My father loved chess. When I was a kid, he taught me how to play. He’s wasn’t especially good at explaining the strategy to me. To be honest, I disliked the game, but wanted to please him, so I kept trying. I didn’t have trouble learning the way the various pieces were allowed to move or which were considered more valuable than the others. But I never learned any of the “checkmate-in-x-number-of-moves” moves or the basics of why you would make the moves you made as you maneuvered across the board. No, he didn’t teach me all the fancy stuff. No tricks. But in spite of that, and though I consider myself to be a rather poor player, I have been able to beat some people who were known to be rather good. People who usually beat other people. People who sometimes played competitively on an amateur level. I haven’t a clue as to what I’m doing, but yet, I frequently win. For though my father didn’t teach me particularly well and though I often feel lost, he did teach me one thing, one incredible magical formula that causes me to come out on top over and over again. The secret? He told me, whatever you do, remember: “attack, attack, attack.” It’s rather amazing how this works. If you are constantly attacking your opponent, you keep them completely off balance. Regardless of how good they are, they don’t have an opportunity to formulate a strategy. They can only react to your relentless pursuit. When you are the aggressor, they are trying to protect themselves from the onslaught. They can’t even begin to attack you in response. All the have time to do is dodge and, if they’re lucky, run. They are trying to survive the onslaught, hoping for a moment to catch their breath so they can being to execute some offensive moves and regain some ground. Crazy, isn’t it? So simple, but so profound. This past week, I was sharing this story with my counselor because there is a person where I work who uses this tactic to deflect attention from her total lack of competence and lackluster results. She continually attacks her coworkers and blames them for her failures. Her whole day is spent looking for everyone’s flaws and weaknesses, as if this was her primary job. For some reason, her boss (who is also my boss) allows her to not only get away with this behavior, but he buys into it, supports, and protects her. Which can be very demoralizing and discouraging for the rest of us who have to deal with her unrelenting assault. I have recently been her target and I was explaining to my counselor how it seems she employs my father’s deadly chess strategy so she never has to take responsibility for for her own actions and behaviors. His response? Well, it wasn’t what I expected. He stared at me with an open, gaping mouth. “I’ve never heard this story about your father before,” he responded. “Robin, he gave you his philosophy of life, the very strategy that he used on you to keep you under his control as he abused you. Can you not see this is exactly what he did to you?” Ah…hmmm…no… Actually, that particular thought never once crossed my mind. Ever. I’m having a hard time getting my head around this. I’ve tried to think about it. Explore it. But it’s as if my brain just won’t go there. Maybe because if he did use this tactic on me, it indicates intention. Deliberateness. Planning and aforethought. Which means, the abuse…sexual, physical, emotional, mental…was not something that happened when he just couldn’t fight his urges any longer. It would mean what he did to me wasn’t something that happened because of his succumbing to his weakness. It would indicate it was intentional. Premeditated. Intricately planned and executed. Purposeful manipulation to get what he wanted at all costs. That freaks me out. It’s incomprehensible. All these years, I’ve thought of him as the poor, weak, sick daddy who just couldn’t help himself because he was so wounded. He didn’t mean it, right? He didn’t intend to hurt me, did he? No! Of course not! He was just a hurt human being who failed in spite of his best efforts. Except…except if he acted with deliberate intention. If he, as my counselor believes, set out to make me a victim. Groomed me. Manipulated me. Prepared the way so I would be easy to control, easy to use, easy to abuse. So I wouldn’t tell. So I would remain silent. So I would protect him at all costs. Is the reality that I was nothing but a pawn in his twisted game? Expendable? To be used and then tossed aside? Did he really see the world as a chess board, the people in his life as the various pieces to be moved about so as to get what he wanted? I’m going to have to think about this. I’m going to have to test it, poke it, give it some time. But the one thing I know, the one thing that is obvious…he sacrificed me. Like a pawn carelessly played, without value but for the gains it provides to the player, he sacrificed me. He got what he wanted. And it has cost me my life.