“I think maybe I can’t finish them because the story isn’t through,” I said. Like many friends I haven’t seen in a while, one of her first questions when we bumped into each other almost two months ago was if I’d written anything lately. I had started by saying, “No. Not really,” like I’d told nearly everyone else for quite some time, then revealed a truth I wasn’t cognizant of until the moment it came out of my mouth. My friend told me that night she had pondered applying for a job somewhere I once worked. She had her resume and cover letter ready to send when she realized that, if I hadn’t stayed there, something about the place must not be right for her either, and decided not to apply. I nearly burst into tears because I couldn’t remember the last time that I felt another player in the game of life blindly read my moves correctly.
My friend thought I had quit the job in question, but that employer had actually let me go; told me I didn’t fit in at a job where I’d felt right at home. I didn’t realize how much that rejection had hurt me until I told my friend what had happened and found myself fighting tears upon viewing her equal shock and awe. Last week I had a similarly touching moment with a much more dear friend I now rarely see. This time I couldn’t hold back the tears a single second. This time I realized it was time to admit my heart is still too injured for my a-game to come out.
A few months ago, the last time a recent love interest was at my apartment, he asked me something about how often I study the poker books on my shelf and if they are what make me a good player. I told him that, at least for me, there are two things that are much more important to playing a good game of poker than how much I know about what’s in those books: not risking money I can’t afford to lose and not playing when I’m feeling heartbroken. I told him the money part was slowly getting better (meaning I might soon have some money I could afford to risk) and flashed a hopeful smile as I strongly hinted that he was the one currently affecting the heartbreak factor the most. A few weeks later, as we began trying to be “just friends” and found ourselves discussing the idea that pain is growth, I shared a proverb I have kept on my refrigerator (a magnet) for as many years as I can remember: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”
There were countless times since I put that magnet on my fridge when I had wondered if my cocoon phase would soon end and the cards would beigin to fall in my favor. Often it was simply because I longed for it to be over, but sometimes I had reason to hope the end was nigh. One of those times was while working at the previously mentioned job, when a man brought me a few gifts to ensure I would go on a date with him – two pieces of jade (which he’d retrieved from the bottom of the ocean personally) and a chrysalis – a monarch still in it’s cocoon. It was just days after my butterfly hatched and I had the magical experience of holding him/her until he/she felt ready to take that first flight that my employer sent me on my way. A few weeks later that man proved those presents were the most special thing I would get from him and we parted ways as well. It felt like I’d been dealt pocket aces the first hand of the night and lost all my chips to a far inferior hand. Coincidentally, that literally happened one of the nights I decided to risk $20 I couldn’t really afford to lose at a local home game to cheer myself up. Lesson learned.
From the time I left that job until now, life has sometimes felt darker even when I know certain parts are improving. Approximately a year ago, the property where I have rented a studio for the past 15 years went up for sale because my beloved landlord passed away. I could hardly afford my below market rent at the time and felt powerless to do anything to prevent myself from facing disaster. I spent many days and nights worried I would have to move back to Arizona and live with my parents until I came up with a better plan for my life. Then, just when I was sure it was all falling apart, everything came together. I ended up with two new jobs I like, a reasonably priced “temporary” studio next door to my old place, and a new landlord who is remodeling my former/future apartment and wants me to move back in as soon as it’s ready. Having all of those worries work out without much effort on my part had been as surprising as being beat down to a chip and a chair multiple times in a poker tournament then going on to take first place.
The night I burst into tears unexpectedly, I began to wonder when I’ll next have the heart to play poker. I still don’t have a bankroll or all the funds I need to move back into my old place when the remodel is finished, but I was more concerned with what I can do to heal my heart. I mentioned what had made me distraught to a coworker and found my friend saying that women (i.e. me, myself, and I) are crazy. At the time, I focused on convincing him that men’s hearts are equally susceptible to feeling pain over long lost love. It didn’t dawn on me until later that my friend (a man) was probably laughing at me inside because I was forgetting that men think with their loins more often than they follow their hearts.
As this fact dawned on me while I reprocessed years of painful experiences, I realized I might finally know exactly why a girl like me would dream of making it to the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event before ever having played No Limit Hold’em for real money. If an unknown, relatively inexperienced female could take down the big one (something no woman has ever achieved) it might prove that having heart is just as powerful as having balls. Maybe my heart revealed my desired destiny in a dream so I would find a way to make it come true.
It’s too soon to tell if the fact I’m finally concluding a blog post for the first time in more than a year indicates anything about whether or not my cocoon phase will soon be over. I didn’t even try to come up with a way to attend the World Series of Poker this year. I am too busy working my restaurant jobs, making acrylic collage art with playing cards, and searching for Prince Charming to find time or money for poker… but the burning desire to play still simmers inside… and the belief I can make my WSOP dream come true against all odds is still there. I don’t know when or how it could happen, but I can say that, if I take my seat in that tournament, the men better gird their loins, because my heart will be full and guarded by those who helped me get there. Perhaps now I’m feeling crushed by every hand I play in life so that, when the time comes, I’ll know I have the strength to endure. Maybe there’s nothing I can do to heal my heart but sit in my cocoon and wait until it is time to spread my wings and fly.