There is a game that I used to be truly exceptional at. It is the passive-aggressive game – t(p)ag. No seriously. I could have been a contender. I was that good.
The most important rule of the passive-aggressive game is that nothing should ever be said outright. As soon as you say something outright, you bind yourself to the statement. Then, if the need came up, you could no longer feign prior ignorance. You might have to admit to the weakness of changing your mind. You might lose an opportunity to manipulate some person or relationship to your advantage.
Although, of course, it’s t(p)ag. There’s always a way to manipulate a situation to your advantage. even if you did lose a point for giving information to your t(p)ag opponent. The best strategy for winning is to lie and cheat. If you’re willing to do that, you’re sure to rack up plenty of points.
There is also a great advantage to obsessive and organized thought. Like chess, it takes a specific kind of mind to be exceptional at t(p)ag. (Though I suck at chess.) A certain kind of cataloging, ranking, and recalling of your opponents faults, weaknesses and triggers is of infinite use in play. A kind of cleverness in knowing how a situation can be used. And that certain something of creativity in directing how information is to be framed.
It is also important to have a good amount of muddled thinking and self doubt. Of course, these are the products of lying, and cheating so they come naturally if you play long enough. Being numb on sugar also helps keep the waters muddy. But however you do it, you should never be sure if your actions are above board. That eliminates most of the drama.
If this sounds like fun to you, then you must never have played. The whole game revolves around dishonesty, inauthenticity, and secrets. It’s a brutal, full-contact sport. Every player gets battered and bruised. Of course, every player is beating the crap out of themselves. Sometimes slapping, sometimes punching, sometimes gutting their own integrity. The opponent is simply there to encourage and bear witness. Perhaps create a little drama for fuel.
I have been playing t(p)ag my whole life. Like I said. I was a champ at it. I have had many opponents. We have chosen each other. You can’t play unless you choose the game. And you can’t play alone. Sometimes an opponent is an enemy. But usually they are friends, family, co-workers or employers. You have to be in a relationship to play t(p)ag with someone. You really have to know them.
But something happened when I got control of my eating six years ago. A kind of sports injury if you will. I broke my dishonesty. And a broken dishonesty leads to a distracting level of clarity and self-assurance. My heyday was over. My career was ruined. I’ve been playing with a handicap ever since.
My commitment to control my eating ruined some of my best t(p)ag maneuvers. Lying and cheating make me hungry now. Hungry for cake. When I was eating sugar compulsively, not all of the shame I ate came from outside of myself. Most of it came from my own abhorrent behavior. The ways that I was dishonest, spiteful, and cruel. The ways I manipulated. The ways that I used and abused myself and my t(p)ag opponents (and sometimes innocent bystanders). So the longer I have a handle on my food, the worse my game gets. I’m out of practice. I’m past my prime. I’m a total has-been.
Now I’m trying to get out of the game entirely. There are a few problems with getting out. First, you have to stop playing. That takes rational thinking and honesty. It takes a willingness to look at a situation without drama. It takes patience and responsibility. And it takes all of those things on the field, even while your opponent is in play. My opponents are still in the game. And they’re looking to me to attack myself with my own lies and manipulations. And they are waiting breathlessly for me to pour a bit of gasoline on their drama and righteous indignation fires.
But truly, I don’t want to play anymore. I’m attempting to leave the field in the middle of the game. So I have started upping my un-training. And damn is it rigorous. There are regular workouts of my integrity. There is active listening. And lots of inward trekking.
I don’t expect myself to be un-trained over night. And if I ever lost control of the food, I’m sure I’d get back into the majors. But for now, one situation at a time, I’m calling no t(p)ag backs.