Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Ruin a Game of Monopoly, or Your Life

When I was a little girl and my parents were still married to each other, we would occasionally make the 13-hour-trip to visit our extended family. I liked visiting my Uncle John, the sheriff, or Aunt Shirley, in her lakefront house. My favorite, though, was Aunt Marilyn.

Aunt Marilyn's husband was Morey and their children were Michele and Michael. Aunt Marilyn was a nurse and Uncle Morey was a doctor. Michele and Michael ice skated and skiied, respectively. I loved the symmetry of their lives. Arriving at their cozy Vermont home seemed like a relief. We would hurry across the gravel driveway in the damp ink of night into their house. In the winter we would ride sleds down their sloping front yard and in the summer I was allowed to walk alone down the dirt road to fetch the mail. The angst that haunted my own life on Long Island was absent from their lives. I thought maybe it had to do with the clean air.

There was no television and we used to read or play board games or bang out "chopsticks" on the piano. I liked to just lie on the couch in the living room and look out the window at the evergreens. Or I would climb the ladder to the "crow's nest," a small loft above the kitchen, where my brother, who was the eldest, and Michael, who was the youngest before me, would sometimes set up Matchbox tracks or run the vibrating football game.

I was often in the way.

Once in a while we might play board games. I preferred Parcheesi because the rules were simple but one night it was decided that we would play Monopoly. I may have been seven years old at the time, and I could barely add, much less make strategic decisions about which properties to purchase. Before long I was broke. I was "out."

Before any window of choice opened in my juvenile brain, I hooked my fingertips under the board and flipped it. Maybe I was out, maybe I couldn't playing, but then neither would anyone else. A little dog, a little car, a little hat, a little ship, and pastel colored money: all airborne. Three other faces with round mouths stared at me. I remember feeling guilty and giggling the way a shamed child will, and tricking myself into believing that the game was salvageable.

Of course it wasn't.

My writing was featured recently at the Good Men Project and elephant journal. And in trying to meet editor's requests that I "clean up the ending a little bit," I realized that I'm still not done. I haven't exorcised all of my demons yet; my unhealthy coping techniques are still in my back pocket. I was thinking today about the sad, sick part of my personality: the part that needs supervision, that so quickly reverts to making hurtful choices, that can so quickly cause vast wreckage.If nothing else, I'd like to think I'm too old for this shit. But I'm not.

I think of Nic and Dave Sheff, a father and son who both published memoirs. Nic was a meth addict and Dave is his father. Nic relapsed after the publication of Tweak. He's in recovery now, and having what seems to be a successful life.

I wonder if I'm going to have a public relapse.

I think of recent questionable choices and actions, and I realize that I can't make a situation that's already bad any better by hurting myself. If I throw the Monopoly board, I'm going to head down a familiar road of shame and guilt. Causing additional destruction to things that are already damaged won't improve anything, least of all my relationship with myself. This may be obvious but it's a new idea for me. I hope that this time I am able to gracefully accept being out of the game. And I pray that I can keep my demons in check.

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