During a fierce game of Connect Four, my grandson dropped his last red checker in the slot and yelled, “Yes! I won! I beat you two times in a row!”
I quietly disassembled the game and carefully put the pieces back in the box. “I think it’s time for you to go home,” I said. “Get your coat.”
Did I mention he was 8?
I’ve had a bit of a competitive streak since childhood. In third grade, I challenged the fastest boy in class to a race because he said girls couldn’t run. We lined up at the starting line, taking off like rockets when our friend said “Go!” Halfway across the playground I realized I was not going to win. But instead of losing gracefully, I flung myself to the asphalt, shredding my jeans and kneecaps, and then accused him of tripping me. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
No one is immune from my aggressive approach to activities. At the gym, I’ll casually glance at the screen on the stairclimber next to mine to see how hard that person is working. Yesterday, the lady on the adjacent machine was working at a level three, so I punched my stairclimber to level 11. She stayed at three, meandering through her routine while I increased my resistance to 13, 14 and 15. Take that, total stranger!
Did I mention she was about 85? And carrying an oxygen tank? And she didn’t know we were competing?
I’m also a terrible winner. I’m all “Yo! Take that loser! In your face!” (Or something like that. It’s kind of an out-of-body/mind experience.) And on the (rare) occasion my husband beats me at tennis/Words With Friends/Rack-O, the glacial chill I radiate could refreeze the polar ice caps.
He says something stupid like, “You know it’s not the Olympics, right?”
To which I respond, “Is that how you apologize?”
I blame my mom. She’s not around to defend herself, so it’s all good. Playing SkipBo with her was like a card game of Spy vs. Spy as she tried to sneak extra cards under our piles when we weren’t looking. We always thought she was a brilliant strategist. Nope. She cheated.
When a friendly game of Charades with the family turns into a reenactment of the “Hunger Games,” it might be time to back down. When I try to outrun, outjump, outwit and outlift the unsuspecting people around me I usually only end up proving how easily I get hurt.
Did I mention I get injured a lot?
You’d think that after teaching yoga for almost a decade I would have learned to let go of my competitive cravings. After all, I tell my classes all the time that life, like yoga, is not a competition. Yet. After much practice, I’m learning how to lose with grace. Ish.
A wise person once said the only competition you have is with yourself. This person was obviously a cave dweller with no friends, siblings or children to compete with.
So, if you’re on the stationary bike next to me: yes, we’re racing. And when I have a Connect Four rematch with my grandkids, I will display no mercy. They’d better show up and be serious because I will not go easy on them just because they’re in elementary school.