How to Win at Bingo

I always liked Bingo because it is totally based upon luck. One does not have to think strategically, or be smart, cunning and ruthless. I suck at Monopoly because it requires all of these things.

In Bingo you merely watch and listen for the rattling of the cage that delivers your fate to the metal cup. You toy with your chips, peer at your neighbors’ cards and take a breath just before the gray-haired church deacon calls the letter. Then another quick breath as you wait for the number. Your ears perk up after each sonorous call, waiting for a triumphant cry from some noodge in the far corner of the room. Each silence gives you a thrill of hope, allowing another rattling of the Bingo cage and yet another chance for victory.

The very randomness that makes Bingo so satisfying also makes it frustrating. In some games everybody else’s numbers are called except yours. The Bingo cards in front of you are as unpopulated as the Great Plains, while others’ cards are spangled with clear red chips as garish as a Times Square hooker. Or maybe you have finally have a row all filled up for the first time that evening, but this particular game requires four corners instead. It’s fair but unfair.

Haven’t played Bingo in years, but yesterday felt like one of those games. It was rainy, boring, lonely, frustrating. My card was empty. I was not busy enough and had far too much time to think, which for me quickly devolves into brooding. A year ago, when I was working at a job that I did not love and pulled in too many directions, I felt a different kind of stress. That felt like having your Bingo card covered with many chips, but nothing that would give you a win.

Yesterday I checked my email and Facebook every few seconds, watched the phone for the red message light, snacked on pretzels, halfheartedly puttered instead of focusing on what I really wanted to accomplish. I was waiting for other people to pull my number and make things happen for me. Big mistake, and one that I have made time and time again. A mistake that I’ve warned my kids never to make, yet I continue to make it myself.

But I managed to pull myself out of it by being proactive, making myself do things that I really didn’t want to do at first, just to overcome my inertia and get me rolling again. I called a housebound friend and made plans to take her to lunch. I finally mailed my daughter that book that I thought she would enjoy. I defrosted some chicken and found something creative to do with it for dinner. By the end of the day the sun was peeking out and I felt better.

And I realized that while both Bingo and life can be random, one can still maximize the chance of feeling on top of the game. Over time I’ve realized that I need these things :

B – Bed rest. If I don’t get enough of it I can’t function.  Do what you have to do to get it…get as physically tired as possible, avoid alcohol at dinner, give up watching “The Walking Dead” late at night.
I – Interests. It could be work, hobbies, anything that gives you great pleasure, or at least gives you something to accomplish.
N – Nutrition. Whatever works for you. For me it’s avoiding white bread, alcohol, sweets. Others give up gluten or red meat.
G – Getting out. If you don’t have a paid job to order your day, schedule other things – workouts, volunteer duties, a walk with a good friend, anything.
O – Others. Stay connected. If nobody’s calling you, call them. Make plans.

And finally – Free Space. If you’re busy it gives you some breathing room. If you’re not busy enough, it will make you restless and bored enough to brood a bit, wallow in self-pity then snap out of it and make things happen.