The year is 1976. I am eight years old. It is my birthday party. Back then, kids birthday parties were easier, and much cheaper. We are gathered in my basement, crepe paper streaming across the unfinished ceiling. My friends rushing through the never out of fashion birthday song so we can all indulge in the delicacy of home made cupcakes.
Now it is game time. Always a crowd favorite, we begin to play, Pin the Tail on the Donkey. For me, it was always more fun to watch others than to be the one who was blindfolded. I tend to like to know what is in front of me. Yet, everyone gets a turn, and soon enough, the blindfold is tied securely behind my head. I am spun around, three maybe four times. Just enough to mix me up as to where I am going, but not too much that I fall down and crack my head on the cement wall. “Okay,” someone shouts. “Go.”
I walk forward, cautiously, my arms outreached in front of me, my fingers tightly gripping the tail with the sticker. I feel my way towards the picture of the unassuming donkey. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, I reach the wall, relieved that I feel the paper and have not veered off course facing an exposed water pipe or worse gone in the total opposite way about to trip on the staircase. If you are the least bit perceptive, the laughter always helped with this issue, anyway. The louder the laugher, the more you are heading in the wrong direction.
Touching the wall, I clumsily feel my way, hoping to get it right; the exact spot where the tail is supposed to go. “You cannot feel,” someone shouts. “That is cheating.” I want to shout back that I am the birthday girl and I can cheat if I want to, but I know that is not really a thing. So I go for it. I press the tail firmly down upon the paper. Laughter erupts as I lift my blindfold. Both disappointment and a smile emerge simultaneously as I am the one who feels like an ass, but see it all seems funny, so it is ok. I see that I have pinned the tail on the donkey’s head, and I shrug and hand the blindfold to the next lucky contestant on “this is a foreshadowing of the reality of life,” game.
Soon enough our birthday parties become teenage parties. And then we leave home. We set out on our journey, our hopes and dreams spinning around in our hearts and mind, and we are off. It is our turn, each and every day we arise. We make plans, we mark our calendars and we go about our days, filling our lives with dates, jobs, weddings, babies, and funerals. Sooner or later, we get spun around. Traffic emerges, a love one passes away, infertility hits, a call comes from the school principal, or mother nature erupts dumping life upon us like a tornado. And there we are, our hands outstretched in front of us trying to find our way back, to the perfect spot.
That never happens.
Life is a game, and everyone gets a turn. Some people seem to take their turns slowly, with caution, and life feels hard, each and every breath, labored. And those that feel challenged look at others who have it easier .Why is life so easy for her? Why is he so successful and I struggle each and every day? Do the ones who have it easy, simply have better inner ear equilibrium, thus spinning does not effect them as much? Or perhaps they cheat, peering above the blindfold when nobody is looking, for their success is more important than anything else. Maybe, they are just lucky in life. Maybe not. Maybe we just think some have it good, but while they are alone, when everyone has left the party, their world is anything, but easy.
Truth is, whether we move to the front or lurk behind in back, we all have moments where life is easy, and life is hard. And the less we hear the laughter from those around us, the harder life feels. For regardless of what happens in our lives, it is not where we put the tail, but how we react to our efforts; how we feel when we take off our blindfold.
There is no reward for pinning it exactly as it is supposed to be, anyway. Our reward does not arise from being perfect, but allowing ourselves to fumble and miss the mark. Can we laugh? Let ourselves off the hook? Realizing that deep down life is all just a really intricate amazing game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and we are all doing the best we can, enables us all to breathe a bit easier. After all, just playing the game of life is courageous. Sometimes we get dizzy and fall down. Other times, we nail it. And still, there are the times when we think we are going in the right direction, and knock our heads against the wall. What then? We grab some ice, rest, and wait till we feel better to move on, to try again.
We know as children what it is like to laugh at our mistakes, forgive and move on. Unfortunately, too often, when we grow, so does our judgement. This judgment is what often keeps us locked in those chains, never trying again. We are all way too hard, both on ourselves, and each other.
For we all have bad moments, days, even lives. Let’s take off our blindfolds, open our eyes and laugh at our mistakes. We are far less likely to stay off course if we lighten up. And if we start with ourselves – love ourselves, forgive ourselves, laugh at ourselves – we may just realize what a big game life is, and agree to have a bit more fun.
Most children no longer play, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but all childhood games are just practice for the game of life. Like the old saying goes, “It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
Let’s play the game of loving ourselves deeply, showering others with compassion, and laughing out loud as often as possible, especially when we veer off course.
We are all invited to the party, so let’s play.
Tag, you’re it.