Chutes and Ladders

Do you remember the game Chutes and Ladders?

The slow, steady climb to the top of the board?

The delighted squeal that would escape your lips when luck granted you a ladder, bypassing multiple rows in a single move?

The utter helplessness and defeat when that same luck turned and landed you on a chute, plummeting you back to the beginning?

After the divorce, I felt like I was trapped in some twisted version of the game, the final square holding the peace and healing I so desperately desired. For long periods of time, I would trudge slowly through the levels. Not making great progress, but progress nonetheless. Sometimes, I would be blessed with a ladder, a sudden jolt of insight or a pleasing outcome that would elevate my healing to new levels.

And then there were the chutes. The triggers. The memories.

Inevitably, they seemed to appear just when I was feeling confident. Comfortable. As though they fed on optimism.

I would find myself disoriented within their slippery embraces. Only to realize that I was back to the beginning once I regained my senses. Peace once again a far off dream.


Chutes and Ladders is based on an ancient Indian game that was designed to teach Hindu children about karma. The final square symbolized nirvana, the ladders represented virtues and the snakes, the original version of the chutes, were vices. There were fewer ladders than snakes, showing that it is often more difficult to climb than it is to fall. At the end of the game, salvation was granted to the one who made it to the final square while the rest of the players faced rebirth at a lower rung.


Although intended to teach about choice and consequence, the game itself is based entirely upon chance. Fate.

Which makes it easy. But also frustrating.

Because in life, we always have choice.

In life, we can learn from our mistakes.

In life, we can accept where we are in the moment yet always strive to do better.

In life, we can slow the slide and even climb out of the chute.

In life, we can roll the dice but we can also build the ladder.

In life, we become better at climbing the more we do it.

In life, success comes not from watching others fall, but in helping to lift them up.

In life, nirvana is not only the end goal, but is a presence to be found along the journey.

In life, we cannot control every play of the game but we can learn to steer its outcome.


It’s so easy to feel helpless and powerless after divorce, subject to the whims of the dice that may send us back to square one on any given day.

It’s so easy to feel defeated. Tired of the climb when every ladder towards healing seems to be paired with a chute greased with pain.

It’s so easy to fixate on your small patch of real estate on the game board, that you fail to see the bigger picture.

The fact that you are making progress. Maybe not steady. And certainly not linear. But progress.

Peace is possible.

Keep climbing.

Thank you for sharing!

11 thoughts on “Chutes and Ladders

  1. What a great insight/analogy. I love great analogies. 🙂

  2. Dawn – Illinois – I am a person on a journey. A journey to embrace my life now, no matter what my story is or where it began or where it may be going. I am newly single, learning about myself, life, relationships...and how to wrap that all into a beautiful life. After 17 years of marriage I decided that I had to let go of fear comfort and predictability and embrace my own life. No longer was I going to be victim to whatever story I had been told before. I hold my destiny in my own hands and I'm on a journey to do just that. This blog is about giving back the lessons that I have learned...helping someone else embrace there life now, at 12, 20 or 50. I hope to inspire and be inspired...I want to continue my journey...and hope to take some wonderful beautiful people with me.
    Dawn says:

    It’s a process…and yes that is a good analogy. We have out ups and downs after divorce (even when you are the one who initiates it). There is peace in between the ups and lows too.
    Thank you for this…it is always comforting to know we are not the only ones.

  3. I’m discovering that every single day I face new challenges in dealing with my impending divorce. It’s so tiring and I wish I could have a break from it, but I’ve got no choice but to get up each day and do my best to fight the battle. Thanks for this article. Recovery is a process with ebb and flow, not a one way pass.

  4. elizabeth2560 – ABOUT ALMOST SPRING Two and a half years ago my 37 year marriage ended suddenly through no choice of my own. I survived the heartache. I have taken control of my present. I am planning my own destiny, which is moving onwards to a life of purpose and meaning. This is my journey.
    elizabeth2560 says:

    Great analogy. In my case I feel I am playing two games concurrently; the emotional and the legal / financial. Try as I might to build up those emotional ladders the legal / financial snake pitfalls keep appearing from nowhere.

    1. I know for me, those two intertwined. Most of my triggers were (and occasionally still are) from the legal/financial mess. It’s the part that lingers and feels the most unfair. Grrr

  5. I think I will have to see if my grandson will play with me. I haven’t played in years.

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