I'm drying off in the locker room. The kids are outside waiting for me as my bathing suit is whirring through the spinner thing that dries it off.
I watch the woman down the bench from me. She's uneasy about me being here, like she has some clandestine thing she needs to do and wishes she didn't have a witness.
She glances at me twice more. I start getting dressed and keep my eyes on the ground below my locker.
She wraps her little white towel around her trunk, leaving her left side uncovered (as well as most of her backside) and enters the judging chamber: an private alcove with its arched entry way opening to a small room with one overhead light shining down on the scale.
I want to hold my breath. I'm rooting for her. I'm wanting her to win. I'm wanting her to have good news. I think of how many times I've offered up my worth to be judged by an inanimate number-wielding machine. I think of how many times I've entered some form of a judgment chamber and played those odds.
Because that's just how it feels. It feels like stepping up to a slot machine, putting our money in and wondering if we are going to win or lose.
If we win, we can feel worthy. We can feel beautiful. We can feel like we matter. We feel like we are right.
If we don't win, we don't exactly feel like a loser, not yet anyway. More often, we feel like we just need to try again. Put more money in. Pull the one armed bandit one more time. Eventually the machine will hit.
This is what we call gambling, as Wilson Mizner said, "The sure way of getting nothing from something." And this is what so many of us do every single day of our life without even realizing it. We step up to the number-telling-device and we get that rush that maybe today we will win. And then we wait as we watch the cherries and sevens spin round and round, as we wait for the number machine to settle on a score.
Or maybe you're not doing this with the scale, maybe you're doing it with your bank account. Watching the numbers dip lower and lower and feeling that drama-gut-drop as you gamble more and more as you live paycheck to paycheck.
Or maybe you just keep putting money into the same damned machine hoping that today's the day. Today you will win. Today it will all work out.
Or maybe you're doing this with lying. Telling little lies and then hoping to not get caught. Or keeping secrets and hoping to not be found out.
We gamble with ourselves, with our hearts, with our dreams with our lives, with our worth.
And it's got to stop.
We are better than this. You are better than this.
You're worth more than the scale says. You're worth more than your bank account says. You're worth more than any game of chance could say about you.
You're worth getting out of the drama.
And yes, that means that you walk away. You stop playing. And that means that you're never going to hit that jackpot. And for anyone who has been waiting years and spending lifetimes of energy trying to win, this is a difficult thing to walk away from.
To stop offering your self-worth to the judging chamber.
To stop using your bank balance to beat yourself up.
Sometimes the only way to win, is to walk away. To stop playing and to find a new game. One that doesn't put your well-being at risk. One that doesn't put you through so much drama. One that doesn't have the roller-coaster ride attached to it.
One where you are always paid out for what you put in.
Where your value and your worth are not determined by luck, odds or chance.
And instead, bet on the sure thing: self love, compassion and forgiveness.
Quit while you’re ahead.
All the best gamblers do.
Baltasar Gracián y Morales
(1601-1658; Spanish Jesuit, writer, and philosopher)