Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Crushing Defeat. Then What?

8 to 1. The score was humiliating. These are the league-topping, brimming with talent and depth, destined to win Vancouver Canucks. Soundly beat by the surly and struggling Boston Bruins. Players and fans had expected more. Both were embarrassed. I found myself hanging my head, wondering what went wrong. Past victories seemed distant, forgotten in the glare of the dazzling scoreboard. 8 to 1. Inexplicable. The dreams of caressing the long coveted Stanley Cup were suddenly stained with fear. The trouncing hung like stale cigarette smoke in unventilated room. Losing is indeed a crucible of desperation.
I somehow felt responsible. For I had watched the game despite the fact that it does me no good. It is better for me, and the team, if I stay away from the game altogether. The anxiety producing fast-pace of the playoff series leaves me edgy, tremors intensifying with each hard-hitting check and power-play on the ice.

Adding to that, my Parkinson's disease stiffness, and its accompanying symptoms, had been worse than normal. I had found the effects of PD draining and demoralizing. Rather than watch hockey, even championship hockey, I would have benefited from relaxing and reading a book. But instead of peace and tranquility, I sought out and engaged vicariously in a pitched but ill-fated battle for hockey supremacy. I know, I know, it is just one game. But somehow it felt way too personal, as if I had experienced the loss.
I found myself, as I often do, reflecting on the parallels between life's experiences and my life with Parkinson's disease. Last night’s game was no exception. Try as I might, some days I feel like a failure, overwhelmed by my inability to control the stiffness, the tremors and fatigue that are part of the disease. Fortunately, these days are rare. But, like the Vancouver Canucks’ crushing defeat, just one of them can leave you anxious to escape through the tunnel to a safe and quiet place where you can lick your wounds and rest. But even in sleep I could not rid myself of the battle as it haunted my thoughts like a grizzly that refused to stay in its den.

How does one deal with that sense of overwhelming defeat? How does one shake off a bad day when people stare and wonder about the shaking or stiff movements? What can one do to fight back the fatigue brought on by one's own infirmity? How can one avoid throwing in the towel after trying so hard and failing so miserably?

Perhaps not surprisingly, answers are often found more easily discernible when advising others. So, given that I do not really know much about hockey, what would I say to the Canucks (and indirectly myself) after their disastrous stumble?

1. "Failing is part of learning". You must learn from your mistakes, or you are bound to repeat them.

2. "Remember who you are". You have proven to be successful. You have everything you need to win if you use it. A loss does not make you a loser.

3. "Have faith in your team". No blaming. You cannot improve the performance of someone else, only your own play. Hockey, like life, is a team sport. If you cannot trust those around you then you are almost certain to lose.

4. "Focus on the next game, not the last one". Every game (every day) presents a new opportunity to succeed. Forget the past. It is a ghost. Grasp hold of today with all your determination.
5. "Have courage". Dig deep. Persevere in the face of every adversity. Restrain your anger, vengeance and retribution. They play no part in "winning".
Now, if I could only listen to my own advice at the end of the bad day. I will not be watching the next Canucks game, but I will wait for the results and hope they take my advice.

Go, Canucks, Go!

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