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Feeling a Bit Sorry for Life’s ‘Winners’

Kamala Harris victory speech November 2020
Kamala Harris’s gracious victory speech – photo: William Bretzger, Delaware News Journal

The news from the US is almost as compulsive viewing as it was last week with the incumbent president refusing to concede the election to Biden and Harris.

So far, so Trump.

Yet his party aren’t objecting.

Just as some of the Trump protesters were shouting ‘Stop the count’ (in states where Biden was winning) and ‘Count all the votes’ (which election officials were already doing) in Arizona where Biden’s lead wasn’t as wide, Republicans are currently contorting themselves into similarly insane seeming positions.

They’re both congratulating their newly elected senators while insisting that Biden – elected on the exact same ballot – somehow hasn’t won.

Queen's Gambit

So I took a little break from the news and watched some more of The Queen’s Gambit.

And the theme was similar.

Beth Harmon hasn’t lost a game of chess since she was a small child just learning.

When she finally loses, it obviously hurts.

She’s been through an enormous amount of pain, loss and trauma but this is one of the first times the viewer sees her processing the shock, horror and disbelief of losing.

Her adoptive mother attempts to empathise and says, ‘I know what it feels like to lose.’

Beth snaps, ‘Yeah. I bet you do.’

There’s a VERY long pause and Alma manages to to gently and firmly say, ‘And now you do, too.’

Beth eventually reaches her hand out and accepts a little (pre social distancing) comfort, connecting with her loss.

Processing it.

She’ll learn from it. (I hope) (Have been welcoming spoilers).

The above probably sounds arrogant and yet, while she’s spent much of her life in an orphanage and has been dismissed and mocked without it seeming to permeate her sense of self, the chess board was her place of safety.

She had genuinely never experienced losing since she was 9.

As a small child, she had played – and won – against the local high school team. All at the same time.

Thank god/dess I wasn’t a prodigy

I’m so grateful for all the (many, many MANY) opportunities I had to practice losing graciously as a kid and adult.

Countless failures. Disappointments. Missing out.

Having empathy for Beth (a fictional character who at least conceded the game) made me wonder about finding some empathy for the incumbent who’s getting ready to squat in the White House.

I find it much, much harder although I continue to attempt to include him in my morning Metta – we’re all connected.

He’s a grown man. He has hurt – and continues to hurt – so many people, it’s horrifying.

And it’s bizarre to see other grown men and women rallying around him now and enabling him as if, as CNN’s Jake Tapper put it, ‘coddling a five year old who’s lost a pet turtle.’

I remember attending a VDay conference on women and power in NYC back in 2004 and even then, they were talking about young white men being so prone to mass murders due to being raised with such a strong sense of entitlement while also not being truly seen and heard for being their whole selves. Conditions that contribute to narcissistic wounding

The idea that’s now so much better understood around toxic masculinity.

I’m grateful for Biden’s experience and humility. He’s getting on with all he can get on with and not getting sucked into the insanity.

Joe Biden victory speech
An obviously (deservedly) delighted Joe Biden offering empathy, too, saying he knows what it’s like to lose from previous elections – photo Robert Deutsch, USA Today

I kept pausing to tweet soundbites from his and Kamala Harris’s beautiful victory speeches because both were so inspiring and gracious.

I hope they do some spectacular space and energy clearing before moving into the White House in January but am already encouraged by his gentle, respectful and empowering example.

Journal prompts: How do you feel about winning and losing?

You may want to reflect on these questions in your head. For best results, use your journal (or some paper you can burn to release all you’re ready to let go of):

In what areas of your life do things come easily to you?

Are you a gracious winner?

How might you become a better winner, both in terms of getting better at whatever it is and also, in terms of gracious victory and (such a cliche but important) being kind?

What about when you ‘lose’?

How can you learn from setbacks and let them lift you even higher (once you’ve allowed yourself wallow and process, to feel all the feelings without acting out on the feelings)?

How can you be gracious and accepting rather than arguing with reality?

What did you learn about losing when you were a kid?

As an adult?

This WEEK (watching the insanity play out on the world stage)?

What about winning?

Who can you commiserate or celebrate with?

Tricky when social distancing during a global pandemic but who sees you and hears you?

Who loves you no matter what?

Does it hurt to read the question or do you immediately think of someone, maybe even more than one person?

Do you acknowledge how wonderful it is to have that in whatever form that love and acceptance is there for you?

Who can let you get it all (the jubilance or the sorrow) out of your system without judgment?

What else might help you?

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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