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  • Lijing Cobb

Keeping score

Many a time when my kids do something that makes me say “what were you thinking?”, they would point a finger at each other and say, “He/She did that before!” Upon which I’d say, “Well, if she jumped off a cliff, does that mean you should too?”


Pretty obvious, isn’t it, what I’m trying to teach my kids. But this simple message is not always so easily remembered in my own practice of daily life.


Last night was my weekly practice of volleyball with the nice ladies I’ve gotten to known over the last few months. While we had a woman who had a counter to keep score most of the time in the past, she has not shown up over the last couple of weeks, so the lot of us resorted to keeping score on our own. I have to say that we are not very good at it. Confusions of what the score is often arise, and while we are able to come up with a number, accurate or not, most of the time and be ok with it, sometimes it becomes a point of contention. At one point last night this became an issue, as the two sides “remembered” vastly different scores, and when the point was finally “settled,” neither side was happy with the tension still in the air. After all, some of us are more competitive than we are aware of probably.


Someone suggested that we call the score every time we served, and that was agreed upon. Fine, if that’s the way it’s gotta be, I thought. As the night wore on, people got tired, distracted, and the score just kept getting forgotten. I’m the Chinese and supposed to be good with numbers, aren’t I? So I volunteered to get the record straight. When no one else could remember the score or say anything, I did, and thus we went on. No longer was the playing itself the center of my focus. The score took on a life of its own and I had to chase after it and pin it down.


Point after point we went on, and the issue was finally resolved, right? At one point my team pulled ahead so much that we were winning by 10 points. So instead of calling, say 22 vs. 12, I said 2 2. Because obviously people knew that one team is beating the crap out of the other team, right? Wrong! Never take anything for granted! There erupted another protestation that the score was actually tied.


I was dumbfounded. Where did people go? What’s happening? Are we still playing on the same court at the same time in the same game? Is reality somehow warped for some of us? Is it me who’s losing my mind?


Quickly dismissing the possibility that I could be the insane one, I simply shrug off the suggestion that the score is tied, and loudly pronounce the correct score. You see, what I didn’t tell you was that previously I was also engaged in a score battle where I remembered one score that was drastically different from what our opponents remembered, and yet my score was denounced as the invalid one and dismissed like a piece of dust… Mind you I was also quite sure of my sanity for that one, but had to watch my sanity be drowned out in that previous round.


“She did that to me!” My children say. I copy. In some ways I’m still that child that wants fairness in all ways, cliff or not.


I went to sleep last night with a bit of worry that I wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly, because I was really that bothered about the tension a simple act of score keeping raised in me. It might have been the case with some other ladies too. Is it worth it? Definitely not. So I wonder what I could have done, and what I could do next time to avoid feeling this way again.


I wonder also that while in the children’s world, grudges do not have a long shelf life, what life span grudges enjoy in the adult world. I wonder if the inability or ability to keep score translates to real life. I wonder how often people look back and give credence to others for feeling or acting the way they did, and are thus able to put grudges to rest and move on. I once had a couple friends who were so good to me that they felt like family, and I was grateful for their kindness and friendship to this day. But something I did, said, or some part of who I was, must have rubbed them the wrong way somehow, and one day, without warning, they withdrew their friendship from me. Despite my repeated efforts to reach out, offering whatever apologies necessary to gain understanding and forgiveness, their hearts were set and there was no turning back for them. In their score book, I had scored one too many points to my disadvantage.


Life is a big game, isn’t it. We keep score at everything we do. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. If I don’t scratch yours, you won’t scratch mine again next time. An eye for an eye. A favor for a favor. But as the game of life goes on, sometimes we forget the score. Sometimes we pretend we know. Sometimes we embellish our points just a little. Sometimes we are outrageously wrong. Sometimes we don’t know we are outrageously wrong.


And when we focus too much on the score, the game itself gets sidelined. The score becomes all that matters, not the playing itself. And that’s when we get it all wrong. If Satan played basketball and scored all the points, he is still Satan. You don’t want to hug him and say, you are the best. Please don’t say that. Please don’t touch him.


So I guess my message to myself is just be nice. Leave the scoring to the real scorekeeper, like Santa Klaus for instance, who knows when I’m naughty or nice. Keep my eye on the game itself, and enjoy what I can. There is never a good reason to be a vindictive wiseass. Because, at the end of the day, I want to be able to not have a worry when I go to sleep. Bad juju, you are out.

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