I have had a wretched six months or so; actually almost a year now as a friend gently reminded me last week. It was good of her to do so, as I had lost track of my wallow and it is time to get on with it.
See, I have this simple belief that if you give the world the best you have you will get the best back. I have a lifetime ticket on the karma train and will usually gladly go wherever it takes me despite not understanding the path at first or going through some pretty stormy weather to get there, I always trust it will come out even and the circle will complete. So in those rare situations that I am faced with the cold fact that the equation does not always come out equal or fair, and I am faced with the reality that you can give your best or love your best and people can be cruel or dishonest in return…I am always stunned.
And beyond that, hurt.
See, my (almost) eternal sunshine stems from the fact that most of the time, the equation works flawlessly. Most people shoot kindness right back at me and one hand seems to always wash the other. Even if I get nothing at all back I am usually okay with it. It’s when I am met with cruelty back that knocks this little train off the rails.
The concept of being cruel is just so foreign and inexplicable to me. Dirty play and dishonesty knock the wind out of me every time. And the problem is, my problem is that my go to is never, “What the hell is wrong with that person as to treat someone that way?” but, “What did I do wrong? What did I do to deserve to be treated this way?” I will spend countless hours in the middle night going over every last detail of things I said or did to assure that somehow I wasn’t inadvertently unkind, rude or cruel. Because surely in my mind, the only reason someone would be cruel to me is because I had done something to them to cause it. As if my pointing out, “Look, look at how I did all these nice things,” as if that would make them say, “Oh gosh, you are right, I am sorry.”
And I get stuck there. I get stuck in the unfairness and the needing to understand why. This faulty logic tangles me up and has done so for a year now across a couple of situations. The need to understand behavior before I can incorporate it emotionally has stymied me. Perhaps my sense that I may have grossly misjudged someone too adds a little to the mix as well. Because I really want to believe all people are good honest people, but they are not. I want to believe life is fair, but it’s not. I need to learn that has nothing to do with me, especially when my soul searching, exhaustive reality check of how I treated that person comes up clean.
I have trouble just sitting with unkindness though; it makes me all fidgety and anxious.
It’s funny though how I don’t feel this way with cosmic shit like with cancer or my mom dying. Universal blows I can handle. I suppose it’s a reflection of my faith in god that he knows what he’s doing. No, it is the human to human thing that gets me. How a person could have been given your absolute best and then spit in your hand. Those spits serve to extinguish some kind of light in me.
And that is where I am today. A year into feeling spit on and my eternal sunshine has dimmed and a fog has settled in. Over this last year, some people who I care for deeply hurt me and I haven’t been able to get past it no matter what I do. I know the girlfriends are tired of hearing about it and I am now realizing that my anger and grief has become chronic and unhealthy and has festered into something ugly.
I lay there in the middle of the night, looping thoughts, “How could someone do that to someone and feel okay with it?” Maybe that is part of the problem; I am so focused on them and bewildered with the inconceivable wrongness of it all that I am failing to heal me. I need to realize that as much as I want to go through the list of all the nice things I did for someone to explain why how I was treated makes no sense, no one is going to go, “Oh, well in that case, yes, yes, he/she was wrong to do that,” and wave a wand and make the person take it back.
Last week, Grandmother Willow said, “It’s like pus, Lauren.” And just like that, it all made sense. “Exactly!” I said.
Pus is the festering of a wound. Pus is the anger of the wound. Pus is the result of picking at a wound over and over. Pus is the overflow of a wound not healing. While I keep questioning the whys of the behavior of others, pus builds. Because I have spent a lifetime tending to the wounds of others, tending to my own wounds is foreign.
I saw a clever post the other day on Facebook saying how the best job in the world would be the engineer driving the karma train. “Oh yeah!” I thought, “I could so see myself hootin’ and hollerin’ atop that engine, fist pumping my way through the hill and dale!” Or could I? I just don’t like to see bad things happen to good people. Or even to people who are acting like total shits from time to time.
The problem with driving the karma train is that it is not our job, it is god’s job. And I suspect god doesn’t take glee in driving the train; that is what makes him a good engineer. That is the point of letting go and letting god be god and realizing that many things are not in our control, including how others choose to treat us. Someone once said that expecting life to treat you fairly just because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to charge you just because you are a vegetarian.
Last month on a vacation to San Francisco, I awoke to a beautiful day ahead of me and my two still slumbering kids. Out of my hotel window, the rolling fog hid all but the tips of the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and I felt so so lucky. So far we’d had a wonderful vacation; Alcatraz, Lombard Street and that day we were headed to Muir Woods and Sausalito. I left my dozing teens in the room to walk to Mickey D’s to get our breakfast. On the way, in a total of 5 city blocks in Fisherman’s Wharf I passed about ten homeless people, also still dozing in the early fog of the day. Once there, I ordered our stuff and on a whim, ordered fifteen more biscuits to go in fifteen bags. On the way back to the hotel I dropped a warm bag of food at the feet of every person sleeping on ground.
And I got back to the room, opened the shades, and the fog was gone. There was the whole bridge, the whole picture.
Perhaps karma is in reverse order to what we think it should be. It’s not that someone does something bad and bad comes back on them. It’s that you were given good and you give it back. That back on the day you were born, just being born was the first good that came to you. God hit that first serve and it is up to you to keep the volley of good going by hitting the ball back again and again. That is, instead of doing good and then expecting good back, seeing the good that you got and in turn tossing it back because of what you got.
That of course has nothing at all to do with the bad. But everything to do with seeing the good.
And seeing the ball, looking for the ball even in the dim fog.Expecting that it is coming. Even if it is just the tips of what we know is there. And doing what we need, doing good, to gain clarity.
In giving we receive, but sometimes I think it is in receiving that we must give.
Later on our California trip, I gave the kids pennies to toss into the pools at It’s a Small World in Disneyland. “Make a wish!” I shouted, as I have done on so many of our travels. Later that night, safely tucked into our cozy room after a wonderful day, I thought back on all the hundreds of wishing wells our little threesome had visited over the years. I tried to remember all of the wishes I had tossed; wishes I had launched up to god attached to pennies into the well. In a deeply warm and satisfied way, I realized that all of those wishes had come true. I really, really mean that; all of them. I have gotten the best served to me, over and over and over. And I know in my heart I have tossed my best back.
The fog lifts.
I say, “Look, look at all these nice things I did,” and god smiles warmly upon me and and I hear him say in the warmth, “Yes, yes, I know.”
Perhaps it is not in understanding the bad or why people are unkind, or even in waiting for karma to come around for them. Bulls will charge no matter what we do. If bad pennies turn up, if someone wants to toss a penny back at you take it; make a new wish on it. Use it for good…like buying a biscuit for a hungry person.
Or simply wish the person well…use it to wish them well.
And that, is all the Neosporin for the soul you or I will ever need.
“Ask God to bless those people that say bad things to you. Pray for those people that are mean to you.”