Play the Hell out of your Hand

Time to fight

Play the Hell out of your Hand

"You don't have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you're holding." Cheryl Strayed.

Hey, you.

How are you doing? Better?

That's good.


Look - I've been meaning to say something to you. But I've waited until you were stronger.

Before I do, I know you've been a through a lot. I know you're still fragile. I know you're still grieving.

I understand all of that.

I do.

But it's time now.

It's time.

Time to finally let it all go, and get back out there.

It's time for a bit of tough love.

I know, I know... you didn't want any of this. It sucks.

But, honestly? None of us have the life we wanted.


Those fantasies you carry around in your head? They've been put there by your parents, the media, and whatever else is banging around in your sub-conscious.

They're myths. Stories. As in, not real.

And they're probably not going to happen.

The likelihood is that you're never going to find that job that fulfills you on every possible level. If you do, well done; you've probably had to work yourself into the ground to achieve it - you deserve every second of joy that comes your way.

But - let's be honest - most of us won't.

I know you're sad and lonely, and you're still hanging onto the thought that, one day, you'll find that special someone who completes your life - good for you; don't give up. Work on yourself, and keep on getting out there. Maybe - just maybe - fate will smile on you.

But, maybe - just maybe - it won't.

Maybe that family member you don't speak to will contact you out of the blue. Maybe that boss will stop gaslighting you, and making your working life Hell. Maybe you'll finish that novel, climb that mountain, and visit that country you've always dreamed of. Maybe.

But maybe none of that happen.

Maybe none of those dreams will come true.


So what? That's life. None of us - none of us - are entitled to any of it.

Not a scrap.

An unhappy childhood doesn't mean you'll automatically get a blissful adulthood. An unhappy marriage doesn't entitle you the fairy tale next time round. A job from Hell doesn't mean your next one will be from Heaven.

That shouldn't stop you from being a good person; you'll benefit from being kind, and supportive in ways you can never imagine. But you need to do all that for you. For the people you love. If you're expecting the love you sow to be reaped, you're in for a shock.

It doesn't always happen. 'Things' don't always balance themselves out.

The universe doesn't always listen. You can be a good person, and still have crappy things done to you. You can be honest, hardworking, forgiving, and generous, and the people you love will still die, break your heart, and abandon you.

And, you know those crappy people? The one's who hurt you,who left you in the dirt when you didn't even the power to stand? The one's who cheated on you, used you, broke your heart and didn't care? There's no guarantees any of the misery they dispensed will ever wing its way back to them. Not an ounce.

The chances are, all that happiness you deserve, will wind it's way into the pockets of the people who least deserve it.

Let alone know what to do with it.

Forget them.

Forget all the fantasies of how life should have been. Or might be.

Forget about the cards you weren't dealt; focus on the ones you were.

Focus on how life is.

Today. Now.

And, yes - your hand is awful. You're not beating anyone with those cards. But, you've got no choice; those are the cards you've got. You can't change them.

All you can do is play the Hell out of them.

That pain in your soul, that one that keeps you awake at night, what is it? Okay - it's about the anger surrounding mental illnesses you never asked for. I get that; that sucks. You're right; it's not fair.

But, it's not going away; the injustice isn't going to magically make it all disappear. So, how can you use it? How can you turn all that sadness into a force for good?

Write about it? That's great. That'll help. You know what, though? One day, that writing might make you money. It could.

Instead of letting it destroy you, it could define you. No, it's not the life you wanted; no-one wants to be known as "that mentally ill one." But you are. Sorry - that's you. So use it.

Okay - maybe that's too big to focus on right now.

Let's start smaller: What is one little thing you can do - today, now - to make it better?

How about having a glass of water instead of another coffee?

Trivial? Far from it - trust me, if you take on more water than caffeine, you'll see the difference.

How about watching a Ted talk instead of something else on Netflix? Why don't you slip on your shoes, and take a walk around the block? If you're feeling okay - then why not work for that extra hour, just this once; and the money you get, figure out a way you can use it, instead of wasting it.

Yeah - right now you're standing at the foot of Everest. And it's big. So, so big.

One step at a time.

Minute by minute; day by day; use that time.


Play the Hell out of every card in your hand, out of every day you have in front of you. A year from now and you won't be in base-camp anymore.

No, it's not fair - you shouldn't have to. But you don't have a choice.

This is your life. Right here, right now; that's the one you've got focus on, not the one in your head.

None of us have the life we wanted.

But, play the Hell out of the cards you've been dealt, and you will - you will - have a better one than the one you have now.

Who knows? Maybe it'll even be better than the one you did imagine.

Start today. Start now. Take a look at the cards.

And play the living Hell out of them.

You've got this.


If you've liked what you've read, please check out the rest of work my on Vocal. Among other things, I write about film, theatre, and mental health: The story of my admission to a psychiatric ward, and my attempts to rebuild my life following my discharge, starts with 'Flow: The Psychiatric Ward', and continues with 'Wonderland: The Power of Routine', 'What Do We Need?', 'The Magic of Gratitude', 'and 'How to Deal with Relapse.'

You can also find me on Elephant Journal and The Mighty.

If you've really liked what you've read, please share with your friends on social media.

If you've really, really liked what you've read, a small tip would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Christopher Donovan
Christopher Donovan
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Christopher Donovan


If you like what you read, please share with your friends on social media!

If you really, really like what you read, a small tip would be very much appreciated!

Thank you!

See all posts by Christopher Donovan