Playing for keeps!

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Did you ever play marbles when you were little?  I remember playing in my backyard in the dirt, where we drew a circle and my brother and I would decide on how many marbles we would each put in the middle.  We never wanted to risk losing the prettiest ones…I was particularly fond of my “cat’s eye” and thought my shooter marble could always beat his in any match.  But then, I always thought I could beat him.  He was two years younger and I was smarter.  Isn’t that what any older sibling thinks?  In this patch of dirt in the backyard, underneath this large tree that created so much shade no grass could ever grow there, we laid out the “ring.” Now, before I go any further, let me make a disclaimer — my brother and I were very competitive with one another and we always wanted to beat the other, in whatever game we played.  So although, I remember a few times when we played marbles, this was not something we did many times…it just caused too many fights.  Like most games.


But marbles wasn’t the only game we played when we were younger.  For many years, it was just the two of us, and I was very athletic when I was younger (I still am), so playing tackle football in the front yard was not unheard of for us.  In fact, “playing for keeps” was the only way we played anything…especially against each other. Heaven forbid he lose to a girl and I was not going to lose to my little brother. When playing football, one of us would “kick off” the football to the other and the receiver would attempt to “score” by running past these trees at the far end of our yard.  But there were a few rules…we had to count to “3 Mississippi” before we could leave the line of scrimmage to tackle the other and if they didn’t score in four plays, then the other got the ball.  We knew the basic rules of football, and when you are playing one-on-one, you do what you have to so you can play.  One time, we had decided that the next score would win, since we are tied.  He was running with the ball and as I slid in to tackle him, I also slid into a metal sprinkler head that caused me to hold my knee and yell, “Go get Dad!” Apparently, my brother thought I was joking and he was afraid to come help me…so he did what anyone else would do that “plays for keeps” — he ran past those trees, jumped up and down, spiked the ball and declared himself the winner.  As I lay on the ground on the other side of the yard, with blood coming through the rip in my pants, (yes, I was going to get in trouble for this part too.  In fact, the only set of jeans that would not rip because of my aggressive play were the Sears Tough Skin Jeans.), tears running down my cheeks.  Only when my brother saw the blood did he realize that I was not going to tackle him or beat him up.  I still have the scar where three stitches once held my skin back in place.

Like most kids, playing for the best marbles or any other game where winning was the objective, we were playing for keeps.  We had this sense of attitude about us, combined with confidence and ability, we knew nothing could beat us.  And if we were not successful a few times, we didn’t just give up.  We clawed our way to the top; determined to get there and to take our place where we belonged.  We ruled.  We knew what we were capable of and never hid it.  Sometimes, we didn’t even know we were that good.

So, why reminisce about old sports injuries and being competitive with my little brother?

Because it is a mindset we have forgotten about as we live our lives.  We don’t play for keeps anymore.  Winning is winning and there is only one way to win — the right way.  No cheating, no stealing, no bullying, no throwing anyone under the bus.  Just plain creativity, intuition, and hard work.  This is one of my most favorite videos, but understand that no one will “carry” you…

We have lost our competitive spirit.  Our hearts used to be what guided us and yet now because we can process things more rationally now, we over think and instead of believing in ourselves, we give up…way before the fight even begins.  We feel sorry for ourselves, watching others do the things we have always dreamed of, and then complain about it later. We make up any excuse that sounds reasonable and see who will listen.  We cower in the corner, sobbing secretly, and find ourselves full of endless wishes that never happen.

How many people do you know that lived or continue to live miserably just because they are afraid to try anything new?  They claim to be unhappy where they are but make no changes to change where they are.  Guess you are not that unhappy.  Plain and simple.  But our society does not work like childhood games — we do not attack life with gusto and moxie, believing in the result and not wasting time thinking about how we will make it happen.  We always just believe that it will.  I wish it would.

When we are younger, we really don’t understand the concept of time and how little time we have in our lives to do everything we want.  The fortitude necessary to challenge life is overlooked, forgotten, and dismembered as we age so that it becomes something completely unrecognizable by the time it is said and done. Why is that?  Is it because we begin to suffer disappointment at the hands of others?  Is it because we believe in others more than we believe in ourselves? Is it because we have never had to fight for anything, so we have this misconception that “if it is meant to be, it will be” and patiently wait around? I have often wondered what lessons I would have learned if life had been different…maybe a little easier at times.  Would I have learn how to “play for keep” having some of the privileges given to my own sons? Would I have appreciated the value of a dollar if I wasn’t the one earning it to pay for car insurance and gas money?

Knowing what we know, isn’t it about time we started playing for keeps again?  When life becomes something where we give it EVERYTHING we have, leaving tomorrow for tomorrow?  When you stake your claim and risk it all?  When you feel so scared that you almost want to throw up and think you might pass out…when you stop for a moment and then take one more step, just to put yourself a little closer to where you need to be….when you feel that sense of joy that’s covered in excitement, surrounded by adventure, and topped with a dolip of impossible?  Where is that little girl who envisioned being a female horse jockey…the young man who literally lives in “outer space”…the kids down the street that always seemed to have a ball and bat with him, as heroes like Jeter and Ruth tucked him in at night.

No, life isn’t about walking away.  It isn’t about giving up.  And it isn’t about taking what’s not yours. Life is about playing for keeps…it means that you play your hardest, living with your heart, every day.  It means taking more basketball shots in the rain…it means believing in a dream, no matter how many other people don’t believe in it…it means doing your best.  How do you play for keeps?  Are you half-assing it because you don’t want people to stare or make fun of you?  Are you granting yourself excuses, one after another, to allow yourself to life a life less than what you are capable of living?  You know who you are and whether you just jump in the “game of life” every now and again or if you are breathing and living all of your life, sometimes in a single breath.  Your life is the only one you have.  Is it worth it to you to live it to the fullest?  That this life deserves to have no regrets in it?

So, how do you start living a life “for keeps?”

  • You have to tell your mind to shut up from time to time.

  • You have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

  • You have to be willing to accept change, good or bad.

  • You have to listen to your heart.

  • You have to trust your gut.

  • You have to believe in the life that “could be”, not the life that is now.

  • You have to choose, every damn day, to work hard.

  • You have to risk it all.

  • You have to love the ride, regardless of the day.

  • You have to be willing to fall flat on your face, scrape your knee, and get back up.  Again and again.

Some of us have never given up achieving our goals, although we may have been sidetracked for a while.  Some of us may have never garnered that spunk necessary to believe in ourselves and so we are constant victims, relying on others to show us how.  Some of us never wavered from our original goal and although it has not been easy, we take every step as progress.  “Playing for keeps” is nothing something you can’t begin now.  In fact, there is NO time like NOW than to get started.  Get in the game, get out your best shooter and do your best to show life what you have inside of you.

Believe in your heart that you belong here and that you are not going to let life (or a little brother) push you around…because, you are “playing for keeps!”

Michelle A. Homme 2014 ©

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