For this week’s writing prompt for KGUA Monday Morning Writers’ Hour, the curators take us south of the border for Apacheta.
Apacheta is an Inca folklore ritual, which translates into “the source of where the flow begins.” Rocks are sacred to the Inca people. Apacheta is the act of placing a burden in a rock and taking it to a summit. Often placed with others by others your stone is left behind with the burden you placed inside of it. Then you go forward. The burden stays behind with the memory of the burden in the rock. What burden would you place in a rock and leave behind?
The Burden of Winning
I take the rock of winning to the mountaintop and leave it to be weathered, worn, and kicked to the curb. For too long, my focus on winning has been a yoke that crushes my spirit.
I played Division III college tennis when wood rackets were in vogue and the metal Wilson T-2000 was a breakthrough technology. I felt the pressure to win which sapped my joy of playing. Our coach’s stated belief was “If you won, you played well. If you lost, you played poorly.”
When we lost, as we often did at Oberlin, we would get McDonalds for our meal on the way back to campus. If we won, as we would regularly do versus Hiram, we got steaks at TJ’s in downtown Wooster. Any athlete knows the coach’s mantra was usually the polar opposite of reality. Better players often bring out the best in my play even though I may lose. Playing a weak player makes me lazy, unchallenged, and complacent.
After college, I gave up tennis. Set it on a chunk of ice, and let it drift away, never to be seen again.
I became a runner of modest talents, competing against myself since winning any 10K race was out of the question. I ran for thirty years. Then my knees said no mas, so rather than returning to tennis, I chose hiking. Again, winning the hike was not even on the table. I hike for the comradery and the regular doses of Vitamin N (Nature).
Thanks to a friend who is an excellent player and a Zen master of the table, I have learned much while playing weekly ping pong with him for ten years. Yes, we keep score. Yes, I know if I’ve won more than I’ve lost. But when the pressure of winning starts to creep in and define my happiness, I am learning to focus on my small victories within the game. Getting my serve in all the time. Tracking the ball when he serves. Playing loose and aggressive by whipping my topspin backhand crosscourt come rain or shine.
No matter the outcome, we know how lucky we are to be able to just play, and we always end with a cold beer.
A cold beer with a good friend beats winning anytime.