A Bigger Meaning Behind Mario Tennis

December 2, 2020

For our first Thanksgiving together, Tyler and I decided to spend the day with his sister and her wife.  We decided to do something outside of Thanksgiving traditions in a Mediterranean theme. We had an amazing charcuterie board filled with various veggies, crackers, and dips with a delicious salmon for dinner. We spent the entire day drinking warm mulled wine, playing trivia games, and strengthening a beautiful relationship. 

Towards the end of our evening, Tyler brought out his new Mario Tennis game. As a kid, I spent time watching my brother play video games but never felt the desire to do so myself. Every once in a while I’d take control of a crazy taxi, but nothing much beyond that. Thanksgiving also revealed the fact that gaming consoles have changed A LOT since the days of my brother’s game cube. Tyler has a nintendo switch which, evidently, means one controller can rapidly transform into about seven (not literally, but DANG, that little thing has options). 

Eventually, we selected our characters (I was Toadette because she’s cute) and we began playing. The game was doubles tennis. Allow me to emphasize the “doubles” portion of that sentence. This implies partnership, teamwork, and trust in your second player. I haven’t played doubles tennis, or any type of tennis, since middle school. My little Toadette was darting all over the place. While I tried to be in all the places, I was frequently failing to be in the spot I was actually needed to hit the ball.  It didn’t take too long before my husband was shouting,

“Toadette, stay in your zone!”

“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to be in all the places” I said. 

“You don’t need to be – it’s DOUBLES!” He responded. 

My husband certainly didn’t mean for that comment to be some kind of existential inspiration, but my thought process launched into the complexities of that brief conversation. Instead of focusing on the space I’d been given, I got distracted by trying to be in all the places at the same time. Toadette made her way up to the net, ran all the way to the back corner, bolted left when she should have gone right, and scurried right when she should have been going left. Toadette was a mess. But, Toadette was only a mess because I couldn’t stop shifting that tiny trigger all over the controller. 

Maybe I’m just very bad at playing Mario Tennis. If that’s what you’re thinking, you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not the full story. As soon as I took a breath and settled into the idea that I didn’t need to be all over the place, we started winning. When I began showing up in the space I was assigned and allowed my partner to carry the other half, we started winning. I didn’t need to be in all the places to make sure everything was protected. My trust grew in my partner, I gained more confidence in staying still, and our team grew stronger. In the moment, I couldn’t help but think of the connection this had to my walk with anxiety. 

In the heaviest days of my walk with severe anxiety, I was constantly terrified that I was missing something. There was always a nagging fear that I was forgetting something, failing someone, and, somehow, falling short of my potential. My anxiety had such a strong grip that I felt my only safety net was in controlling everything. My mornings began with a panicked wake, fearing that I’d already lost desperately needed time. Every hour of my day was planned and taking a break only induced fear that I was sacrificing precious time I couldn’t get back. Staying in any relationships that weren’t serving me felt more secure than wading into waves of emotion I couldn’t control or predict. My fear told me that I should always be doing more, more, more, even when life felt overwhelming as it was. Decisions were made based on insecurity, fear, anxiety, and one tightly held limiting belief: simply existing would never really be enough. 

The more I learn about anxiety and the more I reflect on the pain I carried with me those days, the more I wish I could go back, talk to myself, and hold my own hand. If I could, I’d tell her, 

Sweet girl, you’re enough as you are. It’s okay to breathe. It’s okay to pause, to stop moving, to rest, to laugh and release. You do not have to be all the things to all the people. This chapter you’re in is shaping you, molding you into an even more beautiful version of you. BUT, that does not mean that your heart isn’t good enough as is. You are a beautifully written story with an ending that’s still unfolding. The fact that you don’t know the ending is a blessing. You’re not alone in this. You are not alone in this. When you’re brave enough to voice the words you don’t want to speak, you’ll be rewarded with the very thing you’re afraid to believe in: support. Speak, sweet girl, use your words.

The silence I chose at the time was never worth it. The facade I chose to hide behind didn’t serve me and it didn’t shield other people from my reality. Friends and family still saw the pain in me, felt confused by some of the choices I was making, and witnessed, first hand, the physical power my anxiety held over my life. They asked, they really tried, but “Seriously, I’m fine” was all I would ever offer in response. That denial, that lie, only extended my misery. 

The older I age the more I understand the value of learning how to communicate with myself, then communicate with those I love. Being an island only hurts the island. Attempting to be the sole player in a doubles match doesn’t make you look like a star, it just looks like you’re doing work you don’t have to do. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Why try to forge through pain on your own when there are people who want to walk with you? It’s a small shift that changes everything. It’s a small shift that can save everything. 

You’re not alone in this game of life. Lean on your team.

They will show up for you.

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