Lights flashing, buzzers going, and me flailing around with the flippers, trying to keep that little metal ball in play. That seems like a pretty accurate picture of life lately. I’ve been pinging around like an old-fashioned pinball, dinging wildly as I careen from Will’s visit and Paris, to the last days of school, my mother-in-law’s arrival, and Chloe’s high school graduation. Bonus points for taking a train to the Roman city of Bath, then bouncing home to get Chloe organized and off on her trip to Ireland (graduation present). Bells and whistles go while we walk the canals in London’s Little Venice on a sunny day. Then we dodge raindrops at Piccadilly Circus before careening off to tour the Tower of London. We sail through the bonus chute with a walk on Hampstead Heath and a Sunday pub stop.
Then the silver ball slips past the flippers as I try to figure out insurance and schedule various appointments to address my debilitating shoulder problem. Launch a new ball, bounce around a bit with fun things, then watch it slide past the flippers while I get my bank card stolen at the atm across the street– the day before our trip out of the country. Fling out another metal ball, ping a few times, then spend an afternoon trying to excavate the archeological dig that is our kitchen desk, catch up on the seven hundred thousand and forty-one e-mails in my inbox (mostly marketing), and try to figure out what happened to the missing deposit money I wired to Italy. Meanwhile, I know I have to finish setting up an incredibly complex combination of flights and cars and lodgings for our time in the US this summer, as well as helping Chloe organize and pack for her move to Virginia in the fall. Pressure is on– I can’t let those balls get by me.
The Who (the group who sang “Pinball Wizard” in the 70s?) knew the question at the heart of it all:
‘How do you think he does it?’
‘I don’t know!’
‘What makes him so good?’
They also knew the answer:
Ain’t got no distractions,
can’t hear no buzzers and bells,
can’t see the lights are flashing,
plays by sense of smell.
Am I right? Just think how easily a person could handle all of life’s pings and bounces, changes in direction and rebounds– if only there were no distractions. No shiny things and flashy lights, warning buzzers and winning bells. Just get out there and do what you need to– anticipate, react, redirect. Be in the zone.
But then… how much fun would that be???
So I’ll just keep leaning into the pinball machine, intently watching the balls, but also enjoying the buzzers and bells. Sometimes I’ll probably drop a ball because I get distracted by the flashing lights and bonus points tallying. I’m sure I will use all of my energy and every muscle in my body to try to influence things to go a certain way, even though I know that in pinball, drawing your left knee up to your ear doesn’t influence the action that much (unless it causes you to fall over and take the machine down with you). But you just can’t help rooting and willing and trying to bring all you have to bear on the trajectory of whatever ball you’ve got up in the air. You always, always try to beat your previous best. And you wonder about that person on the board with the high score– is that for real? Did they somehow cheat?
You know I’m talking about life, right? About how, just for example, I’ve fallen behind, and even dropped the ball in planning for the next things because there were so many special things– with flashy lights and bells– going on in our lives in the now? Or how, back in April when Chloe’s future was very much up in the air vis-a-vis college, I was twisting and leaning and pulling with every muscle and nerve for her future course to run a certain way. All my willing and hoping really couldn’t make a difference, but that doesn’t mean I could stop myself from doing it. And how now, having navigated a few things and perhaps nearing the end of this round, I’m already thinking about the next round, and how I’m going to completely own it– the planning, the timing, the execution! As for those other high-scorers– bah! I’m sure
they somehow cheated their circumstances are sufficiently different from mine that our rounds can’t even be honestly compared.
Okay, I may not be the Pinball Wizard. But at least I’m playing with passion…