Life since watching Queen’s Gambit has been colorful, swirling and bright.
For once, there is a Netflix miniseries about me. And girls like me. And he’s, them’s, it’s like me.
Granted, I don’t play chess.
And I don’t have issues with drugs and alcohol.
And I don’t have a history of extreme loss and abandonment.
But other than those small details, the miniseries is literally about me.
At least that’s what I took from it. Along with a bunch of other obvious and some less-than-obvious themes (i.e., feminism, gender roles, mother figures).
It’s about isolation. And about finding a language that enables you to express yourself and communicate in a way that’s understood by others.
I mostly related to the character finding a release from the pain of isolation. The loneliness of isolation is a language I speak. As I shift into the second part of my life, I can see that I’ve been talking about my pain from depression for decades, but I’ve been talking in a way that others couldn’t really understand. I’ve been speaking in code and metaphor, blurring the scary details of my paralyzing thoughts behind generalized terms such as ‘bad’ and ‘dark.’
The truth is that I’ve never trusted anyone else with my pain. My pain has been killing me, but it has also been the most precious thing I own. I have hated my pain, but I have also loved my pain. It has historically been all I have when I feel everything else is gone.
But when I finished Queen’s Gambit, I could hear the laughing and gleeful skip of hope in my usually morose head. I felt like I had tapped into a source of authentication, proof that I wasn’t just imagining my brain to be broken. Here was a smart, curious, appealing character spilling over with layers and depth. She was damaged goods. But it was okay. She could be all sorts of things, both dangerous and traditional, and she was still fresh and charming and bright. I definitely wanted what she was having.
I thought about chess for days after I finished the miniseries. I had actually long thought of learning chess, ever since watching Searching for Bobby Fischer over and over. It’s a great movie. I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it. It’s got 100% of red tomatoes, so I’m not alone in loving it.
Anyway, eventually, about a week or so ago I figured out there must be a chess site where people play chess, right?
I went to chess.com and, no kidding, I learned how to play chess in about a week. For those of you who are impatient, I actually learned all of the pieces and moves in about two days. Then the site provided me tons of practice moves, or puzzles, to reinforce my knowledge of each piece’s abilities.
Then, last week I started playing games against the computer. I began with easy games against a friendly computer guy. Now I’ve moved on to a mean computer girl who knows a lot of really sneaky moves. I kind of hate her but I can also see that I’m starting to understand how she’s planning her future moves.
That seems to be a big thing in chess. You really need to be able to see a few moves ahead.
And that’s hard.
It doesn’t sound hard.
But it’s hard.
Right now I can only see about one move ahead. And sometimes I don’t even see that correctly.
But it’s a lot farther than I was a week ago.
Luckily, the practice of mindfulness and being in the present gives me an excuse to not look further than one or two moves ahead anyway. So I guess I should find some Zen Chess website, which, I am sure, exists on the interwebs.
So far, chess is great.
It’s an all consuming activity.
I can’t think about stuff – much less bad stuff – while figuring out strategy on a chess board. Chess is total concentration. And a great distraction.
And distraction is great when you have a brain that keeps trying to walk down a different and troubled path.
At one point, I may try to reconcile the goal of chess and the effort to be in the present. In the meantime, my brain is challenged in the good way.
And that’s good.
In the good way.
(bettebloo on chess dot com)
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xx’s and oo’s from the Reply All family