Retreat to the Beach: Values Exercise

One of the exercises we did was so interesting, I thought it deserved it’s own post. Tammy, our director, called it the Values Game. The premise is simple, but the results are anything but.

Each person starts out with 6 index cards. On these cards they write each of the following words, one per card:

Financial Security

The game starts by having asking the group to consider what each card/word means to them. Then each person has to determine which card, if they had to choose one to give up, they would part with first. All the players hand in their card and they are torn up in front of everyone. Time is taken for volunteers to talk about what was given up and why. Then the game is played another round. This continues – give up a card, watch it being torn up, discuss what was given and what was kept – until each person has only one card left, the card/value they’d cling to the strongest or that means the most to them.

For me, this game was probably easier than it was for a lot of the others. At least, it felt easy to me. I already knew more or less what was going to go in what order from the moment we started, and felt little if any regret for anything I let go. I gave up my cards in the following order, with my reasons:

Financial Security – Not only is this an illusion to begin with*, but I’ve rarely had anything approaching it, so would miss it the least. And, barring total cultural and economic collapse, you can always make more money. *Of the “new millionaires” listings in any given year are several folks coming down the ladder, from the ranks of billionaires. And if billions of bucks can’t secure your financial status, nothing can.

Friends – I’m pretty self-sufficient. I love having friends, and appreciate them when I do have them, but I grew up not having hardly any friends, and I’ve never found myself suffering because of a lack. To me, friends are more like sprinkles on your ice cream – nice, but hardly the point of the meal.

Home – Dude, I’ve moved around so much I’ve got no real concept of home other than where I happen to be at any given moment. It’s a loss I wouldn’t even begin to notice.

Eyesight – My philosophy is that the body is just a handy carrying case for the soul. It’s great and all, but dying with a perfectly preserved corpse is not my primary consideration in life.

Spirituality/Faith – I’m strongly spiritual, but to be blunt my spirituality is a part of me – a side-effect of my soul – rather than a reflection of devotion to some outside religion or belief. And I’ve been a karma-based agnostic for much of my life, anyway, when I wasn’t in an outright crisis of faith, and did just fine. I would miss it, but it wouldn’t kill me to lose it. I would still be me, doing what I felt needed to be done and being happy with that – because I’ve always done that from a deeply personal impetus and not because some God or the other told me to.

That left me holding family, by which I primarily understood to be me, my hubby and my puddie cats. I do have other family – Mom, gran, sisters and their families – all of which fall under this heading. But for the purposes of this game, I primarily concentrated on my immediate family and it was very clear to me from early on in the game that as long as I had Mr. Pitts and the puddies, I didn’t really give a crap about the rest. Yeah, it’d suck to lose them. I’m not a willing martyr, nor do I care to play Job for anyone. But in the end, I felt very strongly that as long as hubs and I were together, with the cats to provide fun and friendship, there wasn’t much else I would truly need to be happy.

Which has pretty much always been the way it’s been throughout my entire life. As I mentioned at the group discussion, I’ve already gained and lost most of the things I discarded several times over in my life.

This includes eyesight – I’m horribly nearsighted to the point of being basically non-functional without my glasses, and have been since I was a small child. I can see without glasses, but it’s basically colors, forms and movement. Rather like some of Monet’s most impressionistic pieces. In fact, these Rouen Cathedral paintings he did capture the feeling rather well, although the first two still have far more detail than I would ever see.

So for me, this game was just another day in the life of me. Which kinda weirded me out, then left me feeling very light and free. After all, once you know you can have pretty much everything taken away from you, and still survive and even thrive well enough to develop a large degree of happiness and enjoyment of life in spite of it all, everything else is just details.

[Interestingly enough, after we played our game, Tammy noted that last year’s team was absolutely heartbroken watching the cards be torn, while it didn’t seem to bother us at all.]

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