Life is like JENGA

Ever notice that?

It’s almost pitiful when you’re watching a group of kids play a board game and your thoughts go to ,”Hey, that’s just like life.”jenga-1

Jenga. What’s the goal?

Tactically and gently poke and push out blocks that have constructed a tower until it falls. Why? Because it’s FUN! Poke and push out pieces of the tower until your friend loses. What could be better than that?

Life. What’s the goal?

I’m going to use my life for this scenario, because it’s the one I walk in every day, and I’d be speculating to impose anyone else’s analogy here. Feel free to consider how this applies to your life afterward though, because truth be told, we ALL have Jenga moments.

Here we go:

The Jenga tower, with all its blocks in perfect form, is your life (or at least what people see on Facebook), what you’ve built.It fits together perfectly, one row bolstering the next, until you have a (seemingly) magnificent-looking structure.

Maybe it looks like a cohesive fun marriage, a sprawling house, taking the children to Disney, a group of friends and couples to spend time with, and your designer Doodle dog. “Ahhhhh,”we say, “Look at that! That is an accomplishment.”

As your opponents do in the game, so does The Great Finger of Fate. Undoubtedly, when we have almost finished looking longingly at our magnificent structure, the Fate Finger (I just know it’s a middle one) swoops in and pokes out just enough blocks for your eyebrows to start twitching.

For example, all four of my kids starting different schools the same year. One in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school, and one in preschool. When that happens, your ex-husband and kids look like this…206725_1029468862098_7360_n

Doesn’t that look like FUN? Don’t they look happy?

I am taking that photo because I have about 3 hairs left in my pony tail, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, and I’m still drinking my first cup of coffee—that I’ve already re-heated THREE times.

Oh, and the one who is starting preschool? I’m her teacher (one of the teachers, the assistant one). Yes, that’d be my first year back to work after TWELVE years of raising those little buggers. So, now that they all look beautiful to carry on their day and head off to work, I HAVE TO GET READY TO GO TO WORK!  Eyebrows, starting to twitch.

My tower still looks OK though. The Great Finger of Fate has poked us into a new era at Barr Inc., but through the twitching I can see that we are still solid. Game still on.

As the game would have it though, your opponent is never sedentary in mind or body. Their mind is watching for their next opportunity to push just the right block out. When they spy it, they push on it gingerly and with great consternation. A few turns later, your magnificent structure looks more like a 3-D puzzle of Swiss cheese than a solid mass of blocks.

The Great (middle) Finger of Fate has made a Swiss cheese puzzle of my life on several occasions.

High Schooler? Well, she’s too pretty (AND smart, and funny, and stubborn, and now….rebellious). All the girls hate her because all the boys like her. Friends have made up rumors about her and left her out as the “competition” is too much. She’s her mother’s kid at that point. She’s pissed and she’s done. With everyone. Including me.

The Middle Schooler? Well, when it’s pointed out to me that he “hasn’t developed scholarly study habits,” my first reaction is, Did you read his paperwork? He has inattentive type ADD. We went through hell last year to get all that paperwork, only to hear he doesn’t have scholarly study habits! Go check his locker!! I’ll bet alllllll the homework that you’re looking for is there. He…just…forgets…to…hand…it…in.

Elementary Schooler? She cries big, quiet tears at her desk sometimes because math is hard, she only wants to talk about 101 Dalmatians (which her classmates have moved beyond), and she has some impulsive moments of temper which she should have outgrown by now. She has so many big thoughts, but not enough words to get them out. She eats lunch by herself, and she is SO BEAUTIFUL that she melts my heart every time I tell her, “It will take you longer to find your friends, but you will find them. And they will be true friends.” My heart melts because I’m her mother, and she BELIEVES ME. 

My Preschooler? She goes to school with mom every day. Mom gets a really up close and personal look at one of the funniest kids ever — who is having a lot of difficulty remembering the alphabet. Even the letters we practice. She has to share her mom every day with 20 other little people, and she’s GREAT at it. But she knows, even at 3 and 4, that her friends know things she doesn’t quite remember yet.img_1211

Those are some Swiss cheese holes in the Jenga  tower. Eyebrows are twitching and the worry lines are beginning to make themselves known! I still got it though! Game still on! I can just pedal faster and swim harder.

That Great Finger of Fate is an A-hole though. While you might be able to walk away from the board game with a laugh, by the time there are enough holes in your life for the tower to fall, no one is laughing.

Just like Jenga, we keep playing to see how far we will get, how many skilled moves we can make, how many more chances we will have before there are just too many holes and the whole thing falls over. And it ALWAYS falls over.

Sometimes the damage is minimal, and the sides can be shored up with a “Banana Splits for Dinner” party and a documentary about the idiot who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers, while curled up in my bed with my Corporation. I know my tower is compromised, but we are holding on to each other. There is still the illusion of victory. After all, that magnificent structure I stood back and admired and took years to build still looked successful and viable (at least on Facebook).

Other times, The Great Finger of Fate has become a Fist of Fate that has opened up its can of “whoop ass.” An entire section of your Jenga tower gets punched with the swiftness of a falcon carrying off your Chihuahua.

That looks like cashing in your 401K, a second mortgage, or bankruptcy. Those holes are big enough for the spectators in your life to see and, just like the game, spectators  yell,”AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod! What are you going to dooooooooooooo?”(And yes, they drag out the word “do” just like that).

One thing I have recognized about myself is that I do not possess the ability to mask my thoughts with my facial expression. When I imagine my appearance as those spectators are expressing concern, I envision my “puzzled and annoyed” look. The thoughts my face are not masking? “Ummm, DUH! Thank you for alerting me with your screams. And DUH — again! You’ve been watching this thing play out for a while now and I’VE BEEN WORKIN’ ON IT! SHEESH!!”

Finally, the collapse. No matter if it’s gradual or sudden, it always feels like Thor was your Jenga partner this whole time, and he swung his hammer down HARD! (I just got a little happy when I wrote that, because if that were true, at the very least I got to watch Thor’s biceps in action while he ruined my tower.)

Those holes are heartache. They that look like estrangement from family, divorce, rumors that circulate through a small town (or a small school), moving, and even leaving a job for a new one.

Jenga? The tower is now at ground level. Rubble.

Life? That magnificent tower was just a passing oasis in the desert. Try to look for it a second time, and all you see is sand and what used to be.

In my moment of looking back for that oasis and realizing that I will never see it again, I remember having an epiphany. I SEE all the rubble. I SEE the big mess. I also see my foundation hasn’t budged!

Jenga and life have the same ending. The foundation remains when that big tower cascades to the floor.

That’s where your real strength comes from….It’s at the bottom. At your foundation. You can sit in the rubble, or you can rise.

Those people you cuddled with for ice cream sundaes and documentaries and drove to counseling four times a week at the expense of your job? That you advocated and fought for? That you drove for hours in your taxi cab/mini van when you were legally too tired to drive but you did it anyway? HOLY CRAP!! THEY LOOK OK! Maybe a little worn around the edges, but DAMN! I laid an awesome foundation. Those kids? My corporation? They were already walking forward! We were already rebuilding. I just needed to jackhammer that rubble and start over.

Rebuild that Jenga tower of life people!! That Great Finger, Fist, or Hammer of Fate will always put holes in it, and in Jenga that’s fun.

In REAL life, re-building is a gift. It won’t ever look the same, but there will be parts of it that are more beautiful than before. That’s the truth!



2 thoughts on “Life is like JENGA

  1. Krystin Gacioch Knox

    Kelly – love this. Even more amazing to have not necessarily seen you in a long, long time and yet your words are so the person I have always known. Glad to get a glimpse into the adult Kelly – so many years on Alpine Drive!:-)


    1. Thank you for reading and leaving your kind words. And yes, so many years on Alpine Drive! I’m glad to know that my “growing up” self is still seen in what I write. Goofy kid/goofy adult. So glad you lived across the street!


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