My grandmother taught me how to play poker. She insisted we play with real money. We’d each start with a stack of pennies. I’d get 10 additional to help balance the age/wisdom/experience factor. She was all about fair.
When we first began the lessons that would one day make me comfortable in smoke-filled casinos and a sea of new faces, I would fold every hand – even my three 7s and two 5s. My grandmother would lovingly explain the Full House. I had an even harder time understanding the concept of a straight, I would see a series of small cards in order not realizing the value of the combination. Unsure, I would lay my cards face down and look at my grandmother with the wounded eyes of child’s defeat. Frustration, because I did not immediately understand the intricacies of the game. Anger, because my previously stacked deck of pennies was now far shorter than my professor’s. She’d grab my hand and say, “I can’t let you win. We all have to play the cards we are dealt.” Eventually, I learned to trust my cards and the hands holding them. The jumble of faces and numbers began to form a strategy. You win some, you lose some.
As a mother, the cards we’re dealt change daily. I long for the elusive royal flush. I’ll keep flipping my cards over and over and over again hoping to see the face of the sly, smiling Queen.
But some days, you have a pair of 2s. Until the some days, turned into most days here.
My struggle now is in “the fold”.
The last few months have been a lot of 2s and a lot of nothing at all. A lot of staring at my hand trying to will a shift in perspective; to see something that simply is not there. I haven’t been playing my hand. I’ve not been all in. I haven’t even been bluffing. I’ve just been folding. Hand after hand after hand.
I wonder about my poker face. I wonder how long it will convince the kids. My husband. Me.
So much of me wanted to continue to pretend. It was easier to do. Until I stopped writing and then, I stopped making plans to leave the cocoon of my home and then, I stopped. I just stopped trying. And, it was my lack of desire to even make the effort that ultimately was the force pushing me toward something scary and something new. It’s time to put on my own oxygen mask.
I cried to my husband, “My mother was always miserable. We always knew she was miserable. I can’t do that to them.”
And when I said it out loud, it wasn’t quite as terrifying. I really looked at my cards. I laid them out lovingly on the table. It’s time to play my hand.
I’m finally ready to go all in.