The Loh Life

The Happiness Project: The Solitaire Diaries-- part 3

Sandra Tsing Loh and her friend are in week three of happiness.

So my friend Claudia and I are into Week Three of our HAPPINESS project, inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s New York Times bestseller.

We are but two puffy, periomenopausal LA women riding, a bit glumly, a First World WAVE of malaise-- Consider the new STUDY from the World Health Organization-- Spanning five continents, it reveals that AFFLUENT nations have far HIGHER rates of DEPRESSION than lower-INCOME ones.

"And you know why?" says Claudia, who, like me, has been fighting a massive case of writer’s block. "Computer solitaire. Oh, the shame." Claudia had just had a HUMILIATING incident. Roberto the leaf blower guy had appeared SUDDENLY, like an apparition, outside her home office WINDOW, as Claudia sat gloomily in her sweatpants playing SOLITAIRE--

Thinking that Roberto would look up from his LEAF blowing and SEE the cards FLOATING on that telltale green BACKGROUND—Claudia PANICKED.

It’s a state of mind we call SOLITERROR-- The terror that another PERSON is going to come up BEHIND you and see you playing Solitaire--

So, BEFORE Roberto’s COWBOY hat tilted UP, Claudia frantically TRIED to click to another screen – it wouldn’t switch -- then she tried to reach BEHIND the computer to PULL out the POWER cord. Never mind SAVING the game, she thought, never mind SAVING the game, it’s LOST, it’s all LOST. But as she lunged forward she FELL off her chair. . . RIGHT onto a now broken PLATE--that had flown off her desk--of ILLICIT Starbucks CREAM cheese and apple MINI muffins.

Now her KNEE is in an ACE bandage.

"Oh, I’ve done that," I say dismissively. "EVERYONE’S done that. That’s a very FIRST WORLD injury."
"Solitaire," she moans, "I’ve GOT to give it up cold TURKEY."

I counter IMMEDIATELY. "Oh no," I say. "THAT’S not wise! We’re ALREADY depressed and now, what? We’re going to take away the ONE thing that gives us pleasure? Don’t BLAME the cards, Claudia--USE the cards. I MYSELF have a Solitaire practice that is very very sophisticated. Only the MASTERS of the form can do it-- My technique has taken DECADES to perfect.

I call it ‘Chasing the cat.’ Simply PUT, I openly and without shame set UP my computer to ping BACK and FORTH between my exciting SOLITAIRE game and my boring WRITING.

Over the next four hours, more and MORE does it DAWN on me that I’m making no PROGRESS on my writing, my SOLITAIRE game is getting more FRUSTRATING, I now have just 40 minutes until my DEADLINE, I’m REALLY screwing up THIS time….there’s the strangely pleasurable adrenalin-fueled PANIC of having PROCRASTINATED for too long. . . And now my day is exciting! Whee! It’s like giving yourself permission to smoke just a little bit of crack!"

"Wow," she says. "THAT’s pathetic."

Next time: HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY--THE JOYS OF EXTREME COUPONING!


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