A few weeks ago I ran across a mystery plant hiding beneath an antique rose bush. This pretty little plant bearing purple tinged foilage was growing where I’d sown no seed. What was it? And where did it come from?
Days later, in another part of my garden, I found my answer. Through a quick match of garden gin rummy, I learned it was the Peek-A-Boo plant. Living up to its name — with its small ‘eyeball’ blooms peeking out from some sweet potato vines — the Peek-A-Boo wore the same purple tinged leaves as my mystery plant.
Once named, other answers soon fell into place. I recalled that it was growing there because I had planted the Peek-A-Boos in both garden locations. In April under the rose bush; and then in May, when the plants appeared to languish, I transplanted them elsewhere in the garden. Or so I thought. Now, almost four months later, I see my late spring transplanting left behind roots — and once the environment became friendly, up grew more Peek-A-Boos.
Outside the garden gate, playing peek-a-boo and rummy match games are not just for babies and toddlers. I am learning just how often I hide my own real feelings, by either ignoring them outright (hoping or pretending them away) or by not calling them by their proper name.
I do this without even noticing. Just recently I’ve talked to friends about how my father is no longer interested in my visits. But rather than talk about the hurt from rejection, I pretend it’s not there and instead focus on this fallout from Dad’s dementia. It’s easier to face reasons that feelings, even with myself. Quick. Cover it up. Don’t speak about the hurt. After all, Daddy can’t help it because Daddy isn’t Daddy anymore.
Most of my friends or family give me a free pass on such inconsistencies — on those times when my emotions don’t quite match or fit the circumstances. But not my trusty spiritual director. Instead he said something like, wow, that must have hurt. And in response, my eyes uncontrollably teared up. The feeling, with its deep roots hiding just beneath the surface of life leaked into reality. Once the feelings found a friendly environment to live, no longer could they stay under wraps beneath their big beautiful bow of understanding forgiveness.
Why do I play these games? Am I afraid people will laugh? Or worse, not care?
I’ve been coming by and reading this about once every three hours since you posted it. I’m still not sure what I think about it. But now, I have a couple of thoughts.
I don’t think game-playing is a phrase that belongs here at all. I’m sure that thought is a weed. Pull it out and get rid of it.
And this… About once every three days someone says to me, “It’s so wonderful your Mom is still with you. Isn’t it great she has you to take care of her? You need to cherish every minute, because if you don’t, you’ll regret it later.”
And I always say, “Yes. Of course. Absolutely.” And I mean it. But there are other thoughts, too, undertones, embarassing and not-for-public-consumption mental twitches that contain quite a different message – that it isn’t always fun, or wonderful. That sometimes I wish I could get away. That I’d love to come home one night and just put my feet up without having to prepare a meal, and check on medications, and clean someone else’s kitchen while mine suffers.
See? Life is complex. If we were made to face it all, all at once, I think we might die, or go mad. So, one of the gifts we’ve been given is the mind’s ability to protect itself from too much reality.
Some people call that grace.
Yes. Protection from too much Reality. That feels right.
Just like its right that all of life — incluidng your mother and my father — is full of light and dark and that one helps us see the other.
But game playing still feels right as well for those times when I just don’t call a spade a spade. Especially when the hurt is ignored even in the privacy of solitutde and in the words of my off-line private journal.
Yes. Life is complex. And thank God, full of more grace and truth that I can safely handle.