The Take Away Game

take away gameRemember Pollyanna, the eternally optimistic heroine of book and screen? I watched the Hailey Mills version as a child many times, and one thing I still think of from the movie is her “glad game”, a game which involved finding something to be glad about in everything, even her own (temporary) paralysis.

While the glad game seems like a beautiful idea, it’s not always a practical one – no one who has just lost a loved one, for instance, or broken both legs, wants to hear that they should “find something in their situation to be glad about!” There is a lovely kernel of truth inside the glad game, though, that shines out in any situation – that we have the choice, just like Pollyanna, to respond, react and heal in the way we choose, and we can always choose positively.

The Take Away Game

Once in a while, when I need a reminder of all I have to be glad about, I play the “the take away game”, which one friend described, upon hearing it explained, as “kind of a morbid version of that Pollyanna thing.” And while it might sound a little strange, it never fails to remind me of what I have to be thankful for, or (ahem) glad about.

Now, I don’t play this game very often. I try to simply be grateful for what I have without having to remind myself how I would feel without it. I don’t want to sink into worry or fear. But for those times when I am extra crabby, or feeling ungrateful, and the regular old glad game just isn’t cutting it, reminding myself of what life would be like without those gladdening things serves a very strong purpose indeed.

For example, when I am angry with my husband (ok, those times when I am very, very, very angry with my husband), making a list of all his qualities that I am glad about is probably not going to calm me down.

But imagining my life without him, even for a moment, brings tears to my eyes. It is the strongest reminder of how lucky I am, and all the things I do have to be happy about, anger or no anger.

When I am exhausted at the end of a long day and trying to get dinner on the table, closing my eyes and mentally erasing all the food in our house is a way to quickly appreciate how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to feed my children so easily, long day or not. This applies to everything – a tired but healthy body, rowdy but healthy kids, a new house that needs lots of work but is ours.

Like I said, I don’t do this a lot. Trying to stay positive by keeping my mind in a positive space is what I prefer to do. But sometimes, I need a metaphorical kick in the pants – a reminder that health, food, a family and a roof over my head triumphs over anger, frustration and exhaustion, each and every time.

[Photo Credit: Kris Hoet]

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