After a long day of writing, researching and corresponding, there are often times I simply cannot turn off my mind and settle into an evening. Watching documentaries requires a semblance of attention for them to mean anything and I like to watch with pen and notebook in hand … just in case. One of my favourite methods to simply chill out of everything is to play a game of Solitaire. I don’t use an actual deck of cards as that would mean more physical involvement, I want to let my mind go without having to move the hands to shuffle and physically place cards. Stretched out on my sofa, mouse in hand, I simply click and let the mind roam… and, boy does it roam!

Solitaire? Has the woman lost her mind? No, she lets it meander off on a leash now and then ensuring its return eventually. And while it may appear mindless, there are many things to learn about life in the moving of the cards, the messages, the hints, and I often find myself mentally “speaking” to the computer.

Open the game and the computer automatically shuffles and deals and I make all the moves I can see, swapping cards and building decks. Then I deal from the deck sometimes removing one to build my decks. Then I run out of ideas and the program automatically prompts a move.

“Just because you suggest a move, doesn’t mean I have to make it”—sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t… most often not, just because I’m a rebel by nature.

I ask for a Hint which I again can either accept or reject, often it opens my eyes to something I have missed and, ignoring the Hint, I make my move first. Often it just simply prompts me to keep dealing—an exercise in futility. I can also undo my previous number of moves if I see a move I missed that may affect my winning the game.

I have set the deck to deal three cards at a time so only every third card shows and I have to make something out of whatever card is face-up, or deal again. I can see, as each three-card deal is made that there are cards I want, but I can’t get to them, so deal again for the next three and the next and the next often removing only one card in all the dealing. And then winning seems impossible, and I want to give up and simply start another game, but in removing only a single card from the deck, I have changed the whole dealing sequence and maybe, just maybe, what I need comes up. So I deal again and again and again.

And deal, and shuffle, and hint and undo until The Fat Lady sings her aria: “There are no more possible moves. What do you want to do? End game… Return and try again…” or, when I win, the cards go flying to the bottom of my screen with little hearts and stars and loud noise hailing my awesome achievement.

I never return and try again, so when I hit End Game, I am prompted… hmm… hold on while I play a quick losing game  “Sorry you lost this game. Better luck next time!” And little boxes at the bottom tell me I can Play Again, Restart this game, or Exit and depending on the state of relaxation, I often hit Play Again… never Restart this game, what’s the point? Didn’t win it the first time, why play the same game again?

So I Play Again—new shuffle, new deal, sometimes I win, more often I lose, but that doesn’t stop me from trying another game. If in my playing, I can see there’s no way I’m going to win, I opt out of the game and hit New Game. I’m then prompted: “What do you want to do with the game in progress? Quit and start a new game—this counts as a loss in your statistics; Restart this game—this counts as a loss in your statistics; Keep playing”

Keep playing: “What on Earth do I want to keep playing for? I can see this is going to end badly. Keep playing is a waste of time and energy.”

Restart this game: “Why? Same old game, same old moves, didn’t see them before, ain’t going to see them next time around. So I lose this one? There are plenty more where this one came from and restarting it would be as ridiculous as replaying a CD with a scratch in your favourite song, hoping the next time around it will have miraculously healed itself. No matter how many times you play it, the scratch isn’t going to go away. Get a new CD.”

Quit and start a new game: “Let’s do it. So I lose this one, the next one I may win… or lose… but I keep going until I’ve had enough.”

And this is life—my life, anyways. I start a new game, the cards are dealt, I can see the ones I need but they’re just out of reach for the moment so I keep dealing, and when I remove a single card from the deck, I hope those I need will be open to me next or many deals around. I’m given “hints” in the form of advice which I consider carefully and either accept or reject when I notice something I’ve missed that may just help solve the problem. But I keep trying and trying until I either see this game is going nowhere and opt out, soliciting dire warnings of a “loss in my statistics” or I’m advised that it’s “End game… sorry you lost this game. Better luck next time!”

But there’s always a new game waiting to be played… somewhere… and I will play and shuffle and deal—and move until it’s time to Exit. And as I get older and wiser, I choose the games more carefully. The few times I see “Congratulations, you won the game!” the stars flying and music playing in my heart are such a thrill that make up for all the losing hands. And who knows, I may just win the next one… or the next. I have yet to be dealt all Aces in an opening hand, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, somewhere in this pack or another.