After I lost my quarter-final match at the New England Slam a couple of weeks ago, I headed off to a nearby cafe and treated myself to a modest repast of two pecan squares, a piece of raspberry-crumble coffee cake, and an iced latte with no restrictions on the sugar other than its being Sugar in the Raw, a bow to virtue that was basically my little bargain with the god of diabetes.

Yum, yum, yum, this little piggy said, as he drove all the way home …

I didn’t — and don’t — feel an ounce of guilt about what I did. I enjoyed those treats, I knew my self-indulgence wouldn’t last beyond those brief stinging hours post-defeat — and, most importantly of all, I felt as if I’d earned all those yummy calories.

Now that a couple of weeks have passed, I’ve come to see that those pecan squares and that raspberry-crumble cake were talking to me. “You may not have admitted it to yourself,” they were saying, “but for the last two weeks or so, you were building your life around this tournament. You were trying to peak your game — you were keeping an eagle eye on your diet — the tournament was the center of your life. And now, my friend, it’s over. It’s time to celebrate and move on!”

With that dive into self-indulgence, I was honoring the fact that I’d been really intent on doing myself proud at the tournament. I’d been soft-pedaling that reality to myself, but beneath the superficial ‘Aw shucks, it’s just a l’il ol’ supersenior tournament’ attitude I’d adopted, I was taking the event very seriously.

I’d fallen short of my goal, but that wasn’t why I went hog-wild. I did it because I’d been much more invested in success than I was letting on to myself. “Carl,” all those sweet things were telling me, “you’re not the cool cat you pretend to be.”

I’ve been watching the Netflix series Break Point about world-class tennis players. They don’t pretend to be cool — they want to win, they want to be the best, and they want it badly. They are, in this sense, out of the closet. Not infrequently, they leave the court weeping when they lose.

I wouldn’t let myself do that. It doesn’t seem seemly. The competitions are too small-time for that — and besides that, I think of myself as a philosopher, and philosophers should transcend, right? Right??? But Mr. Pecan Square and Ms. Raspberry-Crumble Coffee Cake were telling me something different. They were telling me, “You really, really wanted it, pal.”

And they were also telling me: “And now, my friend, you are free.”

Do you play it cool? Do you really own and embrace your desires? How willing are you to want something passionately, knowing that failure, despite what the gurus tell you, actually is an option?

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