Playing the Cards You Were Dealt

Everyone in life is born into a different set of circumstances. Some people are born into a life of poverty, and others are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. It seems unfair, and, well, that’s because it is. But that’s life, right? Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) would probably count as a crappy circumstance, and I’m sure most people would agree.

Being aware of the imbalances in life

I never really played the whole, “Oh man, why me, this is so unfair,” game, but I’ve definitely always been aware that life is random, which means some people have and get things that others don’t. For most of my life with MS, I just tried to come to terms with that and accept that I had a cap on my capacity for success in life. But after really getting into the card game UNO, my opinion on the matter changed.

MS is a crappy hand of cards

Before I talk about what I’ve learned from a simple game of UNO, I want to talk about what I thought and how I felt about how MS would affect my capacity for success in life. When I was first diagnosed, I really had no idea what the reality of this chronic illness looked like. This meant that I was filled with a motivation to overcome that I had never experienced in my life before. MS would not take me down and keep me from living the life I wanted to live.

Experiencing MS burnout over time

But as time went on, and my MS gifted me with more and more neurological damage, I slowly lost that drive to fight. MS, and life in general, gradually gained the upper hand and burnt me out. People I grew up with were becoming so much further ahead in life than me. They were getting married, having kids, buying homes, starting careers, etc. Everything that society had always conditioned me to believe were the symbols of success. Again, I don’t like to look at things in terms of fairness, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t envious.

Feeling like I’ll never be able to win

I began to believe that despite any amount of effort I could ever conjure, I would never win. I would never achieve the success I wanted, so my will to fight slowly turned into striving to be “just okay” with my life. Seriously, what else could I really do? MS was a crappy hand of cards. So the idea that I could equally compete with everyone else in the world trying to climb the totem pole of success just seemed asinine. Being “just okay” and learning to not compare myself to others seemed like a much better option than being unhappy. So that was the goal I set.

A simple game of UNO

In 2010, around the time that MS made its way into my life, I was dating a girl whose family was big on card games. Not poker or blackjack, I’m talking games like Phase 10, Skip-Bo, and UNO. So, of course, this meant that I now liked them too. Every Friday, we all got together, had a few drinks, and played cards. I don’t know if I would say I was any good or not, but I definitely got a lot better than I was before, and I quickly started to really enjoy playing.

Getting back into the game

Fast forward about eight years, and I bought a Nintendo Switch to play a specific game that I just had to play. While browsing some of the other games available, I came across a multiplayer UNO game where I could play against other people online! At first, I only played it every so often, but once 2020 rolled in, and I found myself looking for things to kill time, I started getting more into it. Eventually, I would begin to play a round every night as part of my nightly routine. Soon, I was one of the pros. But why am I telling you any of this?

By the way, I’m not sponsored by UNO or Nintendo!

Any hand can win, regardless of the odds

Now, I know UNO is not a game that everyone is familiar with. Especially when this online version offers so many different rule sets you can apply to make it more challenging. So just know this: You want to be the first person to get rid of all your cards. At the start of the game, each player is dealt seven random cards. Sometimes you start a game with a great hand, and sometimes you start with a crappy hand.

Overcoming the odds

When I first started playing, getting a crappy hand when other players seemed to have nothing but wild cards often caused me to immediately think there was no way I could win. The idea that I could somehow overcome the odds and win seemed...crazy. But as I learned how to play better, I no longer found myself thinking this. I realized that no matter how terrible of a hand I was dealt, I could still win. It would just require a lot more thinking and strategy. It sucked, but I stopped letting it make me think I couldn’t win.

See the connection? Because I did.

I’m sure you’ve already made the connection, but one night it dawned on me. Life is no different. Life may have dealt me a crappy hand while dealing others a great hand that gave them a considerable advantage in life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t “win.” It just means I have to think about the “cards” I DO have and how I can strategically use them to succeed. To acquire the success I want in life. Of course, I obviously still have limitations as MS will always be in the cards for me, but I’m now under the belief that I don’t have to settle for less.

Finding my motivation

Once again, I feel motivated to beat my MS. It has been so long since I felt this way. I don’t know how I’ll get to where I want to be, but now I believe that I can, which for me, is all I need to be motivated. This may all sound silly to you, but everyone finds inspiration and motivation in different places.

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