Portugal has entered its 4th month of winter 2020/2021 lockdown. Psychologically speaking, this one has struck me a lot harder than the spring lockdown of 2020.
With all work projects down the drain and almost no opportunities to play live, my focus has stayed on online Poker and studying A LOT but we all know how your soul starts melting when you hit a longer streak of swinging down variance lane and I was forced to navigate strong inner emotional currents.
My mum keeps hating it :-p but it still looks like playing Poker is THE revenue generating activity that will make me stay afloat. That said, I have only been staying afloat financially. Mentally, the ride through the winter months has been rough and ugly.
Studying alone is not enough to win - especially when you are battling it out with 4 cards. I picked up chess more seriously again during this winter. I am not that solid so I lose many of my games but it is still comforting. At least, at chess, you know and understand why you lose when you do and emotions end up running lower even if you get properly destroyed by your opponent. You just see it coming and, usually, you deserve to lose when it happens.
When the second lockdown struck, everybody (sensible) in Portugal knew it would be max bad: the general lack of discipline of the Portuguese combined with the close ties to Brazil and the UK (with the most active virus variants at the time) turned out to be a recipe for one of the most epic Covid waves the world had seen so far. At the time, I was preparing to take a break from grinding. I think I have studied Poker as much during 2020 as I have during the rest of my life. I threw in some 270.000 hands of cash game and played around 1.100 tournaments. During October and November, I was able to add 30 live sessions so my winter plan was to focus on some film and photo projects we had been postponing for almost a year now.
Thinking back of when I landed in Lisbon in mid-December 2020 and realising that I was once again being forced to go back to grinding for weeks and months felt wrong deep inside from the beginning. Denial helps at first but it brings no solution and stuff adds up. I felt it was important to be honest ... with myself. Fact is I don't love Poker unconditionally. It is a means to an end mostly, the end being to make money and to finance my travelling with it. Without that, I had difficulties to see what the point was. With no solution in sight, it was still very important to consciously formulate my dislike of the short-term randomness of the game and how little excited I had been about it over my whole career. I am not here for the thrill, I am not here for the emotional roller coaster, the big gamble or whatever excitement. I am here because it pays my food and my rents and because it had the potential to make me travel. I can think of spontaneously think of a dozen things in life that bring me more pleasure and satisfaction than Poker.
Finding cohesion & consistency
Even at a young age, I always knew more or less where I was heading or at least what my plan was. I am not a born competitor but I am driven by accomplishment and I guess it is easy to lose track of who I am in such confusing times where not much can be accomplished. I was still not ready to give in to the widespread Netflix&Chill pandemic and to throw my most precious asset away: my time. I am still feeling that I am the protagonist of my life. Thinking about who I am, who I had become, it became clear that I had lost my way. Maybe we are like paintings ... in the making - every time we look at ourselves, we are looking at a snapshot only of the process of creation of this painting. That snapshot can be ugly at times depending on the stage of the creation process at which you take a look over the painter's shoulder.
I often like to imagine a distant lighthouse to keep one's eyes on when in the middle of a storm but I think that sometimes, you have to be courageous and you have to be the lighthouse yourself.
something to rely on
As time goes by I tend to rely less and less on other people to drag me out of low self esteem phases. I won't deny how useful and comforting a good friend, a beloved brother or a caring partner can be but human relationships can also bring their fair share of set backs.
Some people find peace on the inside. Personally, that is where I find a lot of uncertainty and what works better for me is finding calm and stability on the outside. I am human (mostly) and I am pretty outgoing so, of course, it comes naturally to me to look for comfort or validation within my network of friends and family members but the lack of predictability and accountability of humans made me look for other more stable rocks in the surf. I tend to find these anchors in specific unchanging things - things that unlike our politicians' opinions, don't fundamentally change every week and that give me a feeling of truth. I am thinking of the laws of physics, math or optics for instance - trying to apply them to photography techniques or chess strategies in an attempt to identify constants more or less free of wild variance that life in a worldwide pandemic and PLO Poker environment exposes me to. If you put a lot of effort into shooting a photo, usually, you get a pretty awesome photo. If you think about a chess move and it looks like it is the best move, chances are, it is. In Poker, well you know the story ... :-p
Take care of yourselves.
I am curious: how do you find back stability when being thrown off balance?