In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Perfect Game.”
So I may have deviated slightly from the given assignment, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
This story is set in the dead of winter, in turn-of-the-century North-Eastern Europe, on a very dark night. Lars had never been good at being a family man. In fact, he was anything but. He worked in the textile trade, which meant long trips to southern Europe and the far east, and only rarely he saw his wife and two children. He didn’t miss them much, in fact, he enjoyed the freedom to roam and make his own decisions. The fine silks made him dream of a better life and he was always in the search for something more.
This evening he took his seat at the bar, shifting his heavy weight onto the rather unsteady barstool. He was always on the lookout for a bit of gambling, certain he could make his own luck, and tonight was no different. The crew of soldiers that had stumbled in grew louder with the drink, and he overheard talk of a card game. This was his chance, nothing was easier to beat than a drunken soldier in the company of his own men – off guard.
He’d wormed his way into far more challenging evenings before, and soon he was sitting at the table, and took the cards that were dealt. A few rounds of whiskey gave him courage, and even though his golden coins were dwindling in his money belt, his luck did not seem to desert him tonight. And yet, as all games of luck unfold, the dark side of the coin was showing its face. He thought one more game would change every thing, and tomorrow would be market day. He would make it all back. He kept playing to his doom. Soon he was waging more than his money belt, hoping to take loans from the bar’s customers. I’ve got the finest silks! he slurred to his neighbour on his left, a fine elderly gentleman, whose gold-rimed coat set him apart from the soldiers.
What else have you got? As the evening wore on, Lars wagered his house, his load of textiles, his soul and finally his daughter. If he lost, she would marry the fine gentleman. It would never come to that though, as his luck was set to turn. He ordered more whiskey and joined in the singing.
The gentleman had a grave look on his face. “I should be overcome by joy. I have wandered the earth for years, hoping to find some heartless soul that is fit to take my place. And I wouldn’t feel this overcome with sadness, if I didn’t know what awaits you. You wanted a bigger life, and were willing to give away all the riches you possessed. You made a bargain with the devil, as I had years ago. Now you must go live with him, and roam the nights until you find someone willing to wager his own soul for the luck of a card game. He reached for the large gold chain around his neck and lowered it over Lars’ head. It was heavier than it looked. At the end of it, hanging over Lars’ sternum, was a key. This leads to hell my friend, welcome.”
Dumbfounded Lars turned to the gentleman, as he left. Where will you go now?
“Me? I’m off to enjoy the little I had before. You will soon understand how much it means to me now.” And with that, he disappeared into the snowy night.
People have this incredible capacity to surprise you, to make you wonder. This of course, can go both ways. At times, disappointment takes over and you ask yourself how you could not see someone for who they are. And these moments usually stand out in a negative way, long after that person is out of your life. Friendships drift apart, sometimes for no real reason other than the fact that you have less in common than before.
But today I want to talk about those other unexpected times of clarity, when people come through and simply astonish you. When you walk on rocky shores and sway into the uncertainty that is the present, you realize that people are there to catch you. That when you pull away to make things simpler, you leave an empty space. It is good to be reminded of that sometimes. That you matter. And when there is no doubt in your mind that things will be ok, no matter what.
Here’s to those people in your life, that matter most. Happy Tuesday.
When the future ahead is riddled with uncertainty, or your routines have become ruts, it is sometimes important to tally all the incredible things that you have in your life.
Here are a few things that are making my day this morning:
1) the incredible family members I get to spend my time with. Each has their own uniquely packaged talents and flaws, and brushing against their personality sometimes complicates my life, but ultimately makes us closer than we could be to anyone else.
2) Waking up in a place where I feel safe, and where I had the luxury to fall asleep again for hours. Sleeping in doesn’t happen too often these days, so it was pretty incredible.
3) That first cup of coffee in the morning. The next couple don’t come close to that first taste, with it’s foamy topping.
4) The fact that the most urgent thing on my to-do list for today is to book a ticket to thailand.
5) That although I’m set for a long day of studying, it will happen on my sunny deck.
6) That although one of my grandparents is currently in the hospital, I am lucky enough to still have all 4 of them, and that they are still symbolize strength, autonomy and family values for me.
Happy saturday 🙂
I love summer thunderstorms. What better feeling is there than to lie in bed and hear the sky rattle or shake and let raindrops loose on your roof. The flickering moments where the sky alights can be both dramatic and frightening for anyone caught in the tempest. But inside, it’s almost as soothing as the flickering light of a fireplace, only less predictable. It is the perfect setting for ghost stories, where you find refuge under your sheets, shutting the world out. Fear of the dark strikes anew, and you feel grateful for any light in the shadows, as though somehow it helps keep the storm beyond your window panes, smaller somehow. And after, the world smells fresh, washed clean, the summer heat pulled down from the air. Follows such serene silence, inviting sleep.
We excel at listing wants and needs, and always aspire to the next dream, opportunity, situation or person we believe will make us better, fuller somehow. But our ability to identify the instances where we truly have it is limited. In that snapshot in time when someone makes you smile or when you reach your goal, how long does the pleasure we derive from that last? Perhaps happiness is less of a goal, and more so an ability. A talent to see just how good we have it. Where practice eventually leads to contentment and a life, perhaps a little less ordinary.
A couple of things I loved about moving as a kid:
1) having a growing number of friends from widely different backgrounds
2) getting the advantage of learning a new language in real time, making it your own, in a way you would never get to as an adult. Most of all, you speak and yeah, you make mistakes, but as a kid, you don’t care, you just go for it.
3) the sense of adventure you get when you find out, this is it, we really are moving to Australia or Canada, or wherever.
4) that when you know you’re only living somewhere for a year you make the most of it, whether that means taking your kids out of school for 3 weeks to road trip to Ayers Rock, camping style, or whether it’s living above your means for a couple of months. You tend to explore restaurants and national parks to a greater extent than someone who expects these incredible moments to be available to them for years to come.
5) having several places to call home, despite how torn you may feel between them at times.
Have a great week!
I recently watched Dan Gilbert’s Ted Talk again on ‘Why we make bad decisions’, then read his paper forecasting emotion and found it revealing.
You can find his ted talk here:
In short, you may think a certain event will make you happy/unhappy, yet we are fairly bad at making such calls. Someone who wants a job and doesn’t end up getting it, will synthesize happiness by believing it was for the best. In his phenomenal talk, Dan Gilbert goes on to explain that certain situations are more conducive to creating synthetic happiness than others. For instance, having too many choices may leave you less happy than a done deal, as you always what could have been had I made a different decision.
All in all, I strongly recommend this talk, it is uplifting and gives us faith in our own psychological immune system. It makes you see that ‘everything is gonna be alright, no matter what happens’.
When working with the leaders of your chosen field, it is easy to be intimidated by the vast experience of your collaborators and mentors. You may even ask yourself what you are doing there at all. You may worry about them realizing that you don’t belong there.
And yet, little by little things change. You gain confidence in your own abilities, you recognize the humanity in others, you may come to the conclusion that ‘if he can do this, so can you’.
In Medicine, some transitions happen fast. Before you know it you go from sitting in lectures to taking patient histories, and you feel like a fraud. You wear a white coat and people think you’re the real deal. You feel like you need to break it to them – hey, I’m nothing but a medical student.
As rotations drag on, you realize that not only does stating your lowly medical student status get you nothing but doubt and under appreciation by colleagues and patients, you actually lose time and are less efficient. Yes, you may be the student, as stated on your badge, but you have a job to do. A precious one. Never again will you have this much time to indulge in long patient histories and physical exams the way you do as a student. Soon enough you become competent are the white coat feels like a comfortable armour rather than the strange unfamiliar gear that ‘a real doctor’ would wear (in Europe anyways).
Soon enough, you realize that you are the real deal, and that in a couple of months your signature on prescriptions will bear the full weight of ‘real’ responsibility.
And so the fraud becomes authentic and never questions it again. Most of the time anyways, until you slide on the robe of professor, of department chair, of anything really. It takes time to take on a new role and to believe that you truly belong. Until it fully sinks in that you have made your dreams a reality, little by little.
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
― C. JoyBell C.
The strange thing about the antonym of success is that it is something other than failure. It’s opposite is not trying. Failure, on the other hand means having the courage to step into the ring and fight what is rightfully yours – or not.
It means having the gumption to take a step towards your dreams and either see them crash on the solid grown or lift you higher than you thought you could reach. Isn’t it easier though, to sit in the shade, with a cool glass of lemonade and watch from afar as someone takes the plunge from the high diving board? Isn’t it tempting to criticize every pirouette completed prior that moment when your body glides through the liquid interface, into another realm, where movement is slowed, serene.
Sure, the high board may seem tall from afar, but it’s nothing compared to the vertiginous sensation of standing up top, seeing the blue reflection far below, and knowing that one wrong spin will send you down, flat onto the surface that suddenly feels hard as concrete, knocking the wind right out of your lungs. You know it may happen, you see the avid onlookers, half hoping for a humiliating spectacle, which would only comfort them in their own inertia – too afraid to try themselves, yet quick and ready to judge your outcome.
According to wikihow, here are the steps necessary to a successful dive:
1. working up to diving – or anything else that slightly scares you yet you have insanely but stubbornly set out to do.
2. get used to diving in headfirst – with of course having taken precautions to ensure that the pool/lake is of the appropriate depth to dive in head-first. Some projects are brazen – others just foolish and life threatening. Be brave, not stupid.
3. Do a dry run on land prior to diving into water– umm not sure how wikihow pictured this, frankly I think water is a less painful medium to fall on than solid ground, but hey, they are the experts. They do have a point though. Practice makes perfect, whether it’s exams or that tango lesson you’ve set out to take.
4. Crouch close to the pool and glide into the water – some things you can prepare for slowly, inching closer to the pool’s edge, other projects require that final leap of faith. Practice tests are great, but soon enough you’ll find yourself taking the real one. Are you ready?
5. Dive from a standing position – stand tall, be brave. This is your moment.
And I guess wikihow didn’t mention one last ingredient, great friends to cheer you on.
My dive was about 6 weeks ago when I took my board exams to see if I could practice medicine in the country of my choice. I felt nervous, and foolish for trying something so soon when we aren’t quite ready yet. Really it seemed insane. Unlike landing on your belly in a pool, you have to wait till you know if it was a perfect flop or a smooth dive. Today, my hands shaking, I was able to see that not only did I pass, but this may have been one of my best dives yet.
Last weekend, New York happened.
Here is the recipe for what was a pretty incredible getaway.
– two cloves of friendly roommates
– one pound of real dough
– a pinch of time
– a smidge of spontaneity
Although you can prepare this weekend ahead of time, it is also a great last-minute classic.
All you need is good humour and great team-work. Many people say oh yeah let’s make these plans and never actually go through with it, so I’m really lucky to have such motivated roommates. Without them this trip wouldn’t have happened, it’s that simple.
As an appetizer we spent the afternoon in Central Park, kind of like sun-dried tomatoes. And yes, unknowingly, we ended up with our first sunburns of the year. So if I were to repeat this recipe, I’d add a dollop of sunscreen.
Next we had a wonderful side-order of Ramen restaurant experience, with pork buns and cheering when you enter the room. Although you can do this yourself at home, I strongly recommend the authentic experience (found at Ippudo West, in NYC).
The element of spontaneity which truly made this recipe, was seeing les Misérables on broadway. Incredible presentation, voices that send chills down your back, the whole sensory overload that you expect from this course.
The dessert was a platter of fine art with select pieces from Ernst Klimt and Egon Schiele In the Neue Galerie.
Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing. 🙂