Think of the most wonderful thing that has happened to you.
Now think of the hours, days, weeks, months after that. Think of how that thing, the most wonderful thing ever, morphed into something else. Maybe it went away, maybe your view of it changed.
Think of wanting something, of thinking, “If only I could have this, it would be great,” and the struggle in giving yourself license to want that thing.
A coping mechanism for many is to say, “It will never happen.” By doing this, we think that we are preparing ourselves for disappointment.
Wrong. As Seneca said, “He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.” We even have science of a sort to back up our assertion. In 2008, a study was done to determine if, indeed, anticipating a negative result helped to ameliorate reality. For this test, the scientists used a group of students waiting for exam grades. They found that the negative anticipators felt worst a short time before getting the results, and just as bad as the folks who didn’t use negative anticipation.
“We’re gonna lose.” Telling yourself that doesn’t lessen the feelings of the loss in any way, despite the assertions of the negative anticipators. “I’m just doing this to steel myself against the inevitable.” The job interview where you tell yourself that you didn’t get it — working up the nerve to asking someone out, believing they will say no.
Our lives are lived in fear, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, we eke away an existence rooted in various fears but mostly fear of loss, of losing something good. We rarely understand what we have because once we get it, we’re terrified of losing it, a fear that often keeps us from fully enjoying it. And everybody has something to lose.
Composer Gavin Bryars has a track called “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet.” Its base is a song, being sung by a homeless man, a tune filled with such complete and utter belief that it stuns. It’s a composition that I can barely think about, much less listen to dry eyed, because of its beauty. When you have nothing, you have something. You have faith, you have belief.
Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
This one thing I know
That He loves me so
When Barça drew Malaga and Real Madrid won the Madrid derby, it began on Barça Twitter, the rumblings that the good stuff is about to end, all to come crashing down. People are preparing for it by embracing it, anticipating its arrival. “I’m just making myself feel better,” cloaking the fear in negativity and anticipation so that “See? Told you so,” is just an arm’s length away.
So here’s something: good things always end. It’s just what they do. When Barça won its first treble, it happened so quickly, so seemingly suddenly that few of us really got the chance to anticipate it, to savor it. But by God, we’d be ready for the next one even if … what if it doesn’t come? What if the team doesn’t win everything? What happens to the feelings I have, this wonderful sense of being the best by association?
It’s why supporter bases of teams swell. There are many times as many Chicago Cubs fans right now than there were at the end of last season, when things didn’t go as anticipated. We all want to be part of something good, because it’s something that makes us feel good. We can stave off fear by immersing ourselves in wonderful feelings. Sport is a weekly rollercoaster ride that is safe, because it’s ultimately meaningless. Unless you’ve bet your house, how will your life change because your team lost? Football is life. Or is it?
Death will come. We know this because this is nature. We are born, we live, and we die. We see the terminally ill change, now that there is a finite period, something workable. Sunrises are something more special, loved ones even more so. The rest of us live our lives from day to day, with a vague inclination that we’re inexorably moving toward our own demise. It isn’t something to think about, because well …
But it’s there. There are people who are said to be unafraid of dying, which is different from embracing death and different still from anticipating it. The beauty of a life well-lived is should the safe suddenly fall from the sky, should some capricious thing happen that brings life to an end, we can know that a good time was had by all. But living life in full is hard. And scary. We get good things, and worry about losing them, so we get ready for that day by saying that day is coming. When eating a sundae, do you savor each spoonful or worry about when this wonderful thing is all gone?
Sporting success is magnificent. When the team that you love wins it all and does so gloriously, as Barça did, you damn right you’re terrified of never feeling that way again. You’re supposed to be. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. It’s okay to feel that way, okay to understand that the reason so many so aggressively rail against things is because of that fear. More trebles!
Everything isn’t wrong because a desired result didn’t happen. Sometimes, nothing is wrong and a negative result happens, because that’s what life does. Life lets an athlete play a perfect game, and be outdone by a fluke shot. Life lets some minnow team play the game of its life, costing your team a shot at glory even as the minnow has nothing to gain by its success.
Year of the Six Cups. A soci card commemorated that amazing year in which Barça won everything. Every last little thing, from youth systems to finances to team play, all came together and the team won, and kept on winning. My heavens, what a time! It will never, ever be like that again, and not only because something like that can be that special only once. Look at the reaction to the second Treble that Barça won, and how tainted it became, how compared to the first it was as people were found wanting. “Didn’t happen in the right way,” “Coach got bailed out by Messi.”
Meanwhile … a second Treble. There are people for whom every day is a great day. They’re always upbeat and happy, always with positive, kind words and deeds. The enlightened never have bad days because spiritually, the concept of a bad day isn’t possible for them. Missed the train? There will be another one. Missed the last train? My cab driver had the coolest life. We talked as he drove me home.
For me, Barça is like that. Does it help that the team was a mess when I found it? Maybe. Maybe had I come to the club during its Treble run, I would be as wracked with fear and negative anticipation as so many are, so much so that it becomes difficult to enjoy something for fear of fretting about the worst. “The team played great, but wait until the board kills the club.”
Don’t be afraid. Barça is going to lose. That isn’t negative anticipation. It’s life and sport. “You can’t win them all” isn’t just an adage, but an acceptance of reality. Your team is going to lose. No matter how much you love it, and want the best for it, it is going to lose. How will that make you feel? Accept the inevitability of loss, of nature doing what it does and the next time you ask that question of yourself, the answer might surprise you.