Chute Me Now

My 10-year old daughter sees a therapist to help deal with her bipolar disorder.  Although she adores her therapist, her favorite part of each session is the time spent in the waiting room prior to each appointment.  She begs to go early so she can check out the “old fashioned” board games on the shelf in the lobby, hoping to coerce me into losing to her at a game of “Battleship”, “Connect Four”, “Clue” or maybe Jenga.  She is intrigued by the lack of batteries or electricity required to play these games, and treats them like relics at a museum.  Her favorite game to play with me while we wait for her appointment to begin is “Chutes and Ladders”.

Have you ever played this game?  Each player has a “guy” who makes his or her way up the game board space by space, the object being the first to reach space #100.  There is no pair of dice, but instead you choose how far your player moves by spinning a “spinny wheel”, as my daughter calls it.  On the road to space #100, there are a variety of ladders and chutes (which resemble the tubed slides on a playground).  If your player lands on a ladder, he climbs up to a higher level; it’s like cheating, in my mind.  You get a shortcut from space #7 to space #29.  Totally unfair, of course, because in all the time I’ve been playing this stupid game with my daughter, I have never once, not ever climbed a ladder.

I am the queen of the chutes.

Should you spin the “spinny wheel” and move your player forward and land on a chute, you are immediately sent down the chute and you lose several, if not dozens, of spaces.  Just as you make progress, you hit a chute and lose all of the momentum you had gained.

Even more aggravating than the chutes are the pictures of the children drawn on the game board.  At the bottom of each ladder is a happy child.  At the top of the ladder is an ecstatic child.  At the top of the chute is a tentative-looking child, but the child at the bottom of the chute looks devastated and depressed.  Clearly that cartoon child recognizes that being sent down the chute stinks.

Today, we were at the therapist’s office and my daughter, of course, was winning at “Chutes and Ladders”.   She “climbed” so many ladders, I’d lost count.   But she noticed that I hit the top of the exact same chute three times in a row.  And after the third slide down the chute of shame, she asked me, “Mommy, doesn’t it bother you that you have slid down that same chute three times?  Aren’t you upset?”  Oh, how I wanted to answer her truthfully.  That my entire life seems to have been a series of “chutes” that I have barely climbed to the top of before I plummet down again, only to have to start over.  Again and again and again.  I wanted to tell her that my life has been a game of “Chutes”, but with very few ladders.  I can never seem to get ahead.  I had the ladder of a beautiful marriage which rescued me from a deep depression and shot me to the top of my game where I remained happy and continuously climbing with the addition of my three beautiful children on their subsequent ladders.

But then I started hitting the squares with the chutes.  My dad’s death, my diagnoses of bipolar, my husband leaving me – those were the long chutes, but there were many shorter chutes in between.  Just when the “spinny wheel” got me a few spaces ahead, I would land on another chute.  Just as I thought I was crawling out of my hole, I was sliding – no, plummeting – back down another chute, landing at the bottom next to the cartoon drawing of a miserable-looking child.

But I can’t say that to a 10-year old.  Instead, I tell my beautiful daughter, “No, honey, it doesn’t bother me at all that I keep hitting the same chute over and over.  Because as long as you keep climbing the ladders, that’s all I need to be happy”.

And that’s the God’s honest truth.

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