Mental Muscle
May 15th, 2012

It’s demoralizing, really, the way that I try and try and still fail and fail.  Anyone with even a smidgen of pride would walk away, but not me.  I keep going back for more, no matter how embarrassed I may be, always with the hope that I will improve.  Nevertheless, the fact remains… I am incredibly bad at Scrabble.

Actually, that’s only mostly true.  What I’m really bad at is Words with Friends, the mobile phone app version of Scrabble that I’ve started playing.  (Sidebar: I finally ditched the BlackBerry and got and iPhone!!)  I had such high hopes.  I have a great vocabulary and I really thought I would be good at this silly game.  Alas, I am not.  Nor am I any good at Scramble, another game that is basically a digital word find puzzle.  I’ve been playing Words with Friends for about three weeks and Scramble for about one.  I haven’t yet won a single game against anyone.  It pains me to say it but it’s true.  But perhaps you can understand why I keep going back for more.

You’ve probably read the studies.  They are mentioned more and more lately, especially as the incidence of Alzheimer’s and other forms for dementia are on the rise as the baby boomer generation nears retirement. They discuss how the brain is a muscle that atrophies without use.  It must be exercised.  It must be challenged and stretched.

I try to challenge and stretch my mind as often as possible.  Frankly, that desire was the genesis of this blog.  I usually use reading as my primary means of mental calisthenics.  But lately my usual zeal for reading has taken a hit.  And while I hope that I’m close to seeing the light at the end of the sleep-deprived tunnel I’ve been in for the past year, for the moment curling up with a book is still an express train to sleepy town for me.  So I was happy to find little nugget-sized opportunities to challenge myself via these interactive online word games.  Little did I know they’d have me hanging my head in shame.

And that is exactly why I’ve decided that I must keep playing.

I’ve decided that if I’m so woefully bad at these word games* then they must be calling upon a part of my brain that is weaker than the rest.  They must be forcing me to flex my mental muscle in ways that it isn’t used to – like kickboxing for the mind.  If I am this bad at them, then I must really need them.

I work hard to make sure that my body will go the distance.  But I want to make sure that my mind can keep up too.  So as I run, lift weights, and eat my whole grains, lean protein, and veggies, so will I continue to humiliate myself in word game match-ups against friends and family.  I will keep playing until I start winning.  Because my brain clearly needs the workout.


*My only solace in this whole deal is that I recognize that these games are about visualization as much as they are about vocabulary.  Yes, you have to know the words, but you also have to see them in a jumble of letters and without any context.

3 Responses to “Mental Muscle”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    That your zeal for reading has taken a hit makes perfect sense. (There’s a huge difference between one child and a job, and more than one child and a job.)

    As for keeping the body in shape and the mind, I agree with you that it’s vital. But there are times that neither is easy. Perhaps we should view these pauses as necessary, rather than failures.

    We can’t do it all, be it all, all the time.

    My two cents: We need to stop expecting otherwise.

  2. Ana Says:

    My zeal for reading has taken a similar decline. I just cannot do it since baby #2 came along. There is indeed a season for everything, and this is just NOT my season to read, I reckon.

  3. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Love this. Mom tells me that she and Dad always played (old school) Scrabble and this is how she knew my oldest sis started reading (before she was 2!)… She stood behind them and read their words. I love this anecdote :)