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Another Memory from 1962
It was the summer of James Bond and a crucial point in my transition from childhood into adolescence. I was in the suburbs of Washington DC for several weeks. My two cousins seemed to look up to me and I enjoyed the camaraderie of their family and extended friends.
My uncle was a serious man who had a high-level job in the State Department. I didn’t see much of him because he worked long hours. I had been trying to teach my cousins to play chess, which I had only begun to learn. My uncle, one night when he was home, offered to play a game with me. I was eager but knew I was going to be far out of my element.
As it turned out, the game we played went much longer than any of the games I had played up to that point. I think I eventually lost, but my uncle seemed to be impressed with the quality of the match. It was the first time I had played against an adult who was serious about the game and I held my own. For the next three years, I threw myself into competitive chess and played many matches against serious men and usually held my own.
My strategy at chess became a metaphor for my approach to life. Simplify the board and play for the end game. That works for chess, but it takes its toll. Finally, one night after having cigar smoke blown in my face for several hours while the play timer was ticking, I had trouble sleeping after a tournament and literally got no sleep that night.
I gave up competitive chess after that. Since that time, I have made countless life-changing decisions after one night of losing sleep. I decided that if something was going to keep me from sleeping, it wasn’t worth worrying about. That has turned out to be a good life strategy.
It is a small way to simplify the board.Published in General
Thanks, SP. That was the year Dad graduated from college and married Mom, so I see something about memories from 1962 and you’ve got me hooked right away.
I disagree with your conclusion. It just means you don’t care about something or somebody enough to lose sleep over. There are things and people in the world worth losing sleep over. Your philosophy seems like a comatose way to go thru life. It sounds like it worked for you but maybe you missed out on opportunities for growth and satisfaction.
That is a good point.
There needs to be a balance, between letting oneself go all in on some obsessive thinking, or to cut the ties that bind due to needing some fresh air.
As far as cutting those ties: When I was in my early 30’s, and living in Silicon Valley, together with a co worker, I obsessed on the evil tyranny of the boss who oppressed us.
Yes he was a factor in my life.
But if I had not obsessed on how awful his pettiness was, I would have had a much clearer head. Then I would have had the mindset to take advantage of opportunities that were all around me, except for my focusing on this one loser individual.
I lost out on those opportunities because I was so attached to letting the boss rent too much space in my thinking. Only later on did i realize that he didn’t prevent me from achieving true success – I did that.
It makes a big difference whether you lose sleep before or after a major life event or decision.
I appreciate your reply, but for me avoiding things that keep me awake at night has been rewarding and enlightening in every way. It has forced me to reevaluate my life at multiple steps along the way and it has NEVER let me down. Maybe I place more importance on sleep than you do and that is how it should be, I suppose. Analyzing why I can’t sleep makes me more attentive to the things and people that are worth chersishing.
When I quit playing competitive chess it was partly because of disgust at having cigar smoke blown in my face but it was also because I realized I had played that game long enough. It took a night of sleeplessness to realize that. A price well paid.
When I quit practicing pediatrics to train in radiology it was exactly like that. Losing a night’s sleep is a gift that G-d gives us if we pay attention.
“There needs to be a balance, between letting oneself go all in on some obsessive thinking, or to cut the ties that bind due to needing some fresh air.”
Well said, Carol. I think obsessive thinking is the most common source of insomnia but it is important to realize how best to deal with it. Your description describes the dilemma fairly well and how it can lead you down unproductive pathways.