One of our family’s favorite card games is Hearts. I learned this game from my dad when I was a little girl. After every holiday dinner, generations of family members would gather around the kitchen table to play several rounds of Hearts. My dad was always the scorekeeper, and he’d carefully tally up the points for all of the players. The object of the card game was to get as few points as possible. Hearts counted as 1 penalty point. The Queen of spades counted as 13 points, and you did not want to be stuck with this card or have someone give it to you during a play. The entire game hinged on your ability to avoid hearts and the Queen of spades. There was one exception to this rule though. If you could manage to get all 13 penalty heart points and the points from the Queen of spades, you would would win the game. It takes exceptional skill to win the game this way, and if you manage to achieve the win this way you Shot the Moon. You would get zero points, and all of the other players would get 26 penalty points.
I was thinking of the game of Hearts today as I watched my son and his friend playing with their Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards. Although it’s a different game than the one I played as a child, I kept thinking about the Queen of spades. Why was I so consumed by her image? What made me think of my old nemesis as I watched my son and his friend playing a very different card game?
Finally, it dawned on me. My 10-year-old son and his friend were playing cards, and they both have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My son, Connor, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was in 2nd grade at the age of 8. At the time, I felt like I had already been dealt a bad hand of cards full of penalty hearts — he developed type 1 diabetes when he was 5 years old, which is the autoimmune form of diabetes sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. My younger son had been diagnosed at age 2 with developmental delays and sensory processing disorder. Connor faced discrimination at school, and we received assistance from a volunteer attorney to help get him the equal rights of his peers in the educational setting. In addition, my husband and I continued to care for our own chronic conditions. If there was a penalty heart to collect, I had managed to find them all. It seemed like our hands were full of the very worst cards. Or so I thought.
I forgot about the Queen of spades. She’s a tricky card, and she often appears just when you think all of the penalty points have been played. Some experienced players of Hearts memorize which cards have been played and anticipate her arrival. I knew I had a stack of penalty hearts, but I did not anticipate getting the Queen. I thought I was safe leading with a low heart, but instead I collected even more penalty hearts and also the dreaded Queen of Spades. It was crushing to find out that Connor had yet another diagnosis to add to our already huge pile of medical issues. It felt like the end of the game – too much. I wanted to quit and lay down all my cards. Give up.
But I didn’t. I continued to play the game, and it suddenly dawned on me that having all the penalty heart points and the Queen of Spades meant one very rare thing. Something that I had never been able to accomplish before in all of my years of practice playing Hearts. I Shot the Moon and won the game!
Getting that Queen of spades seemed like the worst possible card to be dealt. Yet, she was the one thing that saved me. The added diagnosis of ADHD seemed cruel and unfair. Why me? Why couldn’t someone else get the Queen? How could I recover?
The only way out was to recognize that all things that happen in life are not black and white. There are good and bad things about every life situation. Yin and Yang. Right and left. Upside down and right side up. Like the Queen of Spades. Take a look at her image. She’s full of contradictions. Regal, yet a bit sad and tired looking. Holding a powerful scepter in her right hand and a wilted flower in the other. A pale, unadorned face with intricate clothing in vibrant colors. Split into two halves by a solid black line. Flipped and reversed. The spade is actually a heart shape when it’s flipped upside down. She’s a woman full of intrigue. You don’t know whether to hold her in contempt or reverence. She’s complex.
I was searching for images of the Queen of spades. The best picture I could find was on Wikipedia. Imagine my surprise when I found this description underneath her photo on Wikipedia. The interpretation of the Queen of Spades is listed as follows: “The Queen of spades is considered to be a sign of intelligence. It is representative of judgment that is practical, logical, and intellectual. It represents a woman who is creative and makes her plans ahead of time.” Sound familiar? She sounds a lot like me. A version of me that I didn’t know existed until I was faced with adversity. I found my inner Queen through the diagnoses of my children. Have you found yours?