Jenga: The Game of Dyspraxic Life

Most people see bed as a place that brings soft, warm peace at the end of the day. A familiar landing strip for a comfortable arrival in the land of dreams.

For me, I see bed as a morning launch pad. The place where my day begins. The place where I lie for a moment to preview the infinity of this day’s possibilities. There, the day ahead is set up like a marvellously arranged game of Jenga: perfectly symmetrical, each block in its place, forming a beautifully squared tower of challenge.

While there, like some finely tuned athlete, I rehearse my game moves for the perfect execution. I visualise each block neatly sliding out and the tower stays rock solid. Once satisfied with my Game Plan I get up with hope and expectation in my soul. The best moment ever. Let this day begin.

And it does begin… but not as planned.

Firstly, the toothpaste decides it wants to squeeze out to anywhere but the head of my toothbrush. My coffee granules decide they’d prefer to scatter across the kitchen bench than in my cup. And finally, my left leg decides it would rather spend the day in the right leg of my trousers. Dyspraxia, the cousin to my dyslexia, has kicked in. The first three Jenga blocks tackled and already my tower is wobbling. But maybe it’s just jittery fingers? It’s bound to get better, isn’t it?

In my journey to work, only three minor slip ups: that uneven paving stone leapt up to attack my unobservant foot; the tree branch that I’ve watched grow, decided today was the day to greet my forehead and the train door decided it really did need to bite at my coat tail. All minor. All survivable. Each Jenga piece creating a wobble but not a collapse. Each piece a reminder not to get too cocky.

I climb back into my caution.

At the office, my caution pays dividends. I don’t get snapped by the lift door. My coffee goes in and stays in my cup, all the way to my desk. My backside finds my swivel chair without incident. This day is improving. Three Jenga pieces removed, without a crash.

But now it’s my time… I open my computer; my fingers find the keyboard and I’ve found my happy place. My mind unconsciously connects to the glass screen in the same way that the computer connects to the Wi-Fi. My dumb body and brain get out of my way and I’m ready to fly.

For some reason, my hands are completely attuned to the QWERTY layout and I achieve a seven-fingered grace that my clumsy body never usually achieves. On a computer, I am a Jenga Grand Master.

The same goes for my dyslexia. Words and meaning flow, without my conscious mind, or physical brain interfering.

I spend my day smashing task after task. Whizzing through emails. Soaring through written documents. Scrambling over spreadsheets like an Alpine goat on the Matterhorn. Each word or number is an individual Jenga piece. Each task is a whole game. And I rack up win after win.

I even win admiring fans. Colleagues ask me for advice and guidance. They marvel (a little enviously) at my throughput and are frankly astonished at my lack of errors. Is it really me!

And my supervisor is quietly satisfied with my performance. I figure, that in a ‘leave alone and rebuke’ culture, not being yelled at is tacit approval. And I’m tacitly grateful. I take satisfaction that my Jenga prowess is recognised.

I leave work at the end of the day and count up Jenga tally. I reckon I had at least a dozen great wins against some tricky or formidable opposition. The monthly budget reconciliation was a stinker. A couple of truly grumpy client emails. And those time sheets… they’re hateful, but I sailed through them. I award myself a daily gold medal.

My journey home was, of course, less spectacular. Yes, I bumped into 2 different people. Yes, I dribbled my Coke down my shirt front. And, yes, I stabbed and stabbed to get my door key into its lock. But that’s real life Jenga, not computer Jenga.

I bumped my way through an unremarkable evening at home until it was time for bed. I managed to miss my bedside table and spilled my water over my alarm clock. I had my usual toothbrush moment. And I tripped over the loose rug with my slippers. But I made it safely to bed.

I allowed myself a few minutes to review my day. A few Jenga fails but they’re nothing compared to my spectacular wins in the office. Even a Jenga World Champion should expect a few minor losses in the overall picture. It only matters when it really matters. With that satisfaction, I drifted off to sleep. Ready for another day of stumbles and acrobatics in a new day tomorrow.

Mike Gordon is a life coach and volunteer with Dyslexia Scotland. Although dyslexic, Mike has earned 3 degrees in science and business and has had two best-selling self-help books published. Mike believes his dyslexia has been a genuine enabler in his life: Isolation opens up imagination and creativity to him; while struggles with words have driven a sense of ‘rightness’ in what he says and does. Words are a blessing.