Sunday, January 08, 2012

Behind Every Strong Man...

My husband loves Risk.

He is patient and strategic and persistent. He enjoys the challenges of long games, and could sit for hours pondering his moves and whether or not he should roll the dice, or simply build up his armies.

I, on the other hand, am everything Risk does not call for in a winner. I am impatient, impulsive and easily distractible. Long games which call for continual strategy regardless of whether or not your inevitable loss is apparent sets my ADD on overload.

In a sudden wave of dice attacks and poor tosses last night, I managed to lose half of my armies, while Alexandra and my husband plowed their way through Europe, North America, and Asia. I decided to fight for Africa; it was all I had left. Winning every single African country guaranteed I would earn four extra armies, in addition to the three armies I earned each time we circled the table and it was my turn to strategize and build.

Jon had other plans. Despite the fact that Alexandra and my husband were taking over the world, Jon came after me in Africa. We fought and fought over the Congo and he won. When my turn circled the table, I fought him back. Once I depleted every last bit of my army, I managed to regain control with one teeny, tiny block.

In the midst of our attacking, Alexandra and my husband squeaked out country after country, until Alexandra had a few lucky rolls in the battle for Iceland, and managed to conquer Europe, bleed into North America and begin to dominate Asia. I also believe she had some level of control in Australia. Now, Jon had a weak hold on South America, and I had an occasional hold on Africa, but for the most part, the bickering between Jon and me pretty much opened the gate for world domination on the part of Alexandra the Great.

Since it became very apparent--very early--that I had absolutely no chance whatsoever to come close to victory, I pulled out my iphone. While I waited for all of the lengthy battles to cease, I played Words With Friends with my brother, with my friend Maureen--heck, I even searched for Jon's account. My attention span reached an all-time rate of distraction, and my interest level reached an all time-rate of rock bottom.

This was beyond upsetting to my husband.

He had a rough week. A pretty time-consuming research paper squandered many hours of his "free time." He volunteered to work an extra shift to contribute to our house fund. We spent all of last weekend painting and packing and attempting to re-caulk the windows. Despite the fans and the towels and the incessant 15 some hours of effort, the caulk still isn't completely dry. It's been a week, and as I type, fans are buzzing in the windows. We also didn't win the short sale we thought we had in the bag, and to top it all off, we couldn't go out because he was "on call" to answer questions about issues that came up that night at work.

Short on options, my husband decided it would be fun to invite Jon and Alexandra over to play a game of Risk. His Risk game was brand spanking new in its dark, cherry wooden box, and after a week of obstacles, he was excited to play it. Harboring wonderful childhood memories about the game, he decided to buy it this year and label it our Christmas gift. We agreed to save money and not buy presents for each other on our first married Christmas, so this game of Risk was our solitary material treat to one another. Up until this point, it saw only one night of competition though--Christmas Eve. J wanted to bring it out for its second debut. He wanted it to inspire good cheer. He wanted to relax. He wanted to share conversation and a few laughs over a friendly game of world domination.

Not too far into the game though, somewhere between Africa and South America, things went very wrong, and unfortunately, it was mostly my fault.

I, his wife--the person who is supposed to be his biggest cheerleader, the person who is supposed to bite the bullet when he wants to do something that I do not want to do, the person who is supposed to help him out, root him on, and give him joy--sabotaged his game of Risk, insulting "our" present with blatant disinterest.

To make matters worse, when he jokingly told me to try harder, I snapped back. "How can I try harder in a stupid dice rolling game?" I edged out, rolling my eyes.

He was kidding; I was not.

"Well, you could at least fight Alexandra instead of playing Words with Friends," he said. His biting acknowledgement of my immature, insensitive behavior stung a little. I was in a corner. I hate losing. Instead of swallowing my pride--instead of continuing to endure a lengthy battle I had no chance of winning--I pursed my lips and pouted.

"She's taking over the world," he said in an elevated tone, a tone he never uses. One of the most patient human beings I've ever met, his frustration felt foreign. "You know, you and Jon could try to help instead of just letting it happen."

"What are we supposed to do?" I snapped back. "I'm bored. I can't win and there is easily another hour left in this game. How invested could I be in trying to strategize when she more than quadruples my armies? Why don't you fight her? You have all of the men. Jon and I are fighting over Africa and South America because that's all we have." Then, like a bratty five year old, I threw in the clincher, "I don't like this game."

Shortly thereafter, we decided to end it. We switched to euchre, a game my husband has hardly played, a game Jon, Alexandra and I have played thousands of times. It was torture for him to sit through hands and hands of cards and rounds and rounds of "why did you call it?" or "why did you play that card?" or "are you sure you know you need to throw a spade?" when all he looked forward to all week was a friendly board game where everyone had a handle on the rules, had an equal amount of experience, got along and relished good cheer.

I took that away, and I didn't even realize it until we were going to bed.

"The game wasn't over until you gave up. Why did you stop trying?"

"It's hard to get motivated when the game is set up so you can't come from behind to win. There was no point in trying. She got 15 some armies every time it was her turn to go; I got three. Africa was all I had."

"You could've help me."

I looked at his reflection bounding back from the mirror. I couldn't meet his eyes. How selfish I was. The week rushed back to me. He was drained. He had little energy left and selfish little me suckered away his night to share in a bit of merriment.

I felt horrible.

I learned another lesson about marriage last night. I learned that sometimes I need to swallow my pride. Sometimes I need to keep playing even if I can't win. Sometimes I need to realize that while I wake up each morning with dice in my hand and a game board at my feet, it isn't just my game I need to worry about anymore.

When I gazed into the mirror this morning, I felt nothing but shame. I might not have been able to take over the world last night, but with my help, maybe my husband could have. At the very least, if I would have rallied my troops for his cause, searching for strategies to block rather than pondering letter combinations on my iphone, I could have made him happy. And in doing that, we both could have won.

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