I love competition. Playing a game or sport makes me feel alive. I have always enjoyed competing and when I lose at something it just inspires me to try to get better. Most games are simple, be it chess, or baseball or tennis. If you study or practice you will improve. If you study or practice more than your opponent you will eventually win. I don’t mind losing, but the satisfaction from winning against a previously unbeatable foe is magnificent.
Growing up with my father as my baseball manager, I was taught me good sportsmanship. It is alright to lose, as long as one tries their best. Sometimes the other player is just better. I don’t mind losing at all. When I was a senior in high school, my buddy Rob Kahler and I were spending spring break in Florida. I played tennis with a freshman girl one day. She beat me 6-0, 6-0, and it wasn’t as close as it sounds. It didn’t bother me at all, she was just really freaking good. I would say I am tolerant of failure, well most of the time.
There are times though, when I feel such a sense of anger, that it is almost unbearable. Those times are almost always when I am trying to master something and it is taking longer than my little gray cells tell me it should. I can remember weeks of practicing pool, only to have a bad day, and being really angry at myself. Or devoting hour after hour to the study of endgame theory, only to drop a silly pawn and lose. I always congratulate my opponent, but then I sit and fume.
It is impossible to improve if one doesn’t have passion. I believe this to be true. I am not sure if it is necessary to beat myself up or not. So today I finished the tails for the last piece of my box or drawer sides. They are not very good at all. I am really pissed off. I can’t think of a good reason to be so angry, none what so ever. My analytical brain tells me that I shouldn’t be good at them yet. I have cut under 10 sets of dovetails, and if it were as easy, there wouldn’t be any satisfaction.
I imagine a young apprentice sitting in a shop, the old master talking to him as he makes his cuts, showing him how to hold the chisel as he pares off the little bits of excess. I see the candle lit room, with the apprentice practicing again and again, until he gets it right. There is the smell of fresh baked bread, from the masters wife, wafting in from the kitchen. He keeps at it, because he knows that anything worth doing, is worth doing right. Next to him are piles of attempts, and it is clear, that he worked very hard to get good at cutting his pins and tails. I imagine all of this, to help me feel better.
It does not make me feel better, as I am imagining it while I am still fuming about the crappy tails and pins I have just cut. Damn those tricky joints. It has been said that patience is a virtue. In fact, it has been said by my mother often, and I believe it to be true. I am still angry and bitter, no matter what anyone says.
But here is the other side of the coin. The fits of self loathing that fill me today, well they don’t last too long. They will be replaced when the logical side of my brain finally beats the emotional side into submission. When this happens, I will get some wood, mark some pins, and start a new. I know I will. And when the day arrives that I am typing up my blog, to show off some really nicely fitting dovetails, I will scarcely remember today, or the anger. It will be completely worth it.
But for now, I am still pissed off.