See the theme? But in this game, what does mean anything?
I had to rediscover the answer to that; it was a work for me, and a work for Mosaic. This was a blending of attitudes as well as skills. I can best explain with an example: we're on ISC, we have our wine and the dog and several cats, we're down a bingo, and we draw IIOUW to our E? leave. Before my shoulders could slump in self-defeat, Marsh would be at the edge of her chair, nodding in determined cheerfulness. "Okay, it's okay, we can handle this."
One evening we had a beautiful run of narrow, come-from-behind wins. Perhaps some of them were losses -- it didn't matter. We had played the game, our game -- even as we continually redefined it.
The gap between us narrowed: my instinct for board control became refined as I had to enunciate its rationale; our vocabulary strengths and gaps complemented each other.
We made blunders; one of us would suggest a play, the other would express enough doubt about its validity that we'd play elsewhere, and the foregone play would turn out to be good. The hydra head of Mosaic would respond to this very differently from my solo pathology: since it had been a joint decision, I couldn't heap the blame on my mediocrity.
For a time, I pointed to Mosaic's ~1850 ISC rating and whined, "by myself I'm 1550, just add Marsh." But I knew -- I could feel -- that this was nonsense, and I didn't press it. Before long I was asking in my own games, what would Mosaic do?
I'd still occasionally go on a late-night binge, playing blitz with the young punks and losing 6 straight, often by timing out. My own ISC rating was still in the dumper. I still couldn't beat Stegman unless I drew JKXZSSSS?? and stuck her with the Q. But something was changing -- it felt like bottoming out, it felt like emptiness. Emptiness -- that delicate point where nothing matters, and all the world's possibilities tip toward you without judgment and without fear. I hadn't erased the demons -- it was more like the eye of a hurricane -- but I felt in myself a flicker of grim determination.
Determination, not to win, but to play.
I was ready to ask myself: "How can I do Albany? How can I face that Division 1?"