’s the proof:
What was my secret? Much as I’d like to think it was skill, I really just refused to quit. I backed up the game as often and as far as I needed to in order to eventually win. The longest game was almost 20 minutes. Considering that the average win takes less than 1 1/2 minutes, that’s an eternity and a lot of do-overs. Previously, I would have just accepted a Loss when the going got hard and moved on to an easier game.
There are a handful of games that can’t be won, per the internet, so the other variable is just plain dumb luck. I was stubborn and lucky. That’s a far cry from skilled, superior, talented, or what-have-you. It only took me 12 years to learn this!
And isn’t life in general like that also? Most of the time, I struggle with holes in my self-esteem like most people. But occasionally I pat myself on the back for the good things I sometimes manage to do, thinking things like: “Aren’t I something now?” or “Score one for me. . . .”
Yesterday, I had my annual long, meandering chat with a friend from my New England hippie days. We caught up with the year’s news, renewed our deep soul connection, and walked down memory lane, sharing a time that was magical in both our lives. Epiphany: those values were an earlier foundation for my current Christian values: non-materialism, living close to the Spirit behind nature, contributing to the larger community.
As I looked back on my zig zag path from Midwestern school girl to New England Hippie to Utah Mormon, I suddenly realized that the path God had charted for my life had everything to do with any small successes I might have had – my own talents took a distant second place. What appeared to be “dumb luck” was really divine providence, and what looked like skill was often just following my own desire for change and adventure, with a little blind reaching for greater light and knowledge.
All I really bring to the party is my willingness and diligence to pursue the good things that beckon on the horizon. It’s a choice, not a skill. And if I had to grade my lifetime level of diligence, it would not get an A. But I can change that in the future. A coworker, while discussing dieting, once described the “bell that rings in her head” when she’s full and it’s time to quit eating. I find that there’s also a bell that rings in my head each day (usually around 5 pm) that signals the end of productive work – if I’ve been diligent about tackling the hard things as efficiently as possible. I can then, with full assurance that I’m not missing real opportunities, set down my burden and turn my attention to study, rest, relaxation – and a little Free Cell!
Where does all this end? With gratitude for a wonderful Heavenly Father who subtly creates opportunities and sets a beacon for me to follow, as I choose to or not. But since doing so only leads to greater happiness and success, I can take no credit at all and can only regret the times I don’t make full use of these chances.
We’re all really just “bozos on the bus” bumping along together – let’s enjoy the journey and make the most of it!