Unless it’s called a “sport,” I’m not much into playing games. But when Sharon and I went on a day trip to Williamstown, Mass. recently, we stumbled upon a game that’s got us hooked. It’s called Bananagrams. Someone has described Bananagrams as “Scrabble on steroids.” Instead of everyone working on the same crossword, each player works on their own crossword layout until all the tiles on the table are gone. Opportunities to pick up new letters and “dump” old ones keeps you from getting stuck for very long and also keep the game moving. It’s a hoot.
Since I seem to be better at spiritual teaching than playing table games, allow me to serve some “Banana Soup for the Soul” based on my ventures into the Bananagramdom thus far:
1. We all have to live our lives “in time.”
Part of what it means to live in time is that we all have limited time. There are only so many waking hours in a day, and no matter how far we try to stretch them, they can’t extend beyond 24. Our bodies are locked in time. They need regular nutrition as well as frequent opportunities to get rid of waste. The movement of our bodies towards death is also unrelenting. Meanwhile, there are decisions we must make every hour if not every minute that will affect the quality and possibly even the length of our own lives and the lives of people throughout the world (e.g. the decision to buy Fair Trade coffee). Living “in time” means things are constantly happening that require a response. This can feel overwhelming, but it can also be interesting and exciting.
2. Living in time doesn’t mean we have to hurry.
Even after each player in Bananagrams has picked their alotted 21 tiles to begin the game, there are plenty of tiles on the table that must be gone through before the game is over. Especially at the beginning it’s really okay and usually more fruitful to “take your time.” That’s true in real life as well.
3. Just play your own game.
Professional golfers will often say this, especially going into the last day of the tournament. As much as possible, it’s important not to allow oneself to get rattled by the other players. When I first started playing Bananagrams, I would panic when Sharon had used up all her letters. Then I would see that there were still a ton of letters in the center of the table that had to be used up before the game was over. In the game of life, other people may seem to be ahead of us professionally, financially, relationally or spiritually. Watching other people may tempt us to hurry up or give up. There are any number of factors that determine the quality of a person’s life. Some are obvious, while others remain hidden. Some of them may not come into play until late in the game. What’s important is living in the moment.
3. Try to lay a good foundation.
When we first started playing Bananagrams, I would settle for 3 and 4 letter words, just to use up my tiles as quickly as possible. Then I would look up and see Sharon taking her time creating these l-o-n-g words that gave here so many more options later in the game. Laying a good foundation takes time, and it’s an ongoing process. This is true of our spiritual lives, marriages, family life and virtually every other endeavor.
4. Success requires the willingness to change and sacrifice.
Because life is always changing, we have to change. Different conditions require different responses. Often the changes involve risk. With Bananagrams this means being willing to “dump” letters and change words that you already have in place (and may feel very proud of). One of the reasons Sharon has a better won/loss record than me is that she’s willing to dismantle even long words in order to create new possibilities.
5. Enjoy the process.
Because Sharon finds the process exciting, even though she plays to win, she’s almost as happy when she loses. (I won’t say very much about myself in this regard.)
6. We all have to play the hand we’re dealt (or the tiles we’ve chosen).
In AA they call this accepting life on life’s terms. There is a fair amount of luck as well as skill in playing Bananagrams. Instead of being undone by the lack of vowels you have to work with or your abundance of Z’s and Q’s (with no U’s), it really works to keep looking for different possibilities and use the options the rules of the game offer you. The creators of Bananagrams clearly knew what they were doing. So did our Creator. We stay stuck only because we choose to stay stuck. Maybe we can’t change our circumstances (maybe). But there are almost always a variety of ways we can respond to those circumstances. As often as not, that’s where the real game is to be played.